NEWQUAY: Your inside guide to the ultimate stag weekend in the Cornish surfer town
The UK’s surf capital, the Cornish town of Newquay is a long established tourist destination and is riding high as a popular destination for action-packed weekends.
Newquay at a glance:
• Loads of opportunities to surf, whether you’re an experienced surfer, or complete novice, there are courses for every level
• Great for fishing trips, boating, kitesurfing and any other beach or water-based action you can think of
• Sports lovers and adrenaline junkies are well catered for with karting, off-road Segway tracks, golf, mountain biking, scuba diving and coasteering all on offer
• Plenty of places to eat, with an emphasis on local produce and seafood, plus lots of fab cafes and bars where you can just snack, chill out, and enjoy the views
• Stag friendly with buzzing bars and nightclubs to work your way around
Things not to miss:
Nestled between St Ives to the south and Padstow to the north, the Cornish town of Newquay is the UK’s premier surfing destination. But it’s not just about donning a wetsuit and heading out into the big blue, as Newquay is also home to some of the country’s best beaches and some fine bars.
It’s been called ‘the British California,’ which might be stretching it a little, yet Newquay somehow succeeds in being both laid back and ready to party in equal measures.
If you need a map, check out VisitNewquay.
Cliff Road to Fore Street – train to harbour
The main route into the town from the train station with the Fore Street section best for a range of cafes and shops, including chilled reggae café The Beached Lamb, Sailors Arms and Belushi’s. There’s also loads of independent shops along and just off the route, including a tobacconist, plenty of surf-related sport/fashion retailers and some sweet food shops.
Fistral Beach – simply the best
Newquay’s iconic beach, Fistral is capable of producing powerful, hollow waves and holding a good sized swell making it the main surfing beach in the town. The north end works best at all tides when big swells are coming in, while on low tide, some good barrels and peaks are produced. It can get pretty crowded in the summer, but it’s the perfect starting place for beginners. South Fistral is best from mid to high tide and although it’s also suitable for beginners, is prone to more dangerous rips. Fistral is also home to several festivals, including Boardmasters (Europe’s largest surf and skate festival), the English National Surfing Championships and night surfing.
Watergate Bay Beach – it’s golden
About three miles out of town is Newquay’s second most famous beach. A large expanse of fine golden sand, it stretches for over two miles at the foot of steep cliffs. There are several access paths down. Polo On The Beach is a popular annual event, while beach cafes and restaurants include Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall.
The Harbour - heart of the town
Newquay once thrived as a pilchard fishing port and although the industry has waned, fishing remains important to the community, with brightly coloured fishing boats bringing in fresh crab and lobster catches for local restaurants and hotels, as well as taking tourists out on trips. The harbour is also home to September’s gig boat race championships and the Newquay Fish Festival, with practical cooking demonstrations, food and crafts.
Towan Beach - Newquay's most central beach
Just below the Killacourt and Beach Road, this beach is sheltered by Towan Head and perfect for swimming. A key sight is The Island, a single chunk of rock linked to the cliff by a suspension bridge that was formerly home to boffin and spiritualist Sir Oliver Lodge. On the Promenade you'll find Blue Reef Aquarium with examples of colourful sea life, both local and exotic, in over 40 naturally themed habitats. Among the residents are crocs, turtles, giant Pacific octopus and black tip reef sharks.
Time to spare?
Newquay’s best nightspots:
The Central, Central Square
Also known as The Central Inn, this is a stylish bar in the heart of Newquay offering an outdoor street cafe, which is ideal in the summer for people watching. Inside there's a large eating and seating area, with a cocktail bar upstairs. Sup a leisurely cappuccino during the day before moving onto an evening mojito as resident and guest DJs start mixing those funky tunes. And don't be fooled by the weathered brick exterior, inside it is pretty contemporary.
The Beached Lamb Café, Fore Street
Cool and quirky cafe situated in easy reach of Fistral's surf beach, complete with Thai-inspired chillout lounge and laid back cafe that plays non-stop reggae. The owner Nicole is vegan, so alongside some decent meat options, there's some real quality vegan and veggie options on the menu. Check out the breakfasts, homemade burgers, lush shakes and cocktails – all recommended.
Bertie O'Flannigan's, East Street
Bertie O'Flannigan's is, as the name suggests, Newquay's Irish pub. Open from 11am and with a good sun terrace, it also acts as a feeder bar for Bertie's Nightclub. Established, they are proud to report, in 1978, back when disco was still king. Times have changed and so has the nightclub's playlist, making Bertie’s one of Cornwall's top nightspots. The county's largest club, among the big names who've graced the venue are Radio 1’s Scott Mills, Tinchy Stryder and JLS's Aston.
Bowgie Inn, Crantock
Situated on the West Pentire Headland, the 'pink pub' offers great views of Crantock Bay. With cosy bars (with log fires in chillier months), sun terrace, beer garden and function rooms, their traditional English menu leans heavily towards local produce, with their Sunday lunch well worth the investment. Decent showing of real ales too. Nice place to start (or conclude) a brisk coastal walk. Oh, and in case you're wondering, 'Bowgie' is Cornish for cowshed.
Red Lion, North Quay Hill
A traditional pub overlooking the harbour, with good views and a good stock of real ales. There's also a pool table, dart board, open mic and quiz nights, and solid pub grub (steaks, burgers, lasagne, sausage and mash). Daily specials include a curry and beer night. Yup, it's that kinda place.
Newquay’s best beer gardens:
The Chy Bar and Kitchen / Koola, Beach Road
Overlooking Towan Beach, Chy boasts great coastal views towards Padstow and a balcony offering alfresco dining for those warmer months. Nice. Inside, the modern decor includes fish tanks, while the menu features such specials as grilled tuna steak with wasabi creamed mash and sugar snap beans. At night, the three-level Koola Nightclub declares itself 'the home of underground music' thanks to DJ and live appearances from the likes of Quantic, Muse, Groove Rider, DJ Yoda and Kaiser Chiefs. Offers VIP packages for stags.
Belushi's, Fore Street
An international bar and restaurant with bases in London, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam, the Newquay branch is home to a well sized cliff top beer gardens overlooking Towan Beach. It's also home to a surf school, if you fancy a quick lesson or refresher course, and you can also book coasteering (involving swimming, climbing, cliff jumping, caving etc).
Ohana Beach Cafe, Cliff Road
The name means 'welcome family' in Hawaiian. And welcome you will feel, with speciality coffees, three sizes of cooked breakfast, veggie and vegan options, great sandwiches, tapas, fish and a fantastic selection of American style pancakes. These include various fruits, walnut, cinnamon, banana and clotted cream, sausage, bacon and maple syrup, and 'pick your own' with a host of top toppings. And then there's the sun-trap cliff top terrace with fab views. We like.
Food: eat like a local:
As you’d expect from a fishing port, fresh fish is a staple of many an eatery, from lobster and crab to something more ‘finny’, the seafood has to be tasted. But there’s more to Newquay’s foodie scene than stuff that swims, and the vast array of pubs, restaurants, cafes and takeaways caters for pretty well every taste.
The Griffin is a sizeable family run pub and B&B with a traditional menu incorporating homemade dishes using fresh local produce. Hearty. Fistral Beach’s The Stable is another great breakfast venue, yet the speciality is the pizzas, which include gluten free bases on request, plus such delights as The Red Ruby Rustler (marinated ground beef, chorizo, field mushrooms, roasted red onions, tomato, mozzarella, smoked West Country ham), The Atlantic Angler (smoked mackerel, smoked salmon, marinated spinach), and The Four Cheese Special (smoked cheddar, Cornish blue cheese, a cider washed cheese and Cornish gouda). Nice panoramic views too, plus over 20 ciders.
Fresh Bistro on East Street starts the day with a tip-top breakfast menu that zips from full English and toast to various egg-based delights, such as poached eggs with bacon, smoke salmon, mushrooms, spinach and asparagus. As the day progresses the menu changes to salads and sandwiches and eventually BBQ spare ribs, stroganoff, rack of lamb and steak’n’ale pudding in the evening.
Serving Italian-inspired rustic food with a Cornish edge is celeb chef Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall. Situated overlooking Watergate Bay, it’s the second Fifteen restaurant (the first being in London), and was set up to create new opportunities for young people. If you’re keen to share and want to treat yourself, we’d recommend the tasting menu (with five and seven course options) with a wine pairing.
Established in 1910, the Fern Pit Cafe and Ferry is a family run business based on the River Gannel between Pentire headland and Crantock beach on the edge of Newquay. The cafe offers light refreshments, and there's an ice cream kiosk down on the beach, but it's the views, from the tea garden and surrounding area, that really impress. Meanwhile, the ferry sails back and forth between Newquay and Crantock during high tide.
But don’t forget, you can’t visit Cornwall without trying a fresh baked Cornish pasty – available all over town.
The best view of the city:
Above the Harbour is the distinctive Huer’s Hut. The white stone building on top of Towan Head dates back to when Newquay was a thriving pilchard fishing port. The huer's job was to keep a lookout for shoals of pilchards, alerting the fishermen when the fish were close by and directing the boats from his vantage point. As a result, the views up there are some of the best in the area.
The local airport services flights to and from Manchester and London Gatwick, and (with a change) it’s pretty easy to get to Newquay from London, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester by train. There are plenty of taxis if you need to nip about (pre-book in advance). For drivers, parking options are mostly pay-and-display. If you fancy something a little more novel, Newquay is also home to one of the largest Segway fleets in Europe, with both on-road and off-road models available for hire.
Did you know?
Newquay used to be called Towan Blistra, which means 'blown sand dune' in Cornish.
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