Portreath is a compact, narrow-harboured resort between St Ives and Porthtowan, once an important port for exporting copper, but now you will only see a few fishing boats.
On a stormy day, huge waves can batter the harbour (an amazing sight from the distance). In the 1820s, Portreath was Cornwall’s busiest port, served by a tramroad. However, the hazardous harbour was difficult for ships to navigate (try to imagine it on a high-swell day) so its commercial viability as a port was limited. Now it is a beautiful village for visitors to enjoy, and the tramroads are used for leisure purposes.
If you seek a friendly vibe, a fabulous beach and a fun family holiday resort, then the hidden gem village of Portreath may be just what you need. It is quieter than many resorts, but still with all the facilities you expect.
If travelling by car, take the A30 from the M5, then head off on the A39 towards Truro and Redruth. At Redruth, from the A30 turnoff at the intersection, take the B3300, then after 2 miles, turn left on the B3301 to Portreath. It is around 12 miles from Truro.
Portreath is not too far from Newquay Airport, so that is another option. A bus from Newquay Aerohub (the number 47) takes you to Portreath but it is a circuitous journey.
By public transport, the number 47 bus also goes to Portreath from Truro, but really, unless you are an avid walker, you need a car around here.
Portreath car park is on the seafront, right by the beach. There is a short set of steps to the beach, unsuitable for wheelchairs (access is level from the road). You may be lucky and find some on-street parking depending on the time of year.
Eating out here is easy, with numerous casual options. For British food like fish and chips overlooking the beach, try the Atlantic Café Beach Bar for a great view, fish dishes and cakes/ice creams.
The Waterfront Inn is hidden on a secret beach adjacent to the historic harbour. Inside, lies a dark secret; folklore has it that it was built on the site of an older building which was used as a temporary morgue when bodies washed up from shipwrecks.
Both the Bassett Arms and Portreath Arms Hotel are reputedly haunted – don’t worry though, the spirits are thought to be friendly.
Meanwhile, to lighten the mood, Olde Penny’s Tea Room is is a part of the Vintage home and Fashion experience. A friendly tea room which offers freshly baked cakes, cream teas and more!
Fuel their sense of adventure with Mountain Bike Hire.
Top quality bikes are serviced after every ride, and come with a map of local cycle trails. Helmets, repair kits and locks free of charge.
The hire hut is perfectly situated at the start of the beautiful ‘Coast to Coast’ cycle trail from Portreath to Devoran, along with many other trails in the area.
This is the site of the famous Vortex – big high tide swells hitting the harbour wall, making it perfect for bodysurfing, but it is not for the fainthearted. Experienced water sports enthusiasts love surfing/boarding the big swells of the Vortex, a tricky reef break which peels off the harbour wall … for the less keen, it is worth a watch!
Depending on the conditions, Portreath can be the perfect destination to surf, or if the sea is a little calmer, perhaps see if you can kayak to Gull Rock? You’ll be sure to see how the rock got its name.
There is, naturally, a surf school in Portreath which also hires surf equipment and kayaks, so there is plenty of opportunity to get active.
There are lots of paintings set in Portreath but to investigate the local art, St Ives is the place and well worth the drive, which should take you less than half an hour.
The pretty sandy beach is dominant in Portreath, with a stream running down to the sea on the left-hand side. Popular with surfers and bodyboarders, it has a laid back, chilled feel and very handy parking for all your beach kit.
Families adore the bucket and spade experience on the sand/shingle combo dog-free beach (in summer) which is cleaned daily during high season. However, be aware there are strong undercurrents here and large breaking waves. Inflatables are not advisable due to rocks.
One of the joys of Portreath is its accessibility. Cliffs at either end of the beach add character and shelter, but there is a fair expanse of sand to play on in between. For Sand Chair hire for the disabled at Portreath Beach, phone West Cornwall Adventure on (07837) 634861.
At low tide, explore the rock pools to the right of the beach. Which creatures will you be lucky enough to find? Portreath also has a smaller beach to the right of the main beach, past the harbour wall, which is ideal for those with smaller children.
Base Camp is quite simply the best indoor activity centre in Cornwall for climbing walls and soft play. It is open to all 7 days a week, 9 am – 9 pm for those aged 4 to adulthood. With over 2,000 square feet of soft play, the only ‘clip’n’climb’ climbing walls in West Cornwall, plus free access to iPads and tablets in the Cafe, Base Camp offers hours of indoor fun. Great for a wet day.
Cornwall Gold is only 2.4 miles from Portreath. It makes and sells amazing jewellery, and has paint-and-create pottery and build-a-bear sessions for children. There is also free entry to Tolgus Mill, an ongoing restoration project of the last Victorian tin mill.
Cornwall Council has information on the 60 km of multi-activity trails in the mining heritage areas of Cornwall, known as the Mineral Tramways. They are perfect for walkers, cyclists, horse riders, and even mountain bikers, in places. Free to use, they make a change on a non-beach day. Many of the trails closely follow the tramway and railway routes once used to transport ore and vital supplies to and from the many tin and copper mines in the area to ports such as Devoran and Portreath.
Heartlands is 2.7 miles from Portreath, offering 19 acres of visitor-friendly attractions, just off the A30 at Pool. A mining museum, diaspora gardens, heritage, giant adventure play and family activities are all here. Free of charge, Heartlands is a Charitable Trust for visitors to enjoy.
The Famous Nine Golf Course is Cornwall’s newest golf course, inspired by some of the most famous golf holes in the world. A uniquely spectacular par 3, nine hole course that will challenge and inspire golfers.
Wheal Coates Tin Mine is only 4 miles from Portreath. Highly photogenic, dramatic ruins on cliffs, the mining site is part of UNESCO World Heritage scenery, with wonderful walks, too. National Trust owned, so bring your membership card.
Spectacular cliffs and fine walking country await those who want to don their hiking boots and get moving; there are various running routes, too, for the even more energetic.
The south-west coast path which follows the line of the cliffs is strenuous in parts but readily accessible from Portreath. Porthtowan is about 8 miles north and Bassets Cove is about a 5 mile return journey south. From on high, you will see flowers, views and seabirds, along with remnants of mining heritage dotted around.
Enjoy the 6.6 mile walk along the breathtakingly beautiful north coast, from Portreath along the North Cliffs through to Godrevy. Discover the hidden coves along the path, from sheer drops, such as Hudder Cove and Hell’s Mouth, to beautiful sandy coves, such as Fishing Cove. This is a breathtaking walk, but it can be challenging, so don’t dress for it and take supplies!
More gently, inland from Portreath is Tehidy Country Park packed with woodland and nature trails within its 250 acres. Bridleways and mountain bike tracks are also within the park for those who prefer to travel on horseback or who enjoy cycling in the fresh air. Some of the old tram roads have been made into cycle tracks so you can ride from the town to Devoran on the south coast. Relatively flat terrain, you can hire mountain bikes or electric bikes in Portreath to make it even easier.
Portreath is at the end of a steep wooded valley, a place of myths and legend. Nearby coves have names like Hell’s Mouth and Dead Man’s Cove, because the port and coastline were treacherous.
Portreath’s best known haunted house was the 16th century Smuggler’s Cottage, which served as a location for the film Rake’s Progress. Soon after, building work uncovered a secret room containing a small table at which a male skeleton was seated.
How and why the man (presumably a smuggler) was trapped there no one knows, but it was an intriguing way of explaining the ghost that people claimed to have seen around the house. At this time, workers also sealed off a tunnel leading from the house down to the beach. Portreath is full of smugglers’ coves.
The best time to visit Portreath is summer, from June until October, when you will have when temperatures are usually pleasant and rainfall low. The highest average temperature in Portreath is 17°C in July and the lowest is 9°C in February.
Toilets are situated on the road just before the car park.
With a pretty sandy beach and small harbour, a self-catering holiday in Portreath is the perfect way to escape the rat race.