Porthcurno Beach is one of the reasons we have returned to Cornwall so many times.
The first time we visited we were totally amazed. You could easily mistake it for a Caribbean beach with its golden sands and beautiful turquoise waters set against a backdrop of striking cliffs. The fact that it sits at the South West tip of the UK is pretty mind blowing given its unique breathtaking beauty.
In fact, when I first shared pictures on Instagram people actually thought we were abroad.
Arriving By Car
Porthcurno is accessed from the A30 whether travelling from Land’s End or Penzance.
Once leaving the A30 the roads do become quite narrow and windy at times but it is definitely worth the sometimes hair raising journey. When you arrive, there is quite a large car park which you pay for on departure.
(Editor note: DO NOT PAY ON ARRIVAL – this will cause you to be charged twice as you will need to pay on exit) – this is a new system installed in August 2022.
Just next to the car park is a small cafe, ice cream kiosk and some toilets so its perfect for a family day out as you have all the facilities you might need.
The car park can fill up in peak season so if you want to guarantee a spot you may want to arrive before 10.30am. That being said, the turnover of cars is pretty high so if you are prepared to wait you can usually find a spot.
Getting the Open Top Bus
If you don’t fancy risking driving to Porthcurno then the Coaster (an open top bus that goes along the coast from Penzance to St Ives and vice versa) stops right next to the car park for Porthcurno Beach.
As well as taking away the stress of driving on Cornish roads, you also get the chance to fully appreciate the breathtaking views of the rugged coastline.
The Walk to Porthcurno Beach
The beach is accessed from the car park by a sandy path (about 250m) with relatively steep steps down to the beach. From the car park the beach is hidden from sight so when you follow the path and get your first view of this stunning beach it always takes your breath away.
The easiest way down to the beach is taking the path to the left of the lifeguard hut which takes you down steep steps. If you don’t fancy the steps there is a path to the right which is a slope with a rope handrail to hold onto but in the soft sand its still quite tricky.
Beautiful Porthcurno Cove
Porthcurno beach itself has beautiful golden sand made up of tiny fragments of shells which have been pounded by the sea over millions of years.
It is protected from the wind by the towering cliffs on either side of the cove making it easy to find a sheltered spot on even the most blustery of days. However, the crystal clear water is what really struck me the first time we visited – with it stretching out as far as you can see and glistening in the sunlight.
There is always plenty of room on Porthcurno beach even in the height of summer as it is quite remote and the parking options are limited. There is usually plenty of space to set up camp for the day.
There is also enough room to play the beach games my children love which isn’t always possible on some of Cornwall’s most popular beaches.
Porthcurno at High Tide
At high tide there is still plenty of soft golden sand to relax on but the waves can be quite strong and there are dangerous currents so its important to always follow the instructions of the lifeguards who are there May to September from 10am until 6pm daily.
My daughters love the excitement of dancing in and out of the huge waves that crash on the shore, but you need to keep an eye on even older children as the beach steeply shelves off at the high tide mark. Also there can be strong rip currents which can drag you out to sea so do keep an eye on children paddling.
At Low Tide
At low tide, you sometimes get access (depending on tide height) to what we call ‘the secret beach’ – otherwise known as Pedn Vounder.
The lifeguards put up signs advising when it is safe to walk or wade to this little beach to the left of Porthcurno (as you look out to sea). It’s quite magical when you pass the rocks and a pretty much deserted stretch of sand is revealed – quite a contrast to the buzzing atmosphere of Porthcurno.
There are a few little caves to explore and we really enjoyed the peace and quiet that it offers as you stroll along the water’s edge, through the little pools left behind, enjoying a bit of beach combing.
Be careful to return by the time the signs advise, unless you are a very strong swimmer, as the water can get very rough particularly as the tide is going out. When you are on Pedn Vounder you get the best view of the other totally unique aspect of this beach, the Minack Theatre.
World Renowned Minack Theatre
The Minack Theatre is actually carved into the cliffs that sit above Porthcurno beach and was dreamt up and created by Rowena Cade. She transformed the cliff face mostly with her own hands and hard work into the most spectacular theatre I have ever visited.
The backdrop is the Atlantic Ocean and visiting is a truly magical experience. It can be accessed from the road and there is a car park next to the theatre at the top of the cliff. Also there are steep steps cut into the cliff that allow you to walk up from Porthcurno Beach to get to the theatre which perches at the top of the cliff. Anyone can walk through the grounds (and it’s part of the coastal path) but you will need to book in advance to access the theatre itself and only ticket holders can park there.
Why We Love Porthcurno
Porthcurno is one of our favourite places to go to with a picnic and enjoy a family beach day. The children are happy playing in the water or on the beautiful sand.
We absolutely love the scenery and there are all the facilities you might need. It never fails to impress me every time we return and I hope to go back many times in the future.
Porthcurno is an idyllic beach at the tip of Cornwall’s rugged South Coast that is definitely worth visiting!
Laura loves travelling across the UK and abroad. She has two children and a husband who are often her travel companions. Beach holidays, cosy cottages, treehouse adventures and brunching are just a few of her favourite ways to spend her travel time.