Six Of The Best Cornish Beaches For Sandy-Toed Escapes

Seek out Cornwall’s best beaches with our pick of the county’s most photogenic coves and under-the-radar sandy stretches

What's the best beach in Cornwall? How long is a piece of string? Cornwall, or Kernow, as the locals say, has so many postcard-ready sandy stretches and secluded rocky coves that ranking their merits in the hope of totting up a best-of-the-best is futile work. Anyway, in the summer, when the population of many Cornish towns quadruples in size thanks to the tourists, it makes sense to consider the less picture-perfect stretches. Head for under-the-radar Cornish corners and you'll find that this Celtic county spills beyond its guidebook highlights: along its coast sit beaches blessed with tip-top seasonally led restaurants and landscapes ripe for weekend adventures. With that in mind, we've put together our pick of Cornwall's best beaches, pairing a few standout stunners with some quieter, less-visited spots.

Sheltered coves and secluded stretches - the best beaches in Cornwall

Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall, UK

Porthmeor Beach

St Ives

Best for: pleasing the crowd

This soft-sand haven is affectionately known as Mother Meor among Cornwall natives, so central is the beach to local childhood memories. Situated below the Tate St Ives, a four-minute walk from the town centre, it's prime territory for those who want to make the most of the area's many attractions. Ease of access means that summer days on the sandy stretch are busy, but with a sea view so pretty, it's worth joining the crowds, and with Porthmeor Beach Café and West bar and café located right on the sand, you won't have to stray far from your towel for lunch. Porthmeor has a fairly exposed beach break, so swing by St Ives Surf School to rent boards and wetsuits, sign up for lessons or just pick up some tips.

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall, UK

Porthcurno Beach


Best for: wildlife watching

Encircled by cliffs, the small cove of Porthcurno offers some of Cornwall's most dramatic, and beautiful, landscapes: smooth, green hillsides crumble down towards the sea, and soft sands with a scallop-pink hue fringe brilliantly blue waters. This is a mecca for dolphins, so keep your eyes on the waves. Between the bobbing heads of seals, you might see a fin or two. Too large to be a dolphin? Basking sharks are also regularly spotted around here. Come evening, shake off the sand and head over to the open-air Minack Theatre. Built into the cliff, it's one of the best places from which to watch the sunset, and in summer runs a schedule of events and shows.

Sennen Cove Beach, Cornwall, UK

Sennen Cove Beach


Best for: pro surfing

Located just up the coast from the UK's most southern tip, Land's End, Sennen Cove faces the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, making it one of Cornwall's hottest surf spots. The beach is a 1.6km-long stretch of sun-bleached sand backed by undulating dunes, and swells here are some of the heaviest in the UK, so be wary if you're new to the board. Less keen to hit the rollers? Skip the surf and head over to the Old Success Inn's terrace to scoff fish and chips and enjoy a St Austell beer while watching the pros at work.

Porthminster Beach, Cornwall, UK

Porthminster Beach

St Ives

Best for: families

Sheltered in St Ives Bay, Porthminster enjoys gentler waters than its big brother Porthmeor, making it the perfect beach pit stop for families situated in the seaside town. Hit up St Ives Watersports to grab paddleboards and kayaks, then ride the waves to see the famous seaside resort from a whole new perspective. Afterwards, take a table at Porthminster Restaurant to refuel. Plan your dinner around the spring tide and you'll be able to walk from the beach to the harbour front without having to leave the sand. If you're travelling from outside St Ives, we'd recommend parking up at St Erth railway station and catching the train in; it's one of the UK's most scenic rail routes.

Kynance Cove, Cornwall, UK

Kynance Cove

The Lizard

Best for: postcard-perfect looks

There's a reason you'll have seen this sandy stretch on every must-see list ever made about Cornwall: it's a beach cliché of golden sands and turquoise waters. Inevitably, Kynance Cove draws the crowds in summer, but there's plenty of space to explore between the serpentine, black rock stacks and islands. This is a beach for the adventurous, accessible only on foot via a rocky path, and dotted with sea caves, natural arches and rock pools. It's also tidal and there are no lifeguards, so be wary of the water cutting off access twice a day. If you're uninclined to clock-watch, you might want to find a different place to sun-bask.

Bamaluz Beach, Cornwall, UK

Bamaluz Beach

St Ives

Best for: dogs (and their owners)

Pooch owners know that finding a dog-friendly beach in summer is as difficult as uncovering the legendary smugglers' bounty allegedly scattered along the Cornish coast, but in Bamaluz Beach, we've hit gold. Often overlooked by visitors, this pocket-sized patch of sand is a local treasure. Find it between St Ives Harbour and Porthgwidden Beach, right below St Ives Museum, where steep steps lead down to the water's edge. If you're struggling, follow the joyful yaps carried on sea breezes.

Marazion, Cornwall, UK

Marazion Beach


Best for: stargazing

Marazion isn't the classic Cornish beach - unlike most, the waves lapping at its shores are shallow and small, thanks to an unexpected wave breaker. Gazing out towards St Michael's Mount, a tidal island and civil parish located in the middle of the bay, this is a beach ideally positioned for lazy admiration of the picturesque scene. Arrive at low tide to access the castle, gardens and island community via a causeway, or take stock and enjoy the view if the waters are in. While beautiful on a balmy summer's day, at night the scene is a real breathtaker: when dusk falls, a twinkling celestial show backdrops the island, the result of the area's low light pollution.

Praa Sands, Cornwall, UK

Praa Sands


Best for: winter walks (and cold-water surfing)

Located on Cornwall's south coast in the parish of Breage, just between Penzance and Helston, this vast beach is a favourite with local surfers in winter when the swell aligns with the wind to create weighty blue rollers. Not keen on entering the 7ºC waves? Stick to the sands. Reward yourself with a cold drink from The Boathouse after a power walk along the 1.6km-long beach.

Porthzennor Cove, Cornwall, UK

Porthzennor Cove

Zennor, Cornwall

Best for: au naturel sunbathing

If tan lines aren't your thing, make a beeline for Porthzennor Cove, a 10-minute drive south of St Ives. A little more rocky than other spots on this list, it's a less-visited beach only accessible by the coast path and surrounded by the shaggy moorlands that encircle the town of Zennor. This is a myth-imbued area made famous by a folklore tale about a local mermaid. The isolation suits the cove, which is also the south west coast's unofficial naturist beach.

Prussia Cove, Cornwall, UK

Prussia Cove


Best for: rockpooling

Hidden away in the rugged cliffs to the west of Praa Sands, this blink-and-you'll-miss-it inlet is one of those places you don't quite believe is in the UK - its shallow waters and cascading rocks could just as easily be in Croatia. Sheltered and small, Prussia Cove feels a little liminal: you'll pass tumbledown fishing huts beside the path descending to the beach and, on the vast, flat rocks that stretch out into the sea, see visible deep grooves - all that remains of a former seaweed harvesting industry. The tracks were made by carts used to haul the harvest out of the water. Today, visitors fling down sorbet-coloured towels onto these sun-warmed rocks. Be warned: because it's so small, Prussia Cove quickly fills up in summer.

This article was first published in May 2021 and has been updated.

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