Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Everyone loves Cornwall for its beautiful sweeps of golden sands. But few venture off the beaten track and explore the many smaller coves dotted around the coastline. And those tucked-away, crowd-free spots are where you can enjoy a more peaceful and natural experience.
The peninsula of West Penwith, with its rugged beauty and refreshing remoteness, has more than its share of secret beaches just waiting to be discovered by the curious and adventurous. Below are our favourite spots. Some of them you won’t even find on Google Maps.
Fishing Cove aka Fisherman’s Cove, Navax Point
You can only get to this secluded (and partly naturist) beach by a steep, dramatic path to the east of Navax Point. And it’s best to visit in the morning as the steep cliffs here quickly obscure the sun. This beach is lesser known by humans, but it’s a favourite haunt of seals, and there’s a very good chance you might see a few hanging out on the rocks.
How to get there: Head out on the Portreath road from Gwithian, and after about a mile and a half, you’ll see the parking place at the top of the hill. From here, walk along the Coast Path to your left (heading west), and after about 300 metres, you’ll see another path on your right. This winds down through the gorse for 200 metres or so until you reach the cove.
How far? 10-minute drive from Three Mile Beach.
Porth Cadjack Cove, Portreath
This is a wild, pebbly cove, concealed beneath the cliffs, and it all but disappears at high tide. You can only access it down a tricky rocky path with a rope handrail, so this one is for the intrepid only.
How to get there: From Navax Point (above), continue two miles along the road to Portreath, then turn left down a track to the cliff-top car park above Basset Cove. Walk east along the South West Coast Path towards Portreath for about 400 metres, and before the path starts descending, look for a gully on your left. Here you’ll find the steep scramble to get you to the cove.
How far? 15-minute drive from Three Mile Beach.
Veor Cove, Zennor
To the west of St Ives is the pretty village of Zennor where you’ll find this lovely little beach that only appears at low tide. If you see the legendary Zennor mermaid, be sure to take a snap.
How to get there: Park your car in Zennor village, and walk left along the Coast Path down to the stream and back up again. After 100 metres or so, you’ll spot an overgrown track on your right. Follow this from the brow of the hill down to the cove below.
How far? 30-minute drive from Three Mile Beach.
Pedn Vounder, Treen
Close to the ever-so-lovely, but ever-so-popular, Porthcurno beach, there’s a much less well-known cove called Pedn Vounder, with wonderful low-tide sands and lagoons.
How to get there: Head down the B3315 towards Porthcurno, then take the turning for Treen and the Logan Rock Inn, and park up in the village. By the Treen Café (a recommended stop-off for tea and cake), take the track and walk past the Treen Farm Campsite for about ten minutes until you hit the Coast Path. Head straight over this and continue onto the headland. Then there’s a bit of a scramble down steep rocks to get onto the beach itself.
How far? 45 to 50-minute drive from Three Mile Beach.
Nanjizal, Polgigga (yes – that’s a real place)
Close to Land’s End, you’ll find this truly wild spot, with its rugged coastline and deep caves. Look for the arched cave with an eyelet-like slit, called ‘Song of the Sea’, where there’s a sandy plunge pool and sea caves with pink-toned rocks. A tip-off for nature lovers: this beach is also known as a top spot for dolphin sightings.
How to get there: Drive to Land’s End and walk south for a mile along the Coast Path. Or, you can park closer on the Porthgwarra road, 300 metres from the B3315 to Polgigga, and walk along the footpath track on your right for 10 minutes, then turn right through a gate after Bosistow Farmhouse.
How far? 55-minute drive from Three Mile Beach.
Polurrian Cove, The Lizard
The Lizard Peninsula is another fantastic place to uncover not-in-the-guidebook beaches. One of my favourites is Polurrian Cove, a gorgeous golden-sand beach that’s really tucked away and only accessible on foot. We also like to drop into the nearby Polurrian Hotel for a cheeky cream tea with ocean views.
How to get there: You can walk from Mullion, or you can park up at Poldhu and take the Coast Path – it’s a 45-minute walk from Poldhu Beach. To reach the hotel, continue up the steep path beyond the beach to the top of the cliffs, where you’ll find stairs and a pathway on your left.
How far? 40-minute drive from Three Mile Beach.
Something to know
Each of the coves listed above is at least a 20-minute walk from the nearest parking place, and many are accessed by steep or hidden pathways. You should always check the tides – the best time to visit is likely to be at low tide as many of these little coves disappear underwater as the tide comes in, and you don’t want to get cut off. So we’ve inspired you with talk of Cornwall’s peaceful beaches, away from the crowds, but where should you stay?
Three Mile Beach is a collection of 15 luxury self-catering beach houses tucked away on a truly unspoilt part of Cornwall’s coastline. Contact the Natural Britain team for availabilty.