Surfing central, seaside resort or party town? Newquay is all this and more, and the Cornish town has plenty to offer its visitors.
Whether you’re looking for a traditional day out by the sea or hoping to catch a wave, Newquay is the place to come. In the evening, it’s known as Cornwall’s top night spot; however, its growing foodie reputation means it’s also a good place for a more relaxing night out, too. Find out more about this popular resort in The Cornwall’s guide to Newquay.
Once upon a time, Newquay was a small fishing port, known as Towan Blistra. Its new quay in the late Middle Ages gave the village both its current name and a new role as an important trading port. It must have been a very busy place during Cornwall’s industrial revolution.
However, the coming of the railways in the mid 19th century changed all that. Freight began to be moved by rail rather than boat, so Newquay’s port began to lose trade. But… all was not lost for Newquay, as the new-fangled trains started to bring tourists to the town. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today’s Newquay has some of the best beaches in Cornwall, and there are several great beaches right in the centre of the town.
Tolcarne Beach is a family favourite - although be warned, there are over 200 steps down to the sands! It has lovely views across to the harbour, and at low ride, joins up with the other town beaches.
Great Western (named after the railway) is sheltered by the cliffs, and is a top spot for rockpooling. You can also walk across the sands to Lusty Glaze beach, which is home to the Lusty Glaze Adventure Centre if you fancy trying a few water sports. The other central beach is family-friendly Towan Beach, which is famous for being “the beach with the island house and bridge”. You know the one we mean!
Newquay’s surfing hub (and possibly, the UK’s surfing hub) is Fistral Bay, a gorgeous sweep of sand on the edge of town. Pro-level surfers flock here from all over the world; but don’t be put off if you’re a rookie - it’s also a brilliant place to learn how to surf. If you’d rather not, we recommend grabbing a coffee from one of the bay’s many cafes and simply watching the experts at work: it’s quite a show.
It’s a ten-minute drive from Newquay to Watergate Bay, which is another top surfing destination. You can book a surf lesson with Watergate’s Extreme Academy, or again, simply enjoy the view of the waves from one of the bay’s upscale eateries.
If you’re in Cornwall with your pooch, there are plenty of dog-friendly beaches in Newquay. Fistral and Watergate welcome dogs all year, as do Towan Beach and Lusty Glaze in town. The gloriously named Whipsiderry Beach is also dog-friendly all year. This makes Newquay one of the best parts of Cornwall to visit with your pup.
Newquay is a great seaside resort for families. While you’ll probably want to spend most of the time enjoying Newquay’s lovely sandy beaches, there are also plenty of attractions in the area. Here are a few favourites.
Newquay Zoo is a landscaped 13-acre site that’s home to over 130 species. Don’t miss the lions, penguins and “Lemur Island”. It’s the perfect place for a family day out, with some great outdoor play areas and plenty of places selling food and drink.
Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay is on Towan Beach, and is the place to come to learn about Cornwall’s sealife. Highlights include the Ocean Tunnel and the Nursery (incredibly cute). Book ahead, especially if rain is forecast.
Family favourite Dairyland is just outside Newquay. Younger kids will love the tractor rides, ponies and petting farm, as well as the go-karts, trampolines and nature trail. It’s a really enjoyable day out for little ones.
Lappa Valley is another top family spot near Newquay. Book a ride on their steam-hauled train, paddle around the lake on a swan boat, and end the day by losing to the kids at crazy golf. Big bonus: it has a new indoor play area and cafe, The Engine Shed.
Newquay has a good mix of high street and independent stores, along with a lot of surfy shops (don’t miss the legendary Ann’s Cottage). Outside town, Prow Park is getting quite a reputation for unique local shops and excellent street food.
Newquay has a wide choice of places to eat, from pasties to Pan Asian. Fistral is the place to go for food with a view: try The Fish House or Rick Stein’s restaurant. In town, there’s a choice of pub grub, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian… And like every good seaside town, you’ll find plenty of fish’n’chips and ice cream on offer.
In the evening, Newquay transforms into a party town, with a lot of busy pubs, bars and clubs. If you prefer a quiet pint by the fire, head out to one of the surrounding villages where you’ll be spoilt for choice for olde world pubs. Alternatively, it’s back to the chic bars of Fistral or Watergate for a sundowner overlooking the sea.
Newquay is on a stunning stretch of coast, and you can pick up the South West Coast path from the town. Beautiful beaches nearby include Watergate Bay, Whipsiderry Beach and Holywell (check the tide times first), and you’re not far from other towns including Padstow and Bodmin.
Just outside town in Kestle Mill, you’ll find the lovely Elizabethan manor house, Trerice (National Trust). Wander around the tranquil gardens and house, before tucking into their exceptionally good cream teas.
There are plenty of villages and little harbours to explore near Newquay, including Crantock, Mawgan Porth, St Mawgan and St Newlyn East. If you’re fancying a traditional pub lunch, this area is rich in picturesque old inns.
Newquay is easy to get to. By road, take the A30 and leave at the A392 exit. If you’re travelling by train, Newquay is on a branch line (connect at Par). Cornwall Airport Newquay is about six miles from the town.
If you want any more advice about a day trip to Newquay, please just ask us at The Cornwall.