Category: Q&A

Newquay Wild Activities

“The minibus is buzzing with conversation as we drive the family group back to their hotel. As the youngest son gets out, he hugs the guide and says, ‘I want to be a marine biologist just like you.’”

We recently caught up with our friends from Newquay Wild Activities, who gave us a run down on their latest Rockpool Ramble on Fistral beach.

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Image credit: David Kirwan

The day started when Liz picked them up three hours earlier from Watergate Bay. A lovely group down on holiday and booked with Newquay Wild Activities to experience a rockpool ramble. The van pick up means they can leave their cars in the car park and not worry about navigating the busy Newquay streets. They arrive at Esplanade Green overlooking the world famous South Fistral Beach.

Want to stay in Fistral? Have a look at our luxury holiday cottages in Fistral.

Image credit: Neil Wilkinson

Here they meet their guides, two passionate locals who are as excited as the group to share and explore the rocky shore.

There are some amazing pools on South Fistral that contain a wondrous number of species – each with their own story to tell. Even the seaweed has some secrets to share, if you look close enough. A multitude of shells cling to them for security such as the iridescent blue ray limpet as does the beautiful Stalk Jellyfish.

Stalk Jellyfish by Ivan Underwood

Blue Rayed Limpet by Zeni Hayton

The group wander their way down towards the surf to look at the deeper pools and rocks covered in thousands of mussels and barnacles, always keeping an eye out for wildlife passing by in the bay. Crabs are discovered, fish swim by and shrimps come and play on their toes. Starfish of all types are found – they are incredible creatures that eat algae while clambering over rocks. Did you know they can lose a limb for an easy getaway if they are ever in danger?

Spiny Starfish and Cushion Star by Gwynnie Griffiths

As the tide exposes more rock, anemones begin to close to protect themselves while they wait for the protection of the water.

Anemone by Josh Symes

The group are enthusiastically hunting for more animals as Liz returns with their pasty and drink. A perfect spot to enjoy some sustenance before the slow meander back to the steps.

Amazingly, as they clamber their way off their beach, more wildlife is spotted – a Stone Chat just hanging out on the brambles!

Stone Chat by Josh Howells

There is so much to explore on Newquay’s shores. Liz and the group spend the drive back talking about everything they saw. The guides log all the wildlife information ready to send to the record centre which the group helped to collect (they are now citizen scientists!) and the guides get ready for their next group – this time… a Wildlife Walk around the headlands of Newquay to spot some of the bigger, more elusive wildlife.

Grey Seal by Adrian Langdon

Newquay Wild Activities is a brand-new Social Enterprise set up by Liz and Laura in 2022 – it stemmed from a decade in the marine conservation sector in Cornwall, a fabulous network of friends and colleagues and a yearning to show tourists and locals that Newquay has so much to offer.

Discover what lies beneath our rockpools and the wildlife that shares our shores. Book onto a Rockpool Ramble or a Wildlife Walk with mini-bus pickup included. Learn how to collect valuable scientific data that can help to inform conservation research and national policy. Explore the north Cornwall coastline with experts on hand to guide you.

For more information visit Newquay Wild Activities for the summer dates and activities. Including the spectacular night-time rambles – see what happens in the cover of darkness!

Dive into the exciting world of alternative surf activities in Cornwall and discover new ways to enjoy the waves

Anemone at nightAnemone by night, Josh Symes

Find your fish

A fresh-from-the-ocean catch for dinner – just that bit fresher and tastier when staying by the sea? Time to expand your piscatorial horizons and find out what to pick up at the fishmonger and how to cook it, with Ben Tunnicliffe at Newlyn’s Tolcarne Inn

Newlyn Harbour, on the sheltered west side of Penzance Bay, has welcomed fishing boats with their catch since the 15th century. And it continues to be a thriving fishing port landing multiple species every day, from mackerel and monkfish to John Dory and cuttlefish.

A few hundred yards from the pier is the 300-year-old home of the Tolcarne Inn. An unstuffy pub, it’s lauded for its lip-puckeringly good seafood, which travels from sea to market to plate in hours not days.

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Award-winning chef Ben Tunnicliffe set up in Newlyn in 2012. “In other European ports, seafood restaurants are abundant. Newlyn has arguably the most diverse fish market in the country, so it made sense to open a fish restaurant here,” says Ben, who buys his fish daily from the market or direct from day fishing boats.

A freshly caught fish will have bright eyes and slimy skin. It also won’t smell of anything.”

Choices, choices

Planning a fresh fish supper? Ben recommends seeking out a local fishmonger and quizzing them on what’s landed that day.

“A freshly caught fish will have bright eyes and slimy skin. It also won’t smell of anything. If it’s starting to smell it means it’s getting old. Be guided by what’s on ice in the shop,” he says.

“If you’re new to cooking fish then have a good chat with the fishmonger. They’ll be happy to answer your questions. They can also prepare it for you, if you need them to, by filleting and pin boning, and then can give you advice on how to cook it.”

Once you get your freshly wrapped fillets or whole fish back to your retreat, Ben recommends not trying to do anything too fancy and risk ruining it by submerging it in an overpowering sauce. Whether it’s a meaty monkfish fillet or a juicy piece of hake, let the delicate flavours shine through and allow the fish itself to do the talking.

“Less is always more,” says Ben. “The simplest way to cook fish is to wrap your fillet in foil with some lemon juice and some herbs stuffed into its belly, season it and then stick it in the oven. Or put it under the grill, as opposed to on top of the grill, or fry it quickly in some butter.”

Gently does it

The biggest faux pas home cooks can make is to overcook their fish, says Ben: “If you think of the amount of raw fish that’s eaten in Asia that tells you not to be afraid of eating undercooked fish. You want it to remain moist and succulent, so it doesn’t dry out. This is a delicate product. Keep it slightly underdone and it will continue to cook in its own steam before you serve it.”

“One of the earliest pieces of advice I got in my career was: ‘what goes together, grows together’”

With fish and seafood prices soaring over the past couple of years, Ben also advises that you experiment with lesser-known species, rather than your traditional coastal favourites: “There’s a huge demand for popular catch like lobster, turbot and mackerel, which means prices are driven up. So, don’t be afraid to try something new and perhaps more affordable.

“Occasionally in the restaurant we have great weever fish on the menu – the fish that buries itself under the sand and can give you a nasty sting. It’s not commonly eaten in this country and people are a little unsure about it but when they try it, they love it.” He recommends asking the fishmonger what’s in season and how they recommend it’s cooked.

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The perfect partner

With your fish taking the starring role on your dinner platter, it’s just a question of which sides to serve. While the humble potato – boiled, chipped or fried – is always a safe bet, look at what else is currently in season.

“One of the earliest pieces of advice I got in my career was: ‘what goes together, grows together’,” says Ben. “If you go to the local veg shop, see what produce is coming off the fields at the moment and it’s likely to match with what’s coming off the sea. It’s a really good tip.”

He offers up this seasonal serving suggestion for half-term holidaymakers: “All the brassicas are in season right now, so take some curly kale and fry it off in a little oil and water. Throw in some finely diced chilli, anchovies, lemon zest and lemon juice, continue to fry for a few minutes, and season. This would be a delicious accompaniment to a baked juicy fillet of gurnard, seasoned with a little olive oil and lemon juice.”

If you’d prefer to let Ben do the cooking, head to the Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn.

Enjoy your pick of coastal culinary treats when you stay footsteps from the shore.

Explore the sustainable practices and rich heritage of fairer fishing in Cornwall, where tradition meets environmental stewardship.

Watch and act

Sleeping by the sea means catching a wave at any time when conditions allow, early, late or later still. This is the #beachoutofhours. But before pulling on your wetsuit and reaching for your board, take a few moments to read the surf…

Such is the whimsy of the British weather that you never quite know what to expect when you peel back the curtains from the cosy embrace of your seaside bed. While a day lounging on the beach with a well-thumbed paperback fares better when the sun is sparkling, the sea’s there to be enjoyed come rain or shine.

In fact, when it comes to surfing, a touch of mizzle can actually improve conditions, says Charlie Unsworth, who works as an instructor at Croyde Surf Academy in north Devon.

“The rain can actually help the surf as it ‘grooms’ the waves,” he says. “It can patten them down into a smooth state, making it a nice clean ride. You’re wet already, so a little bit of rain doesn’t hurt.”

Ideally, you want a unified wave – so one straight line, not little waves coming in from all angles. That tells you the surf is clean and going to be easier to surf.”

Wave wisdom

Before you spring into your neoprene, however, spend a few moments casting your eye over the horizon to gauge the state of the waves.

Catching a wave in Croyde Bay

Image credit: Lou Pamment @lou.lives.big

“Ideally, you want a unified wave – so one straight line, not little waves coming in from all angles. That tells you the surf is clean and going to be easier to surf.”

When it comes to wind, preferably you want it to be offshore, delaying the break of the wave and keeping it glassy. Charlie says: “Look for a steady blowing wind, ideally not over 15mph, otherwise you end up battling the wind and weather rather than surfing.”

Follow the locals’ lead

Tim Heyland has been surfing the beaches of Cornwall and Devon for over 50 years. For surfing novices, he recommends getting up early and keeping an eye on the traffic.

“A cheat’s way to read the surf is to look at the number of boards heading to the beach. If you see the car park filling up with surfers, you’ll know there’s going to be good waves.

Obviously a calm day is preferable but those are never guaranteed. Last summer I’d just got in the water at Trevone when a freak hailstorm hit. It was wild but also hilarious.”

“Another tip is to have your surf early in the morning, as there’s very little wind first thing. As the land heats up during the day, the wind generally picks up. It then falls away again in the evening, so before sunset is another good time to get in the water.”

Trevone Bay at low tide

Image credit @steph__andr

Easy access

For people with disabilities, there’s more than just the weather and the groundswell to take into consideration.

“My advice would be to go in the sea just before high tide,” says adaptive surfer and open water swimmer Issy Kingdon, who surfs with The Wave Project. “You’ll have less distance to travel across the sand and you can enjoy it for a good half hour before the tide starts to recede again.”

While beach wheelchairs are available, they tend to book up quickly during the high season. Issy therefore recommends looking for beaches with slipway access to the sea. “Trevone Bay near Padstow is a good example of an accessible beach as you can drive right down and get directly into the sea at high tide” she says.

“Nothing beats going to the beach to look at the conditions for yourself,” says Tim. “An app might say the surf is ‘poor’, but you can still have fun on little waves.”

“Obviously a calm day is preferable but those are never guaranteed. Last summer I’d just got in the water at Trevone when a freak hailstorm hit. It was wild but also hilarious. As long as it’s safe, you’ve got to make the most of it!”

On RNLI beaches, surfing zones are marked out with the black and white flags, helping surfers know where to paddle out and letting you know that lifeguards are on hand to answer questions and help when needed.

Surf trackers

If you can’t see the surf there and then, apps such as Surfline and Windy provide up to date reports, including information on surf height, swell, wind direction, wind speed and tide times.

While the data is usually pretty accurate, it pays not to be too reliant on technology.

“Nothing beats going to the beach to look at the conditions for yourself,” says Tim. “An app might say the surf is ‘poor’, but you can still have fun on little waves. Or, if it really is all over the place, swap your surfboard for a bellyboard and have a play in the white water.”

However, if the wind is in excess of 30mph or the waves exceed six feet in height Charlie recommends keeping your feet on dry sand: “There’s a phrase, ‘If in doubt, don’t paddle out’. It’s a good one to stick to if you are having second thoughts about getting in the water. Always play it safe rather than take a risk.”

Image credit: Charlie Unsworth

The #beachoutofhours means taking advantage of the conditions whenever they’re right. Find your place to stay to watch the waves and act when the timing suits…

Board stories

From the far west to the overlooked south east, via the unmatched north, there’s a bay and a board for everyone. Keen board riders and paddlers reveal their chosen craft and coast…

Cornwall’s winding coastline reveals countless unmissable stops for enjoying and exploring the sea by board. Samantha Bruce and Georgia O’Carolan of Whitsand Bay Ladies Surf Club, Matt Hawken at Newquay Activity Centre, and Dan Bassett at Surf St Ives tell us which board they reach for and where they’re heading…

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Whitsand’s welcoming waves

Organised by the Adventure Bay Surf School, Whitsand Bay Ladies Surf Club was Georgia O’Carolan’s first surf experience. “Outrageously, I didn’t start any board sports in the water until joining the Club when I was 27 because I thought I was too old to learn, which I now think at nearly 30 is just beyond silly.

“Our swells might not come in as big and fierce as the north coast generally, but we’re a great surf destination when it’s in.”

“We have all ages, sizes and abilities in our club and it doesn’t matter how good you are, as long as you’re safe – which might mean a lesson or a lifeguarded beach – you belong there in the sea. My tip for a novice would be to just go out and do it!”

Image credit: Adventure Bay Surf School

Georgia – RNLI lifeguard – says her corner of Cornwall on the south east coast is a little quieter which can mean more choice and opportunities to catch waves out in the bay. “Our swells might not come in as big and fierce as the north coast generally, but we’re a great surf destination when it’s in, and great for beginners and intermediates.”

And when she is paddling out at Whitsand she opts for a Mick Fanning Sugar Glider, either 7ft 6in or 7ft. “It’s fast and fun, and the first time apart from a rescue board, I’ve used a single-fin board.”

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Image credit: Adventure Bay Surf School

Fellow Ladies Club member Samantha Bruce goes for the KORE 7ft 2 Fun board when she’s catching waves at Tregonhawke or northwards at Bude.

What makes a great surfing beach? “A long sandy beach, with minimal rocks, a short approach – so I’m not carrying my board for miles – and even better if there’s a coffee van or food shack for a refuel and hang after,” says Samantha.

Her preferred conditions are 3-4ft, slightly wild waves. “I enjoy the challenging conditions and having a laugh with the girls while navigating them,” she adds.

For first timers, Samantha recommends a small group or 1:1 lesson. “Speaking as someone who wanted to surf for years but was apprehensive, you’ll know instantly if it’s for you, then find a group to be part of.”

“At about mid-tide you can dot in and around Little Lusty through the rocks, and there’s even a secret cave to paddle through.”

Paddle north

“It’s beautiful and so peaceful – teaming with wildlife and amazing views. It can be difficult to find a good launch spot, if you don’t know the area, and it’s definitely worth knowing your tides, but it’s one of the best spots to paddleboard on the north coast.”

Matt Hawken, paddleboard instructor at Newquay Activity Centre, is talking about the River Gannel which meets the sea at Newquay. Staying with the whole family or all your best friends, everyone can enjoy stand-up paddleboarding along the Gannel.

Image credit: Newquay Activity Centre

“Because it’s so sheltered, it’s an awesome spot for all skill levels,” says Matt. “With the right tide and the best spots, the water barely moves and it’s great for enhancing your skills.”

Waterborne explorers can venture upriver to Trevemper or downriver to Crantock Beach, with a guided tour the best way to find the ideal launch spots and tidal conditions. A calm, laidback board choice, paddleboarding reveals views and coastline locations hidden when exploring on land.

Image credit: Newquay Activity Centre

As well as floating down isolated creeks along the Gannel, Matt recommends the expanse of Newquay Bay on a calm summer’s day. “It’s surprisingly sheltered for the north coast of Cornwall. At about mid-tide you can dot in and around Little Lusty through the rocks, and there’s even a secret cave to paddle through. And then down to Porth beach for a quick break and back towards the harbour. The water is crystal clear, the sun is shining, there might even be seals and dolphins enroute.”

Wood for waves

Surf St Ives’ Daniel Bassett chooses an Alaia, a fin-less style of wooden surfboard originating from Hawaii, for his board-based excursions.

Wooden surfboard crafters, Otter Surfboards, describe the Alaia as “a thin, narrow, solid wood surfboard with a round nose and square tail and, most importantly, no fins. They originated in pre-contact Hawaii where they were shaped from Koa wood left over from producing canoes and they were usually around 7-12 feet long. Modern Alaias usually come up between 5 and 8 feet long.”

Image credit: Daniel Bassett @surfstives

Daniel says he likes to be out on the Alaia at Godrevy, near Hayle, but is happy catching a wave along the coast as long as it is breaking on his left side as he glides towards the sand, known simply as a left.

Spacious beaches and September swells are the best conditions for Daniel who surfs to “escape the worries of everyday life and be at one with the elements.”

“I’d recommend spending time on a bellyboard for learning how to read the ocean and feel comfortable in the water, before progressing to surf-craft,” he says.

All along the coast, wooden bellyboards can be hired for free thanks to Surf Wood for Good. A bellyboard for acclimatising to the waves can be picked up for the day from just inland of St Ives Surf School at Little Goat Gruff. And there’s more than 10 locations across Cornwall to pick-up a borrowed bellyboard for wave-seeking elsewhere.

Read our blog on the best things to do in the sea in every season!

A secluded stay for two or a celebration pad for everyone, choose where you’ll stay for your chosen board time…