Road Trip: Newquay and the Cornish Coastline
With its warm people, wild waves and mile-upon-mile of unspoilt coastline to explore, Cornwall makes for the road trip of a lifetime.
Whether you crave an action-packed weekend of surfing and hiking or would prefer to spend an unhurried fortnight weaving your way down country roads in search of English heritage sights, majestic seascapes and cosy country pubs, Cornwall has you covered.
Here are a few pointers to help you plan your perfect Cornish road trip.
Set Up a Beachfront Basecamp in Newquay
Famed for its colourful shops, cafes and waterfront pubs, the beach town of Newquay is the first choice for many families, couples and groups of friends visiting Cornwall. And with its 12 surrounding beaches, you’re never more than a gentle stroll or quick drive away from the sea.
What’s more, Newquay’s reputation as a prime holiday destination means there are countless accommodation options to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a budget surf lodge or a luxurious hotel with sea views, you’re sure to find the perfect place to set up camp.
I stayed at the glorious Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa and loved waking up every morning to the sound of waves crashing on the beach and the squawks of hungry seagulls.
The views across Fistral Beach were truly inspiring – so beautiful, in fact, that I left the curtains open so I could wake up to catch the sun rising over the sea.
Visit Cape Cornwall to Witness Dramatic Heritage Landscapes
Just a scenic one-hour drive from Newquay, you’ll find Cornwall’s most impressive landscapes. Cape Cornwall is an iconic headland that juts out into the ocean at the point where the Atlantic splits in two, heading either south to the English Channel or north into the Bristol Channel and Irish Sea. Wind-beaten and wave-battered, it makes for a beautiful and invigorating walk. Don’t miss the offshore Brison Rocks, which are responsible for wrecking a number of ships in the past. They’re also said to have been used as a spartan prison at one point in history.
What’s more, the drive from Newquay to Cape Cornwall traces part of the ‘Tin Coast’, the UK’s largest industrial World Heritage Site. Here you will discover green and graceful landscapes peppered with the remains of old tin mines dating back to the early 19th century.
Take a Surf Lesson at Fistral Beach
Newquay is the unrivalled capital of Britain’s surf scene and regularly hosts competitions attracting professional surfers from all four corners of the globe.
There are countless surf spots in and around Newquay with waves for all levels and abilities, but the most famous surf spot is undoubtedly Fistral Beach.
Sprawling out for some 750 m, there’s plenty of space to accommodate the hundreds of surfers who flock here at all times of the year. The winter season sees the biggest waves, with monsters reaching up to 30 metres high, while the summer season brings warmer temperatures and smaller waves that are perfect for learning and honing your pop-ups, carves and bottoms turns.
If you’ve never tried surfing before then book a lesson with the Quiksilver Surf School and you’ll be guided and accompanied by a friendly professional from your first paddle to your first wave.
Walk the South West Coast Path
Cornwall is heaven for hikers, with countless footpaths meandering their way to craggy headlands, grassy moorlands, colourful fishing boat harbours and dramatic view points that look out over glorious sandy stretches.
Cornwall also boasts a 300-mile section of the UK’s fabled South West Coast Path, which has something for all hikers, whether you’re a serious walker or a part-time plodder.
I joined up with the path just a few steps away from my hotel and followed it all the way around the ravaged headland and the idyllic nook of Crantock Beach, which remains relatively quiet even during peak summer season. Don’t forget your camera.
Immerse Yourself in Botanical Beauty at the Eden Project
As if Cornwall wasn’t already beautiful enough, it is also home to the largest indoor rainforest in the world. The Eden Project’s gargantuan biomes (like giant greenhouses) recreate diverse climates and natural environments, ranging from the tropical rainforests and islands of Southeast Asia, West Africa and South America to the slightly less sticky climes of the Mediterranean, South Africa, California and Western Australia.
Education is at the heart of the centre, connecting visitors of all ages with the living world and encouraging us to work towards a more sustainable future. The Eden Project also hosts live music concerts and it is unquestionably one of the most beautiful venues in Europe.
Indulge in Cornish Food and Drink
With its rolling farmland and bustling harbours, it’s no surprise that Cornwall is such a great place to eat, boasting everything from fresh fish and seafood to seasonal farm-to-table fare. Squeeze into a beachfront cafe for a Cornish cream tea and a few scoops of the famous local ice cream, or warm up after your surf lesson with a hearty meat-stuffed Cornish pasty.
And after a long day of hiking the coastal trails, nothing beats a good old country pub, where you can relax in front of a roaring fire with a pint of local cider and some proper pub grub.
For dinner with epic views across Fistral Beach, head to the cliffside Lewinnick Lodge restaurant for a pint at sunset. Explore contemporary European cooking that draws on the freshest seasonal produce, and be sure to toast the day with a gin a tonic made with handcrafted Cornish gin from the local Tarquin’s Distillery.