Back in the 19th century, Perranporth was a typical Cornish tin mining village, albeit overlooking a huge expanse of sandy beach. Today it is one of the most popular resorts on the Atlantic Coast with few obvious signs of its industrial heritage.
Perranporth is without doubt home to one of the finest surfing and family beaches in Cornwall, attracting surfers, sunbathers and sand yachters. Its golden sands stretch for over two miles, topped by fine cliffs complete with caves to explore and interesting rock formations to investigate.
The town itself is a typical seaside resort, with a strip of beach, surf and gift shops almost on the beach, as well as cafes and bars. Perranporth also has a golf course and boating lake, and it's just a short drive along the Atlantic coast from Newquay or St Agnes. However, with the beach possibly literally on your doorstep, why shift from the sands of Perranporth?
Perranporth is all about the beach. Measuring 3.5km / 2.2 miles long at low tide, stretching from Droskyn Point to Ligger Point (top tip: go to the Penhale end if you're after a quiet spot). The beach is backed by extensive sand dunes, and the cliffs contain exciting-looking caves…
The consistent Atlantic swells make Perranporth one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall. It's also a popular family beach, with the town centre and its amenities practically on the sands. The beach is lifeguarded in the main season (you may have seen the team on BBC's Saving Lives At Sea).
Add to all this a small, tidal bathing pool for those who prefer a calmer swim, and the Watering Hole pub right on the sands, and there really is something for everyone at Perranporth beach.
The History of Perranporth
Perranporth gets its name from Cornwall's famous patron saint of tin miners, St Piran (Pyran/Perran/Pirran/Peran). The legend goes that he was cast into tempestuous seas from the cliffs of the Irish coast, tied to a millstone. However, the storm immediately subsided and rather than sinking to his death St Piran safely floated across the sea on the stone. He landed on the sandy beach of what became Perranporth.
Setting up as a hermit, his first disciples were a fox, a badger and a bear, although he later gained a human following. St Piran is also credited with "rediscovering" the process of tin smelting, an art that had been lost some time after the Roman occupation. Piran stumbled across the process when his black hearthstone oozed a white cross of molten tin: the story behind the Cornish flag.
Legend aside, there are a number of sites around Perranporth linked to the saint. Just inland, among the extensive dunes, the Oratory of St Piran was lost for centuries under the encroaching sands. This was an important early Celtic monastery and one of the foremost places of pilgrimage in medieval Cornwall. As well as the relics of St Piran, the shrine was said to hold the teeth of St Brendan and St Martin.
The Oratory was buried under the sand, then excavated and lost again on more than one occasion. In 2014, it was excavated again, and visitors can finally see the 1,000-year-old roofless chapel.
Nearby are the ruined walls of the parish church, originally built around 1150. This building was abandoned to the sand in 1804. Beside it stands a fine granite cross, which is believed to date from the 10th century or earlier.
Not much is known about Perranporth until the 19th century, when the village had two working tin mines. It only really became a visitor resort in the first half of the 20th century, as you can tell by the 1930s' seaside architecture.
However, Perranporth's surfing history goes back further than that. Soldiers returning from WW1 came back with tales they'd heard of surfing. The local coffin maker, Tom Tremewan, made up some flat boards from tongue-and-groove and nails. The UK's first surf boards?
Perranporth Airfield was a Spitfire Station during the Second World War. Pilots from many different countries flew from here. Look out for a roll of honour in the control tower, which commemorates those who gave their lives.
English Heritage considers Perranporth to be one of the most important remaining airfields from the Second World War. Today, the airfield is devoted to gliding and leisure activities, including scenic flights; although you can still see a lot of its original WWII features.
We're all used to hearing Cornwall described as “Poldark Country”; however, Perranporth can be described as Poldark's birthplace. Author Winston Graham wrote his first Poldark novel while living in Perranporth, surrounded by the historic mining landscape of old engine houses and stacks. You can find out more about Perranporth's real Cornish tin mines in Perranzabuloe Folk Museum.
What to Do in Perranporth
Most of us come here for that beautiful beach and excellent surf. However, there's more to Perranporth and its surrounding countryside than that. Here are some other Perranporth attractions to visit during your stay.
The Perranzabuloe Millennium Sundial is in a spectacular clifftop location. The creation of local artist Stuart Thorn, the sundial was commissioned for the year 2000. Like the smaller versions, this giant sundial features a gnomon in its centre, while its markers are made from granite standing stones.
Unlike most sundials, the MPerranporth's version tells “Cornish Time” rather than GMT.The shadow falls due North when the sun is at its highest, which is 12 minutes earlier in Cornwall than London.
Iron Age enclosure Perran Round is found outside the town. It was adapted in the Middle Ages to become a Plen-An-Gwarry (literally, playing place), an open-air performance space. Perran Round is still used today, notably for Cornish Gorsedh events. It's fascinating to see how this single ancient site continues to be used.
This stretch of the South West Coast Path is one of the most beautiful. From Perranporth, you can head west through the mining country that inspired Winston Graham to write Poldark, or east towards lively Newquay.
Cider, shops, trailer rides and a farm: it's safe to say that the whole family is catered for at Healeys. Take a tour of the home of the legendary Cornish Rattler, and enjoy a sample or two (it's only 3.5 miles from Perranporth, so not far for a taxi).
Heritage railway rides, swan boats, playgrounds… Lappa Valley is an excellent spot for a family day out. There are woodland walks for sunny days, and indoor soft play for rainy ones. It's about eight miles by road from Perranporth to Lappa Valley.
Golfing at Perranporth
Perranporth Golf Club welcomes visitors - and who wouldn't want to play on this stunning links course? It was designed in 1927 by the great James Braid, and very little has changed since then. Golf players will be pleased to know that there's also self-catering accommodation at Perranporth Golf Club…
OK, and it's back to the beach… Perranporth is a great place for surfing, and if you;ve never tried before, there's a choice of surf schools that can get you started. It's a bit quieter than Newquay, although that could simply be because people are more spread out along this long beach. Experienced surfers head for the Droskyn Point end.
Places Close to Perranporth
There are a lot of places to visit within ten miles of Perranporth. If you fancy a jaunt while you're here, try these popular spots.
This splendid bay is just a few miles up the coast from Perranporth. Holywell Bay is famous for its ancient sand dunes (a great spot for sandboarding) as Gull Rocks (you might recognise these from BBC's recent Poldark adaptation). There's a small village as well as the beach, which was the home of W J Burley, creator of Cornish detective Wycliffe.
Head four miles south west to lovely St Agnes. This attractive village has a good selection of places to shop, eat and drink, as well as postcard-perfect cottages (look out for Stippy Stappy Cottages). The local beach, Trevaunance Cove, is good for family days out, surfing and fishing
If you're looking for a good beach for the kids, come to sandy Porthtowan. The Blue Flag beach is lifeguarded in the summer, and there's a lot of handy amenities for families in the village. It takes about 20 minutes to drive to Porthtowan from Perranporth.
Perranporth is just eight miles from Cornwall's surfing capital and party town. Newquay also has some major family attractions, such as the zoo and aquarium, and it's surrounded by some really pretty little places.
Cornwall's only city is just ten miles from Perranporth. Truro is the place to go to stock up on essentials, or to have the best choice of bars and restaurants. It's also home to a theatre, cinema, cathedral and museum.
Cocks & Ventongimps
Stop sniggering at the back! Yes, you can come here for the signpost selfie, but these two little villages are actually very nice places for a pleasant stroll.
Perranporth: Good to Know
Thinking about coming to Perranporth? Here's what you need to know.
Getting to Perranporth
Perranporth by Road
If you're driving to Perranporth, head for the A30 then take the B3285 at Boxheater Junction. Perranporth is about 6 miles from the junction.
Perranporth by Rail
The closest mainline station to Perranporth is Truro, which is about ten miles away. Newquay has a branchline station, but as that's still an eight mile drive from Perranporth, it's really not worth the hassle of changing trains. There's a bus service to Perranporth from Truro.
Perranporth by Bus
You can catch a bus to Perranporth from Truro, which goes via Newquay. National Express coaches also usually stop at the city.
Perranporth by air
Flying is another option, and Cornwall Airport Newquay is a half hour drive from Perranporth. You can hire a car or take a taxi from the airport. Find out more about flying to Cornwall by visiting Newquay Airport's website.
Parking in Perranporth
There are three main car parks in Perranporth: Wheal Leisure, Droskyn and Promenade. Good news if you've visiting out of season, as the first two are free in the winter. There's some overspill parking in Perranporth during the summer.
Where to Eat in Perranporth
Perranporth has a good choice of places to eat and drink, as well as takeaways. The Watering Hole is right on the beach, and is a must-visit venue for its location as well as its food. If you fancy traditional pub grub, there are a lot of appealing old inns in the area.
On a sunny day, pick up a picnic from one of Perranporth's delis or farm shops, and enjoy it in the park or by the boating lake. Finish off your day on the beach with some chirpy battered cod and chips from legendary chippy, Pickwicks. It's a short drive from town, but if you fancy something sweeter, the ice cream parlour at Callestick is an essential trip.
Where to stay in Perranporth
There are plenty of places to stay in and around Perranporth. This includes holiday cottages, small hotels and campsites, so you'll always have a good choice of different types of accommodation.
If you don't mind a short drive or bus ride, there are a lot of B&Bs in nearby Newquay, as well as Premier Inns for good value accommodation. Truro is only ten miles away if you're looking more more luxe accommodation.
To find out more about where to stay in Perranporth, take a look at our Cornwall accommodation guide.