South Cornwall’s impossibly contorted and winding coastline is the home of some of England’s most alluring beaches. If you like rock pools, sandy expanses, clambering rocks, towering cliffs and buoyant waves, South Cornwall’s beaches will entice and delight in equal measure. Whether you are a sun worshipper, a budding geologist or palaeontologist, or the planet’s best sandcastle builder, we think you will agree that this part of the South West is a superb choice for a holiday all year round.
We have compiled a list of the best beaches in South Cornwall – some of which are well-known while others are lesser known. Read on to discover why you should make your next escape a beach holiday in South Cornwall. Or head over to our ultimate Cornwall beach guide to find out more about the region's best stretches.
Porthcurno is the beach that you can see from your stone and grass seat when you’re watching a play at the open-air Minack Theatre. Porthcurno Beach is unspoilt and gives the illusion that it is remote as the facilities and access to the village is obscured. If you can’t ‘hack’ the climb up to the Minack Theatre, head onto this beach and enjoy the surrounds. There are dunes at the back of the beach and the sea can get very animated, so it’s a great place to wave watch. Take a blanket and unwind at this deceptively quiet and beautiful beach. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the beach and the theatre (which is open for self-guided tours) during the same visit. Look out for basking sharks in the sea, which you can spot easily from the amphitheatre if they are about.
Great for: dunes, cliffs and an opportunity to visit England’s most unique open-air theatre.
Praa Sands is a luxurious stretch of sandy beach – a rarity in that it’s a good south coast surfing spot for beginners (there’s even a surf school for those that want some expert tuition). Many surfers prefer locations on the Atlantic facing north coast, but Praa Sands gives even the most seasoned pro a challenge. Many of the other beaches along this coast are nurseries with much calmer waters. Praa Sands has limited facilities but its relative proximity to Penzance and Marazion make it easy to stock up on necessities before you set off. The beach stretches for miles and is also a big favourite with those in pursuit of a golden tan! Sit back and enjoy sunset views over St Michael’s Bay and its castle mount on summer evenings too.
Great for: surfing, sandy expanses, and views of St Michael’s Mount.
Kennack Sands is a quiet beach on the west coast of the Lizard. While Kynance Cove draws in thousands of visitors, Kennack Sands, a few miles down the coast, has just as many facilities and fantastic sandy beaches. Divided into two at high tide by a large hill, you can climb over its back for bold sea views. Kids will love hunting around the rock pools for a diversity of crabs, barnacles and colourful shellfish; dogs will love hopping back and forth over the stream that cuts across the far beach. The far beach is characterised by a former sea wall that lies in ruins today. Dogs are allowed at the far beach all year round.
Great for: rock pools, avoiding crowds, and freedom for dogs!
Situated in the lea of Dodman Point, Hemmick Beach is one of the most difficult beaches to reach by road in Cornwall. Its location is at the bottom of a valley is reached by a very steep and narrow country lane. Parking can be found in the hamlet of Penare at the top of the hill, or you can use one of three or four spaces at the beach itself. Owners of mobile homes and caravans: ignore the ‘no large vehicles’ signs at your peril! Seek Hemmick Beach out if you love quiet sandy beaches with rock pools and high cliffs all around. A wall up onto the Dodman is worthwhile for the fantastic views, its wild ponies and photo opportunities galore, next to the colossal stone cross on one of its cliff tops. There are no facilities at Hemmick Beach – the closest are at Gorran Haven or Caerhays Castle Beach.
Great for: seclusion, unspoilt beauty, and headland walks.
Gorran Haven is located between Mevagissey and Dodman Point. A tiny village with a lovely harbour and a few shops and pubs, it’s a great lesser-known escape to holiday in. With a sheltered and shallow harbour, it's a great place for the kids to play and paddle; there is a small shop where you can buy beach toys too. You can walk along the harbour wall where you will see the old quarry and mine works. Gorran is close to the popular Mevagissey and the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Great for: fun family days at the beach away from the throngs, but with all the facilities you need.
Lansallos is a beautifully deceptive beach. You may even think that you are on an island in the Mediterranean like Lampedusa or Crete – so rocky and narrow is the beach. Visitors perch on the flat rocks to catch the sun, yachts drop anchor offshore and swimmers frolic and play in the deep waters. Above the beach is a large field for more relaxation and play. Facilities are above the beach at a car park reached through some enchanting woodlands.
Great for: sunbathing, sea swimming and lazy afternoons.
Seaton is wonderful for dog walks all year round. If you happen to holiday in the autumn or winter, Seaton is a highly attractive prospect for long bracing walks. Take your hound, put the worlds to right with a close friend or partner, stare out to see, and then hideaway in one of the beach cafes to warm up. Seaton is an interesting drive from Kingsand Bay and Looe through some exceptionally wild woodlands and coast. If you like getting pleasantly lost in the countryside, travel west from Seaton and thread your way along to Looe. It’s a wonderful escape.
Great for: long winter and autumn walks – the sandy beach stretches on forever in all its untamed beauty.
Close to Land's End is Sennen Cove, one of West Cornwall’s best-loved beaches. The village centres around the beach and its small harbour. The beach is long and sandy and is a major draw for those that want to walk on the sand at the most westerly hotspot in the country. With lifeguard coverage during the spring and summer, it’s a superb choice for those that love playing in the sea. There’s even an opportunity to take surfing lessons courtesy of the school at Sennen Cove. The village is home to a selection of eateries, so you needn’t go hungry during your visit. Sennen gets very busy during the summer holidays and parking is at a premium.
Great for: sandy beaches, being at the centre of one of Cornwall’s hottest beaches, great family facilities and surf lessons.
The Lizard has several excellent beaches. Long promenades in the county are rare due to the curvy coves and the necessity of sea defences and harbours, however, Coverack at the southerly end of the Lizard has a fine example. So, while your family scramble over the pebbles and the rock pools, you can walk in relative comfort. Coverack is great for a snorkel and a leisurely sea swim – the village is also a cosy spot with a pub on the headland. There are no dog restrictions either.
Great for: rock pooling, snorkelling at high tide, and its lovely prom.
Gyllyngvase - Falmouth
Falmouth has several beaches – Gyllyngvase is the most central and the sandiest. Located to the west of Pendennis Head, the beach is gilded with lovely landscaped parks and a boardwalk. Some quality cafes are found at the western end of the expanse and there are also very good facilities to make a family day out that little bit easier. Paddling is fun for small kids and there’s loads of scope for building sandcastles, collecting shells and pebbles. There is a dog ban throughout the summer months along sections of the beach at Gyllyngvase.
Great for: sandcastles, great food and family days out.
Stay in a holiday cottage on the South Cornwall coast – we have some excellent prospects in our collection from sea view apartments, fisherman’s cottages, tasteful barn conversions and farmhouses on country estates. Wherever you stay in South Cornwall, you won’t be far away from a great beach on your self-catering holiday. Book your South Cornwall Cottage today.