Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-fuelled saltwater adventure or something a little more slow-paced, you’re sure to find the perfect outdoor escape in this county. We’ve gathered some of our favourites, with tips for where to get lessons or hire equipment too.
Surf at Gwithian
Surfing is a huge part of Cornwall’s culture, so it’s the perfect place to learn. And whatever your ability, there are plenty of beaches and breaks to choose from. One of our favourite spots is Gwithian on the north coast, with its sweeping four-mile beach, stunning wild sand dunes and views over to St Ives and Godrevy Lighthouse. If you want to book a beginner or refresher lesson or hire the gear, Gwithian Academy, Sunset Surf and Shore Surf are all great options right near the beach, so you don’t have to carry your board too far. Once you’ve dried off we’d recommend coffee and cake at the Sunset Surf Cafe before wandering along the coast to see the grey seals at Mutton Cove. There’s often a large colony on the beach below - just make sure you go at low tide and be as quiet as possible so you don’t disturb them!
Take a look at our recent post The Best Places to Learn to Surf in Cornwall for lots more ideas on where to go and catch some waves.
Go coasteering in Newquay
If you want to explore Cornwall in an invigorating new way, try coasteering! On a lesson you’ll jump, swim and climb your way around the coastline with a guide, discovering caves, whirlpools and gullies along the way. Newquay’s craggy cliffs and rocky water’s edge make it a great place to coasteer and Newquay Activity Centre offers multiple routes and adventures, including family options, night time coasteers and an epic North Coast Challenge. You’ll work up an appetite no doubt, so what better way to reward your bravery than with a tasty portion of fish & chips? Try Newquay's favourite Flounders on East Street and savour your well-earned meal from a clifftop bench with an ocean view. Or if a cosy pub lunch is more your vibe, make your way to The Fox's Revenge, where you'll be welcomed by a warming setting and chef inspired comfort food.
Hike the Southwest Coast Path
Cornwall boasts a 300-mile section of Britain’s famous Southwest Coast Path, so make sure you pack your walking boots. Along the stunning coastline, there are a huge variety of terrains and walking routes to choose from, from gentle stretches along picturesque harbour fronts to steep climbs on undulating cliffs and wild headlands. No matter where you decide to walk, you’ll be rewarded with the fresh sea air in your lungs, beautiful flora and fauna and, of course, breathtaking views. Take binoculars if you can. The Southwest Coast Path website is perfect for planning your hike - you can search by location, distance, difficulty and theme (dog-friendly, or walks with a pub, for example).
Take a look at five of our favourite circular coastal walks in Cornwall here.
SUP in Falmouth
Stand Up Paddleboard (SUPing) has become one of the most popular water sports in the country in recent years - and there is nowhere quite like Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth to give it a go. This sheltered bay on the south coast provides some of the calmest conditions in the county and, especially in the summertime, the crystal clear turquoise water rivals the Mediterranean. WeSUP offers SUP hire, lessons and tours, so you can get out on the ocean with a guide or independently if you prefer.
Falmouth is a bustling town with lots more to explore post-SUP too. The harbourside streets are filled with lovely independent shops, galleries and cafes - read our round-up of the town’s best independent coffee shops here.
Kayak along the Helford River
The Helford is a stunning estuary in the south of Cornwall, with over 50 kilometres of tranquil creeks, ancient forests, unspoilt beaches and quaint villages to explore. It’s a heavenly spot for kayaking. Whether you drift blissfully with the tide or undertake a more challenging paddle, there are routes for all abilities and fitness levels. Koru Kayaking offers a guided kayak adventure around the Helford and Frenchman’s Creek, the inspiration behind Daphne Du Maurier’s novel. The tour lasts two hours and on warm days includes a swim on a secluded beach.
Stop for a refreshing riverside pint or hearty meal afterwards at The Ferryboat Inn, in a nearby unspoilt cove on the North Helford Passage.
Forage for seaweed at Cape Cornwall
Foraging is a wonderful way to experience the landscape, reconnect with nature and discover fresh, wild ingredients. Whilst you’re by the coast, why not try your hand at seaweed foraging? Seaweeds are nutritionally rich and diverse - you can learn all about it with expert Rachel Lambert of Wild Walks Southwest. As well as covering seaweed identification and harvesting, in her 3-hour foraging course, you’ll receive recipes, drying tips, lessons on the nutritional and medicinal benefits, and homemade tasters with wild foraged seaweeds. There are several locations to choose from but one of the most spectacular, in our opinion, is Cape Cornwall. One of only two capes in Britain, this breathtaking National Trust site marks the spot where the Atlantic currents divide.
Drive a boat at Fowey
Boats are always a magical way to explore the coast - so why not hire your own? The fishing town of Fowey is a designated Area of Natural Beauty and has a magnificent natural harbour, so it’s an idyllic place to enjoy a taste of life on the water. Fowey River Hire has a choice of boats suitable for up to seven people, with enough room aboard to pack a picnic or a fishing rod. Dogs are welcome too if you have a seafaring four-legged friend to join you on your journey. You don’t need prior experience - you’ll get full instructions before you set off, as well as plenty of guidance for beaches and creeks to discover along the river.
Once you’re back on dry land, make sure you allow some time to explore Fowey’s charming streets and discover its rich and fascinating history.
Go wildlife spotting from Padstow
If you prefer to have your boat driven for you, a wildlife cruise or sea safari could be the perfect day out. Cornwall is a haven for coastal wildlife. Dolphins, whales, porpoises, basking sharks, seals and all manner of marine birds can be found in and around these waters. There are lots of experienced guides and companies who can give you a glimpse into these stunning animals and their habitats, one of which is Padstow Sealife Safaris on the north coast. They offer a range of excursions in varying lengths, all providing a unique view of the Camel Estuary and Cornish coast - an unforgettable experience. For more Cornish wildlife inspiration take a look at our blog 'The best ways to see Cornwall's wildlife'.
Padstow is a seafood lovers’ paradise too, with its many fantastic harbourside restaurants. Prawn on the Lawn is one of our favourites! This fantastic eatery has been featured in Michelin Star guides every year since it opened. The menu changes depending on the fishermen’s daily catch, but sample plates include Porthilly mussels and whole Padstow brown crab.
Kitesurf at Mount’s Bay
Marazion and Long Rock in Mount’s Bay near Penzance are spectacular spots for kitesurfing when the conditions are right. With a backdrop of the iconic St Michael’s Mount, it’s a stunning location for it too. The beaches are privately owned by St Aubyn’s Estates but kitesurfing is allowed - although there are strict guidelines in place, so it’s best to go out with a qualified, knowledgeable instructor. Local kitesurfing school The Hoxton Special offer private, fully customised lessons so you can get the most out of your time in the water. Or if you’re already experienced and you just need the kit, they also have options to hire.
Go wild swimming at Porthtowan
From natural coves and rock pools to quarries and waterfalls, Cornwall has hundreds of beautiful coastal spots for wild swimming. Tidal pools are a wonderful (and safe) way to take the cold water plunge, especially if you’re not an experienced open-water swimmer. One of our favourites is at Porthtowan, nestled at the foot of the cliffs and accessible from the north-eastern side of the beach at low tide. For the ultimate Cornish experience, go at sunset and watch the sky turn gold and pink before heading to Blue Bar to warm up and enjoy a drink or two. Feeling inspired, take a look at our guide to the best places to swim in Cornwall.
Staying in Cornwall
Imagine returning to your own peaceful retreat amongst nature after an active day of adventures on the coast, rinsing off the saltwater in a hot shower before pulling on your favourite woolly jumper and preparing an outdoor feast as the sun sets. If this sounds like your idea of heaven, you’re in the right place. We have a beautiful collection of glamping locations to choose from in Cornwall, each with a story to tell. From family-friendly safari tents with sea views to romantic shepherd’s huts with private wood-fired hot tubs, all of our hideaways have been handpicked for you to have the most magical experience possible.
Browse our full collection of Cornwall glamping sites here.