Beach lifestyles at the Bay

Surf, sauna, seafood lunch or timeless stroll… From getting there, to what to do, to breakfast, lunch and dinner options, there are any number of styles of beach life at Watergate Bay.

We’ve arrived. This time on two wheels to witness the many styles of beach life happening at Watergate Bay. And wonder if that coastal catchphrase ‘life’s a beach’ was coined for a beach like this.

RAIL TO WHEELS

Our journey began on a train line about to get a shiny new upgrade, but, like the lifestyle choices when you’re there, that’s just one way to arrive at this beach. Drivers park a few accessible metres from the beach and long haulers can expect a speedy transfer from Newquay Airport.

Today, we’re ready to see what it’s like travelling light to Watergate Bay: a bag with the basics and a bike. At the same time, understanding just how quick the taxi journey must be.

“People will come and surf here in their 60s and say to me, why haven’t I ever done this before?”

Stay at Watergate Bay

The view over Tolcarne Beach

Few rail to road connections open with a view like the one we get. Minutes from the station we’re greeted with a sweeping view over Tolcarne Beach; that’s just the beginning; as we go uphill out of town on a cycle path, we pass Lusty Glaze and then it’s downhill to the sands of Porth Beach, where a little egret is standing serenely in a tidal pool.

Cycling past Porth Beach

There’s one more hill to scale and then, 15 minutes later, we’re passing fields and open sky before pulling over at the top of the cliff, just before the road winds down to Watergate Bay beach.

SLOW TRAVEL TO SURF

In the field looking down to the beach sit a cluster of repurposed shipping containers, a timber-clad wagon and a yurt. Intrigued, we park up and wander in

This is the home of the Zen Den, a yoga studio in a yurt that is at once tranquil and still, and right-up close to the clifftop meadow with the wild sea a steep drop below. On one side is the Olla Hiki sauna, where patrons are cooling off in a trough, and on the other, The Hangout is serving up coffees to customers enjoying the bright sunny morning.

As we’re travelling light and the surf is rolling in below, we speak to the team at West Country Surf School, also perched above the beach with a great view of the day’s conditions.

Pictured: Zen Den

Owner, Joel, tells us that he set up the surf school here 10 years ago, following a career lifeguarding at Watergate. “I started the school, simply, I’d say, for the lifestyle – it was perfect. But that has changed as I’ve got older. Now I’d say I do this because I enjoy the unique experience people have surfing; it changes their life a bit and I feel like we’re doing a good thing, something valuable.

“People will come and surf here in their 60s and say to me, why haven’t I ever done this before?”

“…it’s timeless, ageless. It’s not changed in all the time I’ve been here and I love that.”

A few moments later, we’ve hired a board and wetsuit for a few hours, and take the path down to the beach.

The waves aren’t huge, but they’re even and perfect for getting in and getting to our feet, after a few false starts. We’re joined by experienced board riders further out and learners from the Wavehunters base right on the beach, but we’ve got plenty of space to get to grips with the surf.

Watergate Bay

A PIECE OF PEACE

Post-surf the tide has dropped back further and the epic side of this beach is revealed. We decide to walk south, tracing the journey we made on the clifftop, this time below on the sand. The further we go, the quieter it gets until it’s just us and a few sea birds perched on the rocks.

And we glimpse signs of the sea life that calls Watergate home. A tiny fish disappears behind seaweed, and we think we should’ve brought some salt to tempt out a razor clam – after wandering past the distinctive shell that gives the mollusc its name.

“The best thing about being here is the space on a big tide that we have today,” Hannah Williams, manager of The Shop on the Beach at Watergate Bay, tells us later. “You can either hover around with the crowd here or head to the north end or far south end, and it’s timeless, ageless. It’s not changed in all the time I’ve been here and I love that.”

Pictured: Razor clam

BITES ON THE BEACH

Breakfast, lunch, dinner – whatever you’re after, you can get it at Watergate Bay. We set up on the terrace of The Beach Hut and try the lemon sole koliwada burger on the appropriately named Aprés Sea menu.

It’s relaxed and time slides by as we’re beguiled by the view: a family play football on the firmer sand, there are sunbathers milling around on the softer sand and a regularly shifting crew of surfers, bodyboarders and swimmers in the water, under the watchful eyes of the RNLI team stationed on the sea wall.

Depending on your beach life preference, lunch could’ve been summer seafood and wine pairings perched right above the beach at Zacry’s on the sea wall, woodfired pizza on a picnic bench (or brought down onto the beach) courtesy of The Beach Bar, or a burger at Wax – a beach bar just a short stroll away.

Pictured: The Beach Hut

When we wander back up the hill, The Hangout is serving toasties on Newquay’s finest sourdough, courtesy of Pavilion Bakery, and prepping acai smoothie bowls.

Board and suit returned. Bag repacked, we’re ready to wrap up this beach day, knowing that we could come back and do it all quite differently. Which beach lifestyle to dip into here next time? Peaceful beach exploring, sports on the sand, space to surf and lots of choice for refuelling and taking it all in.

Pictured: The Hangout

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