The famous surfing town of Polzeath (in Cornish Polsegh, meaning dry creek) sits just inside Pentire Point, the eastern headland of the Camel estuary, and faces west across the Atlantic Ocean, with the imposing rock islands of Newland and Gulland clearly visible on the horizon.
The beach can sometimes look maxed out by parked cars, but fear not – there’s more parking up on the cliffs on the south side, and that one almost never gets full. The latter also has the advantage that you pay only for however long you stay, and the beach car park is tidal, so that can be a worry – or not, depending whether you’ve bothered to ask the time of high tide and where the current tide-line is!
However, surfing and the beach life are not all that Polzeath has to offer. It’s a prime location as a base for almost every type of seaside activity, sure, but also for walking/hiking, for nature and for just enjoying the creature comforts of a cottage by the sea.
Polzeath is one of the most spectacular places we know for watching sunsets, the orb of the sun more often than not descending through a red sky as it settles below the sea. Or the hills above the old lifeboat station, depending on the time of year.
To get to Polzeath, you must first head to Wadebridge unless you came by boat! Wadebridge is on the A39 Atlantic Highway trunk road. The nearest railway station is Bodmin Parkway, on the main line from London Paddington to Penzance, but it is a pretty big (16 mile/25km) taxi ride to Polzeath. It’s possible to travel by bus, first to Wadebridge and then to the village, but the majority of visitors will arrive in their own vehicle. Wadebridge is on the A39 Atlantic Highway trunk road, scenic but big and for the most part straight, which connects the M4/M5 motorways to Cornwall. The nearest airport is Newquay International Airport, although there’s a helipad at nearby Rock if you can stretch to that sort of thing.
The weather in Cornwall is mostly better than anywhere else in the British Isles, but this part of the north coast around the Camel Estuary is exceptional. Not quite the sub-tropical of the western tip and the Scillies, but exceptionally pleasant and for the most part unspoilt by rain. It’s probably something to do with the ocean currents and the microclimate of the large estuary. If you’d like more detailed information about Cornish weather, why not visit our dedicated page here?
Beautiful slate-built (and ancient) St Enodoc Church is where the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman is buried. He loved the area, and you can see his house when standing by his gravestone. Its history stretches back to the 11th century. Reputed to have been built near the cave where the saint had lived as a hermit, the church was for many years regularly buried by blowing sand dunes and was only finally restored to continuous use in the middle of the 19th century.
Next to the church is Brea (pronounced Bray) Hill, a big, round, odd-looking hill that is often mistakenly said to be a man-made burial mound like those found in other parts of the UK. It isn’t, but it does have several smaller tumuli ( the Roman name for mounds or barrows) on top of it, which are thought to date from the Bronze Age. This in itself merits walking up the hill, but additionally, the views of the estuary, of Padstow and indeed Rock are spectacular. The South West Coast Path goes round the hill to the west, with another route quite easily beaten through the dunes and golf course to the east, but there is a path going straight over the top of the hill. Ascending Brea Hill is only suited to those who are pretty fit. Even then, the south face is considerably easier to march up than the north. On the beach of Daymer Bay can be seen the remnants of a sunken forest that is at least four thousand years old.
Serious surfers delight in telling everyone who will listen that the surf is rubbish at Polzeath. It isn’t. Much of the time the waves are perfect for the beginner to intermediate surfer, slow peeling and breaking gently onto soft sand. There is a rip current but it’s not a harsh one. On a good day, however, there is seriously class surf “out the back”, and these are the days when the hardcore surfers are hoping you won’t be there. There are also several other “secret” spots nearby which the locals would rather leave undiscovered, so we shall. Again, if you park on the beach and go surfing, be aware that high tide often covers all of the sand.
There are several good wetsuit and board hire emporia on and around the beach, and a couple of good surf schools operate there all summer. Polzeath is one of only a few surf spots in the UK where you stand a good chance of seeing dolphins, porpoises or seals, or even the occasional pilot whale. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself surfing with them!
If you are of a mind to seek alternative surf spots, Harlyn Bay on the Padstow side is north-facing and a good shortboard wave. Daymer rarely provides big enough waves to surf, but when it does, it’s a classic longboard point break.
Polzeath has an array of rather good places to eat, all within a stone’s throw of each other. TJ’s Surf Shop Café is a great rooftop location from which to watch the beach and serves delicious food. The Cracking Crab is a fantastic spot up on the cliffs – check opening times before you commit to the pay-on-exit car park (only the first ten minutes is free. The Waterfront down at beach level is a fine restaurant for both lunch and dinner, with a large sheltered balcony. Daytime, think barefoot surfers, but in the evening more formal and expensive dining. Tubestation is a slightly odd place in a converted chapel (with a skate ramp!) but widely regarded as the best place for a snack or light lunch. The Pasty Cellar, which true to its name, is a down-steps cellar serving takeaway pasties and a few other variations, is really, really good.
For pubbing it, a game of pool and an often boisterous atmosphere with lots of “stoked” surfers, try the Oystercatcher, just a short walk up the hill towards Trebetherick. A super pub, but not always the place for a “quiet” drink.
Polzeath is quite vibrant enough without events of its own, it seems, but check out our Rock, Padstow and Port Isaac pages for the low-down on annual and other activities that take place in the local area.
Special Things to do and visit
The amenities at Polzeath are excellent, with lots of shopping in the village and many places of interest in the surrounding area. Further afield, the Eden Project is the must-see attraction for visitors to Cornwall, and the gardens of Cornwall are always justify getting into the car. Lanhydrock, Pencarrow, and Prideaux Place are all pretty close. Or what about Camel Valley Vineyard, a sort of a garden but with award -winning wines?
Other Good Places Near Polzeath
As well as Rock and Padstow, which have a pleasing variety of attractions for the visitor, Polzeath is very close to Port Quin and Port Isaac (the latter famous as the setting for the hit TV show Doc Martin). If you can go the distance on foot, all these places are particularly satisfying walks. If you need more than Polzeath has to offer in the way of shops and facilities, Wadebridge is the nearest large town, less than thirty minutes drive away.
South West Coast Path
The wonderful path that follows the entire coast of Cornwall (look out for the “acorn mark” on signposts) passes south through Polzeath to Daymer Bay and Rock where it crosses the estuary to Padstow on the Black Tor Ferry. Somewhat unusually, the coast path between Polzeath and Daymer Bay/St Enodoc is navigable for wheelchair users, which is an inclusive opportunity for everyone concerned to enjoy the lovely scenery of the estuary.
In the other direction, we head through New Polzeath to Pentire Point then turn east along miles of amazing coastline. The strange double headland of the Rumps cliff castle (don’t expect walls, it’s just ditches and earthworks) contains hut circles and archaeology back to the year 1BC. Many caves and some blowhole hydraulics are visible down at water level. Look north to the islands of the Mouls, and west to Newland Island and then Gulland in the far distance past Stepper Point. Onward, there’s an interesting folly at Doyden Point that’s been used for a few TV appearances and music videos, and Port Quin with it’s beautiful and largely deserted natural harbour.
The Point Golf Course at Polzeath was established in 1997. It is laid out over attractive parkland, with fine views of Pentire Point, Newland and the Atlantic beyond. The owners describe it as a “wonderful challenge for the low handicappers but a lot of fun for the holiday golfers.”
Polzeath is also well placed for the famous St Enodoc Golf Course, between Rock and Daymer Bay. With spectacular views over the Camel estuary and the famous Doom Bar, this links course is highly regarded by golfers.
On maps, the sandy beach here is called Hayle Bay. In real life, it never is. This avoids confusion with Hayle further down towards the tip of Cornwall, which also has a bay and a river mouth. The sweep of Polzeath’s Hayle Bay is made up of a very large and flat beach, generally referred to as Polzeath Beach, and a small cove on the other side of the New Polzeath headland is called Pentireglaze Haven. The two are conjoined at lower states of the tide.
Unfortunately, Polzeath beach itself is not open to dogs during the high season, but your pets can enjoy it from the 1st of October until Easter Sunday. Nearby Daymer Bay all the way to Rock, however, is dog-friendly all the year round, as is the entirety of the South West Coast Path, so you needn’t worry about finding somewhere suitable for furry frolicking!
Polzeath, Daymer Bay and the beaches towards Rock/Trebetherick, with their bathing and surfing, have a considerable appeal to families. A basic awareness of the tides and wave safety (stay away from the rocks and don’t launch inflatables in offshore winds, for instance!) is all that is required.
Many other stunning beaches are to be found on both sides of the Camel. Check out our dedicated Camel Estuary page for detailed info on these, and all the different water activities and things of interest that can be found within a few miles of Polzeath.
We have many self-catering holiday cottages in the Polzeath area and on both sides of the estuary, so self-catering thereabouts has never been better! Check out our Cornwall Guide online to discover more about what’s on, places to eat, places to visit and things to do in Polzeath and the surrounding area.
For cottages within a few miles of Polzeath, click here