With staycations at an all-time high, the UK is the perfect place for a surfing holiday. And with Newquay being one of the top spots, this fun-loving Cornish beach town is arguably the surf capital of England.

Newquay’s reputation for surfing began back in the 1960s, and peaked when Fistral became a regular stop on the professional surfing circuit in the 80s and 90s. Beginners can take lessons with a professional instructor at one of the many established surf schools in the area. And experienced surfers can get a real taste of world class surfing.

And there are plenty of other equally wonderful beaches in Newquay, perfect for surfers of all abilities. With golden sands and safe waters for swimming, the main town beaches of Towan, Great Western, Lusty Glaze and Tolcarne, welcome surfers and sun-worshippers alike during the summer months. So if you fancy a fun break away, look no further than this famous surfing hotspot. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about surfing in Newquay, from the best surf schools to where to stay in Newquay, we’ve got it covered.

Best Surfing Spots In Newquay

If you’re travelling to Newquay, chances are you’ll be heading to one of the many glorious sandy beaches on offer. Fistral beach is Cornwall’s most popular surfing beach, and it attracts many water sports lovers in the warmer months. Towan beach is the closest beach to Newquay’s town centre, and is situated right on the doorstep of the bustling shops and restaurants. And Porth beach, known for its huge sandy shoreline, is a great place to let the kids play and have fun.

Newquay’s surf spots can be divided into two categories: those inside Newquay Bay (known locally as, The Bay) and those outside of it. The beaches inside The Bay tend to have smaller waves and less onshore wind, making them perfect for beginners. Outside of The Bay, things are a little more exposed and turn to face the Atlantic with more head-on swells - ideal for experienced surfers.

Surfing outside The Bay

The spots outside of The Bay really put Newquay on the surfing map. They include iconic Fistral, a wide sandy beach backed by dunes, and a few others which attract experienced surfers from all over the country. With almost complete exposure to the Atlantic, expect groundswells galore and some seriously big days.

Fistral beach is within walking distance of Newquay’s town centre. And it’s easily accessible by foot from a wide range of accommodation in Newquay. It’s the most widely known surf spot in the UK and could be considered one of the best surf beaches on the north Cornish coast. The west facing direction, like many Cornish surfing beaches, exposes Fistral to large Atlantic swells that provide consistent waves throughout the year. The northern end of Fistral beach is popular with locals and more advanced surfers, allowing beginners plenty of room further down towards the middle and southern end of the beach.

Typically one hour after high tide and two hours before low tide will provide good long lines of white water waves for new surfers, and gentle rolling green waves for developing surfers. Two hours before low tide and up to two hours after low tide provide steeper, faster waves more suited to progressive surfing.


NORTH FISTRAL

Welcome to the most legendary break on the whole line-up of Newquay surf spots. The North Fistral area is reserved by the lifeguards for advanced surfing. More exposed to the Atlantic, the consistent sand banks provide steeper faster waves, with peaks that break right and left. It’s super reliable and gives sets of lovely, high-quality rights with shorter lefts towards the centre of the beach. Lower tides will see rips forming in the direction of Little Fistral and the Cribbar.


SOUTH FISTRAL

Slightly sheltered by Pentire Headland, South Fistral beach produces good quality left hand breaking waves with scattered right hand breaking waves further towards mid Fistral. Advanced surfers often choose to jump off the rocks on Pentire headland to avoid paddling out.


LITTLE FISTRAL

A beach break that runs like a reef, Little Fistral is accessible and surfable on spring tides. It has two good quality peaks breaking left and right. This small beach is an extension of North Fistral and has rocks on the inside. Use the key hole of sand to pick your way in or out, or you can paddle across from North Fistral. Little Fistral is always better at low tide because high comes in over the jagged rocks.


THE CRIBBAR

England’s only big wave spot, The Cribbar is for very experienced surfers only as it’s a dangerous area to surf or swim. It breaks at the end of a headland into a huge wedge that can hit 25 feet or more. When this happens, the right is the sensible choice. The left will leave you shut between the rocks and the whitewash. Expect large swells and breaks very close to a mixture of rocks and inlets.

A visit to Fistral is a must to get the true Newquay surfing experience. Enjoy an action packed surf lesson and then soak up the buzzy atmosphere at the beach bar, or visit some of Newquay’s many surf shops and restaurants.

Fistral beach is also home to a range of National and International surfing competitions throughout the year including the Board Masters Surf, Skate and Music Festival, British Universities Colleges Surfing Championships and the English Surfing Nationals.


How do I access Fistral beach?

You can access the northern end of Fistral beach via the car park directly overlooking the beach. Or there is walking access via the town through Newquay golf course, and access to the south end of the beach via Esplanade Road.

Fistral beach can get busy in the summer. Look out for the black and white flags for the surf zone and the red and yellow for bathers and bodyboarders. The south end of Fistral beach is a lot quieter and closer to where the lifeguards will place the surfing and bathing flagged zones. Little Fistral beach can be a sunbathers paradise – the beach is small and backed by overhanging cliffs and open caves. Perfect for BBQ’s. And dog’s are also welcome all-year-round.

What hazards are at Fistral beach?

Spring high tides combined with strong winds and large waves can make entering and exiting the water dangerous for inexperienced water users. The northern end of Fistral beach often develops rip currents. Be aware of the outgoing tides, and the rocky area between North Fistral and Little Fistral at low tide.

An extended lifeguard service is provided at Fistral beach due to its popularity. Patrol dates typically run from 25 March to 30 October, 10am - 6pm, and at weekends from November onwards.

Surfing in The Bay

When the surf at western facing Fistral beach is big, Newquay’s town beaches, otherwise known as “The Bay”, are often more suitable for beginners. Providing shelter from the wind, Newquay Bay comprises four main beaches, with two outlying beaches on the north east fringe of the town.

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When the surf at western facing Fistral beach is big, Newquay’s town beaches, otherwise known as “The Bay”, are often more suitable for beginners. Providing shelter from the wind, Newquay Bay comprises four main beaches, with two outlying beaches on the north east fringe of the town.

Ideal conditions for surfing in The Bay are when winds are light to moderate from the southwest, with a wave height of two or three feet. Although bigger wave heights will still be suitable for surfing, waves will often start to ‘close out’ when reaching four feet and upwards

TOWAN BEACH

Meaning “sand dune” in Cornish, Towan beach is located in the centre of Newquay town. Especially suitable for beginner surfers, it stretches from Newquay harbour to neighbouring Great Western. And it’s the go-to option for many surfers when large swells and high winds prove too much on the coastlines west facing beaches.

Access to Towan beach

The main access to Towan beach is from Beach Road. Depending on the stage of the tide you can access Towan beach and neighbouring beaches from the harbour steps or from above from Killacourt.

Surfing at Towan beach

Towan beach has a local bye law that does not permit surfing at certain stages of the tide. Generally, when the tide is below the rocks at the base of the Island on the east side of the beach, surfing is permitted. This stage of the tide tends to occur roughly 2.5 hours after a spring tide and 2 hours after a neap tide. Though the best tide to surf at Towan beach is typically when it is mid tide.

GREAT WESTERN BEACH

Nestled in between Towan beach and Tolcarne beach, Newquay’s Great Western beach gets its name from the Great Western railway and the Atlantic coast line which served tourists from all over the UK in the initial boom of beach tourism between 1876 – 1960. It’s a relatively small beach at higher tides, and is overlooked by large cliffs.

Access to Great Western beach

You can walk to Great Western beach from the majority of Newquay in around 15 – 20 minutes. Access is gained from Cliff Road which leads down a winding path to the beach. Parking around Great Western beach is fairly minimal, but the train station car park or street parking in the residential area adjacent to Cliff Road are good options.

Surfing at Great Western beach

Avoid surfing here at high tide. Typically one to two hours after a high tide is best. Waves can close out frequently around the lower tides. There is a lifeguard service which runs daily from 14 May - 25 September (10am - 6pm), but you can check for up to date lifeguard times on the RNLI website.

Great Western beach can be a sunbathers paradise. The small sandy beach at high tide backed by cliffs can become a real sun trap for those wanting to soak up some rays. And there is a small open cave that can be explored at lower tides. Dogs are also welcome on the beach all year round.

TOLCARNE BEACH

Sitting in the heart of Newquay Bay, Tolcarne beach provides a fairly large stretch of sand for surfers, sunbathers and holidaymakers. It’s slightly more exposed to the open ocean, and marks the halfway point to where the beaches further along the coastline become more exposed and draw in more swell. Famed for the left hand wedge that breaks off the small headland known as Tolcarne Point at high tides, the Tolcarne Wedge is the go-to spot for avid bodyboarders.

Access to Tolcarne beach

Main access to Tolcarne beach is down a long steep set of 200 steps on Cliff Road. Pedestrians are welcome to use an access road typically reserved for guests staying at holiday accommodation at the far end of the beach opposite the Hotel Bristol. Parking can be limited around Tolcarne even out of season, but if you have to drive, look for spaces around Edgecumb Avenue, or Pay & Display car parks and street parking adjacent to Cliff Road.

Surfing at Tolcarne beach

The best time to surf at Tolcarne is one to two hours after high tide. Small headlands create the curvature of the beach causing the waves to become disorganised and rebound, which is no good for stand up surfing during higher tides. High tide is reserved for the local bodyboarding community. There is a lifeguard service which runs daily from 14 May - 25 September (10am - 6pm), but you can check for up to date lifeguard times on the RNLI website.

LUSTY GLAZE BEACH

With a name meaning ‘a place to view blue boats’ (Cornish term), Lusty Glaze beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs, which circle inwards to create a small sandy bay at high tide. Lower tides will see the beach expand, making for a stunning backdrop and views back to Newquay town or along the coast to Watergate Bay. Lusty Glaze offers a mixture of evening events, cliff top activities and beach side restaurants and bars.

Access to Lusty Glaze

Parking for Lusty Glaze can be tricky, but you can use street parking on Manewas Way, the car park above Lusty Glaze or further down Lusty Glaze Road.

Surfing at Lusty Glaze

Spring low tide is best. A short window to surf can be found on neap low tides if your timing is right. Though avoid surfing at mid to high tide. On the north east end of the beach you’ll find a small cave and several gullies that are cut off from the main beach when the tide rises. An area of beach known as ‘Criggars’ which partially divides Lusty Glaze and Tolcarne beach is secluded and can produce a decent wave. Spots such as Wine Cove below the north east headland leading to Porth can offer good waves to surf on spring tides. There is a lifeguard service which runs daily from 9 July - 4 September (10am - 6pm), but you can check for up to date lifeguard times on the RNLI website.

Porth beach and Whipsiderry beach are situated on the north east fringe of Newquay, and provide two further options for surfing - away from the crowds. Just make sure you check the surf forecast or with local surf schools before suiting up and heading down to any of the beaches.

For more recommendations on where to go surfing, take a look at our article Where is Good to Go Surfing & Bodyboarding for Beginners?

Best Surfing Schools In Newquay

If you’re new to surfing, booking a lesson with a local surf school is the perfect way to get started.

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There are plenty of surf schools in Newquay, which offer safe and professional coaching from qualified instructors. They cater for all ages, and for all levels, from complete beginners and intermediates, through to advanced surf coaching so you can perfect your skills. You’ll find individual lessons, family lessons, and lessons for small and large groups. Here are some of the top surf schools in Newquay, so you can learn to surf in a safe and fun environment:

Escape Surf School: Operating in Newquay for 15 years, it’s one of the longest running UK surf schools, and winner of TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 4 years in a row. They’re open 7 days a week, all year round, and all their instructors are ISA/Surfing England qualified, so you can be certain you are receiving the best possible tuition from qualified instructors.

  • The Seaview Terrace @ Belushis, 35 Fore Street, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7 1HD
  • 07810 805624
  • info@escapesurfschool.co.uk

Fistral Beach Surf School: The only surf school located on the famous Fistral Beach, they provide lessons for all abilities, groups, families, individuals and more. They have the UK’s largest dedicated surf hire, and equipment is always included free when you book a lesson. They’re open all year round, and they offer bodyboarding lessons too.

  • Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7 1HY
  • 01637 850 737

Cornish Wave Surf & Adventure: Cornish Wave are a team of adventure enthusiasts who have travelled the world doing what they love. Everything from surfing and kayaking to coasteering and camping. They work hard to create memorable experiences that you can enjoy with friends and family, as it’s important to them that you go home feeling like you’ve learnt a new skill and have grown in some way. And all their experienced instructors are passionate about helping you achieve your individual goals whilst enjoying the Cornish sea in a safe way.

  • 40 Fore street, Newquay, TR7 1LP
  • 01637 872031
  • hello@cornishwave.com

A good surf school will provide all the equipment you need, including the all important surfboard and a wetsuit. And if you fancy trying Newquay surfing in the winter, they’ll often supply boots, gloves and a hood for extra protection. You can always get some equipment of your own once you have a few lessons under your belt.

What Kit do I Need to Go Surfing & Bodyboarding as a Beginner?

Getting to Newquay

Newquay is one of the main towns on the North Cornish coast. It’s around midway between Padstow (a charming working fishing port surrounded by glorious sandy beaches) and the cathedral city of Truro (a vibrant centre of shopping, culture and impressive architecture). Newquay itself is tucked behind the Towan Headland in a bay of its own, with surf beaches to the west and to the north.

As well as it’s awesome surfing and glorious sandy beaches, Newquay is also home to Trenance Leisure Gardens, with many fun attractions, including an indoor water world, and Cornwall’s largest zoo. You can also rent a boat to paddle on the boating lake. And if you’re a rail or history buff, don’t miss the historic Lappa Valley Steam Railway and fun park. Plus, with lots of buzzy bars and restaurants, there really is something for everyone in Newquay.

Perhaps the best way of getting to Newquay is by car on the A30 that connects with the M5 at Exeter. But it’s also easily accessible by train from all over the UK, with most trains arriving into Newquay train station. You’ll find direct routes from some of the country's biggest cities, including London, Birmingham and Bristol - and you can travel from London to Newquay in 5h 7m, Birmingham to Newquay in 5h 23m and Bristol to Newquay in 3h 50m.

There are plenty of sites where you can book cheap train tickets, including thetrainline. And you can save even more money by travelling off-peak, booking your tickets in advance (train tickets to Newquay normally go on sale around 12 weeks in advance) or by using a railcard which lets you save money on train tickets.

Getting from Newquay station to the beach

The following top surf spots are within easy reach of Newquay train station:

  • Great Western beach: Turn left out of the station and walk towards the sea, you'll see the beach in front of you straight away.
  • Towan beach: It's a 10-minute walk from the station. Just turn left onto Cliff Road, then keep walking straight ahead onto East Street. Turn right onto Trebarwith Crescent, walk across Killacourt Park and you'll see the beach in front of you.
  • Fistral beach: This famous beach is a bit further away (it takes 27 minutes to walk from the station) but it’s well worth the effort. Turn left onto Cliff Road, then take a slight right onto East Street. Take another slight right onto Bank Street and follow the road until you reach Central Square. Turn right here and keep walking until you reach Newquay Golf Club. There's a path you can follow across the course to reach the beach.

Staying in Newquay

Newquay sees surfers, holidaymakers, and hen and stag parties flocking from all over the UK. This Cornish town has become a major summer break spot over the years, and there’s plenty of accommodation to suit everyone.

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Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplashlink

From top-rated surf hotels, to scenic camping spots, check out our pick of where to stay in Newquay:

Fistral Surf Apartment: Set in a prime location out on the west side of the town, this fantastic apartment sits right above the legendary beach breaks of Fistral beach. It’s a great place for serious surfers, with enough space for up to four guests. It has an on-site pool, parking, an equipped kitchen, and stunning views over the swells.

  • 20 Surf View, Camullas Way, Newquay, TR7 1PP

St. Christopher’s Inn Hostel: You’ll find this legendary hostel perched on a cliff top, overlooking the beautiful Towan beach. You’ll also find the Escape Surf School in the same building - making St. Christopher’s Inn the perfect place to slip into a wetsuit and hit the waves. After a day in the water, the on-site Belushi’s bar and restaurant is the top spot to recharge and make new friends, as you enjoy the outdoor sun deck and summer BBQs.

  • 35 Fore Street, Newquay TR7 1HD

Smarties Surf Lodge: The perfect place to stay in Newquay, Smarties Surf Lodge has an easy-going, chilled out vibe, that makes an ideal base for your surf trip, stag/hen party or holiday. Newly renovated to a high standard, this lodge is modern, clean and comfortable. There are bunk, twin and double rooms available, and all have an LCD TV and DVD player, WIFI, and most have en suite facilities. And it’s conveniently located, just a few minutes walk from Fistral beach and Newquay’s nightlife.

  • 84 Crantock Street, Newquay, TR7 1JW

Porth Beach Holiday Park: Nestled in a sheltered bay, this fantastic touring and camping site is based in the small village of Porth, just over a mile from Newquay. It’s surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, and close to top family attractions. This family-friendly site offers a great selection of pitches, whether you choose to bring your tent or a caravan, there’s something for everyone. Many of the pitches also have the option of an electric hook-up, or you can book a premium pitch set alongside the riverbank which come with a few extras to make your stay even more comfortable.

  • Alexandra Rd, Porth, Newquay, TR7 3NH

Headland Hotel: For something a little more luxurious, why not book a stay at the 5-star Headland Hotel? Set upon an iconic cliff top overlooking Fistral beach, relax and unwind in one of the hotel suites or stylish self-catering cottages. Their individually-designed, luxury accommodation boasts ocean views, rosette-worthy dining and indulgent pampering and wellness - offering the perfect experience for you and your family.

  • The Headland, Fistral Beach, Headland Rd, Newquay, TR7 1EW

From wetsuits and rash vests, to surf boards and accessories, Decathlon’s in-house surfing brand Olaian, is dedicated to helping you catch waves with confidence. Take a look at our online SURF SHOP, or pop in-store and speak to one of our watersports specialists.