When travel talk turns to turquoise waters and perfect watersports conditions, you immediately assume somewhere Mediterranean is on the cards. What if we told you Cornwall can more than match any Euro hotspot on scenery, beach facilities and competition level watersport locations?
Dive Cornwall’s depths to track down steam engines that have been submerged for over 100 years, sea kayak your way to a more than decent pasty or paddle into hidden creeks. However you enjoy the Cornish coast, get in it, get on it – but whatever you do, don’t just look at it. The FOMO will almost certainly be too much to bear.
Is there any other watersport in Cornwall? In peak summer, surfers are seemingly everywhere looking for the best swells. It’s no secret that Fistral beach is a magnet for surfers. And, while it does come fully loaded with surf schools and facilities, it’s not perhaps the quietest place to catch a wave. Beginners will want to hone their skills at the Quicksilver Surf School, and the consistent swells are a top–notch place for (almost) guaranteed surf. Looking for a bigger challenge? Head to Sennen Bay. Expect waves to be anything up to 3ft higher than any you’ll find at Fistral. Here, it’s all about the shifting sand banks. When the surfing stars align, you’ll find a right–hand wave breaking in front of the rocks that you’ll want to ride all day long, Though, the benefits do come with a warning. Sennen’s big waves can also come with hidden rip currents.
Cost: £35 (Group surf lessons) Board hire: Prices vary – but a 3 day hire of a beginner board is ~£25
Orbzii tip: If surf conditions aren’t up to par, head inland. Retallack Resort In St Columb Major have installed a very swish FlowRider which guarantees easy to ride waves, whatever the weather.
Stand up paddleboarding delivers the best of Cornwall from the water. Yes, you’ll be engaging your core while you paddle, but you’re largely free to take in the view, spot wildlife and scope out the coastline. Loe Beach is THE place to paddle, mostly for the mix of paddling and waterways. The beach might be small and shingle-based, but it’s a great launch spot. To the east, you can paddle up Pill Creek to take in the sights of the Fal River and explore smaller creeks. If it’s all about the ocean for you, head west for more coastal action. Loe Beach Watersports can get you out on the water, with hire including everything from buoyancy aids and a safety briefing to technique tips and a push off from shore. Expect to pay £25 for a half day’s hire.
Cornwall’s waters are glorious, and while we won’t have a bad word said about them, this isn’t going to be a tropical diving adventure. That said, the shores are lined with kelp forests, steam trains (more on those in a moment), reefs, wrecks and gullies to explore. For the best kelp fronds, dive in to Lamorna Cove. The ecosystem here makes it one of Cornwall’s best dive sites. Some say the night dives are the most rewarding, though it’s always about visibility. Expect to see cuttlefish, red mullet, sand eels and pollack on the dive. To track down those submerged steam trains? You’ll want to dive the St Chamond ship wreck in St Ives bay. The ship has been here since 1918 – so it’s fairly broken up. There are more than five sturdy engines still waiting to be explored though.
Cornwall diving experiences don’t get much better than those in Falmouth Bay. Beginners and experts can find wrecks and reef life, with sea fans, sponges and jewel anemones.
Orbzii tip: Dolphins in Cornwall are a fairly common sight, but how about a shark dive? Get in the water with basking sharks in May or June. Or, for something a little more adventurous, Dive Falmouth runs a snorkelling with sharks, sun fish and tuna from June to October.
Sea kayaking Cornwall’s coastline comes at a price. And that price is FOMO. Wherever you paddle you just KNOW, there’s another stellar spot waiting elsewhere on the coast. Padstow’s a pretty scenic spot for a paddle, just don’t forget to go ashore to test Chough Bakery’s claim that they make the best pasties in Cornwall. Port Gaverne is a treasure trove of isolated beaches and coves to explore, though most may miss it by focussing their eyes on the Doc Martin filming locations at Port Isaac. But by far the most picture–perfect sea kayaking spot has to be The Lizard Peninsula. Easily mistakable for Sicily (in the right light) the clear waters, white beaches and rare crops of wild asparagus sitting on the cliff tops makes it feel like you’re in distinctly Mediterranean waters.
Lizard Adventure lead kayaking groups out twice a day. Or you can hire a kayak and explore for yourself.
Cost: Group kayak tour £48 per person. Kayak hire – Single £15 per hour / Double £18 per hour
With some of the best kitesurfing conditions in the UK, it pays to pack your kite gear if you’re planning a holiday in the county. In winter, Marazion keeps kitesurfers happy with near-perfect conditions. Though, as local kitesurfing school Ocean High will tell you, year round, they have more days of kite-able wind than any other UK beach. With credentials like that, why would you go anywhere else? Conditions like this draw a crowd. Looking for a stretch of coast that’s a smidge quieter? Perranporth is expansive enough to give everyone space to soar over the waves. The catch? You’ve got to haul your gear over the dunes to get to the ocean – and back again.
Cost: Half day taster session for kite surf beginners £100
Personal coaching sessions for intermediates – £40 per hour (Ocean High)
Orbzii tip: There’s just one rule you need to follow at almost every beach. Don’t kitesurf two hours either side of high tide. High tides in Cornwall leave very little beach space and with rail lines and roads running close to shore, it’s an easy way to bag yourself a ban should your kite end up on the line – or road.