Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall’s surfing capital

Cornwall’s surfing capital Newquay has been quietly shaking off its party town image to establish itself as a foodie spot and surfer’s paradise. With beautiful beaches, surf schools, spas, swish seafood restaurants, vegan brunches and hip coffee shops, it’s an ideal weekend break for those seeking a seaside escape. I recently spent a weekend exploring this kooky Cornish town and have created a guide to top things to do in Newquay, so you can make the most of your time there.

With beautiful beaches, surf schools, spas, swish seafood restaurants, vegan brunches and hip coffee shops, Newquay is an ideal weekend break for those seeking a seaside escape. Click To Tweet

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Learn to surf

Newquay’s is home to one of the best surfing spots in the UK, with Fistral Beach offering world-class waves to ride. There are numerous surf competitions and championships here as well as several surf schools, so you can master riding those waves. There are several town beaches around Newquay with waves good enough to ride, although the swell is said to be best in Autumn and winter, just make sure you have a decent wetsuit!

Top things to do in Newquay

Husband and I spent a morning learning to search with Quiksilver Surf School on the quieter, south side of Fistral beach. Fistral beach is a popular place to learn to surf, it has a sandy, wide beach, it’s near the town centre and is very picturesque. When we arrived at Quiksilver surf school we chatted through our surfing experience, what we’re looking to improve on and what places we have surfed in previously? We were then taken to the custom built changing rooms to get kitted up with wetsuites, boots and gloves.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

We carried our boards down to the beach and our instructor ran through the basics of surfing as well as top tips for standing on the board. Having travelled extensively over the years I have surfed in a fair few places, though I often have longs gaps between surfing, it was time to see if I still got it?  Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

The weather was a real mixed bag compared to the glorious weather we had been having in Newquay the previous few days but at least we had some waves to work with. The water was cold, the waves were frothing but I strode in with purpose and a misplaced sense of confidence.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Picture the scene, you’re waist deep in the brisk sea on a Cornish coastline, you can taste the salt spray frothing around you, the wind in your hair and surfboard in hand. You feel the swell and you know for sure, this is your wave. Paddling with both exuberance and determination you know it’s now or never and so you pop up on your board and you realise with almost disbelief, you are actually doing it, you are riding the wave; you are floating on air, its joy, its adventure and its freedom all in one and you feel like the queen of the ocean. Until you wipe out in the most spectacular fashion of course.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

The thing about surfing is that it can try your patience, especially if you are as out of practice as we were. The best thing to do is to keep going, every time you wipe out, get back on that board and start paddling out again. Thankfully our instructor was in the water with us giving us tips and tricks on how to best pop up on that board, as well as laughing hysterically at our increasingly hilarious wipeouts.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Having a surf lesson is a great introduction to surfing, whether you are a beginner, or you need to brush up on your skills like us. We had a fantastic experience with Quiksilver surf school fun, our instructor taught us good technique and form, so we were able to pop up and ride some waves, as well as get those all-important GoPro shots! Group Surf lessons cost £35 per person and private surf lessons cost £80 per person at this surf school.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Find fabulous foodie places

Newquay is positioning itself as a real foodie hotspot for those with discerning culinary tastes. There is a great selection of restaurants and cafes in the area, with a real focus on trendy, independent venues. Many venues are also capitalising on the beautiful sea views, including Dune Restaurant. This coastal restaurant serves tasty and vibrant food, complete with a lovely ocean view if you can bag a window seat. 

Typical menu offerings include fresh tagliatelle with scallops and prawns, 8oz pan-fried fillet steak and Curried hake fillet. There’s a separate Vegan menu available that features dishes such as spring vegetable risotto and sweet potato, chickpea curry.  Staff are also on hand to recommend wine pairings and to help you choose a dessert when you are crippled with indecision and are dangerously close to ordering ‘all of the desserts’. Expect to pay around £16-£29 for a main course here. 

Another restaurant with a lovely ocean view is Lusty Glaze Restaurant which is located on the beach. Their typical dishes include Cornish mussels, sweet potato burger and whole fish of the day. Main dishes will set you back £12-£24 here. If you fancy a classic seaside dish of fish and chips there are several good spots in Newquay including Rick Steins Fistral, a casual eatery, serving top-notch fish and chips in a prime location overlooking Fistral beach. Francine’s is another fish and chip hot spot, serving massive portions of fish and crispy chips to take away.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

If you are looking for international cuisine during your stay in Newquay then I would suggest grabbing a table at Pan-Asian restaurant Kahuna. There’s a great range of vibrant vegetarian dishes, Asian curry dishes, ribs and noodles and a good selection of wines, beers and spirits from the bar.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

We feasted on chilli beef and a taster plate that included spring rolls, chicken skewers and tempura prawns. The food was really fresh and tasted very authentic. I tend to find that many Asian restaurants in the UK fall short of the mark when trying to recreate Asian cuisine. This is happily not the case at Kahuna, the food was superb and completely spot on. Expect to pay around £12-£16 for a main course and around £8 for a starter.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Coffee lovers should head to offbeat coffee shop and tattoo parlour The Brew and Tattoo for a specially blended coffee, delicious slice of cake or to get yourself inked. This independent venture is a little slice of hipster paradise with delicious coffee and decor that screams ‘Pinterest goals’.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Kick back and relax with a brew in an uber cool setting with upcycled furniture and features and if you are feeling brave, you can even book in to get a tattoo in their custom built tattoo parlour upstairs. If like me, tats aren’t quite your bag [I basically have zero pain threshold and a fear of needles], you can always just pop in for a coffee and a scrumptious homemade cake.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

When in Cornwall it is imperative that you try a Cornish pasty. Pop into The Cornish Bakery for a mouthwatering selection of award-winning, handmade Cornish pasties. Typical fillings include Beef and stilton, cheese and onion, Pork, apple and cider and sweet potato and feta. We thought their pasties were very filling and totally moreish, my favourite was definitely the Thai Chicken!

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Treat yourself to a swanky hotel

If you can’t spoil yourself when you are on holiday, when can you? We stayed at the very swish Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa, an indulgent adults-only spa hotel with magnificent ocean views. Staff will greet you with an arrival drink and information on the spa facilities, hotel restaurant information and reservations.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

This sophisticated hotel has an aurora of calm thanks to its child-free policy. You can sip wine in their contemporary, ocean facing Bay Bar, with only the murmur of adult conversation filling the room. You may as well order another glass of pinot and back in the serenity and lack of responsibilities, you have earnt it darlings.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

I would strongly recommend booking an ocean view room for maximum indulgence and glorious views. These rooms offer beautiful sea views from the bedroom and the bathroom, where you can soak in a freestanding bath whilst watching the waves roll in. Our room had very modern and unfussy decor, with white linen and the occasional splash of nautical colour. The spacious room also featured the usual amenities you would expect of a decent hotel, coffee making facilities, flat screen TV, mini fridge and luxurious ESPA toiletries.

The room tariff also includes full access to Fistral Spa, the hotel’s luxurious spa that has a pool, fitness and spa facilities. Unwind in the steam room and pool or pamper yourself with a range of treatments including, aromatherapy back, neck and shoulder massage, luxury ESPA facial and exfoliating salt and oil scrub. Hotel guests also receive 10 per cent discount on treatments, so there is no excuse not to spoil yourself.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Dining options at the hotel include the excellent Dune Restaurant for dinner and ocean view dining, as well as the sleek Bay Bar for lunch and drinks. The emphasis is on quality local produce, as well as the sort of menu offerings you might expect from a Cornish restaurant, with seafood featuring heavily on the menu.

Expect to pay around £175 for a sea-view room at the hotel during high season and around £150 for a standard room during the same period. Bed and breakfast and spa packages are also available.

Go on long coastal walks

Strap on those walking shoes and take a hike around Newquay’s shoreline, there are plenty of Instagrammable spots as well as plenty of nearby coffee shops and pubs for a quick pit stop. Newquay has two town walks that are easy to follow with the  Newquay Discovery Trail Map. Look out for numbered stone circle markers embedded in the ground that feature interesting facts about the immediate area.

One of the town routes takes you around the coastline and historic harbour and the other includes a boating lake and gardens. Look out for pretty beach huts, tea shops and plenty of photogenic ocean view spots.

When walking north of Newquay, you can walk virtually uninterrupted to Padstow and beyond, passing through quaint Cornish villages on your way. The Visit Newquay Tourist Information Centre has lots of information, maps, books and guides to local walks. Pop in and see them for the best walking advice, they are open 7 days a week and are located on Marcus Hill.

There are also many beautiful beaches that are perfect for a brisk sea walk. Slip your shoes off and take a romantic stroll at the water’s edge, as the waves crash and seabirds soar past. Check out nearby Towan beach, Great Western beach and pretty Porth Beach for superb ocean views and cracking beach bars.

If you head to nearby Watergate Bay there is a lovely Coast Path walk from Watergate Bay to Whipsiderry. There is also the option to walk along the sandy beach at low tide. Pay particular attention to tide times when walking on the beaches around Newquay, you don’t want to be cut off from the tide and end up being the sort of tourist that needs a coast guard rescue.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Spot Marine life at the Bluereef aquarium

This small aquarium by the ocean is home to a surprisingly large range of marine life. The Bluereef Aquarium has plenty of pretty fish to admire as well as turtles, stingrays and sharks. Situated on Towan beach, the aquarium costs a reasonable £9.86 for adults and £7.65 for children when booked online.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

There 40 naturally-themed and colourful habitats at the Aquarium, ranging from the Cornish coastlines to tropical waters. There are also hands-on exhibits and an underwater tunnel that runs through the aquarium.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

It’s definitely worth spending a few hours gazing at colourful corals, crustaceans, sharks and rays, in this informative and entertaining aquarium. Especially if the weather outside takes a turn for the worst. There’s also an onsite gift shop should you require a marine-themed gift and a cafe serving hot food, drinks and snacks.

Beers in beach view bars

Newquay certainly has a wide range of drinking establishments on offer, ranging from beach view bars, traditional pubs and swanky bars. Many bars have spectacular sea views and also serve food throughout the days.

One of the best var sea views we experienced was from the terrace of Walkabout, the Aussie themed chain bar that houses sports screens and stag dos. We spent a sunny afternoon sat outside sipping white wine and looking out across the ocean.

Honestly, Walkabout is not normally an establishment I frequent in my hometown or on my travels. I tend to find them rather rowdy, with poor lighting and sticky floors. Having said that, this particular Walkabout is worth a visit for its open-air seating area with the picturesque views of the bay. 

If you are looking for a lively beach bar then Belushi’s bar has a fantastic cliff top beer garden, there’s also an extensive pub grub menu as well as live music and DJs every weekend. If you are looking for a more relaxing spot to sup a pint in then the C-View Bar is a chilled out spot with sea views and stylish surroundings.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Another chic beachside bar is Barefoot At The Beach, serving craft beers, wines, gins and cocktails, with ocean views to admire. Their rather slick bar menu includes Cornish crab salad, Woodfired veg, goats cheese, candied walnut pizza and Local mussels with apple & cyder sauce.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

If you fancy splurging on carefully crafted cocktails then Tom Thumb Bar shakes up some seriously cool concoctions. Some of their cocktail offerings include Japanese Cherry Martini, Barrel Aged Rum Old Fashioned  and Mango Bellini . It’s a cosy and inviting spot for a cocktail or three and staff really know their stuff, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.

Play a round of golf

Newquay’s golf club offers golf enthusiasts the opportunity to play its scenic 18 hole course whilst looking out over Fistral beach. Non-members can book a spot in this pretty golfing spot, for an introduction to introduction to Links Golf [the oldest style of golf course], that is suitable for beginners and serious golfers.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

The course is built on dunes and also has a public walkway through the course, should you fancy some golf spectating rather than playing. The Green Fee rates for 18 holes are £43 on the weekend and £33 on weekdays. Non-members should book in advance as the course can get very busy on weekends.

Overall I found our trip to Newquay to be more relaxing than I anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised at the chilled out, surf culture that appeared to be prevalent. There was also so much to do that we couldn’t possibly squeeze it all in on a long weekend. We will definitely have to come back and explore more.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

It seems that the town has revived itself from stag-do central to a hipster, foodie spot. What did you think of my guide to top things to do in Newquay? Would you visit this uber cool surf town? Let me know in the comments below.

Top things to do in Newquay | Cornwall's surfing capital

Many thanks to Newquay Business Improvement District for organising and supporting our trip.

Pip Jones

Pip Jones is a travel blogger, writer and content creator, she has been shortlisted for a Vuelio blogging award, is a brand ambassador for Euroventure Travel and is a Travelex ‘Top blogger’. She can normally be found drinking wine, typing an article and taking a selfie all at the same time.

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