Newquay enjoys a giant-size reputation as the Surfing Capital of Great Britain. The Atlantic rollers that break across its wide, sandy beaches draw surfers from all over the world, while the busy nightlife offers numerous outlets for any energy not burned up on the beaches.
Fistral Beach © Travel About Britain
But Newquay has not always been as big and brash. It started life in the Middle Ages as a humble fishing village named Towan Blystra (Cornish: Blown Sand-dunes) but took its first steps to fame and a new name when the Bishop of Exeter provided the funds to build a "new quay", hence the modern name. The coming of passenger trains in 1876 sparked the tourist explosion and today nine long, inviting beaches attract everyone from families with children to hikers who delight in bracing walks across the surrounding cliffs. There are good shopping, pleasant pubs and restaurants, many hotels and holiday parks, in fact, all you would expect from Cornwall's prime beaching resort.
If you can tear yourself away from the sea, the Trenance Leisure Gardens offers pleasant walks, tennis courts, bowling greens, boating lake, a miniature railway and Newquay Zoo. To the east of the town lies the peaceful river Gannel and the quaint village of Crantock with its ancient smugglers pub. The old harbour tucked away beneath a protective headland introduces a different Newquay. Here the boats of crab and lobster fishermen sit dreaming of the old days when great shoals of pilchards were hauled ashore on Newquay's beaches.
High on the headland above the harbour stands the old Huer's Hut from which the obscure Cornish cry "Heva Heva" would send fishermen scurrying to their boats when a pilchard shoal was sighted out in the bay. Although there are few pilchards left in these waters today, the traditional Cornish Hevva Cake is still cooked and eaten by the local people.
Towan Headland © Travel About Britain
The key area for surfing is to the west of the town, at Fistral Bay, where Atlantic rollers break constantly along its shallow beach. The larger bay area above the town centre is divided into a number of smaller beaches, each of which provides excellent seaside amenities. The beaches here are particularly popular with bathers, due to its more sheltered location. Porth Beach to the east is backed by rocky cliffs with caves that were once used by smugglers. An island at the edge of the cliffs here is joined to the mainland by a slender suspension bridge.
An interesting facet of Newquay's nautical past is represented by the Cornish Pilot Gig's. These are 32 feet long, 6 oared, narrow rowing boats which are often seen racing out on the water. Their original purpose was to race out to large ships attempting to navigate a passage up the Bristol Channel. The first boat to reach a ship would transfer its pilot to the vessel and thus earn a welcome navigational fee.
Newquay Harbour © Travel About Britain
Newquay Cornwall Airport, Cornwall's major airport, is located just a few kilometres east of the town and provides links to many parts of the UK and Overseas. Newquay Railway Station is the terminus of the Atlantic Coast Line from Par while coach services connect to various parts of the UK.
Surfing is the most popular water sport in Newquay. The resort has nine beaches of firm, long golden sands, which are some of the best and safest in Cornwall. The most sheltered is Towan but the best beach for surfing is Fistral, where surfing contests are often held and where you can learn to surf with tuition from a professional.
New and exciting aquarium experience, designed to inspire a deeper understanding of the marine environment. Giant ocean tank with walk through tunnels so you can get up close to sharks, rays and giant octopus, plus a wide variety of other colourful sea creatures.
Opening times: every day from 10am (exc. Xmas).
Location: Rowan Promenade, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7 1DU - Tel: 01637 878134 Website
Facilities: Cafe, gift shop, wheelchair access.
From within its sheltered walls on Towan Head, the Huer would call through a horn from the watchtower when he sighted a shoal of pilchards near the shore. The original site of the Huer's Hut or House, possibly dates back to the 14th century but the current oval shape structure is circa mid 19th century. It was once owned by the Lord of the Manor, Colonel Treffry, but later purchased by the local council who converted it into a public shelter. It is now a Grade II listed building and no longer used as a shelter.
Located to the west of the town, the gardens provide a wealth of flowering plants, trees and shrubs, set in 26 acres of landscaped parkland. This area of town has a particularly mild micro-climate, so the range of plants is often quite exotic. The park and gardens offer a range of activities for all ages, including a swimming pool, boating lake and even a zoo.
Enjoy an exciting real wildlife experience and see over 130 different animal species, from big cats to zebra, antelope and penguins. Set in sub-tropical lakeside gardens. A modern award-winning zoo, where you can have fun and learn too.
Opening times: all year (exc Xmas), daily, 10am to 5pm
Location: Trenance Gardens, Newquay, TR7 2NN - Tel: 0844 474 2244 - Website
Facilities: Parking, cafe, shop, children's play area, activity trails.