Classic beach days at Porth

Ice-cream smiles, the bucket and spade brigade, bellyboarding joy, and mid-afternoon cream teas, Porth Beach makes for classic beach days for all ages 

The briny air is tinged with barbecue smoke. There’s wheeling gulls and windbreaks. Children padding along the shoreline with buckets, their faces wearing ice-cream smiles.

We pump up a paddleboard while the kids zip into wetsuits, fight over who gets the paddle, then race to the water’s edge with their inflatable craft. We let them go ahead, with lifeguards on duty, small waves, and gently shelving sands creating soft, rolling breakers.

Flanked by two majestic headlands jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, Porth is sheltered and calm compared to the neighbouring beaches of Lusty Glaze and Watergate Bay.

Families flock here to enjoy its narrow sandy runway; hemmed with rock pools teeming with life at low tide and transforming into a glassy lagoon at high tide. Surfers and dog walkers favour the wide-open beaches, but this is the territory of paddleboarders, swimmers, and bucket and spade brigades.

“Wispy clouds gather overhead, but the swimmers, paddleboarders and bellyboarders are all-consumed by their joy, undistracted by the fickle weather.”

Image credit: Hayley Lawrence

Cast your gaze west and Newquay’s Headland Hotel, where The Witches was filmed, looks back through the mouth of the twin promontories. The popular surf town is close – walkable in 20 minutes or so, or five minutes by car if you want to pop in and hire. There’s two Surf Wood for Good locations for bellyboard hire and inflatable paddleboards can be borrowed at Quiksilver Surf School.

Yet Porth is its own beach village and resort, creating classic British beach days: a hole in the sea wall selling ice creams, a handful of brightly painted beach huts for hire, crazy golf and football golf, and a family-friendly pub that spills out onto the sand.

FOLLOW THE FOOTPRINTS

Bathers on, we follow the sandy footprints down to the sea. The kids are riding the paddleboard en masse, squealing as they glide shoreward and tumble off into foamy waves. Wispy clouds gather overhead, but the swimmers, paddleboarders and bellyboarders are all-consumed by their joy, undistracted by the fickle weather.

A group of local sea swimmers, the Porth Bluetits, dip here year-round come rain or shine, so we can hardly wimp out because of overcast skies. We dive under, our hesitation turning to bliss with the invigorating rinse of the ocean.

“If you cross the bridge to the island and look carefully, you’ll find the traces of an Iron Age cliff fortress etched into the dramatic headland.

Find a Porth Beach retreat

ROCKY WORLDS

The tide is going out fast, revealing a jumble of rock pools on the northern edge of the beach. Here, we trail families with buckets and nets, picking their way over the rocks and under Porth Island bridge.

This intertidal zone is a world of shimmering emerald plunge pools clustered with strawberry-pink anemones, where crabs hide in their seaweed jungles and curious blenny fish are tucked into rocky crevices.

We’re wary of exploring too deep into the eery caverns hewn into the cliffs; until the early 20th century hundreds of people used to enjoy candle-lit concerts here in a huge ‘Banqueting Hall’ cavern on low spring tides, until, in 1987 it was deemed too dangerous and destroyed using explosives.

Keen to step into Porth’s history we stray from the beach and head up onto Trevelgue Head. Better known as Porth Island, this was the site of the area’s very first housing estate, where miners, iron smelters and their families lived in round-houses during the Iron Age.

Licking a fast-melting cone of Cornish ice cream from the Jampen, while watching families tackle the football golf course, today there seems little evidence of Porth’s past. But if you cross the bridge to the island and look carefully, you’ll find the traces of an Iron Age cliff fortress etched into the dramatic headland.

BEACH EXPLORERS

Up here awaits Porth’s wilder side. Dogs that are banned from the beach during peak season bound along spongy scrubland littered with wildflowers. Couples bask on edge-of-the-world viewpoints, where eventually the sun will sink into the ocean at their feet.

A few families venture up here, too. After all, it’s an easy walk even for the littlest feet. If you can drag them away from them beach, that is. If you want to lure them with a treasure hunt, there’s a geocache to be found.

“Yet unlike the powdery sands below, the terrain is battered by the elements, and in big swells a blowhole explodes with mighty rainbows of spray.”

However, the staggering coastal panorama is treasure enough for us. The crisp cut-out of rugged cliffs snaking north past Trevose Head and Stepper Point, pockets of gold mapping out the beaches along the way. Looking back towards Newquay, even the families on Porth Beach feel miles away from up here. Yet unlike the powdery sands below, the terrain is battered by the elements, and in big swells a blowhole explodes with mighty rainbows of spray.

We look up at the pale grey sky, seeking for a hint of the incoming weather. Do we flop on a deckchair for ice cream on the beach, tuck into a Cornish cream tea in the cosy teahouse, or is it time for fish and chips in the pub on the beach?

Porth is a place of contrasts. Where easy beach life meets a wilder side. Where children play out on the sand while grandparents sip tea in bone china. Where the relatively new craze of paddleboarding goes hand-in-hand with the age-old sport of bellyboarding. Where you can buy a bucket and spade, or a designer dress. It’s old and it’s young – made for family beach holidays.

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