The North Coast
High cliffs and long sandy beaches
Think you’ve exhausted the north coast of Cornwall’s high cliffs, craggy coves and golden sands? Think again. This expansive stretch of coastline continues to have something more for everyone, whether it’s a hidden gem of a beach to discover or a new restaurant to sample, you should always come back for more!
Cornwall’s North Coast isn’t exactly shy about how beautiful it is. Spin in a circle anywhere along this coastline and you’re bound to be treated to a delightful onslaught of your ocular senses: dramatic cliffscape, craggy coves, boundless white-tipped breakers and miles upon miles of golden sands.
Whilst every visitor will warmly reminisce about their favourite azure-lipped beach or quaint harbour town, the expansiveness and scenic generosity of this coast means that there’s always something more for everyone to discover, whether it be a hidden gem of a beach or a new and exciting restaurant to stumble across.
As always, the best way to explore Cornwall’s outstanding natural beauty is by foot, so pack some trainers alongside your flip-flops and be willing to visit somewhere outside your comfort zone - this rugged area might be full of constant surprises, but they’re never unpleasant ones…
There’s nothing shy or retiring about North Cornwall. In fact, it would be safe to say that this stretch of the Atlantic coastline, and the countryside adjecant, has a definite penchant for the dramatic, with each of the four main elements seemingly trying to one up each other constantly: teeteringly impossible cliffs (earth), thundering waves (water), a blazing summer sun (fire) and to top it all off, whipping winds (air.) Extending from Perranporth in the west and encompassing everything up and beyond Bude in the north, this huge area is a veritable playground that offers just about something for everyone.
Unless day turns to night and the whole planet goes topsy-turvy, the main draw of this part of Cornwall will always be its almost boastful array of absolutely world-class beaches. If miles of soft, golden sands are your thing (quite frankly, who’s isn’t it) then you can have your pick of some of the nation’s best with Watergate Bay, Perranporth, Widemouth Bay and Polzeath all on offer. These beaches are havens for families and watersports enthusiasts alike, with lifeguards constantly on watchful patrol in the high season, as well as clean sand and rock pools aplenty to keep little hands and minds occupied - and the big kids just as happy. Despite its popularity, there are still opportunities to escape the crowds on this expansive coast with beaches like Duckpool, Polly Joke and Porthcothan remaining relatively quiet, even in the summer months.
Chances are, you’re also planning a visit to the Cornish north coast to try your luck at the county’s favourite sporting pastime: surfing. Whether it’s the view of humbling, craggy cliffs stoically towering above you after you’ve wiped out for the fifth time in a row, the friendly grey seals that pop up next to you with silent nods of encouragement or the friendly and inviting surf community of towns like Newquay and Bude, there really is no better place to hang loose and get stuck in. If you want to get up close and personal with the rocks you try so hard to avoid as a surfer, try your hand at coasteering, an invigorating and unique way of seeing the coast and its wildlife in all its rugged beauty.
With stunning sands in every direction, it’s easy to ignore the other jewels up and down Cornwall’s north coast. There’s good roads all the way down the coast from Bude to Perranporth, with a slight diversion to Wadebridge to get around the Camel Estuary, but the best way of exploring the area is by foot.
With a good pair of walking boots on and with salty winds whipping your hair, you’re best placed to discover the hidden places like Bossiney Cove and Kelsey Head, as well as the gloriously limpid tidal pools of places like Trevone Bay and Crackington Haven. Choosing to walk also means you can properly take in the spectacular scenery dotted up and down this coastline; from King Arthur’s castle at Tintagel, the sublime rock formations at Bedruthan Steps or Holywell Bay with the Gull Rocks out past the constant surf. It’s these contrasting landscapes that make this side of Cornwall so fascinating, from the high cliffs of Morwenstow on the border with Devon, to the wide Camel Estuary and down to the long, long dune backed beach at Perranporth.
Once you’ve exhausted yourself walking or surfing, set aside some time for sightseeing in one of the many picturesque fishing harbours and villages along the coast. Padstow and Rock prove to be perennial favourites, with narrow winding streets, rows of pastel-coloured holiday cottages and delicious local fish served at restaurants on the quayside. But don’t forget places like Boscastle and Port Isaac that can be really busy during the day when they are invaded by coach parties, but by late afternoon are a great place to explore or have an evening meal.
The north coast is definitely the place to be in the evenings, especially in the summer. Sit on the beach and watch the sun set into the surf with a bottle of wine and a blanket, chances are you won’t be alone, surfers are known to surf all night if the waves are right! Of course, if you don’t want to cater for yourself, there’s plenty of restaurants, café’s and bars where you can grab a pint and a plate of good food late into the evening.
Everything you need to know to plan your perfect Cornish getaway to the north of Cornwall.View all
Cornwall's North Coast has plenty to see and do, from Bude in the far north, all the way down to Perranporth. It's famed for its long sandy beaches and big cliffs. It's a surfers paradise, it's got history and heritage at Tintagel and Boscastle, it's got fantastic walks and views... The easy answer is, don't miss any of it!
That all depends on what you are looking for? North Cornwall tends to be wilder, rugged cliffs, long sandy windswept beaches, a land of myth's and legends...
The south coast is gentler, historic fishing villages, small sheltered coves and green fields running down to the water's edge.
Whichever coast you choose, you will receive a warm welcome, and if you do get bored, it's never much more than an hour's drive from one side to the other.
For Visit Cornwall we class North Cornwall as the coast running down from the Devon border to Perranporth. This includes, Bude, Boscastle, Tintagel, Port Isaac, Polzeath, Padstow, Newquay plus loads of smaller places in between. Inland, we go down to Launceston, across the top of Bodmin Moor and continue past Wadebridge keeping north of the A30.
You are spoilt for choice? All the way down the coast, North Cornwall is blessed with long sandy beaches. Take a look at our Beach pages to find your favourite, be it for surfing, rock pooling or just lazing in the sunshine?
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