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Best family-friendly beaches in Cornwall

Cornwall is home to some of the UK’s best beaches - expect to find sandy shores, sheltered coves and surfing hotspots galore. Read on for our pick of the best beaches in Cornwall to visit with your family.

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Jun 19, 2023

Best family friendly beaches in Cornwall

Planning your next holiday with the kids? Cornwall is an incredibly popular choice for UK family holidays and for good reason. From stunning coastal scenery to top quality accommodation and attractions, Cornwall has plenty to offer for a family holiday or a weekend away.

And you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to family-friendly beaches in Cornwall, with miles and miles of beautiful sandy shores for paddling, building sandcastles or watersports.

With so many beaches to choose from, it can be tricky to decide which ones to add to your itinerary. Thankfully, Mumsnetters are on hand to recommend the best beaches that are particularly well suited to families. Whether you’ll be surfing, crabbing, picnicking or beach cricketing, here are the best family-friendly beaches in Cornwall.

Editor's picks: Our favourite hotels in Cornwall

Woman in a spa pool overlooking Mawgan Porth beach from the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa
Bedruthan Hotel & Spa, Newquay

Chic spot in Mawgan Porth

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Camelot Castle Hotel, Tintagel
Camelot Castle Hotel, Tintagel

Majestic retreat with four-poster beds

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Bouncy castle in the grounds of the Sands Resort in Newquay
Sands Resort Hotel, Newquay

Fun-packed resort by the beach

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1. Watergate Bay, Newquay

Watergate Bay, Newquay

"I love Watergate Bay" - recommended by Mumsnet user, thereinmadnesslies 

"Lots of great beaches around Newquay - Watergate Bay is lovely and has very vigilant lifeguards" - rated by Mumsnet user, OoohRhubarbLetsGo

With a great location between Newquay and Padstow, Watergate Bay is a huge expanse of sandy beach that’s a hit with families thanks to its safe swimming zone and peak season RNLI lifeguards. It has a wide range of rock pools that are perfect for investigating with a net and bucket. You can also expect lots of watersports options, too - from kitesurfing to paddle boarding. It’s an ideal spot for those attempting to surf for the very first time too.

This dog-friendly beach has a small car park close by with an accessible ramp down to the beach, but be warned, it can get busy in peak season; so arrive early or late in the day to avoid disappointment.

Nearest train station: Newquay (2.5 miles)

Related: The best beach toys for fun in the sun

Editor's picks: where to stay near Watergate Bay

Beachcombers Apartments, Newquay
Beachcombers Apartments

Family-friendly base by the beach

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Watergate Bay Hotel Newquay
Watergate Bay Hotel

Modern family-friendly boutique

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Tregurrian Villas Watergate Bay
Tregurrian Villas

Dog-friendly villas near Watergate Bay

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2. Porthminster Beach, St Ives

Porthminster Beach, St Ives

"Porthminster is lovely and calm... very family friendly" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Thingybobbyboo

"Porthminster. Every time. You’re a walk from anywhere in St Ives (all the beaches, cafes, restaurants, The Tate, Barbara Hepworth)" - rated by Mumsnet user, user58486267489

Boasting a prestigious Blue Flag for cleanliness, Porthminster Beach is close to the harbour town of St Ives, one of Cornwall’s most popular spots and home to some excellent seafood restaurants.

With fine white sand, palm trees and tropical plants, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere more exotic than the south coast. The panoramic views across the bay are pretty impressive too, including the octagonal Godrevy Lighthouse standing three miles out to sea.

In summer, Porthminster is safe to swim thanks to it being well sheltered from the sea breeze. And there’s RNLI lifeguard cover from May to September. There are great facilities too; enjoy tucking into a Cornish pasty or freshly made cake from Porthminster cafe which is right on the beachfront, or visit the various takeaways, beach bars or shops where you can hire out windbreaks and deckchairs.

If you want to make the most of your visit, why not hire out one of the brightly coloured Beach Pods, or play a game of Mini golf on the 18-hole course?

Nearest train station: St Ives (0.8 miles)

Related: The best paddling pools for summer 2023

Editor's picks: where to stay in St Ives

Uno St Ives, Cornwall
Uno St Ives

Family suites with sea views

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Carbis Bay Hotel, St Ives
Carbis Bay Hotel

Luxury retreat with a private beach

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Tregenna Castle Resort
Tregenna Castle Resort

Epic mansion overlooking St Ives

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3. Carbis Bay Beach, St Ives

Carbis Bay Beach, St Ives

"Carbis Bay, which is the beach of my childhood. That’s one of my favourites" - Recommended by Mumsnet user FlamingoLingo

"Carbis Bay is beautiful. I was surprised by how many different beaches we could walk to around St Ives, no wonder it's such a popular place" - rated by Mumsnet user, Bluebell1995

Another popular beach located just one mile from St Ives, Carbis Bay Beach has held a coveted Blue Flag title for over 15 years. It’s privately owned by the Carbis Bay Hotel and while it’s open to the general public as well as guests, it doesn’t tend to be overcrowded.

The calm shores and golden sands of Carbis Bay beach make it popular for families with young children, who can safely paddle with their parents with very little surf or tide to contend with.

Surrounded by sub-tropical plants, you’ll want to take your camera to capture shots of the outstanding views and tranquil turquoise water; moments that make the trek back up the hill after your visit completely worth the effort.

There’s a seasonal dog ban between July and September, so you’ll need to leave your four-legged friend behind.

Nearest train station: Carbis Bay (0.3 miles)

4. Porthcurno Beach, Porthcurno

Porthcurno Beach, Porthcurno

"Porthcurno is my favourite! Always go there when I have beach days (it’s a 10-min drive from me!)" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Donut93

"I have lived abroad, but my favourite beach in the entire world is Porthcurno beach" -rated by Mumsnet user, floppybit 

At the southern end of the Penwith Peninsula in West Cornwall, Porthcurno beach has soft white sand and beautiful crystal clear waters. It’s no surprise therefore that it was used as a stunning backdrop for some of the scenes in the BBC drama Poldark.

The small stream flowing down the centre is an ideal paddling spot for young visitors; while the cliffs provide much-needed shelter from the swells. Lifeguards patrol the shores during peak season making it a safe and comfortable place to swim.

When it comes to impressive views; they don’t come much more spectacular than the sight of the Minack Theatre, an impressive open-air theatre built right into the cliffs above Porthcurno Beach.

There’s a large car park, but we recommend you get there early or late in the day to guarantee a space. The walk down can also be a little steep, so take care with little ones.

Nearest train station: Little Trethewey (20-minute walk)

Editor's picks: where to stay near Porthcurno

Porthcurno Bay View
Porthcurno Bay View

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YHA Penzanze
YHA Penzance

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5. Kynance Cove, Lizard Peninsula

Kynance Cove, Lizard Peninsula

"Kynance is my favourite though, it's truly magical" - recommended by Mumsnet user TheChestnutCafe

"There are several beautiful cove beaches in the Lizard Peninsula. Kynance is amazing, but small and busy" - rated by Mumsnet user, Equimum

On Cornwall’s southeast coast at the end of the Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove is one of the county’s most photographed beaches and it’s really not hard to see why.

With secluded stretches of sand, caves, serpentine rocks and a huge number of rock pools, combined with striking bright azure waters, this little piece of heaven is a great place to relax and unwind in stunning surroundings during low tide.

The National Trust car park is free for members, but bear in mind that Kynance gets extremely busy during the summer months. It’s not lifeguarded either so for a more relaxed visit, it’s probably best suited to families with older children or teens.

Nearest train station: Kynane Cove Turn (1.6 miles)

6. Sennen Cove, Land's End

Sennen Cove, Lands End

"Sennen Cove. It's just... well, it's heaven" - recommended by Mumsnetter, LadyFlumpalot

"Sennen beach by Land’s End is stunning, massive and has a big car park on the cliff top. Worth the walk down (and up!)" - rated by Mumsnetter, colouringindoors

The most westerly point in England, Whitesands Bay in Sennen Cove is a popular choice for families to paddle, play games or simply soak up the sun's rays. Its coastal swells make an ideal spot for your kid’s first surfing lesson, and there’s a flagged area for safe swimming, patrolled by lifeguards during the Easter and Summer peak season.

At low tide, you can expect to see a huge expanse of (unsurprisingly) white sand and several rock pools for children to explore. Or you can head up to the Myon Cliff lookout tower for some remarkable views across the bay.

Dog-free in the summer months, it can be pretty jam-packed during high season but you visit early or late, and visit the rest of the area during the day. Sennen Cove is conveniently located near some friendly pubs and accommodation options; there’s also a small harbour and the Roundhouse art gallery to visit.

Nearest train station: Penzance (8 miles)

7. Summerleaze Beach, Bude

Summerleaze Beach, Bude

"Love Summerleaze in Bude for a family bucket and spade day. Fabulous sea pool" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Theluckiest

“Summerleaze in Bude is great for families with kids, and the huge sea pool is brilliant for a really good swim if you prefer calm water and would rather jump in than wade” - rated by Mumsnet user, GETTINGLIKEMYMOTHER

A 10-minute walk from the centre of Bude with its plentiful cafes, shops and restaurants, Summerleaze is home to some excellent local surf schools, with the powerful shore-skimming waves providing the ideal conditions for surfing, body- and paddleboarding.

A tidal beach with compacted wet sand, it's perfect for building sandcastles. Children will love the shaded play area on particularly hot days, while the famous sea pool at the foot of the cliff provides safe swimming in all weather conditions.

If you fancy heading out in the sea, Summerleaze has lifeguard cover during the school holidays including summer, Easter and October half terms. It’s dog friendly too, but pooches must be kept on a lead from May to September.

Nearest train station: Bodmin Parkway (22 miles)

Editor's picks: where to stay in Bude

Beach House Hotel
Beach House, Widemouth

Beachfront B&B and lounge bar

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The Edgcumbe, Bude
The Edgcumbe

Family-run retreat near the beach

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Trevigue B&B, Bude
Trevigue B&B

Cute clifftop farm stay

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8. Fistral Beach, Newquay

Fistral Beach, Newquay

"Fistral Beach is perfect for young ones, with parking right by the beach making it very accessible" - recommended by Mumsnet user, RiceKrispie22

“Fistral Beach in Newquay is great for surfing” - rated by Mumsnet user, JemimaTab

Fistral Beach is well known as one of the world’s top surfing destinations and home to some of the UK’s top surf competitions including the infamous Boardmasters Surf Championships. It’s incredibly popular, attracting tourists from right across the UK and beyond.

A great base for those who want to try out some high-energy watersports, there are quality surf schools for those who love to take to the sea.

If your love of surfing is firmly from a spectating position, there’s plenty to do out of the water, including tucking into some freshly cooked fish and chips from the nearby Rick Stein takeaway, browsing around Fistral’s many shops or checking out the striking Headland Hotel, filming location of the original Witches movie.

It’s a very short walk from the onsite car park but be warned, its popularity means you may need to hang around a bit to find a space during peak season.

Nearest train station: Newquay (2 miles)

9. Trevone Beach, Padstow

Trevone Beach, Padstow

"Trevone Bay is very nice" -  rated by Mumsnet user, UntamedWisteria

"Trevone Bay is my absolute favourite and we all go every year regardless of other holidays or the weather. It's about a mile and a half underneath Padstow (on the Padstow to Newquay road) It has a cafe, loos and is very very sandy" - recommended by Mumsnet user, PanicPants

Located two miles west of Padstow in north Cornwall, Trevone Bay is a sloping sandy bay surrounded by cliffs with a wealth of rocky ledges and rock pools to explore. There are some comfortable coastal walks the whole family can enjoy together and if you’re feeling brave enough you can even check out the blow hole, a sunken cave that attracts tourists from far and wide.

Popular with surfers and generally safe for swimmers, you should however take care to avoid the right side as it has the potential for some fairly powerful rip tides.

It’s also worth noting that some recent reviews suggest that parking operators have become somewhat overzealous. We recommend you pay for longer than you need to avoid an expensive visit!

Nearest train station: Trevone Turn (0.7 miles)

10. Widemouth Bay Beach, Bude

Widemouth Bay Beach, Bude

"Widemouth Bay if your children like bodyboarding" - recommended by Mumsnet user, 480Widdio

"I’ve stayed in Bude many times. Lovely beaches, especially further up by Widemouth bay and lots to do for children" - rated by Mumsnet user, Jojoanna

Just three miles south of Bude, Widemouth is home to some excellent local surf schools, where families can improve their surfing and bodyboarding skills. It's a dog-friendly beach all year round and has RNLI lifeguards during the summer season to protect those who fancy heading out for a swim.

When the tide is out, there’s plenty of soft sand for sunbathing as well as lots of rock pools to explore, but if you prefer to keep your feet clean and dry, you may prefer to check out the magnificent views from the cliffside while tucking into traditional Cornish ice cream.

Nearest train station: Barnstaple (38 miles)

Are beaches better in north or south Cornwall?

It really depends on what you want from your visit. The beaches in the north and west of Cornwall, like Fistral and Trevone Bay, tend to have the best conditions for watersports and surfing and beaches in the south, including Kynance Cove, are typically more sheltered with calmer swimming conditions.

When’s the best time to visit Cornwall?

Cornwall is a really popular holiday destination and as a result, it can get extremely busy during peak seasons and school holidays. If you’re limited to school holidays, Easter is a great time to visit - it’s less busy than the high summer season, but it can still offer some great weather conditions in which to explore everything Cornwall has to offer.

In the winter months many of Cornwall’s main attractions close down, but the natural beauty and wildlife still remain.

Do you need to hire a car to travel around Cornwall?

While it’s certainly easier to navigate Cornwall’s remote spots and coastal routes by car, it is possible to travel around the county without driving. There’s a good transport network of buses and trains, but it would require some planning and you’d need to pick your base location wisely to ensure you can visit everywhere on your wishlist.

What’s the best beach in Cornwall for families?

It’s so hard to pick just one; however, if you’re after a fun-filled visit, Fistral Beach is a great choice for those who want to try their hand at surfing or simply spectate.

Summerleaze Beach in Bude is also a great all-rounder for families with lots of facilities and a sea pool that allows you to take a dip in all weather conditions.

How we chose our recommendations

We spent several hours sifting through Mumsnet's forums for recommendations from users on the best beaches in Cornwall, including the ones they visit regularly or rate most highly.

We consulted recommendations from travel experts and made sure we included beaches in Cornwall that were award-winning, blue flag, regularly appeared in ‘best’ lists or were the most highly rated by guests on TripAdvisor and review sites, ensuring that previous visitors were satisfied with their stay. We looked out for beaches that offered good facilities, safe swimming and were suitable for families with young children, to bring you our final list of the best family-friendly beaches in Cornwall.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.