Newquay Beaches and Surf
Newquay's eleven beaches, boasting over seven miles of golden sand, are among some of the best and busiest in the country. Defined by stunning variety and consistent, accessible surf and generally within easy walking distance of the town centre, the beaches in Newquay are what make this town a fantastic base for a UK beach holiday, if, that is, you can handle the crowds! Formerly a sleepy fishing village and Victorian seaside town, Newquay came to life and international attention in the 1960s when Australian and South African lifeguards arrived to patrol the beaches. They brought with them Malibu surfboards and began a transformation which now places Newquay at the epicentre of what can only be called a national surfing craze. Welcome to Surf City UK!
There are four beaches in the town itself, just minutes walk from the centre. These are Tolcarne , the Harbour, Towan (often called Town) and Great Western beaches. Characterised by accessibility, proximity to facilities and relatively safe and sheltered swimming, these beaches are truly heaving during the summer months. Other beaches within (slightly less easy) walking distance include the world famous Fistral, home to Europe's largest surf, skate and music festival, the privately-owned Lusty Glaze, Watergate Bay and Crantock, all renowned surf spots.
Tolcarne Beach is a large, west-facing expanse of sand that joins up with neighbouring Lusty Glaze at low tide. Stunning views of the harbour and headland and occasional good but safe surf make this a popular beach with families, although some are put off by the walk down (or, more accurately, back up) the high cliffs, which involves more than two hundred steps. There is a lifeguard here in the summer and facilities include a shop, a surf school, crazy golf, toilets and a cafe.
Harbour Beach is Newquay's smallest. Entirely covered at high tide the beach is easily accessible and offers safe and sheltered swimming (although no surf), making it a popular choice for families. Boat trips leave from here in summer and there is a shop and a cafe.
Towan Beach, often called Town Beach, is next to the harbour entrance and the closest beach to Newquay town centre. Enter at your peril during the summer months, when this proximity and level access (no steep cliffs to navigate) make Towan Beach an extremely popular choice. Fortunately, there is a good-sized expanse of sand and rocks to soak up the crowds and a small, sea-filled swimming pool for families to use during the summer. Probably the most sheltered beach in Newquay and with all the facilities imaginable, Towan beach is overlooked by the Newquay Sealife Centre and offers good views of Towan Island, connected to the cliffs by Newquay's famous suspension bridge.
Great Western Beach is another popular family beach just minutes from the town centre. Consisting of several west-facing sandy coves backed by towering cliffs, the beach is sheltered and has loads of facilities, including a private lift that descends majestically from the Great Western Hotel. Popular with novice surfers, the beach is reached via a steep, winding path that runs between the Blue lagoon Leisure Centre and the Great Western Hotel.
Fistral is known to most people who have ever so much as dreamed of picking up a surfboard and heading into the waves. Newquay's most famous and popular beach is also, thankfully, her largest. Nearly a mile of golden sand leads from Little Fistral at the Towan end, home to the best waves and the biggest crowds, to South Fistral at the Pentire end, where both the surf and the crowds get easier.
Backed by steep sand dunes and facing slightly north-west, giving some protection from the prevailing southwesterly winds, Fistral is certainly one of the best beach break in the UK. The National Surfing Centre Surf School operates here and is a good place to start if you are new to surfing. For the pros, there are numerous competitions to choose from, including the annual Rip Curl Boardmasters, Europe's largest surf, skate and music festival, attracting some of the biggest names in the industry. And for mentalists, there's the Cribbar, a legendary big wave spot that needs a huge (20 ft+) swell to work and has, for this reason, only been surfed a handful of times since 1967.
Lusty Glaze is a privately-owned beach that was bought by Jeremy and Tracey Griffiths in 1999, who open it free of charge to the public 365 days a year. Lusty Glaze is a stunning horseshoe-shaped cove, called after the Cornish for 'a place to view blue boats' (!) Naturally sheltered by high cliffs the beach is a safe place for families with some surf and plenty of facilities including a creche, a daily BBQ and The Adventure Centre, a unique leisure and education facility that offers everything from 'coasteering' to kiteboarding to a high ropes course. Lusty Glaze is also home to the headquarters of the National Lifeguard and Rescue Training Centre, which has an international reputation for training in surf lifesaving. The centre runs 'Junior Baywatch' courses on the beach in the summer for kids aged 8-14.
Watergate Bay to the north of the town is a large, open, west-facing bay with two miles of golden sand and consistent year-round surf offering powerful, shapely waves. A fifteen minute drive (or 'strenuous' forty-five minute walk) from Newquay town centre, Watergate Bay lies at the foot of steep cliffs on which sit the iconic Watergate Bay Hotel (used in the film of Roald Dhal's 'the Witches') and Jamie Oliver's 'Fifteen Cornwall' training restaurant. There are toilets and refreshments on the beach itself, as well as a Beach Hut Bistro.
Crantock, which lies to the west of Newquay, near a village that goes by the same name, is popular with locals as it tends to be less crowded in summer than the beaches closer to the town centre. More than a mile of golden sand backed by dunes define a north-west facing beach that is remote, relatively calm and offers less crowded and smaller surf than some of it's more famous neighbours. There are some good peaks for beginners on the sheltered west side, while more experienced surfers use the river on the east side to paddle out ot more challenging offshore banks. At the north end the River Gannel Estuary separates the beach from Pentire Head, a two mile walk along the coast path from Newquay town centre. The National Trust operate a car park and toilet on the beach, which also has a small shop and cafe in peak season.
Other beaches in and around Newquay include Porth Beach, a large expanse of sand just north of the town (five minutes in a car) that offers safe swimming (surfing is banned during lifeguard hours) and is popular with families. A dramatic blowhole is visible at mid tide. Porth (Polly) Joke is a sandy cove west of the town centre just ten minutes on foot from the West Pentire car park, and
Whipsiderry, a sheltered cove with no facilities and no lifeguard just next to the Porth headland where some fabulous caves can be seen at low tide, although it is entirely covered at high.