The seaside town that offers a slice of Australia on home turf
Now served by a new easyJet flight, this south-coast gem has beaches to rival down under, consistent surf and lots of great places to eat
I live in Newquay, but still get a giddy sense of excitement whenever I come down to its historic harbour. Tucked away from the hubbub of the high street, it’s sheltered from the wind – and on a sunny day feels almost tropical. Fishing boats come and go, paddleboarders glide through turquoise water and children build sandcastles on the beach. Swimmers forgo wetsuits, making the water look positively balmy.
And there’s an enticing smell of cooking in the air. Last year, The Boathouse restaurant was transformed into a street food market, with pop-up vendors selling everything from fresh burgers to Mexican (the tempura fish tacos are delicious and gluten-free). You can also get your seafood fix – the flagship kitchen, Elseafood, serves delights such as pan-seared scallops, and lobster that couldn’t be fresher, landed just hours earlier in the harbour in front of you.
All this is now in easier reach, thanks to a new flight route between London Gatwick and Newquay operated by easyJet. And though the town is a springboard into the rest of Cornwall, it’s worth visiting in its own right; the beaches are beautiful, activities are on tap and there’s a great dining scene if you know where to look. Luxury is also on offer, with smart, ocean-view rooms at Lewinnick Lodge, and the Aqua Club, a shiny new pool complex at the Headland Hotel. Yes, you’ll still find some neon arcades and grotty clubs here – but there is an increasing number of independent shops, cafes and restaurants that are earning Newquay a better reputation.
Walk down the high street and you’ll pass The Good Lyfe (a plastic-free gift shop), Pavilion Bakery (their Sri Lankan dhal is a great lunchtime takeaway), and ChouKette, which sells homemade French pâtisseries. The tiny Tom Thumb bar has a fun, speakeasy feel and cocktails to rival anything you’ll find in Shoreditch. For cake, Basket is one of my favourites (try their signature carrot and banana), while the new Box & Barber is a great brunch spot, serving everything from spelt pancakes to coconut bowls loaded with acai berries. There’s even a monthly farmers market at the recently revamped Killacourt, a green space flanked by art galleries and independent shops.
Newquay’s obvious draw is surfing – the boardriding boom began here in the sixties and it’s still regarded as the UK’s surf capital. What makes it so good is the range of beaches for all abilities. Fistral Beach is just as good for beginners as it is for pros, frequently hosting international surfing competitions. Lessons and board hire are available from the surf school on the beach.
Other ways to experience Newquay’s shoreline include kayaking, where you can paddle right up to the Tea Caverns – ancient caves, not visible from the land, where 17th-century smugglers would hide their booty of valuable tea and brandy. Stand-up paddleboarding is my go-to way of finding peace, away from the crowds. As well as the satisfaction of powering yourself along, there’s something almost meditative about the rhythmic nature of it.
For adrenaline junkies, there’s coasteering, which involves sea swimming and thrilling cliff jumps. You can hire equipment or book a guided tour through an outfit like Newquay Activity Centre or Surf Sanctuary.
Land lovers may prefer a jaunt along the South West Coast Path. Walk north and you’ll reach Porth Island with its Bronze Age barrows and roundhouse remnants. Or head south – at low tide you can cross the Gannel estuary on foot and reach the pretty village of Crantock with its thatched cottages, family-friendly beach and 400-year-old pub, The Old Albion.
Back in Newquay town, Sushea is another new food venue – and a favourite with locals. The takeaway sushi bar was set up in 2021 by Shea Doran, an Aussie who moved to Newquay in 2016 after travelling through Europe. Looking for an area to enjoy the summer, he googled “the UK’s best surf spot in the UK” – and landed upon Newquay. After one summer, he was hooked on the lifestyle that Newquay offered and has been ever since.
Sushea offers healthy, Asian-inspired fast food in compostable containers. As well as traditional fish options, including line-caught tuna and salmon sushi, the menu features a vegetarian and vegan slant, with delicacies including Okinomiyaki (savoury cabbage pancakes).
For Shea, it’s the perfect post-surf fuel – best eaten on one of the town’s many beaches, which he believes rival those of his native Australia. “The beaches here are beautiful, the surf is consistent and the locals are legends,” he says. “People here care about the environment and you can also take your dog everywhere. It feels like a little version of Australia – I can’t see myself leaving any time soon.”
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