It is no secret that Cornwall is a coastal paradise with stunning landscapes and picturesque shores.
So, whether you’re seeking a secluded escape or a scenic spot for coastal adventures, prepare to be captivated by the golden sands, crystal waters, and dramatic coves of Cornwall. But make sure you plan well, so you can make the most of these popular tourist spots.
And that’s where this guide to the best coves in Cornwall will come in handy. In this article, we’ll uncover the best coves, dramatic cliffs, secret beaches, and rock pools this enchanting place has to offer. From the idyllic fishing village of Cadgwith to the rugged beauty of Kynance Cove – get ready to witness Cornwall’s natural splendour at its finest!
17 Best Coves In Cornwall
1. Cadgwith Cove
During mediaeval times, Cadgwith emerged as a cluster of fish storage facilities in a coastal valley, boasting a sheltered cove and excellent protection from southwest winds. With human settlement dating back to the 16th century, Cadgwith still retains its original local stone and thatched houses, exuding an unmistakable Cornish charm.
The area features two beaches, separated during high tide by a small promontory called “The Todden.” That said, exploring the depths of the sea is a favourite activity among tourists, with deep-sea diving expeditions to the nearby shipwrecks known as The Craggan and The Boa. Notably, the Cadgwith Cove Inn, believed to be over four centuries old, stands as a popular establishment in the area.
Moreover, along the South West Coast Path, you’ll spot the formidable “Devil’s Frying Pan” – a renowned crevice in the cliffs reaching a depth of 200 feet. This striking natural formation is the result of a cave collapse.
2. Church Cove
Church Cove, a charming sandy beach, derives its name from the church in the area. Situated at the beginning of England’s most southerly point, the Lizard Peninsula, this beach forms part of the Baulk Head to Mullion Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It boasts diverse rock formations and an abundance of rare fauna and flora.
However, it is important to watch out for unstable cliffs and strong currents, and a deep shelf during a high tide. For that reason, lifeguards are always at your beck and call during the summer months.
Notably, Church Cove benefits from a National Trust car park and a café that operates seasonally, ensuring convenience for visitors.
3. Polly Joke Beach
Just a short distance from the vibrant town of Newquay lies the wonderfully untouched Polly Joke Beach, nestled between Holywell Bay and Crantock. Escape the crowds and savour the tranquillity of this deep cove, perfect for enjoying a picnic on the sandy shores, even during the bustling summer season.
To reach the golden sand of Polly Joke Beach, take a leisurely stroll down the sloping coastal path. The nearest car park is available at the small National Trust car park in West Pentire, about 15 minutes away.
If you’re on a longer stay at Holywell Bay or Crantock Beach, we recommend stopping by The Bowie. This dog-friendly pub offers outdoor seating with stunning sea views, serving hearty pub fare to fuel your onward adventure.
4. Trevaunance Cove
Located in St Agnes, Trevaunance Cove is the main beach renowned for its wealth of high cliffs, rock pools and intriguing caves, making it an ideal destination for families. The manageable waves, particularly by north coast standards, attract surfers of all levels, including beginners.
Moreover, the sandy beach offers various amenities, including the Driftwood Spars Hotel, a spacious pay-and-display car park, surfboard rentals and beach huts. Plus, fishing enthusiasts can enjoy a fruitful experience at Trevaunance Point during high tide.
5. Mullion Cove
Another hidden gem in the Lizard Peninsula, Mullion Cove is a striking fishing cove adorned with a charming operational harbour. Erected in 1895, during the era when pilchard fishing dominated the region, the robust sea walls were constructed to shield the harbour from fierce winter storms.
Adjacent to Mullion Cove, Poldhu Cove offers a family-friendly beach complemented by picturesque sand dunes. For those seeking a scenic adventure, a circular hike along the cliffs and through Predannack Heath unveils the golden sand of Pollurian Cove, a must-visit for surfers.
6. Kynance Cove
Located less than two miles from Lizard Point, Kynance Cove is a highly photographed gem nestled under towering cliffs. Its allure stems from its enticing caves and islands, offshore stacks, soft white sand beaches, and glistening turquoise waters, enticing explorers since the Victorian era despite its remote location.
To enhance accessibility, the National Trust has constructed a toll road and car park. During the summer months, you’ll also find lifeguards diligently monitoring the beach, as strong currents can pose risks for swimmers.
7. Hawker’s Cove
Situated on the west side of the Camel Estuary, just two kilometres north of Padstow, lies this secret beach – Hawker’s Cove! It comprises a boathouse, a slipway, once home to the Padstow lifeboat, and a small collection of cottages.
During low tide, a sandy beach extends across the mouth of the estuary, reaching Trebethenick Point. However, as the tide rises, the beach becomes submerged, including the perilous sandbank famously called the Doom Bar.
Along the coastal path connecting Hawkers Cove and Padstow, you can spot Gun Point, hosting remnants of an old gun emplacement dating back to the Napoleonic wars. The only bummer is the limited facilities, including a petite tea garden tucked behind two-century-old coastguard cottages, a stroll from the slipway.
8. Prussia Cove
Located a few miles west of Praa Sands, Prussia Cove is a picturesque enclave featuring scattered houses overlooking a cosy, sheltered inlet. The name of the cove reflects its smuggling past, where the infamous gang leader, John Carter, known as the “King of Prussia,” operated.
Moving on, you may come across remnants of granite fishing huts integrated into the cliffside, proving the history of small-scale fishing in the area. Adding to the charm is the Neo-Elizabethan Porth-en-Alls house, which excludes a romantic ambience and serves as a sought-after wedding venue. It also hosts the International Musicians Seminar biannually.
Accessible via a footpath from the end of a narrow lane, Prussia Cove offers a free car park for visitors. You can also try swimming off the rocks, which is considered safe and enjoyable in this sandy cove.
9. Porthcurno Cove
In the past, Porthcurno Beach played a pivotal role in global telecommunications. It served as a hub connecting America and Britain through cables buried underneath the sand of one of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches. The intriguing history of this unique communication network is showcased at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, which also features an intricate system of tunnels in the cliffs. These tunnels were once used to safeguard classified equipment during World War II.
Ascending a steep set of steps from the Porthcurno beach, visitors can reach the renowned Minack Theatre. This iconic venue offers breathtaking views of this sheltered bay, an exhibition centre, a bustling café, and captivating performances during the summer season.
10. Porthgwidden Beach
Situated near St Ives, Porthgwidden is a compact beach that holds the distinction of being the smallest in the area. Its appeal to families lies in its sheltered location, providing protection from extreme environmental factors and creating a sun trap-like ambience.
The beach is renowned for its distinctive white beach huts, each adorned with small colourful doors. Visitors have the option to rent these two-story huts along with deck chairs.
A short stroll up the Island rewards visitors with panoramic views of St Ives Bay and the iconic Godrevy lighthouse. Along the beach, you’ll find Take Away & Bar and Porthgwidden Beach Café, both offering scrumptious treats overlooking the lovely bay.
11. Readymoney Cove
Nestled between the stone remains of St Catherine’s Castle and the mediaeval section of Fowey, this sheltered cove offers a captivating setting. Overlooking a charming secluded beach stands an old coach house that once served as the residence of the renowned author Daphne du Maurier. And if it appealed to one of the greatest romantic novelists of the 20th century, who are we to disagree?
Conveniently accessible, Readymoney Cove is just a short walk from the nearest car park, making it an ideal destination for spending quality time with family. So, whether you wish to unwind or enjoy a few hours of leisure, this is one of the best Cornish coves you should consider.
12. Towan Beach
Within the Roseland Peninsula, this magnificent expanse of shoreline stands as one of the most renowned attractions in the area. Located near St Anthony Head in Porth, you can embark on a scenic coastal path journey from the National Trust car park to Portscatho.
Or, you can spend the day here and take full advantage of the nearby café operated by the Thirstea Co. As such, this unspoilt cove promises a range of wonderful experiences for visitors to savour.
13. Penberth Cove
Located a couple of miles east of Porthcurno, Penberth resides at the base of a tranquil wooded valley. Often considered one of Cornwall’s most pristine coves, Penberth was entrusted to the care of the National Trust. This ensured its preservation in a manner reminiscent of a century ago.
The stone fishermen’s huts that dot the landscape still serve as homes to a small number of residents. Most of them still continue the longstanding tradition of venturing out in open fishing boats.
While modern facilities like an electric winch have replaced the traditional man-powered capstan for hauling the boats, the essence of Penberth’s heritage remains. With its unspoilt, historic charm, this deep cove serves as an ideal spot for picturesque walks in either direction.
14. Bosahan Cove
Tucked within the Bosahan estate on the Helford River, this unique beach is a rare find, enveloped by ancient woodland. Accessible solely by foot or boat, it offers a secluded haven for nature enthusiasts.
Moreover, the secret beach provides an idyllic setting for observing passing yachts, adding a touch of maritime charm. With its serene ambience, it presents a tranquil retreat for a leisurely swim, ensuring a wonderfully peaceful experience.
Surrounded by natural beauty and devoid of the usual hustle and bustle, this hidden gem invites visitors to revel in its tranquillity.
15. Nanjizal Cove
The hour-long walking distance from Nanjizal does not lessen the popularity of this enchanting location. Nestled on the Penwith Peninsula in West Cornwall, this captivating beach unveils a stunning cove adorned with boulders and boasts pristine, transparent waters. Adding to its allure is the Song of the Sea, a slender towering natural arch that graces the surroundings.
Notably, its charm extends beyond its scenic beauty. In 1966, it served as a filming location for Doctor Who episodes, adding an intriguing historical element to its appeal.
16. Chapel Porth Beach
During high tide, this small cove experiences a lively environment as it confronts the powerful Atlantic waves. However, the sandy shore appears to extend for a great distance during a low tide, allowing you to even walk all the way to Porthtowan.
That said, this popular beach is managed by the National Trust and there’s a seasonal dog ban during the summer holidays. Nevertheless, during the low tide, you can explore rock pools and caves, and when the conditions are favourable, the sea becomes a popular spot for surfers.
17. Portreath Beach
This family-friendly beach is a popular destination thanks to its close proximity to various restaurants and pubs, shops, and more. It consists of both sandy and rocky sections, and adding to its surf culture ambience is a well-equipped surf lifesaving club.
Once a bustling port engaged in coal and copper trade, the harbour now houses only a few fishing boats. Some of the old tram roads have been converted into cycling paths, allowing for a cycling route from Portreath on the north coast to Devoran on the south coast.
And that was the end of our guide to the best coves in Cornwall. We hope this informative piece helped you discover new coves, bays, and beaches in Cornwall, so you never have to repeat a spot during your stay!
That said, some other notable mentions include Pentire Steps (separated from Bedruthan Steps by Diggory’s Island), and beaches like Gwynver and Pedn Vounder near Sennen Cove.
From the wild and captivating force of the Atlantic at high tide to the serene stretches of sandy shores at low tide, these coves offer an array of experiences. However, we highly recommend checking for weather updates or new rules and regulations before visiting any of the aforementioned destinations.
Also, don’t forget to slather on a generous amount of sunscreen before soaking in the stunning ocean views!
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