Newquay – a visitor’s guide to Cornwall’s surfing capital

Newquay is an extremely popular destination for tourists. It’s Cornwall’s surfing capital and probably still its party capital – although it is a lot more family-friendly nowadays.

The town remains Cornwall’s buzzing after-dark destination, but Newquay has outgrown those tempestuous teenage years to become a holiday destination with a lot more to offer.

The seaside town has long been a firm favourite with holidaymakers thanks to its beaches, from the breathtaking sandy shores of Lusty Glaze to the surfer’s paradise Fistral Beach. Then there’s the town itself which offers up heaps of brilliant restaurants and bars, not to mention the picturesque harbour that never fails to wow as a backdrop.

Read more: Best restaurants in Newquay

It was extremely popular during the pandemic, as overseas travel was limited.

If you’re planning a trip to Newquay this year, we’ve put together the ultimate visitor’s guide. From exploring the best beaches to the most exciting activities you can try no matter what the weather has in store, we’ve got you covered. We’ve also included a list of the best restaurants to visit and how to get there.

Things to do in Newquay

Newquay Zoo

A red panda at Newquay Zoo
A red panda at Newquay Zoo
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Set in lush sub-tropical gardens, Newquay Zoo is the place to discover some of the wonders of the world. From lions, lynx and lemurs to meerkats, marmosets and monkeys, you are never far away from a little animal magic when you’re here. On TripAdvisor the zoo has 2,851 reviews with an average rating of four-and-a-half stars..

Blue Reef Aquarium

Described as “lovely” and “informative but small”, the Blue Reef Aquarium has 40 displays that bring to life the sights, sounds and smells of the sea, with regular feeding displays, rock-pool workshops and informative talks. Situated on the Towan Promenade in the heart of Newquay, Blue Reef Aquarium not only offers a beach on its doorstep but also a great day-out option, whatever the weather. With 1,740 reviews in total the aquarium has an average rating of three-and-a-half stars on TripAdvisor.

Wildlife encounters

Take to the water on a Coastal Wildlife Cruise, with an experienced crew who can show you the best place to spot dolphins, sunfish, seabirds and, of course, seals.

Coastal walk

Follow in the footsteps of Cornish ancestors with a walk along the South West Coast Path from Fistral Beach or Pentire to find The Huer’s Hut . Overlooking Newquay’s stretch of stunning beaches from Towan Head, this small ancient building represents the history and heritage of the town’s fishing industry.

Built in the mid-19th century, the importance of this location dates back as far as the 14th century when the ‘Huer’, for whom this shelter was built, would spot shoals of fish and alert the fishermen in Newquay Harbour that it was time to launch their boats.

Surfing and watersports

People surfing in Newquay
People surfing in Newquay
(Image: Greg Martin)

As one of the world’s top surfing destinations, backed by high cliffs and sand dunes, Fistral is the playground for hundreds of enthusiasts who flock to the beach to get a fix of the big waves. Trying your hand at surfing on Cornwall’s most famous beach is a must for any watersports fans. Just a word of warning – don’t try to tackle the Cribbar unless you’ve mastered the art.

Spa day

If you’re in need of some relaxation, and aren’t we all, you’ve come to the right place. Newquay itself has a number of options for sedate and tranquil spa retreats , perfect to ease your busy mind and relax those stiff shoulders.

Fistral Spa in Newquay encourages guests to retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Among other treatments, they offer surfer massages and Gaia Jade Facials as well as access to a heated 11m pool, hot tub, steam room and sauna.

The Headland Hotel has also recently opened a new swimming and wellbeing centre; the impressive Aqua Club boasts six pools and a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. For a perfect, lazy spa day we suggest lounging on the sun deck at the outdoor vitality pool, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and sipping cocktails… You can read our review here.

Land train

If you’re keen to take a break from the beach to explore Newquay’s centre, but have small kids that aren’t up for lots of walking, hitch a ride on Newquay’s Land Train. You can hop on and off the Surf Rider Newquay Land Train all day, enjoying a local, informative commentary and the chance to view the town while saving those little legs…

Beaches in Newquay

Fistral Beach

Fistral Beach in Newquay
Fistral Beach in Newquay
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Fistral is one of the world’s top surfing destinations and is popular among the thousands of enthusiasts who flock to it every year. There are 4,359 reviews on TripAdvisor with an average rating of four-and-a-half stars. Citing their reasons for loving it people have called it “beautiful”, “wild” and “busy”. One person praised the “amazing crystal blue waters”.

Towan Beach

Towan is also very popular with surfers. It is in the centre of Newquay, so is close to restaurants, bars, shops and car parks.

Crantock and the Gannel Estuary

Crantock beach is beautiful. You can either access it from Crantock itself or with a walk along the Gannel – but be careful of the tide!

Great Western Beach

Great Western Beach is also huge and very sheltered. there is a surf hire shop and cafe nearby.

Tolcarne Beach

Tolcarne nestles below Cliff Road and is very close to the Barrowfields.

Lusty Glaze beach

Lusty Glaze beach, Newquay
Lusty Glaze beach, Newquay
(Image: Birmingham Mail)

The sheltered cove, which used to be a working mine, is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

Porth Beach

Porth Beach isn’t exactly in Newquay, but it’s very popular with locals and visitors alike. It’s huge, very dog friendly and has the lovely Mermaid pub. It’s very close to many hotels and holiday lets.

Restaurants in Newquay

Fish House

Roasted hotshell

You certainly wouldn’t describe the Fish House restaurant in Newquay as a hidden gem. Run by a former Rick Stein chef, the eatery is located in a prime spot above one of the most famous beaches in the country.

But people love it. It’s currently Cornwall’s number one lunch restaurant on TripAdvisor, boasting nearly 2,000 perfect reviews. You can read our review here.

Canteen at The Orchard

The pandemic gave ambitious chef Ben Quinn, who’s epic banquet experiences are a stand-out feature of Wilderness Festival every year, time to concoct his expansion plans. The result is this new outpost, Canteen at The Orchard, sister to the Wheal Kitty original; expect wholesome, great value plates of food and a community ethos.

Located in the heart of Newquay Community Orchard, sustainability is an integral part of everything Ben and the team do here, and all produce used is from the Market Garden, nearby farms and Cornish growers.

Sushea

Sushea on Fore Street is Newquay’s new must-visit eatery for fans of sushi and Asian fusion food. Get stuck into supremely tasty bao buns, gyozas and poke bowls, as Sushea promises a healthier alternative to food on the run.

As much of the food as possible is locally sourced, all packaging is recyclable, and the owners buy their fish and shellfish from sustainable fisheries, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment as well as enjoying a great feed.

The Bottle

This deli and off-licence is a good place to pick up those special holiday supplies, but there’s also a seriously delicious menu of small plates, tartines, charcuterie and baked cheeses to enjoy in the casual surroundings of what feels very much like a French wine bar.

With an impressive wine selection you could find it hard to tear yourself away; we recommend scheduling nothing else in for the rest of the day if you’re planning a visit to The Bottle!

MisoMiso

Miso Miso in Newquay, Cornwall
Miso Miso in Newquay, Cornwall
(Image: Cornwall Live)

Hiding in plain sight on Bank Street, in Newquay, MisoMiso is rated Cornwall‘s second best Japanese restaurant and has dozens of “Excellent” reviews on TripAdvisor. It has built a reputation for serving flavoursome food and having a great, trendy atmosphere. The food is delicious – you can read our review here.

How to get to Newquay

By car

Travel to Newquay is very straight forward by road, rail or by air. By road, once you reach Exeter you then have a lovely drive down the newly improved A30 taking in stunning scenery over Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. Then leave the A30 at Indian Queens and follow the A392 via Quintrell Downs and onto Newquay.

By rail

To get to Newquay train station from outside of Cornwall, you need to change trains at Par.

By air

The closest airport to Newquay is Cornwall Airport Newquay, which is only a 15-minute taxi journey away.

By coach

You can get the National Express or Megabus bus to Newquay.

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