Five Best Secret Beaches in Cornwall
Here’s to adventure – nothing beats that feeling of stumbling upon somewhere secret, secluded and all to yourself. These moments are few and far between now that the UK has become wise to the bounty that the Cornish coast has to offer and more tourists than ever flock to its myriad beaches, coves and inlets. But there are still parts of the coastline that remain elusive to most travellers. Here we reveal what we think are Cornwall’s five best-kept hidden gems – we trust you to keep schtum!
Gwenver: best for surfers and families with older kids
If stunning wraparound views, periwinkle-blue water and long lines of perfect rollers peeling on to golden sands make your heart sing, then Gwenver is the beach for you. Its name is thought to have been derived from Guinevere, wife of the legendary King Arthur, and it does have a mythical, wild beauty about it. Located at the base of steep granite cliffs at the bottom of a long, unwieldy path, it’s a big 15-20 minute climb down, so not great for those with disabilities, buggies or hard-to-carry items, but great if you’re travelling light or just want to surf. Its inaccessibility means that even though it’s one of Cornwall’s most secluded surf spots boasting great, consistent waves and popular with locals, it never seems to get crowded.
How to get there
Gwenver, near Sennen Cove, TR19 6JB
By road: follow the main A30 north-east out of Sennen. After one mile, just after the chapel on the left-hand bend, turn left on to a made-up road with a dead-end sign to Tregiffian. Continue on this track (do not veer left) for half a mile until you reach a rough parking area on the right. The main car park is opposite this through a gateway with a quaint circular ‘toll booth’. In summer, it costs £1.50 to park.
By foot: the coastal cliff path passes through Gwenver. Best access is to park in Sennen Cove Beach Car Park, and walk along the cliff to Gwenver.
Gunwalloe Beach, also known as Church Cove: best for families, Poldark aficionados and history buffs
Not so secret since the advent of Poldark, but still secluded enough to make it on to our list, Gunwalloe Beach is where the BBC series’ dramatic wreck scene was filmed.
Wedged between Dollar Cove and Poldhu on the ragged Lizard peninsula, this cove is steeped in history, mystery and buckets of lore. As it’s owned by the National Trust, beachgoers are guaranteed a happy, tranquil experience: a clean, sandy beach with a stream running through it, ideal for families with small children who love to paddle. But this is no mere beauty spot – Gunwalloe is also well known for its history of shipwrecks. Also known as Church Cove, it is overlooked by the tiny church of St Wynwallow. Dating from the 13th century and known as the Church of Storms, there is a separate bell tower behind the church where you’ll find a 16th-century rood screen made of wood from a Portuguese wreck. Just next door is Dollar Cove, named after the Spanish ship San Salvador, which was wrecked there in 1669 and lost its cargo of silver dollars. Legend has it that coins still occasionally wash up on the beach after storms, so keep an eye out!
How to get there
Gunwalloe, near Helston, Cornwall, TR12 7QE
By road: from Helston, take the A3083 south towards Lizard. After the bridge Gunwalloe is signposted on the right (before the roundabout). Continue for 3.3 miles along this road and park in the National Trust car park. Alternatively, park up on the southern headland next to Poldhu and take the stretch of coastal path down to the beach.
On foot: Gunwalloe is on the South West Coast Path between Poldhu and Penrose, about three miles from Porthleven).
Nanjizal, also known as Mill Bay: best for intrepid adventurers
For a real, off-the-beaten-track vibe, head to Nanjizal – a lonely cove close to Land's End, with no direct road access. It's truly secluded, though, and often deserted, probably because it’s a fair hike from any road or car park. But it's well worth making the effort to walk to. Nanjizal is thought by many to be the finest beach on the Penwith peninsula, in Cornwall's far west. It is famed for the Song of the Sea, a tall, narrow slit-like natural arch and some fantastical natural stone sculptures, including the Diamond Horse – an equine-shaped formation through which sunlight shines. Caves and anemone-studded rock pools emerge when the tide goes out and seals can often be spotted playing in the shallows. You can even freshen up after a salty swim with a shower under the beach’s own waterfall.
Caves and anemone-studded rock pools emerge when the tide goes out and seals can often be spotted playing in the shallows
How to get there
Nanjizal, St Just, Penzance TR19 6JJ
On foot: head down the B3315 from Penzance towards Land's End and stop in Trevescan. Park in one of the laybys on either side of the village, around 200 metres away. Head just past the Appletree Cafe and you will see the bus stop on your right hand side, with a footpath sign just opposite. There is a small courtyard of houses behind the bus stop. Head into the left side of the courtyard and you will see a stone style, follow this footpath towards Trevilley Farm. Pass through the farm and through the fields heading to the sea. After several fields you will reach a kissing gate and the hedges will start to grow tall on either side of the path. Follow towards the coast, and keep right where there is a left turn. Follow the path along the top of the valley and it will eventually lead down to the small cove of Nanjizal. Pass over the footbridge and down the steps to the beach.
Lantic Bay, Near Fowey, south-east Cornwall: best for walkers
Lantic Bay is definitely one of those out-of-the-away Cornish gems that the locals like to keep to themselves. One of the best coves on Cornwall’s rocky stretch of National Trust coastline between Fowey and Polperro, getting there is not for the unfit, particularly on the return journey. Access is a 25-minute walk via farmland and steep cliff-paths. But your journey over rugged hills comes with a stellar reward: white sand, clear waters and very few people. There's really nothing there – no loos, no cafe, very little shade – just spectacular views of Pencarrow Head, sheltering cliffs and rock pools.
How to get there
Lantic, Bay, near Polruan, Cornwall, PL23 1NP
By road: from the A38 between Liskeard and Bodmin, turn on to the A390, and then left on to the B3359. Keep turning right until you find Lantic Bay's National Trust car park.
On foot: take the South West Coast Path from Polruan (one and a half miles) or Polperro (four miles).
‘Frog Prince’ Cove: best for romantics
This tiny strip of secret sand is like something out of a fairy tale – with a name to match. Unmarked on any map or chart, it was actually so named by a journalist from The Guardian, due in part to its proximity to the dinky village of Frogmore, just around the corner from Fowey, and an amphibian-shaped rock that stands nearby. Secluded, rocky and with fine sand, head to this little beach for total peace and quiet. Easy beach access makes it ideal for families and wild swimmers will love the crystal-clear waters and jump-ready rocks.
How to get there
Drive away from Polruan on the only road out of the village, then go up the hill and past two left turns. A couple of kilometres after the second of these, you will arrive at a sharp bend in the road. The car park at Frogmore is on the left just after this. Follow the path that begins across the road from the car park entrance. Continue over the lane and, after a couple of minutes, you will reach a field. Take the path that crosses the field diagonally towards the far right-hand corner. Halfway along this path, you'll see a path that leads off to the left. Follow this past a bench and, after a few minutes, take the beach-access pathway on your left. To return to the car park, simply retrace your steps.