Ultimate Guide To North Cornwall; Beaches, Hotels, Activites, Eateries & More!
The North Coast of Cornwall, one of the most heavily visited stretches in the Country. With endless sandy beaches, some of the worlds best known waves, freshest seafood, luxurious and unique stays; it’s not hard to see why. Here’s our ultimate guide to the North Coast, from Bude to St Ives.
Finding the right base can be overwhelming and it’s a question I get asked a lot. If you’re travelling by car or intend to rent one, it really doesn’t matter where you locate yourself as everywhere is driving distance. Some of the best and most unique places to stay, will be tucked away and may require a vehicle to get you to and from. That being said, if you find somewhere beachside, the South West Coast Path is your best friend, and will keep you connected to anywhere along the coast via a beautiful walk.
Slightly inland from Port Isaac, you’ll find this absolute gem. Safari Cornwall is a big blue horse box converted into a quirky place to rest your head. Think views of rolling hills, neighbouring alpacas, toasting marshmallows on the fire pit, sleeping under the stars and sundowners in the wood fired hot tub – dreamy!
Further down the coast, above Bedruthan Steps, you’ll find these amazing tipis. Appropriately named Seaview Tipis offer the basics for a stay with a hard to beat view of the ocean. This is prime sunset spot too so you’ll get the best view!
Other unique places to stay I would highly recommend are: The Old Lifeboat Station near Padstow for a converted lifeboat station above the quaintest cove of clear tropical waters for your morning dip. Kudhva near Trebarwith Strand is as unique as they come, these treehouse like constructions offer the most immersive retreat of tranquility. Free Range Escapes offering the most gorgeous shepherds huts just outside of Polzeath, these gypsy style huts are colourful, joyful & based on a beautiful farm.
Based on Tolcarne Beach in Newquay is this ultra cool hotel, The Colonial. With a quirky theme throughout and a faultless beach view from the window, you are literally on the beach so you can pop from the sea to your bed as many times a day as you would like. Being based in Newquay, you also have the benefit of so many beaches, bars and places to eat in walking distance.
Based on Hayle’s miles of golden beaches is this colourful spot, Three Mile Beach. Offering self catering lodges all decorated with beautiful modern details and complete with luxuries such as hot tubs, saunas, smart TV’s and they’re dog friendly.
If you’re looking for some luxury, places with fine details, fine dining restaurants and beautiful coastal locations, look no further! Fistral Beach Hotel is a true stunner, with large rooms complete with Seaview balconys, bathrooms offering the same perfect view and an amazing restaurant below which offers a fine tasting menu to enjoy.
For more luxurious stays on the North Coast, I can recommend: Carbis Bay Estate in St Ives is incredible, based upon one of Cornwalls finest beaches and with some of the best restaurants below, you have everything you need for an amazing stay. The Scarlet Hotel is adult only and has one of Cornwalls most photographed spas. Watergate Bay Hotel is above one of the best beaches in Cornwall and the perfect surf.
In the summer, be sure to head down to The Colonial on Tolcarne beach for their BBQ. This mixed meat platter was absolutely incredible, with chicken, lobster, steak, octopus and so much more, it’s an amazing feast and all eaten with a perfect sea view!
If you want a foodie experience, be sure to book yourself onto a feast. Long tables in beautiful places, serving fresh food from perfectly crafted menus, it’s such a brilliant way to spend an afternoon. Padstow Kitchen Garden is above Padstow and they cook and prepare ingredients grown on the farm where you sit and cooked over fire. So good!
I was once asked what’s the best meal I’ve had in Cornwall and this is the place I named! Temple in Bude is a cool and chilled out place to enjoy lunch or dinner and the food quality and flavours throughout the dishes is perfection.
The North coast is absolutely bursting with wildlife and there’s no better way to see it than from the water. In numerous locations along the coast, you can hop on a RIB and head out into the open ocean in search of seals, dolphins, whales, puffins and more. I hopped aboard a Padstow Sealife Safari tour in the summer and had the best time. We saw heaps of dolphins and a minke whale!
We’re starting out tour of the North coast in Bude, the first large town you’ll find. Bude is a popular holiday location with three main beaches in the town and further beautiful beaches around. The town has many places to eat, stay and shops to enjoy. On the main beach you’ll find a seapool where you can enjoy a swim if you’re worried about the ocean. There’s also great surf here if you’re keen to get on the waves.
If all you know about Boscastle is that it once flooded, then you need to go here. It is a beautiful place to visit, with it’s cute-as-a-button cottages which line the river that runs through the village, the quirky witchcraft stores and the stunning landscape surrounding the valley. Boscastle is a great day trip, you can walk there from Tintagel or drop in as you’re driving by.
Rocky Valley is a spot between Boscastle and Tintagel and I first stumbled upon it whilst walking the coastal path between the two. It’s a rugged part of the coastline where a stream has carved out the valley. You can access it from the road, following the water down to the coast. Inland from here, you’ll also find St Nectans Glen which is a great place to visit. It’s a mystical and magical woodland leading to a very unique waterfall.
Tintagel is a well known spot on the North coast because of the castle ruins. Tintagel holds many myths and legends from the area and hosts one of Cornwall’s most visited heritage sites. The coastline is beautiful around here but there’s not a whole lot more in the village to do once you’ve finished at the castle. A good day trip or spot to start or end a walk.
Trebarwith Strand is quite underrated, in my opinion. That being said, it’s not unknown, it’s still a busy little spot in the height of summer! This valley offers a beautiful beach with unique and instantly recognisable rock formations. There’s great surf here, lovely walks and a pub which has one of the best sunset views.
Port Gaverne is a tiny little cove North of Port Isaac. It’s just around the corner so it’s a great place to allow you to walk between the two. The cove has a bustling hotel and restaurant and many Air B’nB’s so it’s often pretty busy. The cove is a great spot to get in the water as it’s nicely sheltered and can have the most gorgeous turquoise waters in the summer.
Port Isaac is stunning, a must visit on the North coast! Gaining fame due to being the setting for Doc Martin, this gorgeous cove is filled with narrow streets, beautifully decorated cottages, a charming little beach and working fishing community. There’s a few large car parks at the top of the village, don’t try and park closer, it’s a very tight place to manoeuvre a car if you don’t know where you’re going! There’s an abundance of places to eat, including the CUTEST cafe The Cornish Cove, pubs, well known chef restaurants and more. Staying here in one of the numerous holiday cottages, would make for a lovely stay. There’s several places you can reach on the coastal path from here so you can keep the holiday varied whilst enjoying the village early morning and late evening, at it’s finest when it’s quiet during golden hour!
Continuing around the coastline and you’ll find Port Quinn. Another tiny little cove but a truly beautiful one. Majority of the cove is owned by The National Trust so there’s holiday lets on offer and a small car park. Another great place to take a dip in the water, you can also hire paddle boards and kayaks here as it’s a good spot to do some water sports. If you head West up the hill from the cove, you’ll find an opening to the field above the cove. Heading through here, you’ll find Doyden Castle, another holiday let but an old tiny castle which is very cool to take a look at.
Pentire Head and The Rumps is a stunning headland just before Polzeath. The area is popular for a beautiful walk and for spotting wildlife, with seals, dolphins and basking sharks spotted from above. There’s remains of an Iron Age fort and the area is owned by The National Trust who offers a car park and a small tearoom. You can walk from Polzeath which takes about 40 minutes. The view from here is amazing, showing back into Polzeath, Rock and Padstow.
Next up, the busy beach town of Polzeath. Polzeath is well loved and can be overwhelmingly busy in peak season. It’s busy for good reason though, there’s a beautiful big beach, great surf, perfect sunset view and some great spots to eat. Polzeath has a few spacious car parks and you can park on the beach. My favourite way to see Polzeath however, is to walk from Daymer Bay, that beach is coming up next!
Daymer Bay is one of my favourites! This charming beach is a short walk from more popular locations Polzeath and Rock. There’s a decent sized car park right above the beach and it’s a reasonably sheltered beach which allows dogs. There’s little here, which is why I like it! There’s a small shop which serves some snacks and public conveniences. A short walk through the golf course and you’ll find the St Enodoc Church, a famous church which was buried in sand. It’s a pretty little spot to take a wander to.
Rock is one of those places where locals rarely visit; it’s absolutely stunning but it’s become a very expensive and luxurious place to be. Due to many celebs holidaying and owning homes here, it raised prices on everything in this area. It’s a lovely place to visit, there’s a crystal clear and calm beach, as it’s a estuary it’s perfect for a safe dip. You can hop on a water ferry between here and neighbouring Padstow and there’s also watersports rental companies based here.
Padstow is another well visited place along the North coast. This village has so much to offer and you can easily spend a couple of days entertaining yourself here. The village is based around a harbour but a short walk brings you to a beautiful long beach. If you’re looking for an active holiday, the Camel Trail ends here so you can head to or from Padstow on foot or by bike. You can hop on the water ferry over to Rock or join the Padstow Sealife Safari team on a RIB in search of wildlife. There’s a car park at the top and at the bottom of the village and it’s easy to locate with plenty of road signs. My favourite walk from Padstow, leads you out to Hawkers Cove and beyond.
Mother Iveys is a small bay, there’s a caravan site nearby and not too much more but it is so beautiful. The view from above is stunning and the water is so clear in the summer. The current can be strong here so be careful if swimming but absolutely visit! There’s a National Trust car park nearby and so many wonderful walks around.
Trevose headland is a beautiful place to walk, one of my favourites is from Treyarnon, around Mother Iveys and Trevose headland. The lighthouse here was constructed in the 1840’s and became unmanned in 1995. Since then, it has been decommissioned and now houses some holiday cottages.
Treyarnon is a beautiful beach to visit. With a large car park, a shop for essentials and refreshments it’s a very family friendly place to set up a spot for the day. There’s a brilliant natural tidal pool here for some calm swimming and a great place to start a walk.
Bedruthan Steps is such an incredible section of coastline and one you cannot miss. It’s instantly recognisable with the unique rock formations along the beach and it’s a beautiful place for a walk and to watch the sunset. Read about the legend of the giant here. The beach here is often closed to the public due to unstable cliffs and tide, please obey these rules as it’s for your safety! The view is best from above anyway so park up at the National Trust car park and take a few hours to wander up and down this coastline. There’s a small cafe here for lunches or refreshment breaks as well as a seasonal pop up called Stacks By The Sea. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the right time, Bedruthan campsite and Seaview Tipis host live music with the most amazing back drop.
Watergate is a very popular spot on the North coast and for very good reason. It’s often my go-to beach as it’s very easy to get to, loads of parking and it’s very spacious when the tide is low, so plenty of space for everyone. It’s a well known spot for its surf and if that’s something you want to give a go whilst in the County, I can recommend West Country Surf School! A lot of the property here is owned by the Watergate Bay Hotel which is a luxurious hotel with amazing views. They have The Beach Hut for casual lunch, Emily Scott restaurant for a beautiful evening meal and their own restaurant, Zacrys. There’s much more to find here also, with Harbour Beach Bar offering amazing pizza (get the sweetcorn pizza, it’s amazing!) and The Hangout above the beach offering delicious healthy bites and smoothie bowls.
Top tip – Keep an eye here for updates on the Wavelength Drive In Cinema. It’s an amazing event through the summer, unfortunately it wasn’t able to go ahead in 2022, but fingers crossed for 2023!
Oh Newquay, so much to say about Newquay! There’s two sides to this town and the best side is beautiful beaches, amazing local businesses serving fresh food and great coffee, a wholesome and wonderful community and everything you could need for a fun packed holiday. It may be busy and sometimes rowdy but that’s only because of the aforementioned meaning so many people flock here every summer. My favourite part of Newquay is around the harbour; the harbour itself is stunning and in the season offers a wide variety of street food vendors creating the best vibe. The best thing is, with so many stunning beaches in close proximity, if it’s feeling super busy, you can go on a little tour and find the spot for you.
Some of my favourite spots in Newquay:
Top tip – Head just out of Newquay to find Nansleddan, a new build community. There are some amazing small businesses here including &Kin boutique, Ladyvale Bakery for the best baked goods, Shiva for delicious healthy food & Teylu for stunning homewares, plus more!
Just across the Gannel from Newquay, you’ll find Crantock. A very pretty village with a huge beach. The Gannel runs down through the beach, giving a great spot for paddle boarding or taking a dip. The village is quaint to take a stroll around, be sure to pop to Jam Jar for evening pizzas and aperol for a very Italian vibe! If you head out of the village and wander along the coastal path, you’ll make your way to Polly Joke, also known as Porth Joke. This spot is well visited because of the incredible display of poppies during the summer. The fields become a blanket of red and it’s so pretty to see. You can walk here from the village or there’s a car park nearby.
Holywell Bay is absolutely stunning, its a huge beach with amazing large sand dunes to get lost amongst. The rock formation out to sea offers the picture perfect setting for a sunset. There’s a spacious car park and loads of space for a great day out on the beach. There’s a hidden cove with natural minerals which create a stunning pink and green coloration to the stones, it’s only accessible at very low tide and you need to be super careful to try and hunt it down!
Perranporth is another popular destination, with a town full of shops and places to eat. The beach is huge and the rock in the middle offers a wonderful natural tidal pool. There’s several car parks through the town and a bus route. On the beach, you’ll find The Wateringhole, this bar on the beach is the perfect spot for sundowners as the sun sets right in front of you. There’s great surf here and places to rent boards and keep an eye on events as they host Tunes in the Dunes here as well as other live music events.
Places I recommend in Perranporth – Head to Summerhouse for amazing burgers and Alcatraz for beautiful cocktails. Neighbouring Bolingey is very pretty with thatched cottages and a quaint pub, you can walk there fairly easily.
St Agnes is a beautiful village and one I highly recommend visiting. This stretch offers St Agnes and neighbouring Porthtowan so I’ll include them both here. St Agnes is a very pleasant village, with a small car park with an honesty box, it can fill up in the summer so head in early. The village has a great community in and out of season, with lovely places to stop off and grab a coffee or shop for some local goods. Definitely don’t miss trying Rustic Cakes, St Agnes Bakery goods and pop into Trunk Deli. From the village you can head down Stippy Stappy, a steep row of gorgeous cottages, and make your way to the beach at Trevaunance Cove. Heading towards Porthtowan, there’s beautiful walks looking down at the beach below. Porthtowan isn’t as pretty but the beach is great and there’s more great places to eat. Be sure to pop to Canteen at the Eco Park. Take a wander or a drive to Wheal Coates, an old tin mine on the cliff side. It’s a beautiful sight and a great walk. There’s a small National Trust car park nearby.
Places I recommend in St Agnes – Genki for food in a beautiful garden, The Sorting Office for a coffee, The Peterville pub, Taphouse for some Hawaiian vibes, Schooners when they’re seasonally open and in Porthtowan, head to Seasmiths for fish and chips and The Unicorn for drinks with a view.
Gwithian possibly looks familiar to you because of the lighthouse. Godrevy lighthouse is stunning, perched out to sea on its little island and often flocked by seabirds. If you’re not too sure where Gwithian becomes Godrevy and Godrevy becomes Hayle, don’t worry, it’s confusing for all of us! This area is beautiful for walks and has a cafe, Godrevy cafe, for refreshments. Surf here is great and it’s a popular sunset spot. Around the headland, there’s a cove called Mutton Cove which is a popular resting place for seals and during the winter season, you can see hundreds of seals taking a chill pill on the cove. You can’t get down to it and don’t try, the seals need their space.
Hayle is a great place to head to if you want to be close to St Ives but not in it. It’s a town offering some great shops, including one of my faves, the emporium! There’s some amazing eateries here and wandering around the harbour, you’ll start to enter a massive sweeping beach with some large sand dunes to set up a picnic.
Places I recommend in Hayle – The Cornish Arms pub, Iced on the Quay for sweet treats and coffee, Feed & Fed for delicious breakfast and lunch, Copper waves for smoothie bowls, Be Kind for vegan food.
Some locals scoff at St Ives because it’s just so busy but it’s absolutely worth it. It is incredibly stunning, the beaches are perfect, there’s so many places to eat and drink, the cobbled streets are adorable and it looks amazing regardless of the weather. It can be overwhelming so it may be a good idea to consider day trips to St Ives as apposed to staying there for the full holiday but if bustle is what you like, it’s great! If visiting, there’s numerous car parks, I’d recommend parking right at the top by the leisure centre. Obviously not ideal if you have issues with steep climbs but if you can, it just makes getting in and out so much easier. You can also take the train from St Erth, the ride is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. When in the town, there’s four main beaches all within walking distance; you have Porthmeor, Porthminster, Porthgwidden and Harbour Beach. Just a short walk out of the town and you’ll find Carbis Bay Beach. I recommend seeing them all, you’ll have a favourite and can set up there for the day. The streets are so pretty with quaint cottages lining them and hidden coffee stops, get lost amongst them.
Places I recommend in St Ives – Hub for burgers, Beer & Bird for fried chicken, Talay Thai for Thai food, Rum & Crab shack for seafood, Silco for small plates, Caffe Pasta Pizza for Italian, St Eia for wine and pairings. Porthminster beach cafe, Porthgwidden cafe, Yallah, Harbour View Hotel and Scoff Troff are all great for lunch. For a special occasion meal, head to Carbis Bay Estate to enjoy one of their many incredible fine dining restaurants.