Best for scenery
This was a toss up between Porthcurno and Kynance coves. Both are on the south Cornish coast and both are undeniably beautiful. In the end I decided to opt for Porthcurno as I could invent another section for Kynance!
Porthcurno is best known for 2 things; the clear, turqoise water and the Minack Theatre. The Minack is an open air theatre perched on the cliffs above the cove with the Atlantic Ocean as a back drop. It was largely constructed by one woman, Rowena Cade, during the late 1920s.
The Minack aside, Porthcurno abounds in natural beauty and drama. It is no wonder that more than one succesful photographer have built their careers on this location.
The cove itself is set in a valley between high granite cliffs which seem to form into rounded cubic blocks in places. At the extreme southern headland is Logan Rock, a several ton stone that in the past could be rocked back and forth.
As mentioned before the sea here is a stunning green-blue. This is attributed to the reflective properties of the coarse sand of broken sea shells.
As an added bonus Porthcurno can be witness to some fierce Atlantic storms and huge crashing waves just add to the drama.
Check out Virtual Cornwall for a 360 panorama of Porthcurno
Best beach for surfing
Again another tough call as the North Cornish coast is full of great surf beaches and the south coast has some rare but classic spots. However, I think I am going to be very conservative and opt forthe best known of them all, Fistral Beach in Newquay. Other contenders would be Porthtowan, Penhale/Perranporth and Praa Sands but it is Fistral that is the most consistent and flexible.
Facing west with just a hint of south Fistral picks up plenty of Atlantic swell. What happens to this swell depends on which end of the beach you are at.
South Fistral is a little more sheltered from both the swell and southerly winds. There are often some quality lefts to be had here.
North Fistral is the main stretch of sand in the middle of the beach. Unlike many beaches on the north coast it can hold a decent sized swell and works through the tide. The best waves are often fast hollow rights at low tide.
Little Fistral is at the far north of the beach and only surfable at low tide because of the rocks inside. Again this is a spot capable of producing quality lefts and rights.
On the downside, Fistral is one of the best known beaches in Europe and as a result can get very crowded. In the summer, if it is less than 4 ft it probably isn't even worth thinking about. In the winter though there are still plenty of days when you can get an epic session.
Oh, and before you do go, check out my article on surfing slang so you can sound like the real deal (or not!!)
Best beach for eating
With Cornwall's recent elevation in the foodie stakes there are a host of beachside cafes catering for all wallets. The best known (but by no means best) is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's 15 at Watergate Bay. Other contenders include the Blue Bar at Porthtowan and the Beach in Sennen. However, the general consensus seems to be that the Porthminster Beach Cafe in St Ives ticks all the right boxes. It isn't cheap but manages to pull off relaxed beachside dining with well presented, quality, fresh food.
Porthminster Beach itself is a Blue Flag beach nestling under the cliffs on the edge of St Ives. The sand is fine and the sea is rarely rough making it agreat beach to relax and enjoy some fancy food!
Best family beach
Any of the beaches with the Blue Flag award are pretty safe choices for a family day out. The award is based not only on the quality of the water but facilities such as lifeguards, toilets, access etc. 3 of these beaches are in St Ives (incl Porthminster above) Other's include Marazion, Polzeath, Sennen, Porthtowan and Crooklets in Bude.
My choice would probably be Marazion for a couple of reasons. Whilst all these beaches are safe and have all the facilities you need they don't all have the things kids love, i.e. rock pools and streams. Marazion has both of these and being set in the shelter of Mount's Bay is pretty safe. The beach here slopes so gently that it is a long walk to get out of your depth too.
An added bonus of Marazion is the fact you have a whopping great castle on an island as a back drop! If you get bored you can always take a boat ride (or walk at low tide) over to St Micheal's Mount.
Of course if you have an action family, or older kids then maybe one of the north coast beaches might be more suitable with Sennen topping my list here. There is nearly always some surf here and the beach is more than adequately lifeguarded.
Best for smuggling!
Perhaps the best known smuggler in Cornwall was John Carter - the King of Prussia. Carter and his brothers, Harry and Charles ran their smuggling operation from the small cove that was then known as Porthleah.
Located about 6 miles east of Penzance the cove provided a natural harbour offering both shelter and seclusion. It is even said that the caves in the cliffs where connected to the house above via series of secret passage.