Top Cornish beaches in West Cornwall: a short distance from St Ives
26th September 2021
We’re so lucky to live near St Ives and have access to all its beautiful beaches. If you fancy a change one day, there are plenty of other beaches just a short drive, ride or bus journey away.
Here are a few of our favourite beaches in West Cornwall.
The south coast: beaches east of Penzance
We’ll start with the eastern side of the south coast, which is basically the Penwith part of Mount’s Bay. These beaches tend to be sheltered and good for swimming, although not all of them are lifeguarded, and access can be variable.
The collection of small coves commonly known as “Prussia Cove” is between Praa Sands and Marazion, down a lane that’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s worth the drive and walk, however, as these secluded coves combine clear seas with rockpools, caves and evocative old fisher huts. It used to be a smuggling hot spot, but these days is the haunt of snorkelers and swimmers.
Also known as Perran Sands, Perranuthnoe is a much-loved family beach, with sand, rockpools, and a couple of places to find food. It’s an easy drive from the A394, and there’s a car park near the beach (with loos). Check the tide times, as the sea comes right up to the reddish-coloured cliffs at high water.
Marazion Beach is among the best-known in Cornwall, with its dramatic backdrop St Michael’s Mount and the sweeping curve of Mount’s Bay. It’s a fab family beach and has all the facilities you need. It does get busy in the summer, but if you head west, away from the crowds in the town, you can always find a good spot. Marazion beach melds into Long Rock, and there’s a nice walk/cycle along a new stretch of path.
This popular locals’ beach is a great place for swimming (although please bear in mind that it’s not lifeguarded) and is open for dogs all year round. The car park above the beach is great value (£1.10 per 24 hours in 2021), although if you need any other facilities, you’ll need to walk along the beach or path to Marazion.
The south coast: beaches west of Penzance
After Long Rock, there are assorted stretches of shingly shore around Penzance and Newlyn. These are mainly used by locals, dogs and serious sea swimmers. Wherrytown Beach in Penzance is a nice spot, just under the prom and near the gorgeous Jubilee Pool.
There’s something incredibly appealing about this tiny beach in Mousehole Harbour. Little kids seem to love it, probably because it’s to their scale and perfect for paddling. There are excellent rock pooling spots to either side of the harbour.
If you carry on along west from Mousehole, the roads get windier and the scenery wilder. It’s also home to some of the most spectacular beaches in Cornwall (and that’s saying something). There are lots of little coves along the western tip of Penwith. Everyone finds their own favourite, but here are a few of the best far-west beaches.
The “Minack Beach” is one of the most photographed in Cornwall, for its Caribbean-blue sea and glowing white sands. To its west, the clifftop Minack Theatre, and to the east, beautiful Pedn Vounder beach (swimwear optional). There’s parking and loos behind the dunes, and please be aware that Pedn Vounder gets cut off at high tide.
This pretty cove is generally a quiet spot, mostly because it’s quite a scramble down from the clifftop. There’s a car park about ten minutes’ walk away.
This tiny cove was once a best-kept secret – then they filmed Poldark here. It was a great location to choose, as it has a dramatic, tunnel-like cave as well as the perfect water for That swimming scene. Porthgwarra has a car park and a shop that provides snacks.
The North Coast: beaches from Land’s End to Hayle
Once around Land’s End, you’ll soon encounter one of the area’s favourite beaches at Sennen Cove. You may prefer to head straight here from St Ives, however, along the coast road through Zennor and St Just.
The beach at Sennen Cove is called Whitesands Bay, for obvious reasons. It really is the most spectacular stretch of pale sand, and there are great places to eat in the village. There are car parks at the top and bottom of the hill. If you want to avoid the crowds, come in the evening for a beach BBQ.
Portheras is on the wonderfully wild north coast, near Pendeen. Park at the lighthouse and walk down the cliff path, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful little beach. Until recently, some of the beach was out of bounds, due to dangerously sharp fragments from a shipwreck in the sand. It’s absolutely fine again now.
We’ll then bypass St Ives (you can read about our local St Ives beaches here) and head towards Hayle. Before you get to Hayle, check out the dog-friendly sands of Porthkidney.
Park in the village of Lelant, and take the path between the golf course and the church. Porthkidney is a great spot to take the dog for a scamper, and there are spectacular views across the estuary and towards St Ives. Please check the tides first, as the sea moves pretty fast around here.
Then, it’s on towards Hayle and its famous “three miles of golden sands”. It’s hard to tell where one named beach ends and another one starts (and does it really matter?), but to make this long stretch of beach a bit clearer, it starts with the Towans at Hayle (a massive sandy sweep), before becoming the surfing beach at Gwithian. Then there’s Godrevy, with its rockpools and lighthouse view. Park in the town or in the National Trust car parks at Gwithian/Godrevy, depending on which part you’re heading to.
We hope this has given you a few ideas, and please let us know your favourites! Fancy heading further afield? Try one of these glorious Cornish beaches.
Always check the tide times before setting out to any Cornish beach, as well as the weather forecast and wind direction. Pack for all weathers!