Updated on 14 February 2023

Explore Newquay: top things to do, where to stay and what to eat

Big, beautiful beaches, superb surfing and a wealth of family activities have long drawn visitors to Newquay. But there’s more to this north Cornwall seaside town. It also has a flourishing dining scene, boutique accommodation, quality spas and a laidback charm all of its own.

Why go to Newquay?

Once synonymous with stag and hen dos, Newquay has quietly been reinventing itself over the last few years with revamped hotels and new cafés, restaurants and classy cocktail bars where large groups in fancy dress is a distant past. It’s fast becoming a foodie destination in its own right – just ask Rick Stein and Emily Scott who both have restaurants here.  

There’s wellness on tap too, from cold water swimming with community group the Bluetits to the yoga offerings and, of course, the town’s main sport – surfing. Transport links are better than ever, with the dualling of the A30 from London to Land's End now complete and services to Cornwall Airport Newquay, the UK’s fastest growing airport.  

Pull that all together and you have the ideal destination for outdoor lovers, foodies and fun-seeking families alike. 

Newquay Harbour (Image Credits:  Andrew Ray / Alamy Stock Photo)Andrew Ray/Alamy Stock Photo

Top things to do in Newquay

Try surfing and SUPing 

There’s a good reason why Newquay is regarded as the UK’s surf capital. Britain’s board-riding boom kicked off here in the Sixties when some Aussie lifeguards arrived with the first fibreglass boards seen in the UK – and it has gone from strength to strength ever since. The town is surrounded by beaches that work in different weather conditions, so there’s always a wave if you know where to look.  

Newquay Activity Centre are the guys in the know. They run a range of activities, including private, group and family surf lessons that will see you pop up to your feet and riding waves in no time. For something more relaxed, they also offer stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) tours on the sheltered Gannel Estuary.

Want to find your surfing girl gang? Women + Waves is a female surf society offering wild swimming and watersports. 

SUPing in Newquay (Image: Newquay Activity Centre)Newquay Activity Centre

Walk the coastal path 

You can glimpse both nature and history by trekking along the South West Coast Path, a 630-mile (1,014km) trail that runs right through Newquay. Start at the Huer’s Hut – a 14th-century stone building where the town 'huer' would watch for shoals of pilchards and warn fishermen by calling out: "heva heva" ("here they are") if he spotted them.  

A 20-minute walk north takes you to Trevelgue Head – aka Porth Island – with its Bronze Age barrows and roundhouse remnants. As you walk, look out for kittiwakes flying overhead and seals and dolphins in the Atlantic below. 

Indulge in a spa day 

Many of Newquay’s top hotels offer spa packages to suit a range of budgets. The Headland has one of the best, with a variety of Elemis treatments. For something a bit quirkier – and a lot cheaper –  try the new Wild Spa at C Space, which offers a Nordic spa experience courtesy of wood-fired saunas, hot tubs and ice baths that are scattered through a pretty courtyard.

Find your zen 

There’s no shortage of mindfulness offerings in Newquay. The brand-new Ananta Yoga Studio has a varied weekly timetable that includes vinyasa flow classes, sound baths and breathwork courses while Oceanflow Yoga offers outdoor classes overlooking the sea in summer and hot yoga classes all year round.  

Keep the kids entertained 

Newquay is packed with family-friendly activities, including free frolics such as building sandcastles and rock pooling. Kids will love the animals at Newquay Zoo, while the Blue Reef Aquarium is a good rainy-day option. Fancy a spot of crazy golf? Head to the landscaped gardens of Trenance Park for options for all abilities and ages. 

READ MORE: Explore things to do and where to stay in Padstow

Best beaches in and around Newquay

You’re never far from a stretch of golden sand and sparkling sea in Newquay. Each beach has its own appeal – from family-friendly to doggie delight.  

Towan is the most central of Newquay’s beaches. It’s a sheltered, sandy bay – ideal for everything from learning to surf to bucket-and-spade family outings. It’s set beside the historic harbour, which also has a little beach that’s perfect for swimming. Both are close to some great eating and drinking options – grab a coffee and cake from Grounded for a beach picnic.  

Perhaps the most famous of Newquay’s surfing beaches is Fistral. Backed by pretty dunes and a golf course, it’s home to numerous surf schools, shops and a Rick Stein chippy. This is where the international surf contest is held during the annual Boardmasters Festival.  

Fistral Beach (Image: ian woolcock / Alamy Stock Photo)ian woolcock/Alamy Stock Photo

Other central beaches include Great Western and Tolcarne – both good for surfing, rock pooling at low tide and dog walks (but check summer restrictions). For a glimpse into Newquay’s seafaring past, the Gannel Estuary, on the outskirts of town, can be explored on foot, by stand-up paddleboard and even on horseback. Look out for traces of old boat yards and derelict boats plus wading birds such as egrets.  

As you head out of town, Porth beach is a brilliant option for families, with a stream to splash in and rock pools to explore at low tide. Dogs are banned during the day during peak season, making it a good choice for parents with younger children. There’s football golf (where you kick a football around the nine-hole links course) available in the field above, as well as an ice cream stall.  

Slightly further afield, Crantock has a wide, dog-friendly beach with good surf for all abilities and a National Trust car park. Watergate Bay is also ideal if you’re after space – its two miles (3.2km) of sand are popular with families, dog walkers and surfers.

READ MORE: How to spend a weekend in Penzance

Where to stay

There's budget choices galore in Newquay, from backpacker-style hostels and surf lodges to seasonal campsites, such as Hendra Holiday Park, a five-minute drive from the town centre. 

The Colonial offers something more bouji and secluded. It’s hidden from view until you descend from the main seafront road to the family-owned Tolcarne Beach. Rooms are luxurious with a Caribbean twist – a bamboo four-poster bed here, a stained glass parrot chandelier there…plus those sweeping sea views. The newest rooms feature private hot tubs and direct beach access, while the apartments are modern and family-friendly, with open-plan kitchens. 

The Colonial (Image: The Colonial)The Colonial

For a stay that’s fit for royalty, book The Headland. Everyone from George Clooney to King Charles has stayed at this turreted 5-star hotel located on a cliff above Fistral Beach. There’s traditional grandeur in spades – from ornate dark wood furnishings to grand pianos. Modern touches include a shiny new Aqua Club featuring six pools and a Mediterranean café.  

Where to eat and drink

You can’t leave this seaside town without sampling its fresh seafood. Start at The Fish House where the Indian fish curry is exquisite – Gordon Ramsey is a regular at this Fistral restaurant. Next door, there's sit-in and takeaway cod and chips, including children’s portions, at Rick Stein, while The Fish Bar near the train station serves both whole fish and tapas dishes with a relaxed vibe.

Newquay has a burgeoning coffee scene, with independent coffee houses popping up all over. New kid on the block Milk sells locally roasted coffee with alternative milk, while Basket serves arguably the best flat white in town – its owner Jade makes curries inspired by her travels and bakes cakes from scratch. For mean cream tea head straight for Gwenna Teahouse. For a guilt-free option, health food shop Sprout impresses with warming dhals and vegan, sugar-free cakes alongside refillable shampoo and an astounding collection of herbal teas. They also host SproutSpoken – brilliant spoken word nights.  

Box & Barber is a cool brunch spot, offering everything from avo on toast to 'wellness lattes'. Tuck in among pot plants, whitewashed walls and surf art. For an easy dinner, Pizza Jockeys offers seriously good sourdough pizza and – our favourite – cheesy Marmite garlic bread. 

Box and Barber (Image: Teigan Rundle)Teigan Rundle

Padstow and Rock may be known as Cornwall’s culinary hotspots, but Newquay is a rising star in foodie terms. Lusty Glaze restaurant hosts pop-up events including MasterChef supper clubs, while Emily Scott – who cooked for world leaders at the G7 Summit in Cornwall – recently opened a restaurant at Watergate Bay

Newquay is oozing with great bars too that are helping to shake up the town's reputation. Top of the pick is Tom Thumb, a classy and compact cocktail bar with exposed walls and a copper top bar. The recently opened Secret Garden has a fun feel with an outdoor terrace overlooking the waves and a menu featuring artisan pizzas, organic wine and local beers. A stone’s throw from Towan Beach, The Sink Inn is popular with locals, sourcing Cornish craft beer and cider, and an events schedule packed with DJ nights and pop-up food collaborations.

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How to spend a weekend in Newquay

Day 1 

Check into: The Colonial, which has a stellar seafront location on Tolcarne Beach and is within walking distance of the town centre. 

Hit the coast path: with a walk towards Porth Beach, passing the prehistoric burial mounds at Barrowfields.  

Refuel with a cream tea at: Gwenna Teahouse. Load them up the Cornish way: jam first, cream on top.  

Dine at: Lusty Glaze restaurant, where the woodburner is on in winter and the sea-facing doors are flung open in summer.  

Finish with: cocktails at Tom Thumb, which has a small and intimate feel and serves a kickass negroni.  

Day 2 

Hit the waves with: Newquay Activity Centre. A two-hour surf lesson and half-day hire give you stacks of water time so you’ll be up and riding before you know it.  

Have brunch at: Box & Barber. Positioned on the high street, it’s a great place to people-watch while sipping a wellness latte.  

Relax with a spa afternoon: at The Headland. Book a massage to ease surfing muscles and kick back in the bubbles of the jacuzzi.   

Watch the sunset as you dine at: The Fish House, which overlooks the sea where some of your food has come from.  

Listen to live music at: The Sink Inn, which also has local craft beer on tap. 

Outdoor Aqua Club The Headland (Image: The Headland Hotel and Spa)The Headland Hotel and Spa

Day 3 

Enjoy a bracing sea swim at: the harbour. At high tide, this sheltered swim spot is easy to access (down steps) instead of wading out to the water. To be safe, go with a group, such as Women + Waves or The Bluetits

Pick up breakfast at: Basket. This vintage-style café serves everything from sourdough toasties and pastries to granola pots, as well as fantastic coffee.  

Tee off at: Crazy Golf Newquay in Trenance. For something more serious, Newquay Golf Course has 18 holes with a stunning backdrop of Fistral Beach.  

Map of Newquay

Explore Newquay with this handy map:

Lead Image: The Headland Hotel & Spa in Cornwall


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