We have put together a list of some of our favourite beaches in West Cornwall. Our favourite pastime is exploring the rugged coastline in Cornwall and finding secret beaches. Google Earth is a fantastic way to find secret coves and beaches for wild swimming. Some of Cornwall’s beaches make for the best wild swimming spots in the UK. We also have a huge selection of nudist beaches if you prefer skinny dipping in Cornwall. The good thing with hundreds of beaches, is that there is something for everyone. Cornwall is blessed by long white sandy beaches and hidden rocky coves, some exposed to the wild seas, others sheltered from prevailing winds. There are plenty of magnificent ones to choose from whatever your preference.
The Best Beaches in Cornwall
Depending on the time of year the coastline can change drastically. We often swim in tidal pools in the winter when the seas are too rough or if of the sand has washed away from our secret coves (Read about our Favourite Tidal Pools here). The sand levels can change dramatically along the coast, some coves getting completely stripped of their sand and exposing huge rocky boulders hidden underneath in big storms. Sometimes more exciting things are exposed, for example old shipwrecks, bombs from WW2, ancient forests and even cars. Some coves are better at high tide for swimming and others are best at low tide. Rocky coves tend to be best at high tide when the sea is calm and you can sunbathe on the rocks and jump into the crystal clear waters below. If you are looking for sandy beaches then the best time to go would be at least 2-hours before low tide to get the most from your time at the beach. Best Beaches Cornwall, Best Beaches Cornwall
Safety First – Planning your Wild Swimming Trip
The first priority is to buy yourself a tide book. If you are not local to Cornwall you can purchase these online from Anne’s Cottage for £3.50 or most local garages will sell them so you can also buy one whilst you are here. We use this book at least once a day for planning. We also use Magicseaweed for checking the swell and wave height. We also make use of another phone app for checking the tide meters. Sometimes the tide might be higher or lower if you are trying to access certain hidden coves. The beaches with parking, easy access and facilities along with toilets and your essential shops selling windbreaks, plastic buckets, spades and expensive beer tend to be the busiest. We have for this reason left off popular beaches such as Praa Sands, Hayle, Sennen, Marazion, Porthcurno and all of St Ives.
And then there are the ones that we love…with zero facilities, limited parking and some involving a near death climb down some soggy ropes that you pray are still fixed in. Others winding down slippery vertical edges with a hundred foot drop below…these ones are our favourite as they tend to be less busy. Please be careful when accessing them as none of these beaches have lifeguard cover and some have limited mobile phone signal and also be mindful of those pesky weever fish.
Here are some of our favourite best beaches Cornwall, all tried and tested by us!
We love this little beach. Best to park at the Lizard and walk the 10-15 minutes across the fields as there is no parking in the hotel above the cove, unless you are a guest. You will need to clamber across some big boulders to get to the sand but worth the effort for a quieter beach with amazing views, sea caves and clear seas for a sheltered swim in paradise. In the winter we have never seen other people on the beach so you can privately skinny dip in the off season if you are feeling brave but please be aware that this beach can become cut off at higher tides, so be careful. This beach, on the most southerly point in mainland Britain, is relatively sheltered as the high cliffs also provide plenty of cover from the wind.
Kynance Cove – One of the Top Beaches in the World
This beach located on the west side of the Lizard is probably one of the most photographed and painted iconic beaches in Cornwall. The contrast between the cove’s white sand beach and the dark red and green serpentine rock produces a breathtaking sight which Photographers and Artists love to capture. It has been named one of the Top ‘’ beaches in the world’ as it can look beautiful in any weather and season. In the summer, with the calm turquoise waters, surrounding huge sea stacks and boats harbouring in the bay, it really is spectacular. It does get very busy and we tend to swim here at sunrise in the summer as the car parks are often at full capacity by 10am. There is a little cafe at the bottom of the hill and toilets. The walk down to the cove, from the car park at the top of the cliff, involves a steep 15 minute walk and crossing onto the ‘beach’ at the bottom is difficult due to uneven and slippery rocks. At low tide you can explore the towering rocks stacks and the caves with names such as The Parlour and The Drawing Room. From Kynance there is a fantastic 2 mile scenic walk around the coast to Lizard Point, mainland UK’s most southerly point.
Porthleven – Home of the Big Waves
This beach can be beautiful for a swim on a calm day. There are little sandy spots between the rocks making space for a good swim. This stretch of coastline can be a little treacherous though so take care with little ones. The harbour is a popular choice for children as it is sheltered and kids can jump off the harbour walls and the steps into the sea below. Porthleven has lots of pubs and restaurants too.
Hendra in Praa Sands
We prefer the lower end of Praa Sands. It does not have lifeguard cover but it is much quieter than Praa Sands. There are rocks for exploring and this is one of our most ‘swam in’ locations to date. There is a small car park at the top which holds about 6 cars, otherwise at low tide just walk along the beach from the car parks in Praa Sands to the far end to enjoy relaxing away from the crowds.
Rinsey – The Hidden Gem
Rinsey is one of our favourite beaches and only about 5 minutes from our house. Rock pools, Sandy beaches, mines, cliffs, ponies, all add to the magic. To get to the beach you need to climb down some rocks which can be slippery and high in places. But once on the beach you will have so much to explore, little sea caves, interesting rock pools and the most beautiful sandy beach for the best sea swimming in Cornwall. The lovely little sandy beach here disappears towards high tide though. This stretch of coast is quite exposed to powerful swells so given the remoteness and lack of lifeguard cover care should be taken if you fancy a dip. Overlooking the cove is a particularly well preserved engine house which once formed part of Wheal Prosper tin mine.
We love this little section of coastline with its hidden coves, sheltered bays and rich history. Secluded and romantic, Prussia Cove has an olde-world poetic feel, and is famous as being the home of the Carter family who were smugglers in the 18th century, one of whom, Harry Carter became known as the King of Prussia., There are long walks around here and it’s great for swimming off the rocks and for enjoying sunset picnics. The car park can only hold about 10 cars so get here early to avoid disappointment. The public road leading down to it is very narrow with pull in places here and there, I am always thankful when I make it down the road without another car coming in the other direction. There are no facilities. The coves are at least ten minutes walk from the car park but space and access to these depends on the tide. Dogs are allowed all year round. Bessy’s cove is also a good high tide swimming spot on calmer days.
Nanjizal – Song of the Sea
This wild and dramatic stretch of coastline is a must. Situated at the end of a short, shallow valley, the beach is a pretty boulder strewn cove with clear water. There are an abundance of caves and interesting rock formations for you to explore. You can park at Land’s End and walk past the Arc of Land’s End. The walk to Nanjizal takes about 30 minutes and meanders along the coast with beautiful views. Bring a picnic and a towel if you want to swim on the beach or in the sea cave. This is a good spot for seal watching, particularly round the corner at Zawn Reeth.
One of Cornwall’s loveliest beaches, set among the stunning cliffs of Treryn Dinas with crystal clear turquoise water and a beautiful white sand beach. The little unofficial nudist beach sits to the left of the popular Porthcurno. At high tide the beach almost disappears but at low tide it is perfect for quiet sea swims. We tend to avoid this beach from June-September unless going at sunrise due to larger crowds but it is definitely worth a visit if you are in Cornwall.
Out of season you will only see a handful of people and the sea is still warm enough for a dip. This was taken in January, just look at the colour of the sea. We had the most magical sunrise skinny dip here and the sea was about 10 degrees. You can park in Treen and walk down the steep cliffs to the beach. There is some high climbing involved to get onto the beach. The location of the famous Logan Rock, a rectangular block of granite which weighs about 70 tons is close by. The beach also featured in the recent TV adaptation of Poldark.
Porth Chapel near Porthcurno
We love this beach. It’s quieter than Porthcurno. There is parking in a private field which costs £2 and it’s roughly a 10 minute walk to the beach. This quiet, sandy, sheltered cove surrounded by weathered granite cliffs is a favourite. The narrow cliff path winds through a beautiful wooded valley followed by a steep climb down onto the beach but is worth the effort. The seas are again beautiful, clear and blue and just wonderful for swimming. We also love watching big waves from here during a storm. Seals are regular visitors to the beach and are often seen swimming just off shore.
Gwenver Beach ( derived from Gwynevere of Authurian legend), located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is situated at the base of a grassy cliff. The beach is secluded and in-accessible enough to not get too busy. Popular with surfers and locals alike but is less touristy than Sennen as it is accessed down lots and lots of steps from the car park on private land at the top. The beach itself is sandy and around 150 metres long. At high tide the beach slopes steeply into the sea and can be dangerous, at low tide Gwenver joins up with Sennen beach.
Less popular than the other beaches along this stretch of coastline. Porthkidney Sands stretch from the mouth of the River Hayle in Lelant to Hawk’s Point in Carbis Bay. The beach is around a mile long and at low tide the sea goes out a long way leaving a vast expanse of usually almost deserted sand. As you round the corner on the St Ives train, this beach is a visitor’s first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean On the lowest tides it is possible to walk around the point to Carbis Bay beach. A word of warning though, the tide moves fast here, so don’t get caught out. Swimming is less advisable, particularly closer to the river mouth and on turning tides. Strong, unpredictable currents and a lack of any lifeguard cover make it potentially dangerous. Porthkidney Sands is an all year, dog friendly beach with no restrictions.
West Penwith has some trickier beaches and most are rocky, there are, however, a fewbeauties along this wild and exposed coastline. Portheras, a lovely sandy cove located at the end of a valley with high cliffs at the northern end, is one of the last remaining truly local beaches in West Cornwall. Located on one of the wildest stretches of Cornish coast between Pendeen and Morvah. This is one of our favourite wild swimming spots in the UK and this beach is easy enough to access down the paths from the farm above. The long white sandy beach makes for a great day out with families but be careful of the currents here. Seals are a common sight here so keep a look out for them while you are there.
Another little skinny dipping location. The walk down is not for the faint hearted however. The path can be slippy in the winter and there are ropes in places to help you down. The path winds very close to a huge drop off below. However once you safely make it down you will be like ‘wow’! It is a beautiful sandy beach with big sea stacks and huge cliffs towering over you. We have had lots of fun wild swimming here. Bring a picnic to make the most out of this beautiful beach in Cornwall. Fishing Cove is well known amongst naturists. As there is no lifeguard service, caution is advised when swimming.
This huge beach, with only a handful of people is accessed down a very steep path that has lots of loose rock in places. I would not like to climb back up here in heavy rain as it would be quite deadly. But in drier conditions it’s worth the climb as there are lots of rock pools and it’s private enough to allow you the freedom to skinny dip.
We have left some of our favourite secret beaches and coves off the list but we hope the ones we have mentioned here, will have you exploring, having fun and enjoying a wonderful day out.