A guide to storm watching in Cornwall

Penned on the 6th January 2023

A guide to storm watching in Cornwall

As well as being a beautiful seaside destination in summer, Cornwall’s rugged cliff faces and ancient caves reveal that the county has a wilder side. Unlocked in the autumn and winter seasons with the arrival of impressive storms whipped up over the Atlantic Ocean, Cornwall is one of the UK’s best storm watching destinations. With it, comes the opportunity to witness a different kind of beauty – one that instills awe and amazement in spectators as they witness the power and majesty of nature. Expect wild winds, notorious waves and the feeling of the ocean’s spray on your face as you discover the Cornish coastline like never before.

Each year when the storms hit the coastline, interested bystanders, thrill seekers, big wave surfers and storm watchers emerge from their winter cubby holes, ready to experience the catharsis that comes with this exhilarating display. If you’d like to experience the excitement that comes with storm watching in Cornwall, this guide provides you with everything you need to know.


Why go storm watching in Cornwall?

Massive waves crashing over the cliffs and houses at Porthleven, one of the best places to go storm watching in Cornwall

Cradled by the ocean on three sides, Cornwall is renowned for its winter weather and resulting dramatic coastline. The northern coast is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, making it an excellent location for watching storms and a draw for intrepid big wave surfers. Each year, heavy weather travels thousands of miles over the ocean, bringing big waves and powerful winds with it. Watching this weather roll in from safe vantage points, or whilst huddled up in the car with a warm drink, is becoming an increasingly popular pastime. It is an exciting way to spend time outdoors and to make the most of being by the coastline in the colder months of the year. You can’t help but feel impressed and energised after storm watching in Cornwall.


Safety and preparation

Waves crashing up the beach at Porthleven

Storm watching doesn’t need to be dangerous and can be a fun activity for people of all ages with any level of experience. For the most enjoyment whilst watching the storms roll across Cornwall, there are a few things you can do to prepare.

Check the forecast. Be prepared and check the weather reports before heading outside. This means you are more likely to see impressive weather, whilst also keeping you safe as you know what to expect. Magicseaweed.com is a great wind, wave and tide reporting tool.

Wear appropriate clothing. Wearing the right clothing can make a huge difference – including how much time you’re able to spend outdoors. Waterproof coats, shoes and trousers are advisable, to avoid the experience being cut short.

Stay away from the waves. This is essential when watching storms in Cornwall. Rogue waves are commonplace and can easily catch you by surprise. Be sure to keep your distance.

Check the tide. Waves are bigger and more dangerous when the tide is high. Be aware of when the next high tide is so that you aren’t caught out by a rising tide and if the tide is coming in, keep extra distance from the waves. 

Ask a local. Locals will know the best and safest spots for storm watching. Always choose a safe location - coastal cafés make a great and cosy place to watch a storm while enjoying a warming drink and bite to eat!


What to take with you

Someone wearing walking boots along the coast path

You don’t need much to go storm watching in Cornwall, but taking several items with you can make for an even better experience.

Take a warm drink. Packing a flask of your favourite hot drink can go a long way in keeping you warm. They also help to keep hands toasty.

Pack your camera. Storms can be a fascinating subject for photography. Why not take a couple of lenses with you and experiment with what you can capture?

Bring a pair of binoculars. If you want to get a closer look at waves, weather or how wildlife reacts to winter storms, a pair of binoculars are a great addition.


The best storm watching locations in Cornwall

Stunning sea views and a cosy fire at Rame Head Lookout in Cornwall

There are many ways to watch storms in Cornwall. You can enjoy the wildness of nature while being snuggled up in a cosy hideaway with a wood burner, or sea views for a display of the waves. Or, if you’d like to experience the excitement from different locations, keep reading to discover the best storm watching spots in Cornwall.



Stormy seas around Porthleven

One of the few good storm watching spots on Cornwall’s south coast, Porthleven is perhaps the county’s most iconic. Featured regularly on the international news for huge waves crashing over the harbour wall and into the side of the clock tower, the village attracts storm watchers from around the country. Usually an idyllic fishing port known for its quintessential Cornish charm and well-regarded eateries, Porthleven is also home to a shallow reef. When large waves arrive from the Atlantic and hit this underwater rock formation, they break prematurely, increasing in height, sometimes to dozens of feet. Across 2013 and 2014, 12 historic storms, including Storm Hercules and Eunice, battered Cornwall and Porthleven as if trying to drag the cliffs back into the sea. The images captured during these storms perfectly punctuate why storm watchers love this seemingly peaceful village.

Best viewpoint: Staking out at the Ship Inn provides an excellent vantage point, as do the surrounding roads. Be sure to stay clear of the harbour and beach completely, as the waves can be unpredictable and dangerous.


Cape Cornwall

Moody seas around Cape Cornwall, a great spot for storm watching in Cornwall

Extending into the ocean and marking the spot where the Atlantic currents divide, the waves at Cape Cornwall are often larger than other parts of the Cornish coastline. Exposed to the full brunt of the Atlantic, monstrous waves have been known to rear from the waters and crash against the headland. Views west towards Sennen allow spectators to see the ocean unleash its power on the coastline from afar, whilst also soaking up glorious views of Penwith. The area is an interesting place to visit, as it forms part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site.

Best viewpoint: A National Trust car park overlooks the ocean, providing a safe vantage point for those looking to enjoy nature’s magnificent show from the comfort of a vehicle. There is also the option to head out to the cape and up towards the Heinz Monument for a better view, though only do so when it’s safe.



Waves crashing around Godrevy Lighthouse during a storm

Set at the north-eastern end of St Ives Bay, Godrevy is one of the most exposed beaches of the north Cornwall coast. It is easily recognised by the famous Godrevy Lighthouse, which punctuates the otherwise vast and open horizon line. Here you can view wave after wave roll from the ocean towards the coast, with a mighty amount of power. On larger days the salt and spray appear like hands rising out of the water, attempting to pull down the undefeated lighthouse. Ordinarily, Godrevy is a popular beach destination for families and dog walkers looking to make the most of the golden expanse of sand. It’s also home to a colony of native grey seals, which you may be lucky to spot bobbing in the ocean.

Best viewpoint: Head past the National Trust car park to the headland opposite the lighthouse, or if you’re feeling brave walk further along the coast path to a higher view point.


Towan Headland, Newquay

Stormy waves at Fistral beach from Towan Headland in Newquay

Found next to Fistral Beach, Towan Headland is a fascinating storm watching destination. It is also a location revered amongst surfers, because of the infamous Cribbar wave. Named after the shallow reef it breaks over, the Cribbar can reach a gravity defying 30 feet in height when the conditions line up. Only the bravest and most experienced surfers attempt to tackle it due to the danger that comes with such a feat. Whilst this mythical wave only appears several times a year, the area around the reef is a chaotic churning of water and foam any time a storm hits this part of the coastline. Standing on Towan Headland you can hear the roar of the ocean and even feel it rumble beneath your feet. After, hide away from the storm and head to The Fox's Revenge for a cosy pub lunch in a welcoming setting. 

Best viewpoint: Standing atop Towan Headland is the best place to witness the Cribbar and the surrounding oceanic mayhem. Stay away from the edge when it’s windy and clear of the rocks at all times.


Perhaps one of the best parts of storm watching is returning to the warmth and comfort to discuss all that you’ve seen with friends and loved ones. Discover our collection of unique hideaways in Cornwall for a cosy retreat where you can admire nature’s wildness, and explore its many magical places.


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