There are many ways to explore the dramatic coast of Cornwall, but for a truly unique and different perspective of the rugged coastline, take to the water! There’s nothing quite like looking back over your shoulder at towering cliffs, paddling in and out of hidden caves, between fascinating rock formations, and pulling up on secluded beaches that you can only reach from the water. It’s not just the coast to explore, kayaking in Cornish rivers provides plenty to discover too! Throughout the county there are many opportunities for all abilities to enjoy a kayaking adventure, whether you own a kayak, you need to hire equipment or you’d like to join a guided tour!
Newquay, North Cornwall
Popular with young groups and families alike, Newquay is a hub of activity, nightlife and attractions, and a great starting point for sea kayaking adventures! The golden sands and blue waters of Towan Beach, in the heart of the town, are a great starting point where you can paddle out of the bay and away from the crowds along the 2km stretch of coastline known as the Gazzle. This stunning section of craggy coastline has become a popular spot for water sports, where you can paddle in lagoon-like waters or adrenaline junkies can head out towards the swell for a more thrilling experience. The area is also rich with a plethora of fascinating seabirds, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot dolphins, porpoises, and seals! Book a range of kayak adventures through Newquay Activity Centre, based right on Towan Beach.
- Set off from the heart of one of Cornwall’s busiest resorts
- Suitable kayak sessions for children, families, beginners, and hen and stag parties
- It’s possible you may spot dolphins, porpoises and seals
Stay nearby: Tolcarne Cottage | Sleeps 6
Port Gaverne, North Cornwall
If it’s your first time sea kayaking and you want to launch from somewhere that is relatively calm but offers breathtaking scenery, then head out with Cornish Rock Tors from the pretty cove of Port Gaverne. You’ll discover remote beaches and coves as you paddle around the coast to neighbouring Port Isaac, known best as the setting of popular TV series, Doc Martin. Unspoiled scenery combines with opportunities to spot all kinds of wildlife to make this kayaking in Cornwall adventure one you’ll definitely be adding to your list of things to do. Beginners will start their excursion by learning some basic skills from trained professionals, while those with prior experience can book an advance sea kayaking trip to explore further afield.
- Learn basic skills from the experts
- Great for first-time kayakers
- A chance to see some of the most beautiful North Cornwall coastline from the water
Stay nearby: Pibbies | Sleeps 4
St Ives, West Cornwall
The crystal-clear waters off the shore from St Ives is a kayaking haven, especially when you book a scenic sea kayaking experience with St Ives Surf School. Led by experienced guides with a love of adventure and a wealth of local knowledge, this is a great way for beginners to take in the delights of the Cornish coast. Whether it’s discovering hidden sea caves, learning tales of shipwrecks, or spotting Atlantic grey seals basking in the sunshine, there is loads to see. Join the daily kayak tours or book a private session, perfect for groups and families who wish to tailor their sea kayaking experience to suit their ages and abilities. St Ives Surf School typically sets off from Porthminster and takes in the harbour, Smeaton’s Pier, Porthgwidden and around the island to Porthmeor.
- Experienced guides who know the area’s secrets
- The chance of spotting seals
- Discover hidden sea caves, ancient shipwrecks and stunning scenery
Stay nearby: St Ives Hideaway | Sleeps 4
The Lizard Peninsula, West Cornwall
The wild and wonderful Lizard Peninsula offers plenty of locations where you can launch your own kayak or join a professionally guided tour. The 5-mile stretch of coastline between Mullion Cove and Kynance Cove is truly breathtaking but best reserved for the more experienced kayaker. Due to its exposed position, even on calm days, conditions can be choppy. You’ll glide through clear waters, beneath craggy headlands and beside wide bays, pulling up on quiet beaches for lunch and exploring hidden caves. For guided tours on the Lizard Peninsula, we recommend Lizard Adventure to take care of you and your group, launching from either Mullion Harbour or Cadgwith Cove depending on the conditions. If you have your own kayak or you’re thinking of buying one, they also run sea safety sessions.
- Hidden caves, secluded beaches and clear waters
- Fun for the more experienced kayakers as well as beginners
- Brush up on your skills with a sea safety session
Stay nearby: The Puffin | Sleeps 4
Fal River, Falmouth, West Cornwall
The stunning Fal River is a unique system of waterways stretching from Truro to Falmouth and taking in the beautiful waters of the estuary, also known as Carrick Roads. With so much to explore, it’s one of the best places to go kayaking in Cornwall. As well as a beautiful setting for water sports and a busy passageway for sailors and fisherman, the river is home to a variety of incredible birds and wildlife. In the upper course of the river where the banks are wooded, you may even see fallow deer drinking from the shallow waters. There are plenty of beautiful spots along the river where you can pull up for lunch such as Carricknath Cove at St Anthony or on a flat day, take an adventure to Porthbeor Beach. You can hire kayaks from Swanpool Beach and explore the river at your leisure.
- Ideal for those looking for an easy self-led kayak experience
- A network of waterways to explore at your leisure
- Riverbanks that are alive with wildlife
Stay nearby: Falmouth Wisteria Cottage | Sleeps 6
Roseland Peninsula, West Cornwall
One of the picturesque waterways that spout off from the busy Carrick Roads, the peaceful Percuil River flows against the backdrop of the striking Roseland Peninsula, one of Cornwall’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Your kayak adventure will have you stumbling across secluded creeks, pretty fishing villages, peaceful beaches, and rugged cliffs. Paddle right up to the lighthouse on St Anthony’s Head, enjoy a picnic on Molunan Beach, paddle by St Just in Roseland for stunning photo opportunities before pulling up your kayaks and strolling to Miss V’s Corish Cream Tea Hut to refuel! Sound like a kayak adventure you’d love? Book through St Mawes Kayaks and enjoy this very adventure, which usually takes around 4 hours so allow plenty of time to enjoy at your leisure.
- See the sights of St Anthony’s Head & St Just in Roseland
- Experience the scenery of one of Cornwall’s AONB’s
- Stop for a cream tea in St Just
Stay nearby: Skippers – St Mawes | Sleeps 5 + 2 dogs
The Fowey River, South Cornwall
As the quote from the much-loved tale of The Wind in the Willows goes, ‘there is nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’ And why not do just that on the Fowey River where writer Kenneth Grahame took inspiration for the book. Discover your very own adventure on the river spotting wildlife or explore the bustling harbour of Fowey and the old fishing village of Polruan, directly opposite. Kayaking in Cornwall’s rivers is a great way for beginners to build up their confidence and learn the basic skills in calm and safe waters. The Fowey is a favourite with families who are looking for a gentle adventure that everyone will love. Hire kayaks from Fowey River Hire and set off on your own or join a guided tour.
- Spot a wide variety of birds
- Build confidence in the quiet waters
- Discover a destination that many writers and artists have taken inspiration from
Stay nearby: Admirals View | Sleeps 2
Kayak hire in Cornwall
Create the kayaking in Cornwall adventure that’s suitable for you and your group, whether you’re a seasoned water sports enthusiast, or you’d like to give it a go with the family on your next holiday in Cornwall. There are plenty of places where you can hire kayaks or join guided tours and lessons across the county! Here is a summary of the ones we have mentioned:
Water sports in Cornwall
Thinking about trying your hand at some more extreme sports, or alternative water sports? We've written a collection of guides to help to plan your active experiences in Cornwall:
Book a cottage in Cornwall
Ready to go kayaking in Cornwall? We hope you have been inspired to give sea kayaking to go or you’re keen to try kayaking in Cornwall’s rivers! Start planning your adventure holiday on the Cornwall coast by booking one of our cottages in Cornwall.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.