We’ve asked local expert Rowen Campbell for her favourite spots to go paddle boarding in Cornwall. If you want to know the best Cornwall SUP spots, read on!
Cornwall is one of England’s most popular holiday destinations – national tourists flock for the cream teas, the pasties, and the amazing beaches, but also, in recent years, for the paddleboarding.
Paddle boarding in Cornwall offers a unique way to appreciate this glorious county. There are so many options for launching your paddleboard in Cornwall, it really is tough to narrow it down. With all the rivers and coastline, there are plenty of spots for all abilities, and scope to see some of the most visited tourist spots in England from a totally new perspective.
I usually have at least one of my daughters with me when I’m paddling (great half term activity!), so I’m recommending spots with scope for mixed strengths, and with toilets and refreshments nearby. Here are my current tips for the best places for paddleboarding in Cornwall.
The Best Places to Go Paddleboarding in Cornwall
Want to have a go on a paddleboard in Cornwall? Here are the best places to launch from…
Rowen CampbellWriter specialising in photography, the arts and lifestyle
Rowen Campbell is a marketing manager and copywriter with experience across many sectors. She loves to tell a story and when she’s not writing, you’ll find her outside on an adventure, or curled up somewhere with a good book.
1. Paddleboarding at Helford Passage
The River Helford is an ideal spot for paddleboarding in Cornwall, and this stretch heading out towards Falmouth Bay has such clear water. It’s perfect for swimming too when the water is calmer. Helford Passage is on the north side of the river, where there is a small car park. It’s pay and display, about 100m up the hill from the beach, and there is a £2 fee to launch from the beach, payable at the kiosk.
The road is very narrow in places and as with many places in Cornwall, if you’re not there early, you might struggle to get parked; there is no overflow car park here.
Do check conditions before you launch because while the shore is generally quite sheltered, the river does move quickly especially when the wind gets up or the tide is getting up speed. The south shore and Helford village probably looks a lot closer than it actually is, and with the number of boats – both moored and enjoying the river – it can be busy, and potentially hazardous. I’m quite happy hugging the shore here because there are some really beautiful gardens that front onto the water! My advice is to head upstream first and explore some of the many creeks – look out for water birds on your travels – and then the return journey is much easier, going with the flow.
The Ferryboat Inn is well known locally for their menu and if you’re planning to head there for something to eat, consider booking in advance to make sure you get a spot.
2. Paddleboarding in Padstow – Dennis Cove
Dennis Cove is on the southern edge of Padstow. The town is busy all year round and so too is the water around it. Don’t let that put you off though as the Camel Estuary is a beautiful place to explore by SUP.
Unless you are an experienced paddler, my advice would be to avoid the temptation to paddle into town. All the hazards are here; very busy with boats, a foot ferry going to and from Rock every ten minutes, huge sand banks so big they even have their own name (and the Doom Bar tells you everything you need to know!) and a strong tide thrown in for good measure! Instead head towards the much more sheltered Little Petherick and admire the wildlife and more relaxed pace.
Park on the street if you’re there early enough, and cross the Camel Trail cycle path onto the beach. There are public toilets about 400m into town, in the Railway Car Park, and being one of the biggest foodie draws in the county, there are lots of choices for something to eat.
Padstow is one of the most popular places in the county to visit on foot, making it all the more an enticing place to go paddleboarding in Cornwall. Padstow is also one of the prettiest towns in Cornwall too.
3. Paddleboarding at The Gannel
The Gannel is a gorgeous stretch of water that goes from Crantock Beach back towards Newquay. Crantock Beach is easy to find and as a National Trust property, it’s well signposted with a big car park. I remember the first time seeing the beach here – it is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s the sort of the place you hear before you see, because the sound of the waves travels over the sand dunes you have to climb to give you a view of the beach. This Cornish beach is popular with surfers so head to the right of the beach, to The Gannel.
In complete contrast to the waves, The Gannel is a flat-water estuary, tidal, that offers some super paddling. Steer clear of where the river meets the sea as it’s difficult to judge the currents, but heading inland towards Newquay is a lovely paddle at the right time. It’s a birdwatcher’s dream and has been classified as a Marine Conservation Zone. Newquay is famous for its big surf, Fistral Beach for example, but there’s great paddleboarding to be had here too, just to the south of the town. In fact, we’ve rated it one of the best places to go paddleboarding in England.
4. Paddleboarding in Marazion, St Michael’s Mount
When it comes to backdrops for paddleboarding, St Michael’s Mount looming above you must be quite close to the top of the list!
This is a fantastic spot for paddleboarding in Cornwall, especially for newbies or those that need some space to build confidence. More often than not, the water is pretty calm here and it’s a relatively straightforward paddle out to the island or all the way round. Take cash with you if you’re landing as it would be a shame not to get an ice-cream or a slice of cake, just to sustain you on the return paddle, of course! It’s a National Trust property so if you do want to land, you might be subject to admission fees, which vary throughout the year – you can find out more about National Trust membership here.
There’s a short stay car park on King’s Road, Marazion, which fronts right onto the beach, and there are lots of places to grab some food. At low tide, you can access the island on foot, but having your SUP with you means you can get across whenever you like, and get the very best view of this amazing landmark.
5. Paddleboarding in Lostwithiel
The Fowey Estuary is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so really launching from anywhere on the river is going to be worth it. I like Lostwithiel because it’s such a historic town, but it seems to have dodged a lot of the tourist traffic. Coulson Park in the town has parking and direct access to the river. Heading south from there on the water (there is a gravel footpath alongside) towards Shirehall Moor, where you’ll see lots of wildlife on the salt marsh.
Once you’re out of the town, the river really opens up as you head towards the sea. Continuing south from Lostwithiel, paddle towards St Winnow, or carry on as far as Golant, which I recommend as a two-car paddle so you don’t have to do the return journey. Of course, you could do it in reverse! More than other places listed here, check the tide times for Golant, especially if you are leaving a car, because the parking along the river often floods at high tide.
This is a really beautiful spot to go paddleboarding in Cornwall, and makes for one of the best days out in Cornwall there is.
6. Paddleboarding in Cawsand
Cawsand is a lovely little village on the Rame Peninsula, and it’s a good spot for beginners to get their balance is it’s quite sheltered. Once you have some confidence, there are so many little coves and inlets to explore along the coast. At low tide, head east towards Picklecombe Fort (it’s quite a trek) or go west down towards the old lighthouse and Queen Adelaide’s grotto. We tend not to go any further because it gets very rough very quickly once you get past the end of the peninsula.
There is a pay and display car park in Cawsand but it is a bit of a hike with your gear so better to have someone drop you at the beach first and then park.
7. Paddleboarding in Cotehele and Calstock
The River Tamar marks the border between Cornwall and Devon, so as long as you don’t stray across the middle, we’re ok to count this one as a Cornish spot!
Start from Cotehele where there’s a car park (free to National Trust members) and head north towards Calstock. Pass under the viaduct and once you’ve made it that far, you definitely deserve an ice cream. Valenti’s is our top tip. There’s also a great pasty shop a little further into town – definitely need one of those to truly say you’ve been paddleboarding in Cornwall!
Think you know Cornwall? Try our Cornwall Quiz and see how high you can score!
And check out some of the great things to do in St Ives too.
8. Paddleboarding at Wacker Quay
Just off the A374 is a perfect little spot for paddleboarding at Wacker Quay. Parking is free (there’s not a huge car park, so go early) but it’s a lovely spot to hone skills. Launching from the quay, either go left immediately and explore the little inlet (Wacker Lake) if time is short, or carry on up the Lynher River and take in the stunning scenery. The River Tiddy joins the Lynher at St German’s and that’s a good destination for a drink before you paddle back. This is one to take your own refreshments on board as it’s a fair walk to the village shop.
Wherever you choose to go, plan ahead, check and double check conditions before you launch, and you’ll have a wonderful time. The Met Office app is a reliable choice for a general weather forecast, and I like the Windy app too, but as neither is as accurate as your own assessment of conditions on site before you launch. Take a phone with you, and some water as a minimum, and let someone know your plans.
Places to hire paddleboards in Cornwall
- Big Green Surf School is based at Crantock Beach. They offer tours and tuition, one to one or in groups. Prices start from £45pp for a 2 hour tour.
- Camel Ski School in Rock offers ‘pay and play’ hire from £22.
- River Joyz in Lostwithiel offers hire from £19.50 per hour. They also offer lessons.
- Cornwall Paddleboard Co is a good option for a longer hire and you can rent boards for up to a week, delivered to your door – perfect for a holiday adventure!
Paddleboarding in Cornwall
So, those are my current 8 best places to go paddleboarding in Cornwall. It’s a hard list to narrow down – one of the most impressive facts about Cornwall is that there’s more than 300 miles of coastline in this county, before we even think about rivers or lakes!
Some of the most beautiful and popular beaches in Cornwall like Porthcurno or Sennen are also great for paddleboarders depending on the conditions, so there are really lots of places that could have made the list. I’m often adding to my list so let me know if there’s somewhere that really should be included.