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Cornwall is famous for several things, from its fantastic surfing spots, Cornish pasties and of course Cornish ice cream. But it is also known for having many quaint and delightful seaside towns perfect for holidays or days out.
With that in mind, during our trip to Cornwall, we decided to stay in Newquay and use it as a base while we explored the surrounding towns. However, after spending the day in St Ives, we realised that this town located just 30 miles away was just as popular, which led to us asking which? St Ives or Newquay.
If you’re only in Cornwall for 24 hours, we’d recommend visiting St Ives and exploring the unique cafes, boutique shops and Harbour. However, suppose you’re looking to spend three days onwards in the region. In that case, Newquay will be a better base location as it has a more extensive range of accommodation, activities and dining experiences.
In this article, I will be breaking down what each seaside town has to offer from things to do, accommodation and which we feel is better.
An Introduction To Newquay
Newquay is one of the largest towns in Cornwall, located on the north coast of the region. Here you can find one of the UK’s best surfing spots Fistral Beach leading out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Newquay has over ten beaches perfect for everyone to explore, from families, couples and even dogs. So even if you find Fistral Beach a little too busy or not for you, there are plenty more to explore along the coastline.
Things To Do In Newquay
Cornwall itself is famous for its beautiful beaches and fantastic surfing spots, but Newquay holds one of the best places to surf in England – Fistral Beach. Along with Fistral Beach, you can find surfers of all levels heading into the waves for the day.
You can see everyone of all ages and abilities surfing at Fistral Beach, which makes it a popular place for surf schools to go. So even if you are a complete beginner or looking to practice, there are plenty of others doing the same thing.
You can join a class, course or just a 1-time session at many of the surf schools within Newquay. There is also the opportunity to hire a wetsuit and board if you want to dust off your skills or try it out on your own.
Have A Beach Day
Newquay is home to a variety of beaches perfect for everyone, from families to surfers to couples. The beaches in Newquay are
There are more than ten beaches in Newquay, each with its view, unique draws and beautiful light sand. Beach days in Newquay are very similar to what you might find abroad, especially during the summer months when the sun is shining, and the waves are crashing in.
Many families pack up their chairs, beach towels and suncream for a day of building sandcastles, eating ice cream and enjoy a cool dip in the sea.
You can join an instructed tour with many of the different dive and snorkelling companies located in the area or go out on your own.
You can find several excellent companies in the area to book an activity package with, which includes wetsuits and equipment hire. Snorkelling and scuba diving is very popular in Newquay, so it’s recommended you book in advance if you’re going during peak season.
Go Kayaking Or Canoeing
Along with surfacing, another very popular activity in Newquay is canoeing or kayaking. Either of these activities is great for those who aren’t as interested in surfing and want to see more of the hidden gems of the Cornish Coast.
You can find several excellent companies to book an activity package with, which includes complimentary hire of wetsuits and equipment.
During our visit to Newquay, we opted to use the Newquay Activity Center for all of our activity bookings. We chose this company due to the broad range of activities available and rave reviews online. However, as we were visiting in August (the height of peak season), we had to book all our activities one month in advance to ensure availability.
Visit The Aquarium
No real seaside town is complete without an aquarium, and Newquay has its very own situated on the promenade of Towan Beach, a short walk from the main town centre.
The aquarium is a great place to stop by and explore if you have children, as there are many activities and interactive elements alongside the marine wildlife.
Places To Stay In Newquay
Another great way of comparing these two great Cornish seaside towns is by comparing the range of accommodation. While there is a range of choices in both places, you may find more variety within Newquay, especially for those booking as a family. Below are examples of places to stay in Newquay;
Lazy Waves B&B
Lazy Waves B&B is where we stayed on our week-long visit to Newquay, and we loved it. Jayne, Dean and family were the friendliest hosts and presented a wonderful place to stay. We found the b&b perfect as we got all the local knowledge you need for where to park, where to eat and even help to book reservations during the peak times.
The room was comfortable and had everything we needed, along with a beautiful home-cooked breakfast every morning to start the day off right. They had a separate lounge and dining area complete with a small bar and terrace at the front, which overlooked Towan Beach.
The Headland Hotel & Spa
Located on the headland at Fistral Beach, The Headland Hotel & Spa is one of the most popular hotels in Newquay. The hotel has stunning views and a variety of accommodation styles, from luxurious hotel rooms to stylish self-catering cottages.
The Headland Hotel is a great place to stay, especially for anyone looking to indulge in a luxury accommodation experience on their trip.
You can find more places to stay in Newquay using the browse box below;
An Introduction To St Ives
St Ives is home to a picturesque fishing harbour with cute cobbled streets packed with boutique shops, art galleries and delightful cafes full of fresh produce. It’s easy to see why it’s often referred to as the jewel in the crown of Cornwall’.
From St Ives, you can walk the coastal path to Lands End, where you can experience being at the very edge of England.
Things To Do In St Ives
When looking at whether St Ives is the seaside town for you, you’ll likely want to explore the options of things to do. Luckily, St Ives has no shortage of options, including;
Visit The Beaches
Much like many of the seaside towns in Cornwall, St Ives has around four main beaches located a short walk from the main town, so even if you are only visiting for a day, you can still grab the chance for a bit of sea and sand.
Porthmeor is the most popular among the four, which looks over the Atlantic ocean and backs onto the Tate Gallery. The Harbour beach is located close to the town and may often be one of the busiest with day visitors to explore St Ives.
Pack your bucket and spade for a beach day and enjoy an ice cream (or two!) as you can find some stunning spots within the beaches at St Ive’s to sit back and enjoy the views.
Visit The Tate Gallery
The Tate Gallery opened its doors in 1993 and is located on Porthmeor Beach inside a three-storey white building with a circular frontage, making it almost impossible to miss. The gallery is home to a wide range of contemporary art, including pieces from homegrown talent such as Alfred Wallis.
The Tate Gallery offers something unique and an experience, especially for those interested in art or looking to expand their horizons.
Go On A Boat Trip
There are several different boat trips you can go on in St Ives, but one of the most popular is to Seal Island. Here you can get the chance to see adorable seals relaxing in the sunshine and splashing around in the water.
Seal Island is located 3.5 miles from St Ives harbour and is just one of the attractions on the boat tour. You may also see other wildlife on your travels, along with beautiful views of Porthmoer beach and the Cornish Coast.
Explore St Ives Harbour
The town of St Ives is situated around the Harbour. Here you’ll find beautiful shops, delicious eateries and tasty ice cream parlours along with a small beach and stunning views.
At the Harbour, you can see beautiful turquoise waters with charming fishing boats bobbing along. We also noticed on our visit that stopping off at the pier was popular, especially for those catching crabs in buckets and nets.
Along the Harbour, you can find an array of shops and cafes to explore and enjoy with unique gifts to take home and freshly cooked food to boast about to friends and family on your return.
Surfing In St Ives
Of course, much like the rest of Cornwall, St Ives offers up the opportunity for surfing lessons and getting out on your board. Of course, there are fewer schools and accessibility compared to Newquay, but all the same, a great place to learn to surf or try a new location for surfing.
Surfing in St Ives is most popular on Porthmeor, especially during the summer months. The sheltered beach offers up steady and calmer waves that are perfect for beginners just getting started. Alternatively, the same beach can be a hive of activity and crashing waves in the winter months for those with more experience.
Walk The Coastal Walk To Land’s End
One of the more unique activities in St Ives is to head out on a 24-mile coastal walk to Lands End. This is a fantastic opportunity to see more of the Cornish coast and take breathtaking photographs of the surrounding landscape.
The 24-mile walk takes approximately 8.5 hours, with a mixture of slight inclines and declines. The marked path takes you through several smaller towns and villages on the route with shops and cafés to stop at for a break.
Places To Stay In St Ives
St Ives, much like Newquay, has a variety of places to stay, from b&b’s, hotels and holiday cottages. Some of our favourites include;
St Ives Harbour Hotel & Spa
The St Ives Harbour Hotel & Spa is situated on the edge of the cliff overlooking Porthminster Beach. The hotel itself has several rooms, all furnished in a modern style. Along with excellent services, the hotel is also home to a restaurant that serves up fresh dishes caught in the Habour that very morning.
And if you’re looking to relax, check out the on-site spa with an indoor and outdoor pool, fitness room, sauna, and treatment rooms for massages.
Beersheba Farm – Wildflower Wood Glamping
There are plenty of campgrounds, holiday parks and caravan parks on the outer perimeter of St Ives, but I chose to showcase this particular one as it was unique, cute and individual from the rest.
The Beersheba Farm is a great place to stay if you are looking for a unique experience, looking to stay somewhere that is a little more in touch with nature but still has the benefits of the seaside town of St Ives.
You can find more places to stay in St Ives using the browse box below.