Situated in North Cornwall, Newquay is a popular seaside town renowned as the 'home of British surfing'. With a captivating coastline, exciting water sports, wildlife, and thrilling family attractions, Newquay is a treasure trove for tourists. Here's an in-depth guide on top things to do in Newquay Cornwall!
One of the biggest draws of Newquay is its beautiful beaches. With miles of golden sand and crystal-clear waters, it's no wonder that Newquay is one of the most popular seaside destinations in the UK.
If you're a fan of surfing, you'll be in heaven here – Newquay is home to some of the best surf spots in the country. But even if you're not a surfer, there are plenty of other beach activities to enjoy, from sunbathing and swimming to paddleboarding and kayaking.
When you're not soaking up the sun on the beach, there are plenty of other things to do in Newquay. From exploring the town's top attractions, such as the Newquay Zoo and the Blue Reef Aquarium, to trying out new activities like coasteering and sea kayaking, there's never a dull moment in this vibrant town.
And when it comes to food and drink, Newquay has a great selection of restaurants, bars, and clubs to choose from, making it the perfect destination for a night out. Whatever your interests, Newquay is sure to impress.
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Newquay is renowned for its beautiful beaches, which attract surfers, swimmers, sunbathers, and families. Here are some of the best beaches in the area:
Fistral Beach - Surfing Capital of Britain
Fistral Beach, often considered the heart of the UK surfing scene, is one of the best-known and most popular beaches in the UK, largely due to its reputation for surfing.
The beach is west-facing, and it's exposed to the North Atlantic swells, meaning it gets consistent waves making it a paradise for both experienced surfers and complete beginners. This is why Fistral Beach is often the venue for major national and international surfing competitions, including the UK Pro Surf Tour and the Boardmasters Festival.
Fistral Beach isn't just for surfers, though. The beach itself is a long, wide expanse of golden sands, backed by steep dunes and high cliffs, making it a great place for sunbathing, sandcastles, and beach games. The water quality is excellent, and it regularly receives the Blue Flag award for cleanliness.
There are plenty of amenities at Fistral Beach. There are several surf schools where you can rent equipment or take lessons. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer months, providing safe swimming and surfing conditions. The beach also boasts several food and drink options, including the famous Rick Stein's Fistral, where you can enjoy a variety of dishes, with an emphasis on local seafood.
Overlooking the beach is the Headland Hotel, a grand Victorian building that offers luxury accommodation, a spa, and stunning views over the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. At the southern end of the beach, there's also a golf course.
Watergate Bay is a beautiful, two-mile long sandy beach located just north of Newquay on the stunning North Cornwall coast. It's renowned for its breathtakingly dramatic coastline, complemented by golden sands and the vast Atlantic Ocean.
Known as a great spot for water sports, particularly surfing, Watergate Bay offers consistent waves due to its exposure to the Atlantic swells. This makes it a popular choice for surfers of all levels. Other water sports you can enjoy here include kitesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and sea kayaking.
The beach is very family-friendly, offering plenty of space for beach games and sandcastle-building, and it's also dog-friendly throughout the year, making it a favourite spot for dog owners. At low tide, the beach is revealed to be a large expanse, perfect for long walks with stunning views.
Watergate Bay is easily accessible, with a large car park available near the beach, making it a practical choice for both locals and tourists alike.
Crantock Beach at the mouth of the Gannel Estuary, is a quieter beach than Fistral and Watergate Bay, but it is still a beautiful spot to visit. The beach is large and sandy, and there are plenty of facilities nearby, including cafes and toilets.
Surrounded by sand dunes and towering cliffs, Crantock Beach is a perfect place to get away from the bustle of Newquay, offering a more tranquil, unspoilt atmosphere. The beach stretches for over a mile at low tide and boasts golden sands, perfect for lounging, picnicking, and building sandcastles.
The beach is managed by the National Trust and is very well maintained. Facilities include a large car park (free to National Trust members) and a cafe, as well as lifeguards patrolling in the summer months.
To the west end of the beach, you'll find the charmingly named Polly Joke Beach, a smaller, secluded cove that's a favourite among those in the know. Nearby, the small village of Crantock offers further amenities including a couple of traditional pubs, a tea room, and a handful of shops.
Tolcarne Beach is a family-friendly beach with plenty of facilities nearby, including cafes, toilets, and shops. The beach is sandy, and there are plenty of rock pools to explore at low tide.
Accessible from the town centre via a series of steps or a sloping road, Tolcarne Beach is a gem in the heart of Newquay, offering an excellent balance of convenience, beauty, and entertainment.
Towan Beach is located in the heart of Newquay, making it one of the most accessible and popular beaches in the town. Despite its central location, it maintains a sense of tranquillity, largely due to its sheltered position and the presence of Towan Island, a striking feature that sits just offshore and is connected to the mainland by a suspension bridge.
The beach itself is a wide expanse of golden sands, perfect for sunbathing, picnics and sandcastle building. It's particularly popular with families due to its gentle slope into the sea, which provides safe and easy swimming conditions for young children.
Despite its central location, the beach can feel surprisingly secluded, especially at low tide when you can explore the adjacent beaches of Great Western and Tolcarne. There's something quite magical about standing on the sands of Towan Beach, looking out at the North Atlantic and Towan Island, knowing that you're just a stone's throw from the bustling town centre.
Top Attractions & Activities
If you're looking for things to do in Newquay, there are plenty of attractions to keep you entertained. From beautiful gardens to historical sites, there's something for everyone. Here are some of the top attractions you should consider visiting:
Newquay Zoo is a great place to visit if you're an animal lover. As a registered charity, it is dedicated to conserving global wildlife and its habitats.
The zoo is home to over 1,000 of the world's rarest and endangered animals, housed in beautifully landscaped gardens that cover 13 acres. The collection includes a variety of species from around the globe, including African lions, red pandas, lemurs, penguins, and a tropical house hosting a variety of reptiles and amphibians.
One of the standout features at Newquay Zoo is the immersive exhibits that create naturalistic environments for the animals. For example, the Madagascar exhibit provides visitors with a unique walkthrough experience, allowing them to get up close and personal with some of Madagascar's most famous inhabitants, including lemurs and tortoises.
The zoo's Tropical Rainforest exhibit is another highlight. Here, visitors can experience the sights, sounds, and even the humidity of a real rainforest, as well as seeing a range of species that call this environment home.
Education and conservation are at the heart of the zoo's mission. As part of this commitment, the zoo offers a daily schedule of talks, feeds, and encounters with their animals. This provides a fun and educational experience for all visitors, helping them to learn more about the animals, their habitats, and the conservation efforts in place to protect them.
The zoo also has a children's play area, making it an ideal spot for family outings. Refreshments are available at the Café Lemur, where you can enjoy a meal or a snack with views of the lemur island. The zoo's gift shop offers a range of items, providing a chance to take home a memento of your visit while supporting the zoo's conservation work.
The zoo is located in Trenance Gardens, so you can combine a visit to the zoo with a stroll through the gardens.
Trenance Gardens is a beautiful park that covers 26 acres. The park is home to a lake, a boating lake, a miniature railway, and a play area for children. There are also several walking trails that take you through the park, so you can enjoy the scenery at your own pace.
Blue Reef Aquarium
Located in the heart of Newquay, the Blue Reef Aquarium is a popular tourist attraction that provides a window into the wonders of aquatic life. Visitors have the opportunity to explore a diverse array of habitats and come face to face with a broad range of fascinating creatures from the deep.
One of the key highlights of the Blue Reef Aquarium is its impressive ocean tunnel, which offers spectacular 360-degree views. As you walk through the tunnel, you'll find yourself surrounded by a myriad of sea creatures, including reef sharks, tropical fish, and graceful rays, swimming in a beautifully recreated coral reef environment.
The Blue Reef Aquarium is home to more than 40 naturally-themed displays. These range from local Cornish species to exotic tropical specimens. You'll be able to see a variety of creatures, including turtles, seahorses, pufferfish, and even some land-dwelling reptiles.
The aquarium is also home to a giant Pacific octopus, one of the ocean's most intelligent creatures, and an array of jellyfish floating gracefully in specially designed, colour-changing tanks that mimic their natural open water habitat.
One of the great features of the Blue Reef Aquarium is its commitment to education. The aquarium hosts regular informative talks and feeding demonstrations throughout the day, providing insights into the creatures' lives and highlighting important conservation issues. Young children, in particular, will find these presentations both engaging and educational.
Visitors can take a break at the Blue Reef Café, which offers a variety of refreshments. The on-site gift shop also sells a range of aquatic-themed gifts and souvenirs to remember your visit.
Whether you're interested in marine biology, looking for a fun and educational outing with the family, or trying to find a good rainy-day activity in Newquay, the Blue Reef Aquarium is a great choice. It provides a fascinating, up-close look at the marine world and its diverse inhabitants.
Located just a few miles from Newquay, Holywell Bay is home to a unique geological feature known as Holywell Caves. This sea cave, tucked away at the northern end of the beach, is a fascinating spot that draws in both curious tourists and locals alike.
The cave is not one that's deep and meant for spelunking, but it is truly unique because of its calcite formations. Inside the cave, there are four natural basins, locally referred to as the "Holy Wells." These basins are where the cave's real magic lies. Over many centuries, mineral-rich spring water has travelled through the cave and deposited calcite into the basins. The result is a series of beautiful, tiered calcite formations that look like a miniature landscape of waterfall-like structures, frozen in time.
The cave can only be accessed during low tide when the sea pulls back to reveal the entrance. It's important to check the tide times before planning a visit and always be cautious of the changing tides while inside. The cave is dark, so it's a good idea to bring a torch to help illuminate the captivating structures inside.
Holywell Cave is steeped in legend and folklore. It's said that the water in the cave has healing properties, and it was a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
Outside the cave, Holywell Bay Beach itself is a beautiful spot, a perfect place for a day out. With its golden sands, high dunes, and the iconic Gull Rocks just offshore, it's popular among families, dog walkers, and surfers.
Whether you're a geology enthusiast, a fan of local folklore, or simply looking for a unique beachside adventure, Holywell Cave is a great place to visit while exploring the area around Newquay.
The Japanese Garden in St Mawgan, near Newquay in Cornwall, is a serene and beautiful space, providing an oasis of tranquillity and an immersive experience of Japanese culture and gardening style. It has been carefully designed to inspire calm, mindfulness, and contemplation.
This authentic Japanese Garden spans about an acre and is thoughtfully planted and landscaped in line with traditional Japanese styles. The garden layout embraces the principle of balance, blending man-made features with natural elements harmoniously.
The garden includes a diverse range of elements that are characteristic of Japanese gardens, such as a zen garden (also known as a rock garden), a Tea House, water features including a large pond filled with koi carp, and a collection of authentic stone lanterns.
Different areas of the garden are designed to encapsulate various styles of Japanese gardens. You'll find a Stroll Garden, where visitors can meander through and experience changing views, and the Zen Garden for quiet meditation. There's also a Water Garden, featuring waterfalls and streams, and a symbolic representation of a Japanese island.
The garden is thoughtfully planted with a variety of trees, plants, and flowers, including maples, azaleas, and bamboo. It is designed to provide colour and interest throughout the year, but it's particularly spectacular during spring, when cherry blossoms and azaleas bloom, and autumn, when the leaves of Japanese maples turn fiery shades of red and gold.
The garden also boasts a Bonsai Nursery, where visitors can view a collection of miniature trees and even purchase a bonsai to take home. The gift shop sells a range of Japanese inspired goods, and you can learn more about the Japanese culture, the garden, and its plants from the knowledgeable staff.
The Japanese Garden in St Mawgan offers visitors a chance to experience a touch of Japanese culture and gardening tradition in the heart of Cornwall. It's a place for relaxation, meditation, and a celebration of nature's beauty in an environment designed to inspire peace and tranquillity.
Lappa Valley, located in St Newlyn East near Newquay in Cornwall, is a popular tourist attraction, particularly for families with young children. It offers an array of fun-filled activities and attractions, with a distinct focus on miniature steam railways.
The journey into Lappa Valley starts with a ride on one of these charming miniature steam trains, which transports visitors from the main entrance to the heart of the park. The ride itself is quite scenic, offering views of the surrounding woodland and the historic East Wheal Rose mine.
Once inside, you'll find two more railways - the Newlyn Branch Line and the Woodland Railway - which are as delightful as the first one. These smaller railways give visitors a chance to explore different parts of the park at a leisurely pace.
Beyond the trains, Lappa Valley boasts a range of other attractions. For example, there's a boating lake where you can rent pedal boats and navigate around the peaceful water, spotting wildlife along the way.
There's also a crazy golf course, outdoor play areas, indoor soft play, nature trails, a maze, and picnic areas. For younger visitors, there's an adventure playground with slides, climbing frames, and swings. A new toddler path, suitable for pushchairs, also offers a lovely walk with little ones around the site.
During the summer months, Lappa Valley runs additional events like duck races, family quiz trails, and mascot days, adding extra fun to your visit.
The Whistle Stop Café offers a good selection of food and drink. However, there are also plenty of picnic areas if you prefer to bring your own.
Lappa Valley is a fantastic place for a family day out, offering an abundance of activities and attractions that keep children entertained while providing a relaxing and enjoyable environment for adults.
Pirate's Quest is an immersive and interactive walk-through experience that takes you back in time to the 1700s, a golden age of piracy. It offers a unique blend of history, myth, and adventure, making it a great family-friendly attraction.
Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by your very own pirate guide. These costumed actors stay in character throughout the tour, enriching the experience and bringing the history of piracy to life. You'll embark on an hour-long journey, moving through various themed rooms and scenes, each meticulously designed to transport you back in time.
The tour covers a range of stories, from local Cornish pirate legends to real historical events and figures, including the infamous Blackbeard. You'll learn about the pirates' codes, their traditions, and their way of life. Interactive elements are built into the experience, so expect to find hidden treasure, navigate through a tropical jungle, and possibly even run into a few swashbuckling pirates!
The journey through Pirate's Quest includes some impressive special effects, from atmospheric lighting and sound to smoke and smell effects, all adding to the authenticity of the experience.
For younger visitors, there's also a treasure hunt component, which involves finding hidden items throughout the tour. This provides an extra layer of fun and engagement for children.
Pirate's Quest is fully indoors, making it an excellent choice for a rainy day in Newquay. It is advisable to book in advance, particularly during peak tourist season, to ensure you can join a tour at your preferred time.
Trerice is a delightful, Elizabethan manor house located near Newquay in Cornwall. It's managed by the National Trust and offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling seaside town.
Dating back to the 16th century, Trerice is a fine example of Elizabethan architecture, filled with historic charm. The house is famed for its 'barrel-roofed' Great Chamber and impressive collection of antique English clocks. As you walk through the house, the rooms evoke the past beautifully with a range of historical artefacts, furniture, and artworks providing insights into life in the Elizabethan era.
Outside, the gardens of Trerice are a delight to explore. Here you'll find a beautiful knot garden, resembling the intricate patterns often found in Elizabethan embroidery. This decorative garden is made up of low hedges, meticulously designed and planted in a knot pattern. The property also features an orchard and various other garden areas boasting a colourful array of plants and flowers.
For younger visitors, there's a grassy area where they can try out traditional Elizabethan games like 'kayling' (a Cornish form of skittles) and 'slapcock' (a precursor to badminton).
Trerice's on-site restaurant, the Barn Restaurant, is located in an atmospheric old building and serves a variety of meals, light snacks, and refreshments. Traditional Cornish cream teas are a favourite among visitors.
If you want to see the local sea life up close, a sea safari is a great option. You'll have the chance to spot dolphins, seals, and even whales as you cruise along the coastline. Newquay Sea Safaris and Fishing is one of the top providers of sea safari experiences in the area.
Newquay is surrounded by some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the UK, and there are plenty of walks to explore it. From the rugged cliffs of the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches of the Gannel Estuary, there's a walk to suit all abilities. Make sure to bring your camera, as there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way.
A short drive from Newquay, the 'Steps' refer to a series of towering, weathered rock stacks that line the beach, standing against the might of the Atlantic Ocean. They are often described as looking like giant stepping stones, thus the name 'Bedruthan Steps'. These enormous granite rocks are the product of many years of coastal erosion, and each one even has its own name, including Queen Bess, Samaritan Island, Redcove Island, and Carnewas Island.
The beach at Bedruthan Steps, managed by the National Trust, is a large sandy expanse that appears during low tide. It's important for visitors to be aware of tide times, as the beach becomes entirely cut off at high tide. Access to the beach is via a steep staircase, which can be challenging for some.
Restaurants and Bars
If you are looking for an amazing culinary experience in Newquay, you won't be disappointed. This coastal town is home to an array of restaurants and bars that cater to all tastes and budgets. Here are some of the best places to eat and drink in Newquay.
Newquay has a great selection of restaurants, serving a range of cuisines. From seafood to Italian, Indian to Mexican, you are sure to find something to suit your taste buds. Some of the top-rated restaurants in Newquay include:
- The Fish House Fistral: A seafood restaurant with stunning views of Fistral Beach. The menu features fresh, locally sourced seafood, including lobster, crab, and oysters.
- Kahuna: A Hawaiian-inspired restaurant that serves poke bowls, sushi, and other Pacific Rim dishes. The menu is bursting with flavour and is perfect for a light lunch or dinner.
- Bush Pepper: A restaurant that specialises in Australian cuisine. The menu features kangaroo, barramundi, and other Australian delicacies. It's a unique dining experience that you won't find anywhere else in Newquay.
- Lewinnick Lodge: Situated on the Pentire Headland, this restaurant offers delicious food and panoramic ocean views.
Bars and Clubs
Newquay is known for its vibrant nightlife, and there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. Whether you want to sip cocktails by the beach or dance the night away, you'll find something to suit your style. Here are some of the best bars and clubs in Newquay:
- WAX Activity Bar: A bar that offers a range of activities, including mini-golf, bowling, and arcade games. It's the perfect place to have fun with friends while enjoying a drink or two.
- The Central: A lively bar that serves great cocktails and has a great atmosphere. It's a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
- Berties Nightclub: A nightclub that has been around since the 1960s, and which I frequented a lot in the late 90's! It's a great place to dance the night away and has a great selection of drinks.
No visit to Cornwall is complete without indulging in a cream tea. Newquay has plenty of great places to enjoy this quintessentially British treat. Here are some of the best places to enjoy a cream tea in Newquay:
- The Headland Hotel: A luxury hotel that serves cream teas with stunning views of Fistral Beach.
- The Garden Cafe: A lovely cafe on Trenance Road that serves light lunches and cream teas including a nostalgic thunder and lightning scone!
Frequently Asked Questions
The best time to visit Newquay is typically in the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is warmest and most suitable for beach activities and outdoor exploration. However, spring and autumn can also be lovely, and they tend to be less crowded.
Newquay is renowned for its beaches. Fistral Beach is famed for surfing, while the likes of Towan Beach and Great Western Beach are great for families. The more secluded Crantock Beach and the picturesque Holywell Bay are also worth a visit.
For rainy days, the Blue Reef Aquarium, Newquay Zoo, and Pirate's Quest offer indoor fun. You could also consider a visit to the local cinema or one of the town's galleries or museums.
Yes, Trerice House (managed by the National Trust) is a fine example of an Elizabethan manor house. The ancient Bedruthan Steps and the Huer's Hut are also worth a visit.
Newquay is a great base for exploring Cornwall, and some popular day trips include visiting the Eden Project, exploring the Lost Gardens of Heligan, or visiting the picturesque village of St Ives.
Things to do in Newquay: A recap
With its multitude of attractions, Newquay offers a blend of fun, adventure, and relaxation, making it a perfect holiday destination for all ages. Whether it's sunny days spent on the sandy beaches, exciting surf lessons in the Atlantic Ocean, or tranquil walks along the South West Coast Path, there truly is no better place to experience the best of North Cornwall.
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