Cornwall's best family friendly Surf Beaches

Cornwall has some of the most family friendly surf beaches in the world, says William Gray in this excerpt from his hit family travel guide, Britain with Kids.

(Find out more about family travel in Britain.)

(c) Will Gray


Providing shelter from prevailing southwesterly winds, the breakwater at Summerleaze (Bude’s town beach) channels small, manageable waves into the harbour – ideal for novice surfers. At low tide Summerleaze merges with Crooklets Beach. Home to the Bude Surf Life Saving Club, Crooklets often has great surf – especially between mid- and high-tide with a light swell and easterly wind. Further up the coast, Northcott Mouth, Sandy Mouth and Duckpool are best left to experienced surfers – swimming can be dangerous at low tide, so focus instead on the rock pools. South of Bude, Widemouth Bay has over a mile of sand and promises excellent surfing for beginners to pros. There’s a surf school and board hire here, plus lovely rock pools at low tide.


If the surf’s up, Fistral will be packed. Britain’s best known, and original, surf spot, this iconic beach is located just to the west of Newquay. A large expanse of sand framed by headlands, Fistral often has 6- to 8-ft waves, while at the northern end of the beach, the Cribbar can generate 20-ft monsters – for experts only! A few miles out of town, Watergate Bay is Newquay’s biggest and most spectacular beach with golden sands swept by reliable surf. If things get too serious on Fistral or Watergate, try Newquay’s more sheltered town beaches. Not only are Great Western, Lusty Glaze, Porth and Towan ideal for novice board-riders, but they are also good, all-round family beaches. As well as surfing lessons, the Lusty Glaze Adventure Centre  runs a Junior Baywatch programme of basic surf rescue techniques and rock-pooling for children aged 8-14.

Perranporth & Porthtowan

Perranporth Beach has around three miles of sand at low tide, so it’s a good choice if you want to escape the crowds (and are prepared to walk away from the busy town end of the bay). The waves are suitable for novice and intermediate surfers. Continue south past St Agnes and you’ll find another top surfing beach at Porthtowan.


Cool Cornwall’s surf central, Polzeath (Hayle Bay) squirms with neoprene during the height of summer when wetsuited bodies take to the sea in such numbers it can resemble a crowded seal colony. This superb family beach is so popular that part of it has long been commandeered as a car park. Everything crowds in on the beach: cars, surf shacks, snack bars – even ice cream vans drive out across the bay! There are good surf breaks along the beach, with waves for all abilities. If the sea gets too crowded, try New Polzeath on the north-east side of the bay. Alternatively, swap surf board for frisbee – there’s usually plenty of unclaimed sand in the middle of the bay at low tide.

St Ives

Close to the town centre, Porthmeor Beach reaps some hefty Atlantic swells. There are rock pools either end of the bay and good facilities – including the Tate St Ives. On the eastern side of St Ives Bay, Gwithian is another gorgeous sandy beach with consistently fine surf. The fact that it’s also popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers, however, reflects its quite exposed location.

Sennen Cove

Whitesand Bay, just to the east of Land’s End, curves in a long scimitar of sand to Gwenver Beach. Although it bears the brunt of whatever the Atlantic hurls at Cornwall, this is a great family beach with fabulous surfing, powder-fine sand and good facilities, including a surf school next to the beach car park at Sennen Cove.

Trebarwith Strand

With no sand at high tide, beachgoers stake out the flat rocks at Trebarwith, near Tintagel, waiting for the tide to ebb. Families with young children might find getting across the rocks tricky, but once on the beach at low tide, Trebarwith is a gem with excellent surf, rock pools and natural paddling pools.

Trevose Head

Better known for its cutesy harbour, Padstow’s nearest surf beaches are out to the west at Trevose Head. Fairly sheltered and with lovely sand and easy access, Trevone is probably the best option for young children; Harlyn Bay is a wide crescent of sand popular with surfers and families alike, while Constantine Bay is the wildest of the trio. You’re as likely to hear the piping of oystercatchers as the scream of excited children at this magnificent beach which is often scoured by treacherous waves and currents.

Most popular surf beaches have a lifeguard presence 1 May-30 Sep. Check for details.

This is an excerpt from William Gray's acclaimed travel guide, Britain with Kids - available now from our online shop.

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This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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