North Cornwall's beaches

Cornwall's most famous beach is Fistral, where national surfing competitions are frequently held. Close to Newquay and the celebrity haunt of Rock, the beaches are ideal for all types of adrenalin-pumping watersports. This coast was known historically for its wrecks and smuggling. Nowadays it is said that partying youngsters wreck themselves in the nightclubs while locals smuggle their rage home!

That said, this is only a very small part of Cornwall's beach scene. If that's what you want, go for it, but it is very easy to find a more peaceful, family-orientated Cornwall too. Newquay has three excellent beaches, which stretch for miles, and the firm sands are backed by rocky cliffs and grassy headlands.

Polzeath is opposite Padstow and seals and dolphins can often be seen bobbing and playing near the beach. St Ives has three excellent beaches, which are popular with both families and older visitors. Just before arriving in the town, Carbis Bay is in a wonderfully sheltered position and its beautiful sands are a good choice on a breezy day. In St Ives itself, Porthmeor Beach is popular for surfing and is overlooked by the wonderful ship-like building of the Tate Gallery.

Working your way further east along the north coast, Holywell Bay and Perranporth are as popular as ever with long sandy beaches that gently slope into the rolling surf. Widemouth Bay and Crackington Haven are well-known beauty spots as well as having first class beaches and Bude has long been a favourite summer destination for beach lovers.

South Cornwall's beaches

Beaches in South Cornwall are ideal for family holidays, romantic weekends and long walks along the water's edge at any time of year. Porthcurno is generally considered the best beach with its soft white sand and clear waters. It has a good café and a cool lifeguard so everyone can relax and enjoy the stunning location. At low tide, visitors can access neighbouring Green Bay or the beach below Logan Rock for quieter spots.

Close to Land's End is sheltered Kynance Cove which is National Trust owned and has some impressive rock formations. It is a ten-minute walk from the car park but if you don't like sitting on the sand, the grassy slopes are ideal for sand-free picnics.

Marazion has a beach with a unique view as it looks across to impressive St Michael's Mount, another National Trust beauty. The beach stretches for over a mile from Penzance town and is a mixture of sand and pebbles, depending on what the tide brought in. For surfing, Sennan Cove and Whitesand Bay are good when the wind is from the southwest. Further east are the flat Par Sands near St Austell and the four miles of firm sands at Tregantle Beach which are a dog walker's paradise, running from Crafthole to Rame Head at low tide.

Cornwall's beaches offer a host of activities in all seasons including swimming, boating, windsurfing, body boarding, sailing, kayaking, water skiing, snorkeling and diving, with something for all ages to enjoy.