Secret Cornwall: The beaches and coves no-one told you about

Posted by Simon Lockyer on 09th April 2018

Coastal Cornwall, Visit Cornwall

hidden cornwall beaches

When it comes to the UK's most beautiful beaches, Cornwall is probably the first place that springs to mind. Places like Newquay, St Ives and Lizard Point are all home to some of the best beaches in the world, with beauty spots such as Kynance Cove, Porthcurno and Porthmeor all popular to visit on a Cornwall holiday.

But did you know there are more than 400 beaches to be found along the unique and magical coastline that hugs the South West corner of the British Isles? We've heard all about the fishing harbours, the stunning stretches of sand and the surfing spots… but what are they keeping from us?

Fear not. We've scoured the maps and grilled the locals to find some of the best hidden and secret Cornwall beaches – and then put them in an interactive map for you to peruse at your leisure!

To find out where to park, whether each lovely beach is dog-friendly or if it's suitable for families, read on past the map. Remember, though: you can't tell anyone...

Fox Cove

fox cove cornwall

The beautiful Fox Cove is found near Padstow on the North Cornwall coast. The difficult-to-access rocky beach has a small crescent of golden sand which is revealed at low tide, while it's easily recognisable by the long mussel-encrusted rock which divides the inlet in half.

The remains of steam tanker Helmsley I peek up through the sea bed at the Cove, after she wrecked in 1969 on the way to a breaker's yard. Thankfully, everyone that was on board at the time survived.

  • Put into your sat nav: PL28 8PL
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Not recommended for families because of limited accessibility and due to it disappearing at high tide
  • Parking: In nearby Porthcothan
  • Accessibility: 3/10 – the cliffside path is tricky to navigate
  • Sunset Rating: 10/10 – facing the Atlantic, sunsets are incredible on a clear day
  • Local Amenities: In nearby St Merryn or Constantine

Pentire Steps

pentire steps cornwall

We wouldn't be surprised if you've heard of Bedruthan Steps. The better-known, National Trust beach is found between St Merryn and Mawgan Porth, but it's Pentire Steps, directly next to it and accessible at low tide, which we love.

Diggory's Island, a grass-topped island exhibiting an impressive natural arch that provides a doorway through to the rest of the bay, overlooks the beach, further adding to the natural beauty to be found there.

  • Put into your sat nav: PL27 7UU
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Yes, but ideally older children as the final drop on to the beach requires a bit of a scramble
  • Parking: There are two car parks, both of which are a short walk to the cliffside steps
  • Accessibility: 6/10 – take care on the cliff path, as the steps can be a little demanding
  • Sunset Rating: 10/10 – again, facing west, this beach offers stunning sunsets
  • Local Amenities: There is a National Trust shop, café and Visitor Centre adjacent to the car park, while nearby Mawgan Porth has a pub, restaurant and shops.

Porth Joke

Porth Joke Cornwall

Although just five miles from the hustle and bustle of Newquay, this gorgeous bay is an oasis of calm for most of the year. The deep cove is nestled between rocky headlands, with Crantock Beach to the north and Holywell Bay to the south.

Known locally as Polly Joke, there are caves and rockpools to explore, with a rough path leading to parking a little over half a mile inland to the sands.

  • Put into your sat nav: TR8 5SE
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: As long as you can make the walk, there are opportunities to enjoy rockpooling, snorkeling, surfing and fishing, with caves to explore, too
  • Parking: About 15 minutes' walk away at West Pentire or at Cubert Common National Trust car park
  • Accessibility: 5/10 – although not too far, the walk to/from the car park is over rough terrain
  • Sunset Rating: 9/10 – another west-facing beach that gets beautiful reddy evening hues
  • Local Amenities: Newquay is just five miles away

Portheras Cove

Portheras Cove Cornwall

If you're lucky, you'll see seals at Portheras (or Portherras) Cove, a proper local beach owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and located on one of the wildest stretches of Cornish coast.

In August 1963, the 454-ton cargo ship Alacrity, carrying anthracite from Swansea to Brussels, ran aground and, as such, parts of the beach became out of bounds due to razor sharp fragments burrowed under the sand. This was remedied in 2004 when the wreck was finally cleaned up, making the beach safe once again.

  • Put into your sat nav: TR19 7TU
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Yes, but take care when swimming as there can be strong undercurrents
  • Parking: Available in the farm car park at the end of the signposted “Rose Valley”, or in the Pendeen Watch car park about a mile east
  • Accessibility: 2/10 – it's fairly tricky to find without knowing where you're going!
  • Sunset Rating: 8/10 – better in the summer as, in the winter, the craggy headland can obstruct the views
  • Local Amenities: Nothing for a couple of miles

READ NEXT: Did you know Portheras Cove is one of more than 200 dog-friendly beaches in Cornwall? Our blog details which beaches you can take your four-legged friend on 365 days a year, which have seasonal bans, and which don't allow dogs at all. Read it here.

Nanjizal Cove

Nanjizal Cove Cornwall

Although it's about an hour's walk (3.5km) to Nanjizal, it's well worth it. The beach is a picturesque boulder-strewn cove with crystal clear water and is also home to the Song of the Sea – a tall, narrow natural arch.

The cove, on the Penwith Peninsula in West Cornwall, was also used as a shooting location in 1966 when Doctor Who episodes were filmed there.

  • Put into your sat nav: TR19 7AA
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Not recommended for families due to the long walk
  • Parking: None nearby - Land's End is the best bet
  • Accessibility: 1/10 – no direct access via road, and is best reached via the South West Coast Path (three miles from Land's End)
  • Sunset Rating: 9/10 – staring directly out at the Atlantic you get some wonderful sunsets
  • Local Amenities: Porthcurno is the nearest town

Pedn Vounder

Pedn Vounder Cornwall

Pedn Vounder has got to be one of Cornwall's very best beaches. The tidal stretch of sand, again on the Penwith Peninsula, offers stunning vistas of cliffs, while Logan Rock, a famous, 70-tonne rectangular block of granite (which can be rocked by one person!) is found in the headland to the east.

The name of the beach, which can only be accessed by boat or on foot from the coastal cliff path, translates in Cornish to 'pedn' (head, end) and 'vounder' (lane).

  • Put into your sat nav: TR19 6LF
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Yes, as long as everyone is able to take on the cliff path
  • Parking: About 10 minutes' walk away in Treen, or a short walk from Porthcurno
  • Accessibility: 5/10 – can only be accessed by boat or on foot from the coastal, cliff path
  • Sunset Rating: 6/10 – as the beach is south-facing, the sun sets over the cliffs
  • Local Amenities: Porthcurno is the nearest town

Housel Bay

Housel Bay Cornwall

Not far from Lizard Point you'll find Housel Bay, a small sandy cove that is one of the most southerly beaches in mainland Britain. Families or the less able-bodied are discouraged from trying to access the beach due to the extreme difficulty in getting to it.

It's also reclaimed by the sea at high tide, so those who fancy paying it a visit will have to make sure they time their trip perfectly, to ensure they're not cut off by the tide.

  • Put into your sat nav: TR12 7NU
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, but a seasonal ban from Easter Sunday to October 1st
  • Family-friendly: Yes, as long as everyone is able to take on the cliff path
  • Parking: Closest is at Lizard Point
  • Accessibility: 5/10 – not easy, with a steep climb down to the beach from the cliffs
  • Sunset Rating: 5/10 – south east facing, so away from the setting sun
  • Local Amenities: No facilities on the beach, but the Housel Bay Hotel on the cliff top above sells refreshments

Bosahan Cove

Bosahan Cove Cornwall

This secluded cove backs on to the Bosahan Estate's ancient woodland, found on the southern banks of the Helford River near Helston. The small rocky beach is certainly tranquil, and only accessible by foot (either the Coast Path or through the Estate) or boat.

We'd recommend paying the small charge to walk through the Estate, where sub-tropical gardens await you.

  • Put into your sat nav: TR12 6JL
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Yes, and they'll love walking through the Estate
  • Parking: Helford and St Anthony are both just over a mile away (in opposite directions); or, during the summer, you can pay to visit the Bosahan Estate and use the parking
  • Accessibility: 8/10 – there are easy footpaths to this lovely beach, particularly through the Bosahan Estate
  • Sunset Rating: 2/10 – the beach faces north, so there is a sincere lack of sunset
  • Local Amenities: In nearby villages, but not on the beach

Hemmick Beach

Hemmick Beach Cornwall

This secret spot is reached by narrow country lanes from Boswinger, nine miles south of St Austell. However, the road to the beach is steep and narrow, so drive carefully.

The South West Coast Path does pass over the beach, should you fancy a trek, while there's a National Trust car park just a 10/15-minute walk to the east.

  • Put into your sat nav: PL26 6LL
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Yes, plenty of coves to explore and safe swimming
  • Parking: The National Trust car park is a quarter-of-a-mile up a steep lane, but only has space for five cars
  • Accessibility: 7/10 – it's a tough-going walk down the narrow lane, so wear sensible shoes
  • Sunset Rating: 7/10 – lovely views of the sun setting over South Cornwall
  • Local Amenities: None in the immediate area – St Austell is the nearest town

Lantic Bay

Lantic Bay Cornwall

Possibly the least secret of all the beaches we've mentioned, but a personal favourite here at Stay In HQ – we couldn't leave out the quiet, stunning stretch of coast found between Fowey and Polperro.

Visions of white sand and turquoise waters are backed by high cliffs, so you'll be forgiven for thinking you've left Cornwall for the Mediterranean momentarily. There are two beaches separated by the tide here, Little Lantic and Great Lantic, but beach-goers are able to walk between them at low tide.

  • Put into your sat nav: PL23 1NP
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
  • Family-friendly: Yes, it's perfect for active kids who love exploring coves – as long as they can endure the cliff path
  • Parking: There's a National Trust car park on the main road into Polruan
  • Accessibility: 4/10 – expect a 20-minute walk across farmland and down a steep cliff path
  • Sunset Rating: 4/10 – the south-facing bay struggles in the sunset stakes
  • Local Amenities: None in the immediate area – Fowey is the nearest town


Want to see these beautiful beaches for yourself? We don't blame you! Take a look at our Cornwall accommodation to find the perfect base to explore from.

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