Think Cornwall, think beaches – that's just the way it goes down in this salt-washed corner of South West England. With more than 400 miles of coastline to get through, it's hardly a surprise that there's a beach in these parts to suit all sorts of tastes and adventurers.

    In the north, Cornwall draws its energy from the bashing swells of the Atlantic. You can go there to find blustery stretches of dune-backed shoreline where hardy surfers brave the waves. In the south, the airs are noticeably warmer, even subtropical, bringing a hint of the Caribbean to this white-sand part of the UK. Check out our guide to the best beaches in Cornwall.

    1

    Porthcurno Beach

    Where Cornwall converges on the Caribbean

    Porthcurno Beach is considered one of the stand-out jewels of the Penwith Heritage Coast. It's folded into the rugged headlands just a little southeast of where Land's End marks the very tip of the county. That helps to keep the spot relatively remote and empty, even during the height of the summer months.

    But no matter the location, there's always a crowd down on Porthcurno Beach. White-tinged sands and perfectly blue waters help to see to that. They're the reason for the regular comparisons with the Caribbean. For an extra surprise, you can walk the coast path around to Pedn Vounder Beach, where dramatic granite rocks and glimmering tide pools frame a hidden and beautiful cove.

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    2

    Holywell Bay

    Sharp rocks and sea caves in north Cornwall

    Holywell Bay has shipwrecks, tidal cave systems, ocean rock stacks – just about all the ingredients you'd expect of a wild and rugged north Cornwall beach. It sits just outside the village of the same name, about 15 minutes by car from the surf mecca of Newquay.

    The main feature you'll notice right away is the jagged backbone of Gull Rock, split in 2 and bashed by Atlantic waves out at sea. Before is a sweep of grassy dunes and craggy headlands. When the waves are up, Holywell is a hotspot for bodyboarders, but rock pooling and exploring in St. Cuthbert's Cave are also possibilities at low tide.

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    3

    Perranporth

    A long length of wild Cornish shoreline

    Perranporth hides below the green pastures and cider farms at the northern extremity of the St Agnes Heritage Coast. About 20 minutes' drive from Newquay, it unfolds for nearly 2 miles between a duo of muscular headlands. Just behind is the quaint village of Perranporth itself, where sailor's taverns gaze out towards the ocean.

    During the summer, when the calmer waves come, the spot is perfect for soaking up the rays and snorkelling in the small coves to the south side of the beach. In winter, it's often busy with surfers and storm-watching ramblers on the South West Coast Path.

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    4

    Carbis Bay

    Clear blue waters for cooling off in the Cornish summer

    Carbis Bay is blessed with its own unique microclimate and some of the cleanest, clearest waters in the UK. This spot, just a couple of miles out of the artsy village of St Ives, offers up subtropical blooms of cabbage palms next to beaches that wouldn't look out of place on a Greek island.

    Blue Flag ratings testify to the bay’s natural splendour, making it one of the most popular summertime getaway destinations in the county. But don't let that put you off – swimming is a must-do in Carbis Bay, while the cute array of whitewashed cottages and cream-tea cafés just behind is a real gift.

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    5

    Lantic Bay

    Escape from it all on the South Coast

    Lantic Bay is cut off from civilisation by a 20-minute-long walking path that wiggles through pockets of gorse and grassland on the headlands around Fowey. It's managed by the National Trust, so comes with a dedicated car park that's around a 20-minute drive away from pretty little Looe.

    The trek to the bay itself is a joy on its own. You'll get gorgeous views of the English South Coast extending out to clusters of tidal pools and high farmlands on the hill. Then comes the beach – it's a mix of smooth pebbles and white sand, often washed by calm seas that host the occasional paddleboarder.

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    6

    Summerleaze Beach

    For families in search of good old British beach days

    Summerleaze Beach is the main sandy stretch of the surf and seaside resort of Bude. It runs right in front of the town itself, within walking distance of Bude Castle and all the little seafood eateries that are tucked into the centre. During the summer months, it's a popular spot with families staying in colourful Victorian beach houses.

    Watersports are big on Summerleaze, with kayak rentals dotting the shoreline. It has a sheltered sea pool, which allows swimmers to take a dip without having to worry about the waves. There are lots of local surf schools in the vicinity for when the swells do kick up.

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    7

    Pendower Beach

    A loveable south Cornwall treat

    Pendower Beach is among the top draws of the much-loved Roseland Peninsula. Around 13 miles south of Truro, it's a sandy getaway with 180° views of the English Channel. At high tide, it's closed off by pine-topped headlands. At low tide, it merges with the nearby Carne Beach to create a long stretch of shoreline that goes for over a mile.

    Relatively calm waters make Pendower popular with wild swimmers and paddleboarders. Sometimes, it's also possible to spot the silhouette of horse riders galloping across the sands. A cluster of quaint cottages and B&Bs sit just behind the entrance to the beach, and there are good lookout points with parking just to the west of the bay.

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    8

    Kynance Cove

    Views that really sum up Cornwall

    Kynance Cove pokes out into the Celtic Sea from the end of the Lizard Heritage Coast, just a whisker away from the most southerly point on the mainland of the United Kingdom. You'll want to have your camera at the ready when you arrive. The beach hosts a cluster of chipped ocean rocks and fells that are separated by the occasional dash of cotton-tinged sand – stunning!

    There are some wonderful cliff walks that take you through the subtropical vegetation of the Lizard reserve. Then, when you're done, be sure to check out Kynance Cove town, where cream tea and Cornish pasties await in cosy little cafés.

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    9

    Gwithian

    Windblown and wavy

    Gwithian rolls out between the wild coves of Godrevy and the lovely white sands of Carbis Bay. Within reach – no more than 20 minutes in the car – of both St Ives and Hayle, it's a popular escape in the summer months, known mainly for its abundance of space and dramatic sweeps of coastal dunes.

    Gwithian also happens to be one of the best surf spots in the region, considered a bit of a swell magnet that picks up any waves rolling in off the Atlantic. Wildlife lovers should be sure to hit the coastal path that runs around the beach. The dunes are a habitat for lots of seabirds, and seals are a regular sight towards the rocky stacks in the north.

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    10

    Gwynver Beach

    Soft sands and surf spots

    Gwynver Beach is the northern end of Sennen Cove. At high tide, it's completely cut off from its more popular compadre, which means you'll need to access it via the pretty coastal path that runs down from a car park just off the A30.

    The approach is Cornwall through and through. The headlands are green and covered with wildflowers by the springtime, while sheep scuttle across sections of farm pasture all around. Below, the sands of Gwynver shine a distinctly tropical white, and surfers bob on waves before clusters of slate-topped cottages.

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    Joseph Francis | Contributing Writer

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