Newquay hits the headlines in summer for its waves and wild parties. But visitors also flock to this Cornish gem for the ocean walks and views, historic hotels and the Britain's best fish and chips
Look beyond the lurid “Newquay is the UK's Ibiza” headlines and you’ll find a costal town that compels you to kick-back, dip your toes in the Atlantic and explore the thrills of the Cornish coast.
It's true that high season does attract crowds of teenagers with a fondness for fancy dress and binge drinking, but visit any other time of year and you’ll be in for a treat. I love September and October when you can catch the last rays of summer.
With 11 beaches on Newquay’s coastline you’re never far from great surf. For an adrenaline hit try coasteering (donning a wetsuit and helmet and hurling yourself off cliffs). Lusty Glaze Adventure Centre runs a half-day session costing £52.50. If that sounds too dangerous then enjoy the coastal paths or simply srink in the views over a cocktail.
f you can afford four-star try the Headland Hotel. Its grade II listed and opened in 1900, overlooking Fistral, Newquay’s premier surfing beach. The Headland boasts a long list of royal guests and was the location for the 1990 film The Witches. I defy anyone not to feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand up in the stunning ballroom. The best rooms cost around £330.
The Bay Hotel, also overlooking Fistral, offers good deals - you can get B&B for under £60pppn. Guests also get use of the spa. Cheaper still, try one of the many B&Bs in the town, but check they don’t take stag and hen parties first if you plan on sleeping during the summer season.
When I first visited Newquay I was surprised how much surfing dominates. There are VW campers everywhere, and you’ll often hear the word “stoked!” – surf speak for happy. Give it a try. Nothing compares to the rush of standing up on your first wave – and falling off. I’ve never progressed beyond this stage but it’s fun, and the weather doesn’t have to be hot.
Head to a professional instructor if it’s your first time. Plenty of surf schools offer group and private lessons. Reef Surf School is open throughout the year and takes lessons on Great Western Beach. Their one-to-one tuition will cost you £80 for a two-and-a-half hour session, including wetsuit and board hire. Half day group lessons cost £25. Board and suit hire in the town’s surf shops shouldn’t set you back more than £20 for a whole day.
Another great day out can be spent cycling along the Camel Trail. Start from Padstow, where you can hire bikes (about £12 per day). Pack a picnic and stop off at the award-winning Camel Valley vineyard. I’d never heard of Cornish wine either, but it’s very good. You can veer off the trail for a glass and visit the shop (check times/dates). Once back in Padstow don’t go home without sampling the fish and chips from (Rick) Stein’s Fish and Chips. Hand on heart they’re the best I’ve ever tasted.
For ocean views with your meal book a table at Lewinnick Lodge on Pentire Headland. They change their seafood specials every day. Try the mussels and the baked cheesecake. The chefs even bake the biscuits for coffee. Mains cost about £10-£17.
Fifteen, Jamie Oliver’s project in Watergate Bay is worth a visit. It provides disadvantaged youths with chef training and uses 80 percent local ingredients (buying local is big in Cornwall). It’s not cheap in the evening so check the website for three-course lunches for around £25.
Little Italy, on Crantock Street, makes delicious pizza. A meal with garlic bread for two and a bottle of wine from the off-licence opposite (the restaurant allows you to bring your own alcohol) will cost about £20.
For a hearty breakfast try hippyish Café Irie on Fore Street. Choose pancakes with fruit or eggs benedict. They bake unusual fresh bread every day such as peanut – so be sure to ask.
And don’t miss
Sunset at Lewinnick Lodge.
The coastal walk from Newquay to Watergate Bay (5-miles)
Paddleboarding. Lessons at The Extreme Academy, Watergate Bay.
Great live music at the Red Lion pub (weekends).
Seal-spotting in the harbour. Beware – they bite.
The Bay Hotel - 01637 852 221 - www.newquay-hotels.co.uk Esplanade Road, Pentire, Newquay, TR7 1PT
The Headland Hotel - www.headlandhotel.co.uk Headland Hotel, Newquay, TR7 1EW
Lewinnick Lodge - 01637 878 117 www.lewinnick-lodge.info Pentire Headland, Newquay
Fifteen - 01637 861 000 www.fifteencornwall.co.uk On The Beach, Watergate Bay, TR8 4AA
Camel Valley Vineyard 01208 779 59 www.camelvalley.com Camel Valley Ltd, Nanstallon, Bodmin, PL30 5LG
Stein's Fish and Chips 01841 532 700 www.rickstein.com South Quay, Padstow, Cornwall
Cafe Irie, 01637 859 200 (no website yet)
Little Italy 01637 852 021 (no website yet)
The Red Lion 01637 872 195 North Quay Hill, Newquay, TR7 1HE
Reef Surf School 01637 879 058 www.reefsurfschool.com 10-12 Berry Road, Newquay TR7 1AR
Lusty Glaze Adventure Centre 01637 872 444 www.lustyglaze.co.uk Lusty Glaze Beach, Lusty Glaze Road, Newquay, TR7 3AE