Kayaking is one of my favourite outdoor activities to do in Cornwall.
My dad has always been into kayaking and we regularly went on days out on his kayaks as we were growing up, and it’s always been my go-to water activity. A few years ago I purchased my own (inflatable!) kayaks which I love and take out all the time with friends too (read my full review of them here if you’re interested!).
In a kayak, you get to explore caves and bits of coastline, and travel distances, that you can’t really do by just swimming. I find it easier and less scary than surfing, and I also find them much more comfortable and relaxing that stand up paddleboards (where I’m constantly worried about falling in!).
I am, however, a leisurely kayaker. I kayak to explore and experience floating on the water, not to go great distances or challenge myself. I go when it’s flat and there’s no wind, so I typically stick to pretty easy places that are perfect for beginners! Below are some of my favourites…
A note on tides & currents
Whenever you’re kayaking (at any level!) I’d always suggest checking the tide times before you plan your trip. You want to know when the tide is coming in and when it’s going out so that you can understand the currents you’ll be working with.
I use the Magic Seaweed app / website to check this before I go, and use my weather app to look at wind strength and direction as well. As a beginner, I’d try and go out on days when the wind is less than 15mph.
Rivers & estuaries
Kayaking on rivers is great because they’re usually much more sheltered and have calmer, flatter waters than the open sea, but taking note of tides before you go is especially important. You really don’t want to get stuck in the mud in the middle of a river at low tide!
Likewise most beaches will look very different and offer very different kayaking experiences depending on the tide. However the main thing to keep in mind is making sure you plan your route so that you’re not fighting against an outgoing tide when you’re tired at the end of your trip.
For example, I’d recommend trying to time and locate your trip so that when you’re paddling back, you’re paddling in the same direction as the current, so that it’s easier. Trust me, paddling back when your arms are tired against a current can get pretty tiring! This is the same for rivers and beaches.
Kayak on Helford River
There are so many beautiful riverside coves and magical creeks along Helford river to explore by kayak. I have launched my kayaks off Durgan before and paddled up to Helford passage past the Ferryboat Inn (you can launch from here too but need to pay a launch fee), or you can go with Koru Kayaking, who are based at Budock Vean Hotel, who will take you around some truly beautiful hidden gems.
Kayak at Gylly beach or Swanpool in Falmouth
Gylly beach and Swanpool beach in Falmouth are both great places for beginner kayakers because they’re quite sheltered and usually fairly flat (although not always!). Swanpool is my favourite as there are so many stunning little coves (and even a nudist beach!) that you can explore if you go along to the south, and if you want to paddle all the way to Maenporth you can also find a shipwreck at low tide too!
Swanpool beach offers kayak hire too if you don’t have your own.
Kayak on Truro River
Whether you’re launching off from Loe beach in Feock, Malpas in Truro, or around Trelissick area, there are some really pretty creeks and places you can explore by kayak.
Kayak Around St. Michael’s Mount
What a spectacular view for a beginner kayaking session! This iconic Cornish landmark is amazing to kayak around at high tide, especially on really flat days. When we went it was surprisingly choppy around the back of the mount, but if you feel uncomfortable you don’t have to go all the way around.
You can hire kayaks on Marazion beach.
Kayak in Looe or Millendreath
Although I haven’t personally kayaked off from Looe, I have kayaked off Millendreath, which the next beach resort over and on a calm, flat day that was really beautiful and you could definitely kayak over to Looe, exploring all the caves and rocks along the way!
Millendreath offer kayak hire on the beach.
Kayak at Porthminster / Carbis Bay
Carbis Bay is one of Cornwall’s most beautiful, exclusive beaches, as it’s part of the privately owned Carbis Bay estate with the luxury hotel overlooking the beach. Its white sand and crystal clear waters are stunning, and if you paddle west from here there are some great coves to explore on your way to Porthminster beach.
You’ll probably notice that most places on this list are on the south coast of Cornwall (apart from St. Ives / Carbis Bay). Typically the south coast here is much flatter and calmer, while the north coast is rougher and wavier. It’s not like that all the time, though, and there are definitely many more great places that I’m just yet to explore!
Where will you go on your next kayaking adventure in Cornwall?