Vibrant Newquay (once known as Towna Blystra) was, like so many Cornish towns, historically a fishing port. The town’s ‘new quay’ was funded in the 1400s and the name stuck. Now you are more likely to come across pleasure crafts than fishing boats.
Newquay may have once had a reputation as a post-exam party town, a place for hen and stag parties, not a family resort, BUT we assure you it has now been reinvented. It is still a surfing mecca, because it has amazing waves to catch, but it also has so much more to offer.
The town has transformed, with nightclubs of old replaced by indy bars and restaurants attracting a new clientele.
Now something of an independent food haven, including vegan and vegetarian options, people are attracted by more upmarket trends. Additionally, is a very strong community spirit which has been allowed to shine through once again.
The proximity of Newquay Airport is also an attraction for travellers.
By car, depending on where you are travelling from, most people take the M5, the A30 and then a short stretch of A39 to get to Newquay. It’s that simple.
It is also easy to get to Newquay by train from all over the UK, with direct routes from some of the country’s biggest cities, including London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Newquay has a mixture of council (15) car parks and private parking so choose carefully. Cornwall Council offers the Countywide Rover ticket which can be used for one week in any Cornwall Council long stay car park in Newquay and elsewhere in the county, which makes sense, as on-street parking is highly unlikely anywhere in peak season.
Rover tickets are available to buy in advance by calling 0300 1234 222 or emailing Cornwall Council.
After 4 pm there is currently no charge in Council car parks in Newquay (except Newquay Harbour) but please check first. Please note that many car parks are now pay on exit. You can find information about current prices of the many car parks here.
The short stay car park costs £1.50 for an hour and is at Fore Street.
The car park on Fistral Beach is private, tends to be crowded and is camera-controlled. Be warned, there is no leeway on timing, so please keep your ticket and get back in good time. Around Fistral, you also have council-owned car parks including Belmont, Dane Road Towan Headland and Tower Road.
For the town centre, the harbour and Great Western and Tolcarne beaches, try The Manor, Fore Street (short stay) St George’s Road, Mountwise or Albany Road. There is a small car park at Newquay Harbour but it is a working harbour, so usually quite busy.
For parking on the beach, try Lusty Glaze (parking on the cliff above, with steps down), Porth or Watergate Bay. Crantock and Holywell Bay offer parking on the beach but are National Trust car parks, so perfect if you are a member. Remember to bring your card to scan.
There are some fun places to try, foodwise. These are just a selection.
The Tom Thumb Cocktail Bar is a classy, local, sustainable bar specialising in premium cocktails and coffee, home-made syrups and vermouths plus food such as vegan mezze boards; they usually hold events there, too.
If eating at home, why not try Sprout Health? Based in an old print house, it is popular for one-pot meals such as delicious daals. The cakes are pretty tasty, too, and you can buy healthy store cupboard staples.
Or maybe The Jam Jar is for you, a small, independent coffee shop also offering superfood smoothies, healthy breakfast bowls and toasted bagels.
Escape to the water’s edge for fine dining at luxurious Lewinnick Lodge, which is home to classic Cornish dishes and seafood specials, with the bonus of spectacular cliff edge views over the Atlantic ocean.
The Fistral Beach Hotel is also renowned for an awesome dinner out. Maybe enjoy a spa day followed by dinner.
Try El Huichol for authentic Mexican food usually situated at Newquay Harbour, offering takeaways and deliveries with character. For pan-Asian, it has to be Kahuna. Or maybe a taste of global Australian influenced food with Bush Pepper is your choice.
Seafood lovers will adore the Fish House at Fistral, for vibrant dishes cooked by chef Paul Harwood, but do have a search around as there are so many places to eat in the town. Find your own favourite – and let us know about it.
Kids love stories of the deep, so pay a visit to the Blue Reef Aquarium looking out over Towan Beach in Newquay, where you can take a walk through the underwater tunnel, explore the species of fish and learn about marine conservation.
Of course, Newquay Zoo is a must. Along with 100s of animals to discover, a Tarzan Trail and play area, there are daily animal talks led by the zoo rangers where you can learn amazing facts about the species living at Newquay Zoo. Parking nearby can be an issue (and expensive) so walk there if you can, or catch the land train from Newquay Town Centre. Booking online is advised for best price.
Pirate’s Quest is a pirate adventure for a buccaneering visitor experience, and pop-up golf is coming there, too. All is completely under cover, so a perfect place to escape to other worlds, if you get a showery day.
Just outside the town centre, is DairyLand Farm World, great for younger children, with tractors and pony rides, pat-a-pet, indoor and outdoor play areas, trampolines, the works.
Renowned for its beaches, Newquay’s are amazingly clean, and generally dotted with surfers (it is a surfing mecca). The key beaches, Towan, Lusty Glaze, Tolcarne and Great Western, are all pretty sheltered and safe for swimming, too. Try Newquay Water Sports Centre for kayaking, coasteering, surf rafting and other adrenaline sports.
The surfing is unmatched – Fistral Beach offers a world-class surfing experience. Nearby Watergate Bay is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing. See our secret journal post about Crantock Beach, perfect for snorkelling. Don’t forget the harbour, too. Stop by for an ice cream or traditional fish and chips.
Fistral Beach is the UK’s undoubted number one surfing destination, for its consistency and great swell. It supports surfers or all levels, so you can give it a go even if a newbie. Groms (young surfers) welcome.
Towan Beach is one of the most central of the Newquay beaches, lying directly below Killacourt, a popular community green space, and within walking distance from the main town. Towan Beach is most recognisable for ‘The Island’, a home on a lonely rock, accessed via a 90 ft suspension bridge, and formerly the residence of the famous scientist Sir Oliver Lodge. Check out the caves along the beach.
Watergate Bay is one of the largest Newquay beaches, located around 3 miles north of Newquay itself. The drive to Watergate Bay affords amazing views of the coastline, and the short stroll down to the beach (2 miles of golden sand) is extremely easy. Plus Watergate Bay always has space for everyone.
Although privately owned, Lusty Glaze Beach is open to the public. Named after the Cornish translation of ‘a place to view blue boats’, this place beloved by the local community is secluded between cliffs.
A trip to Pollyjoke Beach is well worth a walk. Off the beaten track, it is a beautiful little cove set away from the main activity of Newquay. In spring, the beach is overlooked by dramatic huge fields of red poppies.
To be honest, surf shops are the speciality here, so check out these four.
Married to the Sea is an Ocean Lifestyle clothing brand selling handmade, quality apparel, for men and women, with ocean related logos and designs available both in store and online. Perfect for clothing, bags, accessories and boards.
Watershed Brand launched off the back of the successful Watershed Surf Shop concept store, which opened in 2012 in Newquay. They sell skateboards, surfboards, headwear, bags and lots of other gear.
Wave Project runs award-winning surf therapy and beach school projects across the UK. In Cornwall, projects run in Bude, Polzeath, Newquay, Gwithian and St Ives. Their store, on Fort Street, is fabulous, but their gear can also be found online where you can purchase awesome surf related apparel. The Wave Project offers free surf-therapy courses for people diagnosed with mental health disorders, ranging from mild to severe. The shop helps fund their vital work.
Northshore Surf Shop has a website so you can browse online then buy in store, where staff are super-friendly.
An attraction for families is the aforementioned Newquay Zoo, set in over ten acres of sub-tropical lakeside gardens and home to many endangered species. The Blue Reef Aquarium with its shark tunnel is also a fab outing for a rainy day. Or you may fancy a special spa day. Here are a couple we recommend, at Fistral Spa and Headland Spa.
Headland Hotel and Spa, Fistral beach, Cornwall. © Guy Harrop
You don’t have to surf to come here, but it helps, so why not give it a try?
In summer, the Boardmasters Festival at Fistral Beach attracts global competitors whose skills are a joy to watch, with plenty of music on offer. It is also home to the English Surfing Nationals. The summer also sees a balloon festival, gig racing, surf life-saving events and RNLI Lifeboat Day, so there are many events to engage with.
For the less energetic, try a round of golf at Newquay Golf Club. Right on the coast, this Cornish golfing gem has great greens and gorgeous views. Try a visit to the Lane Theatre which presents comedy plays throughout the summer.
Newquay is set within a beautiful area of countryside with plenty of walks. Along with the South West Coast Path, if you want some peaceful beauty then why not opt to visit the bonsai, pagodas and ponds of The Japanese Garden?
Trenance Gardens form another fine option for a day away from the beach.
Newquay has a maritime climate. Be warned, the wind can whip up from the coast. In summer, from June through August, it is usually a sunny spot. Weather in late June, early July and September is still usually pretty pleasant.
Have a supply of 20p pieces as most of the toilets in Newquay have a charge. You will find them at Narrowcliff, Killacourt, Fore Street, Esplanade, Railway Station, Porth Beach, Watergate Bay, Trenance Gardens, Pentire Headland and Little Fistral. Full details are available here.
f you are searching for that special self catering holiday in Newquay, Cornwall then look no further than our luxury hand-picked selection of holiday cottages in Newquay.