Who goes camping in Cornwall without visiting the beach? Nobody, that’s who. From Padstow to Penzance, Lizard Point to Looe Harbour, this is a county famous for its coastline and whether you plan to spend your day walking the South West Coast Path, swimming in the sea or simply lazing on the sand doing absolutely nothing at all, any camping holiday in Cornwall is likely to be focused around the beach.
While we love an inland campsite as much as anyone – in Cornwall they’re particularly good for escaping the crowds – there are a handful of smaller campsites along the coast, too, which are always the top of our ‘must visit’ list. Just a flip-flop away from the beach, these campsites are the ideal places to forget the car for a week and enjoy having the seaside slap bank on your tentstep. So grab the beach ball and don your swimwear. It’s off to the beach we go!
This spacious, eco-friendly campsite has around 40 camping pitches, almost all with sea views. A sign in the campsite points you in the direction of the nearest beach: Head down an old mining path that leads through a picturesque valley, for around 15 minutes, to Porthtowan Beach – wide, sandy and popular with surfers. Book a lesson at Porthtowan Surf School or hire a bodyboard from Tris Surf Shop. The campsite is a hub of community life too: Locals tend to the organic vegetables in the vast allotment patch and well-stocked polytunnels, which are used in the excellent on-site café. Affable owner Tim also organises a number of courses, events and workshops through summer.
This is a campsite that’s stayed true to its roots after the farmer first began offering pitches to the occasional hiker on the coastal path back in the 1960s. Today there’s still a relaxed pitch-where-you-like set up and campers are largely trusted to be self-sufficient, with Ray, the friendly kayak-hire guy, popping up just a couple of times a day to check on things and take payments. It’s a hilly but short 10–15 minute walk to the village of Gorran Haven – a cobble of quaint seaside shops selling buckets and spades, a café and a general store – then head on to the sheltered sand and shingle of Vault beach, just west of the village, or to Hemmick beach, which is a little further.
Tucked in the far southwestern corner of the British Isles, a minor league football club have introduced a small campsite next to their playing field. Showers, toilets and sinks are already in place inside the main changing rooms. There is a clubhouse bar, with cheap drinks and a great community atmosphere. If you don’t mind that slightly makeshift, pop-up campsite feel, then you can’t go far wrong here. Walk 15 minutes to quaint Mousehole, an appealing fishing village centred around its picturesque old harbour – speckled with colourful dinghies, it boasts a sandy crescent beach when the tide is out.
It takes just 10–15 minutes to walk from East Crinnis Farm to Carlyon Bay, with Par Sands Beach and St Austell Bay also within easy walking distance. Traditionalists can pitch on one of the campsite’s large, flat, grassy spaces, which are divided up by well-established hedges. For those in search of creature comforts, log cabins and geodesic glamping domes are also available and evenings around the campfire (with storytelling sessions through summer) are popular with everyone. For a longer walk, takes 45 minutes to walk to Charleston harbour, following high cliff edges that offer dramatic views.
Treveague Farm has everything a really good seaside campsite needs, located within easy reach of three sandy coves. While kids gravitate to the farm animals, playground and storytelling sessions in the Secret Garden, make sure you find time for a stroll down to the beach. That’s what this place is really all about. It’s a 15 minute relaxed walk to Hemmick Beach. Hemmick beach is a lesser-known sandy seaside spot. At low tide you can explore the many tiny coves. Gorran Haven is slightly further but has more facilities, and boasts an ancient harbour and an excellent old pub. Vault and its clear blue waters are just a little further away still.
This tiny campsite just up the slopes from Mawgan Porth Beach has just five camping pitches, each with the option of hiring a bell tent if you don’t have your own gear. For those seeking seclusion it’s an ideal choice. The size and sleepy nature of the place give it a traditional, back-to-basics feel, yet busy Newquay is still within easy driving (or long coastal walking) distance. It’s a 10-minute walk across the farm to the Mawgan Porth, where sands are backed by intriguing rock pools that children love.
There’s cove after cove within strolling distance of this farm campsite at the very tip of Cornwall, so you don’t have to go far. The nearest is Pedn Vounder, a tiny, isolated slip of golden sand accessed by a 10-minute cliff-top walk and a five-minute rocky scramble from the campsite; it’s never busy, but it does get cut off at high tide, so keep an eye out. At low tide, you can walk along the sand to Green Bay and the larger Porthcurno beach, a popular family favourite and much more accessible. If that’s not enough beach for your buck, it’s just 10 minutes in the car to Sennen on the north coast, where Whitesands Bay provides a huge, sweeping arch of yellow, fluffy sand and one of Cornwall’s best surfing spots. And the campsite? Well, caravans aren’t permitted, there are comprehensive facilities and there’s a good pub down the lane. Spot on.
These luxury abodes, although not exactly surfside, are within a 20 minute walk of Bude’s beaches and the bustling surf scene. After a long day battling the waves, these cosy eco-pods are the perfect retreat from the elements. There are over 50 regular camping pitches too, though it’s the glamping units that really steal the limelight. With king-sized beds, heated showers and solar-powered lighting, these pods are designed for comfort. Each pod comes with cooking equipment, extra futons for additional pod-mates, and underfloor heating during the chillier months. The star of the show, Ocean View Treehouse, is six metres up and looks out towards Widemouth Bay.
With its no frills, back-to-basics approach, Cerenety proves you can still enjoy the wilder side of camping on a regular campsite. Across Cerenety’s seven sprawling acres, there’s plenty of space to run around like wild things. The site is eco-friendly, with compost loos, solar panels and recycled materials ingeniously put to use in the site’s rustic, efficient amenities. Children flock to bottle-feed lambs, and alpacas roam a few feet shy of the tents. It’s a 20-minute stroll to Bude’s stunning Summerleaze, Crooklets and Widemouth beaches. Think surfing, sand, cool waterfront cafés and amusement arcades. For something quieter, the campsite also has a ‘secret beach’ just five minutes walk from camp.
This campsite is at the UK’s most south westerly point – quite literally our lands end. The site is well- sheltered and intimate with just 12 pitches available, plus two cosy bell tents for glampers. This area is now famous for spotting rare migratory birds, located within a Cornish Mining Heritage Site. Head through the surrounding Cot Valley and follow the footpaths to the coast, just 15 minutes away, or to the wild moorlands of Penwith. Cape Cornwall is just a 30 minute walk away if you want to admire the spectacular view from the NCI lookout station.
By Lauren Green. February 2021.
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