There’s many places to love in Cornwall, but I have to say that the Lizard Peninsula is probably my favourite. Not only is the weather better (no really, that’s a thing!), but there are also some amazing beaches on the Lizard Peninsula. While some are buzzing during the summertime, others are quiet and far from the crowds. Here’s a list of 13 of the best Lizard Peninsula beaches in Cornwall.
Can you believe I lived in Cornwall for over six months and barely made it to the beaches?
In my defence, it was winter – and things were a bit wild and woolly. This meant that when I headed back to Cornwall this July, you bet I was going to check out as many of the beaches as I could!
Since we were staying in south west Cornwall near Helston, it made sense to go for the Lizard Peninsula. This oddly-named peninsula encapsulates England’s most southerly point, and is filled with beautiful beaches and coves.
So, together with my friend Sian and a rather questionable map (that included some instructions scribbled on the back of a paper), we set off to explore the beaches on the Lizard peninsula.
The most beautiful popular coves and beaches on the Lizard Peninsula
The Lizard Peninsula is home to some of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches. The word is well and truly out, however, and you’ll be sharing the beach with other sun hunters. Nonetheless, they’re popular for a reason and well worth checking out.
Perhaps the most famous beach on the Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove has been described as the most beautiful beach in Britain.
Well – I mean, look at it. It’s certainly absolutely gorgeous, with a path that leads you down to the dramatic cove. The jagged cliffs look like they could be a wild Thai island, while the dazzlingly cerulean water yells ‘Bahamas!’.
No doubt, Kynance Cove is an unmissable beach in south Cornwall. As well as the glorious beach, there’s also a lovely little café that does a mean iced coffee.
The only thing to keep in mind with Kynance Cove is that its beauty has made it very, very popular. In high season, the carpark can be full by 10:30am and even when we were there, there was a bumper to bumper traffic jam.
If you can, I recommend going early or late in the afternoon to try to beat some of the crowds.
There are also a number of walks that set off from Kynance Cove and take you along the SPECTACULAR coast. My favourite is to Pentreath Beach, but you can also walk all the way down to Lizard Point.
Type of Beach? Sandy | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? Café, bathrooms | Dog friendly? No, part of the dog ban. | Parking? National Trust operated; free for members. £5 for the day for everyone else.
Located next to an old lifeboat station, Mullion Cove would probably be crawling with visitors if it wasn’t that bit more difficult to reach. Even still, it sees plenty of foot traffic in peak season.
Access is through a cave, so you’ll want to watch out to make sure you don’t get caught at high tide. At low tide, there’s quite a large sandy beach to enjoy.
While visiting, you can also explore the picturesque Mullion Harbour, and there are various amenities nearby. The nearby village of Mullion is the largest on the Lizard, so there are quite a few options for snacks and meals.
The coastline here is absolutely spectacular, so it’s well worth going for a walk along the coast if you have time.
Type of Beach? Sandy | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? Café, bathrooms | Dog friendly? Yes, allowed off-lead all year round | Parking? National Trust operated; free for members. £5 for the day for everyone else.
One of the most unique and picturesque beaches on Lizard Peninsula is definitely Church Cove. Not only does it offer a gorgeous sandy beach, but there’s also a historic and atmospheric church as well.
Starting with the beach, Church Cove is one of the best sandy beaches in Cornwall. There’s a huge swathe of soft sand, and especially in low tide there is plenty of room for everyone.
That’s lucky, because it does get pretty busy. This is especially since it’s one of the famous filming locations for the hit TV show Poldark.
In the summertime, you’ll find lots of visitors all out on the beach. I have got to love how prepared Brits come for a day at the beach – BBQ, sun shade, deck chairs and more – and you’ll see this on show at Church Cove!
What makes this Lizard Peninsula beach unique is that it is overlooked by a beautiful Greystone church called St Wynwalloe. It has stood since at least the 15th century, and probably longer.
You know I love a good cemetery, and St Wynwalloe has a gorgeous one. Even though the beach is best in the warm weather, this is also a great beach to explore when things are a bit more brooding and moody.
Type of Beach? Sandy | Lifeguard on duty? Yes, in peak season. | Facilities? Café, bathrooms | Dog friendly? No, part of the dog ban. | Parking? National Trust operated; free for members. £5 for the day for everyone else.
Another contender for the best sandy beach in southern Cornwall, Poldhu Cove is another fave of mine.
The fact that Poldhu is mostly sheltered by the cliff face means it’s a calm beach that’s great for families. It also helps that there is a lifeguard on duty from late May to August.
Poldhu is also one of the best beaches in Cornwall to learn to surf. It has a surf school which is run by a keen environmentalist, and is suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
So, if you’re hoping to “hang ten” while exploring the beaches along the Lizard Peninsula, then Poldhu is an excellent choice!
There’s a charming beach café selling coffees, ice-creams and some pretty awesome hot chocolates. If you want to work off an indulgent hot chocolate, then there are several coastal paths nearby as well.
Type of Beach? Sandy | Lifeguard on duty? Yes | Facilities? Café, bathrooms, surf school | Dog friendly? No, part of the dog ban. | Parking? Operated by Cornwall Council, up to £5 for the day.
Another horse-shoe shaped sandy bay, Kennack Sands is one of the best family beaches on the Lizard Peninsula.
There are a number of holiday parks in the area which mean you can stay within walking distance of this beautiful beach.
While some of the facilities are a little dated, there’s a lovely “down at the seaside” vibe. The café/tackle store/souvenir shop definitely reminded me of all my Aussie beach breaks as a kid!
There’s plenty of sand here, and the surrounding hills shelter the beach from the wind. As a result, it’s a really popular option with families.
The sheltered conditions also make it a safe spot to learn to surf, and there’s a surf school located here.
Type of Beach? Sandy | Lifeguard on duty? ??? | Facilities? Café, bathrooms, surf school | Dog friendly? No, part of the dog ban. | Parking? There is a free carpark up the road – you should see it as you come in. There’s also one right by the beach that is paid.
For serious surfers, there’s Porthleven Beach. That said, you don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy the three glorious miles of beach here.
That said, it is worth noting that there are strong currents at Porthleven Beach. While these are perfect for surfers, it’s not so good for swimmers. While people do swim here occasionally, I really don’t recommend it.
This is especially for weak swimmers or families with children. There are lots of other swimming beaches to enjoy instead!
The beach is a “shingle” (nicer word for rocky) beach, but it’s relatively fine. Overall, Porthleven is a very picturesque beach.
The town of Porthleven is also a highlight of the Lizard Peninsula. There are lots of cafes and shops to enjoy, and the beautiful church is another highlight that’s worth exploring as well.
Type of Beach? Rocky | Lifeguard on duty? Yes, between July and August | Facilities? Bathrooms, shops, cafés, lots to do in the nearby town | Dog friendly? Banned on most of the beach during summer | Parking? Council car park at Kittos Field, £4.50 for 3 – 4 hours, £5.20 for 24 hours.
While Coverack’s beach might not be the most picturesque (it’s a rocky beach), the surrounding harbour views make it one of my favourites.
Coverack is just such a ridiculously picturesque town, with an abundance of cafes and pubs. Then there’s plenty of narrow streets to explore.
The beach here is quite long, and as it is rocky it’s not as popular as some others on the Lizard. You’ll be able to find plenty of space to sit and have a paddle.
The water is super clear, and it’s especially fun for snorkellers. Just keep an eye out for the rocks under the surface, that can be sharp.
Type of Beach? Rocky | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? Lots of shops, cafes, etc nearby | Dog friendly? Only on leads in summer | Parking? There’s a church-operated parking lot that operates on an “honesty box” system.
While many of the Lizard Peninsula’s famous beaches are popular for a reason, it’s also fun to find those hidden gems. Here are a few hidden and secret spots for you to enjoy!
Fair warning – reaching this beach is NOT for the faint of heart. If you’ve got a lot of gear, mobility restrictions or young children then it is probably not currently safe to go to Pentreath Beach.
Due to coastal erosion, the steps down to this beach have crumbled meaning it’s a pretty precarious path down. The good news about this, however, is that it keeps the touristic hordes away!
Pentreath Beach is just a 10 minute walk away from Kynance Cove, along the South West Coastal Path. You’ll first get a view of it above, and it is incredibly beautiful.
If you’re feeling brave you can take the path down to the beach. You’ll be treated to a huge, sandy beach that’s very quiet. Unfortunately, it’s not a swimming beach due to the strong currents.
It’s especially popular with surfers, as it gets some great waves and there’s plenty of space. It’s best for more experienced surfers, and it’s also great fun to watch them do their thing from the beach!
Just keep a special eye out for tides with Pentreath Beach, as it’s an extremely steep journey up and you don’t want to get stranded!
Type of Beach? Sandy | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? None at Portreath | Dog friendly? Yes, allowed off leads all year round | Parking? Park at Kynance Cove (National Trust operated; free for members. £5 for the day for everyone else.)
It’s not exactly a beach in the traditional sense of the word – however, it’s a gorgeous little spot to escape the crowds at the other Lizard Peninsula coves.
Gillan Cove’s main point of difference with the other beaches on this list is that it is by the Helford River. This means it’s a totally hopeless surfing spot, but a gorgeous place to take out a boat.
Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks so – just look at all of them lined up on the shore! If you don’t have your own boat, you can hire one from nearby St Antony to take out.
There’s a small sandy area as well as a larger grassy patch that’s ideal for picnics. From the beach and the grassy area, you’ll get beautiful views over St Antony and its lovely church.
The water is calm and great for swimming. All in all, if you want a quiet and relaxing place that feels totally hidden away – this is the place to go!
It can be reached by first visiting Flushing Cove and then taking the path to the right along to Gillan.
Type of Beach? Sandy/rocky (river) | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? None | Dog friendly? Yes, allowed off leads all year round | Parking? Park where you can near Flushing Cove (free) and then walk down.
Okay, so most important thing about Gunwalloe Beach: you cannot swim here. Ever. Not even the Cornish surfers attempt it, because of the rips and fierce tide.
So, if you’re looking to go swimming at the beach then Gunwalloe is not ideal.
However, if you are looking for a stunning, long strip of sandy and rocky beach that’s not too busy, you should definitely check it out.
Gunwalloe is definitely one of my favourite beaches, as its massive size makes it perfect for long walks. You also might be pleased to hear that it’s dog-friendly all year, so you can run your dog off the lead in high season.
As most tourists are put off by the “no swimming” rule (fair enough), Gunwalloe is quiet even in peak season. Locals call it ‘fisherman’s beach’ and you’re more likely to find locals escaping the tourists than the crowds from “upcountry”.
If you can look past the lack of swimming – I highly recommend checking this one out.
Type of Beach? Sandy/rocky | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? None | Dog friendly? Yes, allowed off leads all year round | Parking? Free parking nearby (limited)
This beach was so darn charming that I’ve got to be honest – I was tempted to keep it all to myself. But, here I am, upholding my journalistic ethics of “the public’s right to know” and sharing with you one of my favourite deserted beaches on the Lizard Peninsula.
Bad things first: this beach is kind of rocky, and the sand is volcanic, so it’s got a definite greyish/black tint. It’s not one of those flour-white beaches you see on the postcards.
Even still, this gorgeous beach is such a delight. To get there, you need to make your way from the picturesque farming town of Rosenithon. Arriving at the beach – via a field filled with cows – is such a thrill; you feel like a real adventurer.
It helps that the beach is long and beautiful, with calm water to tempt you in for a swim. There aren’t really any conveniences nearby which is a big part of the charm – this is a place to totally forget your worries and just enjoy the moment.
Type of Beach? Rocky | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? None | Dog friendly? Yes, allowed off leads all year round | Parking? Free parking in the village nearby (limited)
If you want to combine a visit to the Lizard Peninsula’s beaches with a beautiful garden then you’d best head for Durgan Beach.
This is a hidden-away gem, nestled right at the bottom of Glendurgan Gardens (a National Trust site in Cornwall). As you leave the gates of the garden, you are surprised to find a tiny little fishing village centred around Durgan Beach.
The cove is small and rocky, and gets nearly entirely swallowed up by the water at high tide. However, it is so beautiful with the little village nearby, and almost unknown to other visitors.
It’s not necessarily somewhere you’d spend a whole day, but it’s well worth spending an hour or so and grabbing a tea or coffee from the nearby shop. If you have a boat, there’s a ramp where you can launch it from.
Type of Beach? Rocky | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? Café, bathrooms at Glendurgan Gardens | Dog friendly? Yes, allowed off leads all year round | Parking? National Trust carpark at Glendurgan, free for members or £2 per day
This is a fairly small beach in the Lizard, but it’s one of my favourites! I mean look at it – have you ever seen a more Cornish tableau?
Surrounding by dramatic cliffs, countryside and stone houses, Dollar Cove is impossibly pretty. There’s also quite a bit of sand, although higher up is rocky.
It sees far less foot traffic than nearby Church Cove, so if you prefer your beaches that bit quieter than this is a great place to go.
It’s also dog-friendly so if you’ve got your pooch in tow, you’d better head here!
Perhaps my favourite thing about Dollar Cove is how it got its name. A Spanish ship, the San Salvador, was wrecked near here back in 1664. Part of what was lost was a huge cargo of coins from all over the world.
Many locals swear that coins are still washing up on the beach in bad weather to this very day. While I’ve never found one, I sure do keep my eyes out for a dollar from Dollar Cove every time I visit!
Type of Beach? Sandy/rocky | Lifeguard on duty? No | Facilities? Nearby café/bathrooms at Church Cove | Dog friendly? Yes, dogs allowed all year round. | Parking? Park at Church Cove (National Trust operated; free for members. £5 for the day for everyone else.)
Tips for visiting the Lizard Peninsula beaches
- Probably the most important thing to keep in mind when visiting the beaches on the Lizard Peninsula is the tides. Especially with the coves, you can easily find yourself cut off and trapped on the rocks as the tide comes in quickly and can cut off the path back up. Check the tides in advance and keep a close eye on them while you visit the beach – they come in REALLY fast!
- Another thing to be aware of when visiting the coves and beaches of the Lizard Peninsula is parking. In high season, some of the more popular beaches can get incredibly busy and parking fills up by mid-morning. If you want to guarantee parking, go early, or perhaps try a less popular beach.
- I’d definitely consider visiting some of Cornwall’s lesser known beaches. They are just as beautiful, but without the massive crowds. While I recommend the larger beaches for families (as they have lifeguards on duty), competent swimmers and walkers can easily reach some of the more hidden gems.
- Watch out for the sun!!! I, an arrogant Australian moron, was bragging about how I don’t burn in England. HA! As I write this, I am shifting uncomfortably in my chair trying to avoid irritating my very, very sunburned back. Be sure to be sun smart and watch out for the rays!
- There are a number of beaches on the Lizard which are victims (depending on who you ask) of Cornwall’s controversial ‘dog ban’. I’m not touching that debate with a ten foot stick, but it’s worth noting that walking your dog on those beaches between 7am and 7pm in summer season (typically Easter to September) leaves you liable for a £80 fine. Ouch! For full details of the ban, check here.