A weekend in Newquay, Cornwall: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Ellie Ross
[Photos: Newquay Business Improvement District (BID)]

Think of Newquay and the image of boozed-up partygoers may spring to mind. But this town on the north coast of Cornwall is shaking off its reputation as a stag and hen destination.

Many bars and pubs that once sold cheap alcohol have shifted their focus, with more family-friendly offerings and upmarket settings. There may still be a Walkabout and Wetherspoons, but they rub shoulders with Tom Thumb, a speakeasy cocktail bar, and 55 Yards with its live piano music and board games.

There’s plenty to do here, especially for active and outdoorsy types. This is the UK’s surfing hub, with a string of golden beaches offering impeccable surfing. Fistral Beach is a hotspot for surfing – after all, this is where the UK surf scene was born in 1962, when four Australian arrived with the first fibreglass board anyone had seen in these parts.

The beach is dotted with surf schools and now hosts a number of international contests throughout the year. If you prefer to stay on dry land, head to Newquay Zoo, or pick up the coast path and take in the seascapes from the rugged clifftops.

Here’s our guide to where to stay and eat, plus what to do, in Newquay.

Where to stay

If you’re on a budget

Budget-conscious travellers should book into the Carnmarth, which has B&B rooms from £60 (based on single occupancy). The best rooms have sweeping sea views, and there’s a beachy bar with an outdoor terrace overlooking the golf course and Atlantic beyond.

Book the hotel here

View from a room at the Carnmarth Hotel [Photo: Carnmarth]

If you’re looking for luxury

For a touch of luxury and quirky decor, book The Colonial at Tolcarne. This newly-opened boutique hotel is tucked away, couched in a cliff at Tolcarne Beach, and offers direct beach access. Choose from vast suites, which feature bespoke four-poster beds and mosaic-tiled balconies overlooking the sea, or wooden cabins right down on the sand that have proper beds and bathrooms.

Book the hotel here

A boutique room at The Colonial at Tolcarne [Photo: Booking.com]

Where to eat

If you’re on a budget

For lunch or breakfast on the hop, head to the small and cosy Jam Jar Cafe, located near the main Sainsbury’s in town. The owner, Jess Davis, bakes all the cakes herself, which range from vegan brownies to rhubarb frangipane. They also serve fresh bagels loaded with avocado or Italian cured meats, smoothies and quirky coffees. Try the Mermaid Latte, made with the superfood blue algae (£3). You can even take your dog to this relaxed, locals’ favourite.

If you’re looking for luxury

You’re really spoilt for choice with places to eat in Newquay. At Fistral Beach, The Fish House is the place to go for an upmarket-but-unfussy lunch or dinner. They serve moules frites and open crab sandwiches at lunch, then switch to an evening menu featuring cooked-to-perfection scallops and an exquisite Indian fish curry. Dinner mains from £16.95, lunch from £7.95.

Fistral beach [Photo: Aaron Parsons]

What to do

If you’re on a budget

For land-lovers looking for something to do that’s also free, you can’t beat a good walk. The South West Coast Path runs right through Newquay and is the must-do walk while you’re here, offering dramatic sea views as far as the eye can see. You could head north towards the wide expanse of Watergate Bay, passing Porth Island, with its Bronze Age barrows. Or venture south towards Holywell Bay – you may recognise some of these landscapes from BBC hit drama Poldark.

An old tin mine near chapel porth at South West Coast Path [Photo: Getty]

If you’re looking for luxury

No trip to Newquay would be complete without getting into the sea. Surfing is the most obvious choice, and Newquay Activity Centre offers surfing lessons at Towan beach and Fistral. Their two-hour taster lessons are ideal for beginners, teaching you the basics from beach safety to stand up surfing (£35 per person). More advanced surfers can simply hire a board and head out on their own (board hire from £12 for two hours).

Surfing lessons at the Newquay Activity Centre [Photo: Aaron Parsons]

How to get there

Newquay is now quicker and easier to reach than ever. This year, a new direct service between Cornwall Airport Newquay and London Heathrow was launched.

The flights operate four times a day, replacing the previous triple-daily service between Newquay and London Gatwick, with one-way fares from £34.99. You can also fly to Newquay from destinations including ManchesterBirmingham and Dublin – meaning getting here no longer has to involve a long schlepp by road.

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Prices were correct at time of publishing.

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