A trip to Cornwall in England is a fantastic experience and popular among travellers thanks to its unique and diverse landscape, decorated with breathtaking cliffs, beautiful beaches, and quaint towns. One of these charming towns is Newquay, a former fishing village on Cornwall’s North Atlantic Coast. With its numerous sandy beaches and popularity among surfers, the area is often compared to California. The miles of golden sand beaches and surrounding bays on the coast means it earns its place on the bucket lists of many backpackers. Let’s take a trip around this special area and discover why Newquay needs to be part of your adventure through Cornwall.
Founded in the 15th century, the town has about 19,500 inhabitants today. Originally a fishing village, Newquay gained importance for the region through the sardine industry and the exporting of fish to other European countries. Over time, the seaside town expanded. This growth coincided with the development of a Cornish rail network, allowing curious tourists and holidaymakers to visit Newquay from the second half of the 19th century to enjoy the sandy beaches and the waves of the Atlantic. Today, it is still a favourite holiday destination for Brits and travellers from further afield. Cornwall Airport Newquay is the largest and most important airport in the region and makes this fantastic corner of the UK much more accessible to international visitors.
Fistral Beach and Pentire Headland
Our tour starts at Fistral Beach, a 20-minute walk westwards of the town centre. A tour de force of the British and European surfing scenes, this beach hosts all the UK’s surf competitions, such as the famous Night Surf and Boardmasters. For surfers, Fistral Beach belongs on your bucket list anyway, but for everyone else it’s fun to watch the surfers catching the waves and enjoying the swell. If spectating inspires you to learn how to surf, there are surf schools with great offers at Fistral Beach and all the other beaches in town.
Fistral Beach is located between the Pentire and Towan headlands, meaning regular waves funnel into the bay and visitors have perfect vantage points to savour the sea air. Pentire Headland is located to the west of Fistral Beach and is only a short walk away or alternatively, it offers a large, accessible car park. From there you can walk to the end of the headland and enjoy a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean and the iconic cliffs. Why not enjoy a spectacular sunset at Pentire Headland and let the rough wind and wild surf invigorate you?
From Towan Headland to Newquay Harbour
If you walk from Fistral Beach towards the town centre, you will pass by the Headland Hotel on your way to Towan Headland. The luxury hotel is set upon a clifftop overlooking Fistral Beach and Towan Headland and is a real eye-catcher. Founded in 1900, the red brick facade and impressive architecture are reminiscent of the late Victorian era. Towan Headland is another highlight of Newquay, offering fantastic views of the coastline and beaches.
Huer’s Hut and War Memorial
A path runs along the cliffs from Towand Headland to Newquay Harbour. Along the way, you will pass the Huer’s Hut and the War Memorial. The Huer’s Hut dates back to the 14th century and once was a lookout post for the so-called Huer, whose job it was to announce to the fishermen when the fish arrived in the bay, shouting out “Heva, Heva”. He would also guide the boats to the fish from his hut using hand signals. The War Memorial, a memorial to the fallen of both world wars, sits atop a small hill and can likewise reached from the coastal path.
Newquay Harbour gave the town its name. It used to be called Towan Blystra, but when it got a new harbour, a “new quay”, it became Newquay. The harbour was once very important for the town and was used by the region’s mining industry as well as the fishing industry. In fact, the commercial sardine industry, which peaked in the 18th century, promoted Newquay Harbour to an important trading point in the region. Today, the fishing mainly supplies nearby restaurants and cafés with delicious local delicacies.
Picturesque and inviting, the harbour with its small beach and restaurant is the ideal place to relax at the seaside. The harbour also hosts several events, such as the Newquay Fish Festival in September, where local chefs offer live cooking demos. Visitors come to sample fresh paella from giant pans, enjoy live music and discover the food and craft vendors. If you want to go out on the sea yourself, a selection of boat tours start in Newquay. You can catch your own fish in the open sea or go on a sea safari to see dolphins, seals, and other marine life.
Towan Beach and The Island
Towan Beach is Newquay’s central beach and is just a short walk from the city centre. Conveniently located right next to the harbour, Towan is probably the most popular beach in Newquay. Here you can marvel at a special Newquay highlight: The Island, otherwise known as the House in the Sea. Here, a charming cottage is secluded on a rocky island and can only be accessed via a suspension bridge. In the 19th century, people planted potatoes and kept chickens on the island, and the only way to access it was by climbing a path cut into the stone. In 1902, the suspension bridge was built and shortly after in 1910, the house followed. Later, the inventor Alexander Lodge moved in here, who supposedly received several visits from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes. Today, the house is rented out as a holiday home and hosts up to six people, but a stay here could cost you a pretty penny.
Another attraction at Towan Beach is the Blue Reef Aquarium, which we recommend to all sea and animal lovers. It’s the perfect place to get up close with wildlife while expanding your knowledge of the sea, the coast, and the marine life in Cornwall. A ticket to the Blue Reef Aquarium costs £12.75 online (or £11.75 with a valid student card) and opening hours are from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and until 5pm on the weekend – perfect for a rainy Cornish day.
At low tide, Towan Beach joins up with the neighbouring Great Western Beach and Tolcarne Beach, forming a 3-kilometre-long stretch of sandy beach. If you have time, the walk from Tolcarne Beach to Watergate Bay is also a rewarding hike, with a beautiful beach waiting for you at the end of the 6-kilometre stroll. The beautiful coastal path takes you past more idyllic bays, stunning cliff faces and through the small town of Porth.
Newquay Town Centre
Newquay’s town centre has plenty of surf shops and other boutiques for all you window shoppers and souvenir searchers. A wide range of cafés, bakeries and restaurants make sure you won’t go hungry. Taste the region’s signature specialities, like cream teas and Cornish pasties. Cream tea consists of scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, and a cup of tea, usually served with milk. Every café in Newquay serves this popular regional speciality, taking pride in the local clotted cream. Remember, in Cornwall, the acceptable way to eat a scone is jam first then a good dollop of cream on top – the scone debate divides the country. And don’t get any English locals started on the pronunciation of ‘scone’…
If you fancy a satiating savoury snack, the popular Cornish Pasty is your ticket to a happy tummy. Flaky pastry filled with beef, potatoes, turnips, onions, salt, and pepper are the perfect way to end a seaside walk. The bakeries in Newquay, however, offer the pasties with many different fillings, with something for every taste, including many vegetarian options now being available. From the town centre, it’s only a few minutes to the harbour or to the beach. It’s best to enjoy your delicious pasty with a sea view. But be careful that the seagulls don’t steal your food!
Newquay town centre offers a charming atmosphere with the town beaches and its location right on the coast and cliffs. Many cosy cafés and restaurants invite visitors to try their delicious food, and the trendy surf shops also add a great modern vibe to the town centre.
If you want to experience the beauty of Cornwall’s north coast and its stunning beaches, then Newquay is perfect for you. From picturesque coastal walks, spending hours relaxing on the beach, learning to surf or to simply take a stroll through town, this place is the ideal getaway. And especially for surfers, Newquay is a must.
You can easily combine your stay in Newquay with visiting other highlights in Cornwall. Take your time to get to know the region and fall in love with the peninsula’s beauty. A trip to this little coastal town will certainly not disappoint.