Sandy boards and ocean swell: the best surfing beaches in Cornwall
Ride the waves at the UK’s most beautiful beaches
Whenever your next trip to Cornwall may be, the county’s thriving surf scene has plenty to offer year-round. Summer brings plenty of swell and some incredible sunsets, and the water stays warm well into autumn, when beach bans are lifted and dogs can enjoy a dip in the sea too.
To inspire your next beach break, we’ve made a list of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall. With recommendations on great local surf schools and where to go for a bite to eat, expect plenty of family favourites plus some unique locations for experienced wave hunters.
Perfect for families and beginners
One of the UK’s most family-friendly beaches, Harlyn Bay is an ideal location to pick up the basics on a board. With Mother Ivey’s Bay to the west and Trevone to the east, Harlyn is mostly sheltered from strong winds and bigger waves, making it a safe bet for beginners.
Named as the number one surf school on the North Cornwall coast and based right on the sand, ask our concierge team to book you in for tuition with Harlyn Bay Surf School. With 25 years’ experience behind them, their trusted coaches offer private or group lessons as well as two day ‘learn to surf’ courses. For those wanting to ease into the water more slowly, we recommend hiring a wetsuit for the week to develop your confidence day by day.
Where to stay nearby: The Hideaways
Notorious for its safe waters and sandy golden beach, Polzeath is one of Cornwall’s most popular surfing destinations. Lifeguarded daily from May to September, it’s well-suited to learners thanks to its consistent swell and shelter from north west winds.
One of our favourite local contacts, George’s Surf School provides private surf lessons and immersive courses that are perfect for family groups. Headed up by George Stoy, their diverse range of equipment and up-to-date techniques make them just the right people to teach visitors of all ages the way of the waves.
After a tiresome morning in the surf, there’s nothing quite like a pub lunch overlooking the sea. A must-visit for seafood lovers, The Cracking Crab serves light bites, grazing platters and a bar stocked with Cornish craft beer, promising to soothe achy wave-battered limbs. Clean and quiet dogs are welcome too – perfect timing for when Polzeath’s dog ban lifts on 30th September.
Three miles south of Bude, newcomers to the surf scene will love Widemouth Bay’s gentle waves and west facing coastline. Sheltered from the brunt of the incoming south swell, the smaller and less powerful waves here are ideal for novice surfers. Head to Freewave Surf Academy for small group lessons to improve your technique in little over two hours, or get back to basics with a taster session or refresher course.
When it comes to practical details, the huge car park makes for easy access if you’re bringing your own boards, and the Black Rock Café above the beach whips up homemade cakes if the waves leave you feeling peckish.
Where to stay nearby: The Retreat
For those more experienced in the waves
If you’re already a seasoned surfer and looking to test your nerve in the Cornish swell, cast your net further west towards Porthleven. The fishing port near Helston may sound like an unlikely surfing spot, but its fast and hollow reef to the right of the harbour is regarded as one of the best in the UK. Elite thrill-seekers can look forward to powerful waves and decent barrels to tear through, with the perfect conditions found at low to mid tide when winds are coming through from the north east.
For those who’d prefer to watch from the safety of the shoreline, we recommend booking a table at one of Porthleven’s nearby restaurants. Combining Mediterranean influences with fresh Cornish ingredients, expect a tempting menu at the newly reopened Amélie, or ask our concierge service to book a table at Kota on the harbourfront.
If you’re hoping for a challenging sunset surf, look no further than Constantine Bay on the north coast. The beach is fairly exposed with a reef break that offers reliable surf year round, while its serious rips and shelving sand at high tide are only recommended for experienced surfers.
Although Constantine can become quite crowded in the height of the summer, it’s much more peaceful later on in the year, where if you’re lucky, you may just be rewarded with the whole beach to yourself. Leave your wetsuit to dry and enjoy a barbeque in the dunes as the sun goes down, or invite sandy paws into the water with you – there’s not a dog ban in sight.
Set within West Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Porthtowan is another popular spot for the professionals to take to the waves. Expect powerful hollow beach breaks and a fairly consistent swell, but keep an eye out at low tide when the beach can get quite narrow and rocky. As with all of Cornwall’s Blue Flag beaches, Porthtowan’s dog ban lifts on 30th September, so dogs will soon be able to let off some steam on the sand.
Nestled into the dunes behind the beach, Blue Bar makes a tempting refuge to warm up after a dip, serving brunch, lunch and dinner. Or for a real Cornish experience, pop into Tris Surf Shop to stock up on beach equipment or hire boards before dashing to the shallows.
The perfect seaside base for a surf break in Cornwall, every one of our luxury beach houses are located within a mile of the sea. Browse our properties here or speak to our team and start planning your getaway.