Last month I took off on a road trip to explore Cornwall’s Blue Flag and Seaside Award beaches.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen the trip on my Instagram Stories back in July, and you can still catch up on the journey in my highlights too, but for those who don’t know – this road trip featured all of Cornwall’s beaches that have been awarded Blue Flag status or a Seaside Award, with lots of activities and stop offs along the way.
The Blue Flag is a global award given by the Foundation of Environmental Education each year to beaches around the world that meet a high level of environmental, cleanliness, accessibility and safety standards. There are just over 70 beaches in England with Blue Flag status, and Cornwall is lucky enough to host 7 of these, plus another 8 that have achieved ‘Seaside Awards’ too.
Each year, Sharp’s Brewery help with the application process for beaches in Cornwall to win this award, and do a month-long feature in Cornish news publications all about them, which is why I partnered up with them on this trip! Over the last few weeks in August my write up and photos have been featured in Cornish Guardian, Cornwall Live, West Briton and Western Morning News too – how cool is that?
Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth
We kickstarted our road trip in the harbour town of Falmouth, known for its maritime heritage and also the University campus which attracts over 1000 students each year. The town has a few beautiful beaches nearby, but the main one is Gyllyngvase (aka Gylly beach), which has achieved a Seaside Award and is where our journey started.
Being on the South coast, and in the natural inlet of River Fal, the sea at Gylly is usually pretty flat! This makes it one of my favourite places to come for sea swim, and it’s also a very popular place to go Stand-Up Paddleboarding.
WeSUP hire out SUP boards and kayaks from their hut on the beach, and offer lessons and tours here too. We headed out with them to paddle over to Swanpool beach, and explore hidden caves and coves along the coastline there. If you want to find a secluded spot for a picnic or skinny dip, this is the perfect way go about it!
As we both had some previous SUP experience, the guys at WeSUP let us try out their tandem paddleboard. I was at the front, and could instantly tell this was more of a challenge than a single board; it was very funny trying to keep my balance with someone paddling behind, so I ended up enjoying a relaxing ride sat down on the front of the board ‘gondola-style’!
While we were out on the boards, we were lucky enough to spot a few barrel jellyfish swimming beneath us. These beautiful giants were around the size of dustbin lids and looked very graceful in the water. It’s sometimes possible to spot dolphins around Falmouth too, so keep your eyes peeled if you head out on the water for some wonderful marine wildlife!
After our SUP session, we left Falmouth and drove down the A30 all the way to Sennen Cove, which is situated on the South Westerly Penwith coast, just a few miles away from Land’s End (ie. the toe of Cornwall!). It is home to the Sennen RNLI Lifeboat Station, which operates search and rescues for all around Land’s End, keeping people safe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and is well known for its idyllic surf conditions.
We walked along the long stretch of white sand, watching the surf schools paddle out and catch waves in the white water. It was actually pretty flat on this particular day (it was throughout the whole of Cornwall!) which is unusual for Sennen, so I’m told, but they were still doing pretty well!
The great thing about Blue Flag and Seaside Award beaches is that you know they will always have a good standard of facilities, including well-maintained public toilets, a lifeguard service all throughout summer, and somewhere to find some food nearby. Sennen has a beachside bar as well as a small shop and surf hire. There’s also a popular campsite up on the cliffs with views of the ocean too!
Carbis Bay, St. Ives
We hopped back in the car to head half an hour up the coast to the stunning St. Ives Bay, to visit three of the town’s awarded beaches!
Carbis Bay is a popular resort on the outskirts of St. Ives, which looks out across the sheltered St. Ives bay and benefits from its own train station too. The railway along this coastline is a great way to travel, as you get stunning views and it means you don’t need to faff around with parking in the towns either!
We found our sunbathing spot in the glorious white sand here and set up our camp, ready to catch the rays of the afternoon sun. With Caribbean-esque sand and treelined cliffs creating a crescent cove shape, this beach has incredibly clear, turquoise waters, perfect for a spot of snorkelling! It truly feels like you’re on a summer holiday here.
Porthminster, St. Ives
After a spot of sunbathing, we headed into the town of St. Ives to grab a pasty for lunch from The Cornish Bakery (if you’re in Cornwall, it has to be done!) and walk down to eat it on the beach. It was low tide when we arrived, so we were able to walk through the shallow, ankle-height water in the harbour over the Porthminster beach across the sand.
We couldn’t quite believe the gorgeous colour of the water as we waded through. Being so shallow it had been warmed from the day’s sunshine and felt truly tropical too. There were plenty of people out kayaking or enjoying a paddleboarding session out around the boats too, as you can hire these from Porthminster beach.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a proper wave on this beach; it’s always so calm and flat here due to being so sheltered by the surrounding bay, making it ideal for swimming and paddling on SUP or kayak.
Porthmeor, St. Ives
If you want an amazing place to watch the sunset, you can’t beat the view from the Island in St. Ives while overlooking Porthmeor beach, the town’s official Blue Flag status beach. We sat on the grass with a stunning view of the bay, with people still swimming and enjoying the last rays of sunlight over the sand.
Porthmeor is also where you can find the Tate Gallery, a great place to visit during the day to admire the exhibitions and beautiful Art Deco architecture.
After our sunset walk, it was time for our dinner at The Sloop Inn. There are lots of fantastic places to eat in St. Ives (too many to choose from!) but we couldn’t say no to trying out one of Cornwall’s oldest pubs (dating back to 1312). We went to their upstairs restaurant, The Captain’s Table, and enjoyed a delicious dinner of mussels in a white wine sauce and steak. I’d definitely recommend giving this a go!
On day two of our road trip, we drove up the coast to one of my childhood hangout spots, Porthtowan. I grew up around this area and visited this beach often as a child, and these days we come regularly to enjoy the stunning coastal walks or to have a drink with friends at Blue Bar.
The tide was low when we arrived so we walked down to the sea shore and climbed over the rocks on the right-hand side of the beach. Hidden away here you can find a little tidal pool with concrete walls built in to the cliffs, with beautiful clear turquoise water. When we were kids we used to climb up here and jump in off the rocks, or spend hours swimming around with our inflatables until the tide would come up and we’d have to scramble back to the beach so we weren’t cut off.
When the tide is super low at Porthtowan, you can also walk along the sand to the neighbouring coves and even as far as Chapel Porth. Alternatively you can walk there along the cliffs, and it really has the most beautiful sea views.
Twenty minutes up the coast from Porthtowan is Perranporth; a popular seaside town with one of the longest stretches of beach on the North coast of Cornwall. There’s loads to do here, and again we used to visit regularly as kids as we lived so close by, eating pancakes in one of the town’s many cafes and exploring the miles of sand dunes behind.
Perranporth beach is also home to The Watering Hole, Cornwall’s famous bar that is situated literally on the sand on the beach, which hosts live music events and festivals (like Tunes in the Dunes) throughout Summer.
If you’re interested in cocktails though, there’s a new bar at the edge of the sand called Alcatraz, which has a great outdoor decking area which is ideal for watching the sun go down with a Mojito in hand!
As well as having surf hire and lots of other activities to do on the beach, Perranporth is also dog friendly all year round, making it one of my preferred beaches of giving the dogs a run around in summer!
We didn’t have the dogs with us on this day, but we had a good long walk along the sea front and climbed up on the iconic Chapel Rock to dip our toes in the tidal pool here too (you can find these secret pools dotted randomly around Cornwall!).
Great Western Beach
Our next stop was Newquay, which as you may know is host to a fair few different beaches! Great Western Beach is located just to the East of the town centre, and achieved Blue Flag status for the first time last year.
It’s usually a very popular surfing spot, and we were booked in for a surf lesson with Newquay Surf School to catch some waves. However due to the North coast being so flat on this day, we decided to go for another SUP session and make the most of the calm flat waters (which rarely happens on this beach!).
Dale from Newquay Surf School took us out and I was standing in no time! We paddled over past the neighbouring Towan beach over to the harbour to see if we could spot some seals. Apparently there is a particular seal that lives in this area who has just had a pup! Sadly we didn’t get to see them but we had lots of fun checking out the old smugglers caves along the headland. We also spied another barrel jellyfish on our paddle!
After our paddle we had a delicious burger lunch at The Slope – super juicy and delicious; the perfect post surf or SUP meal overlooking the beach.
If you’re looking for somewhere luxurious to stay in Newquay, I can’t recommend Lewinnick Lodge enough! It’s located on the Pentire headland overlooking Fistral beach, and has some of the most beautiful sea-view rooms I’ve ever experienced. We were pretty speechless when we walked into our room that evening! I’ve posted a separate Lewinnick Lodge review here on the blog.
Our day three began with a tasty breakfast at Lewinnick Lodge before we set off for Porth beach, another Newquay beach that’s achieved a Seaside Award.
Situated at the edge of this little bay is Roos Beach, a fashion and lifestyle boutique that’s known around Cornwall for it’s bright and colourful clothing and accessories. Founded by Roo Cross in 2013, the shop is so much fun to look around and now has its own café attached too, so you can chill out in their comfy outdoor seating with a coffee and a slice of cake to complete your shopping trip.
I’ve written a separate Roos Beach review here on the blog!
Just two miles South of Padstow was our next stop on the road trip, Trevone Bay, a popular Blue Flag beach with golden sands and a beautiful coastal walk that can take you from the bay either around Trevose head or up to the town of Padstow.
We arrived at the beach and popped our trainers on, ready for a walk around the coast path. From here we climbed along the rocks to see the crystal clear water, and over on the left hand side of the beach we spotted a couple of secluded coves with amazing aquamarine lagoons.
While the surf wasn’t really big enough here to catch many waves, there were a few bodyboarders in the water enjoying the little swell that there was. You can hire surfboards here if you fancy a ride, and there’s a café by the car park too to fuel up afterwards.
On the other side of Padstow and the River Camel just past Rock is Polzeath, a well known Seaside Award beach that’s known as a surfer’s haven! Even on this relatively flat day, there was still a decent swell here perfect for beginner surfers to have a lesson. We saw a few surf schools out in the water as well as individuals enjoying the waves.
When you walk to Polzeath beach from the town, you’ll see there are plenty of different restaurants to choose from for lunch. We chose to have a sandwich at the Cracking Crab up on the cliffs overlooking the beach, and if you love crab as much as we do, I’d definitely recommend doing the same!
After our lunch stop at Polzeath, we travelled up the Atlantic Highway to find the hidden away cove of Crackington Haven. With its towering cliffs and beautifully clear water, it’s a great little beach for swimming, snorkelling and rockpooling due to it being so sheltered by two headlands.
Our pit stop for the night was Elements Hotel & Restaurant on the cliffs at Widemouth Bay (our next beach to be explored on our final day). We checked in to our cosy ocean view room and enjoyed a delicious dinner on their outside decking. The Atlantic coast view was paired with some relaxed live music too, which was the perfect atmosphere for our final night away.
We woke up to views of Widemouth Bay, before heading along the coast path from right outside Elements Hotel down to the beach itself.
Widemouth Bay has been awarded Blue Flag status and I know from first-hand experience how passionate the locals are about keeping their beach clean, after joining the Bude Cleaner Seas Project last month on one of their beach cleans. There are litter picking tools at the edge of the beach that anyone can use as part of the #2minutebeachclean movement, and recycling bins here where plastic can be left and then collected to be transformed into recycled materials (I even heard that some of the plastic from here was used to build a stage at Glastonbury!).
This is a hugely popular surf spot as well, due to its great conditions for beginners at low tide. I’d highly recommend having a lesson with Freewave Surf Academy, whose team are super friendly and excellent teachers. They also run surf and yoga retreats here at Widemouth Bay throughout the year too, which I’ve had the opportunity to try myself and had an amazing experience!
Bude is right next to Widemouth Bay, and sits pretty close to the Cornwall/Devon border! I’ve only been once or twice, so I was excited to properly enjoy the town’s main beach (Summerleaze) for the first time.
The beach is just a couple minutes walk from the town centre, beyond the dunes, and is sheltered from the elements by a large concrete breakwater by the river’s edge. Dogs are allowed on the beach throughout the year (on leads in summer) which is great to see, and again there’s great surf opportunities here with local surf hire too.
One of the main draws of Summerleaze beach is the famous Bude Sea Pool, which I was very excited to take a dip in! At 91m long and 45m wide, t’s one of the largest sea pools in Cornwall and looks more like an official man-made lido, but it’s totally free to go in from the beach.
I’ve written a separate post all about the sea pool and things to do in Bude too!
Crooklets Beach, Bude
Right next to Summerleaze beach, and marking the end of our Blue Flag & Seaside Award road trip, is Crooklets Beach. It’s a golden sand inlet that’s exposed at low tide, and can be reached either from the coast path at the edge of Bude or along the sand at Summerleaze beach.
The cove has its own lifeguards and surf hut, plus all the other facilities you’d expect from a Seaside Award beach. It doesn’t surprise me at all that all three of Bude’s beaches (Widemouth Bay, Summerleaze and Crooklets Beach) have Blue Flag/Seaside awards; the community here is extremely passionate about having clean seas and clean beaches, and does a lot to reduce plastic waste and tidy up their town.
After visiting Crooklets, we headed back home after a week of exploring old haunts and parts of Cornwall that I’ve never visited before. We were incredibly lucky with the weather for the whole trip; bright sunshine and heatwave temperatures, so as you can imagine I took 1000s of photos! I also learned a lot about the Blue Flag awards and definitely feel more educated about our Cornish beaches.
Huge thanks to Sharp’s for sponsoring this trip and partnering with me on this adventure! We had loads of fun and it’s been awesome to see this journey in the newspapers this month.
Which is your favourite Blue Flag Beach in Cornwall?
* press trip sponsored by Sharp’s Brewery