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7 oar-some spots to SUP and kayak in Cornwall

When it's this hot there's only one thing for it - get on the water. Here's our pick of family-friendly places to paddle, plus options on watersports hire and picnic pitstops.

Towan Beach & The Gazzle, Newquay

The golden sands and blue waters of Towan Beach, in the heart of the town, are a great starting point where you can paddle out of the bay and away from the crowds along the 2km stretch of coastline known as the Gazzle. This stunning section of craggy coastline has become a popular spot for water sports, where you can paddle in lagoon-like waters or adrenaline junkies can head out towards the swell for a more thrilling experience. The area is also rich with a plethora of fascinating seabirds, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot dolphins, porpoises, and seals!

Local hire: Book a range of kayak adventures through Newquay Activity Centre, based right on Towan Beach.  

Picnic pitstop: Pavilion Bakery or Box & Barber are right on the street above, or detour via the harbour to the Boathouse, which is a series of streetfood vans right on the harbour edge.

Porthminster to Porthmeor, St Ives

The crystal-clear waters off the shore from St Ives is a kayaking haven, whether it’s discovering hidden sea caves, learning tales of shipwrecks, or spotting Atlantic grey seals basking in the sunshine. Join the daily kayak tours or book a private session, perfect for groups and families who wish to tailor their sea kayaking experience to suit their ages and abilities. St Ives Surf School typically sets off from Porthminster and takes in the harbour, Smeaton’s Pier, Porthgwidden and around the island to Porthmeor. 

Local hire: Book a scenic sea kayaking experience with St Ives Surf School. Led by experienced guides with a love of adventure and a wealth of local knowledge, this is a great way for beginners to take in the delights of the Cornish coast.

Picnic pitstop: Maybe not the most wholesome picnic we’ve ever eaten but a pasty and donut from St Ives Bakery will fuel you all day!

Port Gaverne, Nr Port Isaac

If it’s your first time sea kayaking and you want to launch from somewhere that is relatively calm but offers breathtaking scenery, then head out from the pretty cove of Port Gaverne. You’ll discover remote beaches and coves as you paddle around the coast to neighbouring Port Isaac, known best as the setting of popular TV series, Doc Martin. Unspoiled scenery combines with opportunities to spot all kinds of wildlife to make this kayaking in Cornwall adventure one you’ll definitely be adding to your list of things to do.

Local hire: You’ll be in safe hands with Cornish Rock Tors from whom you can either rent equipment, or, beginners will start their excursion by learning some basic skills from trained professionals, while those with prior experience can book an advance sea kayaking trip to explore further afield, as well SUPs.

Picnic pitstop: At the back of the beach you’ll find the Port Gaverne Hotel, which is lovely, but in this summer weather you’ll be wanting their outside beachside garden restaurant, Pilchards.

Mullion Harbour or Cadgwith Cove, Lizard Peninsula

The wild and wonderful Lizard Peninsula offers plenty of locations where you can launch your own kayak or join a professionally guided tour. The 5-mile stretch of coastline between Mullion Cove (above) and Kynance Cove is truly breathtaking but best reserved for the more experienced kayaker. Due to its exposed position, even on calm days, conditions can be choppy. You’ll glide through clear waters, beneath craggy headlands and beside wide bays, pulling up on quiet beaches for lunch and exploring hidden caves.

Local hire: Lizard Adventure will take care of you and your group for a guided tour, launching from either Mullion Harbour or Cadgwith Cove depending on the conditions. If you have your own kayak or you’re thinking of buying one, they also run sea safety sessions. 

Picnic pitstop: Cadgwith Cove is famed for it’s seafood (well, it is a traditional fishing harbour) where you’ll find crab sandwiches at Cadgwith Cove Crab. There’s also a pub if seafood isn’t your thing, or, paddle back round to the Mullion Cove Hotel.

St Mawes, Roseland Peninsular

One of the picturesque waterways that spout off from the busy Carrick Roads, the peaceful Percuil River flows against the backdrop of the striking Roseland Peninsula, one of Cornwall’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Your kayak adventure will have you stumbling across secluded creeks, pretty fishing villages, peaceful beaches, and rugged cliffs. Paddle right up to the lighthouse on St Anthony’s Head, enjoy a picnic on Molunan Beach, paddle by St Just in Roseland for stunning photo opportunities.

Local hire: Book through St Mawes Kayaks and enjoy this very adventure, which usually takes around 4 hours.

Picnic pitstop: Either pull up your kayak at St Just in Roseland and head to Miss V’s Corish Cream Tea Hut to refuel, or pick up goodies at Mr Scorse.

Helford Passage, Helford

In calm conditions, this is a pleasant paddle for novice paddleboarders or canoeists, and a beautiful spot to get to grips with the board if you are a newbie. Once you’ve found your balance, take a moment to breathe in the beautiful wood-lined estuary and peaceful creeks or venture out to the stunning coastline of Falmouth Bay. Launch from the busy beach of Helford Passage (above) where there are many moorings and SUP hire, so this is the ideal place to paddle if you don’t have your own equipment. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, the Helford River is alive with wildlife; herons stand tall and, at low tide, oystercatchers are in their element with swathes of visible oysters.  

Local hire: Helford River Boats don’t just run the ferry, you can book kayaks, paddleboards or even self-drive hire boats.

Picnic pitstop: The Ferryboat Inn at Helford Passage doesn’t just do eat-in at the tables inside, you can either sit in the garden, or, order take-away from the hatch to eat at the benches or on the beach.

Polkerris and Fowey River

Located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it is one of the best places to SUP or kayak in Cornwall for bird and wildlife lovers. There is loads to see, from fascinating wading birds and marine flowering plants to rocky headlands, extraordinary caves and sandy beaches. If you’re heading out on your own board, you can park up at Caffa Mill car park opposite Daphne Du Maurier’s house, Ferryside. Here you have the choice to head upriver towards Golant and Lostwithiel or towards the mouth of the river and out to sea. The safe waters are also perfect for those trying out their paddleboarding skills for the first time.

Local hire: Try Fowey River Hire in Fowey itself, or, head just round the corner and book lessons and hire equipment from nearby Polkerris Beach.

Picnic pitstop: Paddle up to the marina just outside of Fowey harbour and head to North Street Kitchen, all the chicest guests arrive straight off the water.

For more ideas check out Stay in Cornwall’s guides to Kayaking in Cornwall, paddleboarding in Cornwall and book holiday accommodation nearby.

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