With powdery white sand and a protected amphitheatre setting, you’d be forgiven for camping down on Porthcurno Beach and not leaving. But there’s plenty more to do in this idyllic slice of Cornwall.
Located on the far reaches of Cornwall’s dreamy coast, Porthcurno Beach is one of the finest in the UK. With soft white sand underfoot, an amphitheatre of cliffs on both sides and turquoise water lapping at the shore, you could easily spend all day lazing around. But if you are feeling energised by the picture-perfect setting, there’s other great things to do as well.
Attend a theatre carved into the cliffs with the sea stretching out beyond, hike a snippet of the magnificent coastal path, or (most importantly) visit our favourite beach in the UK just a short walk away.
Furthermore, in 1870, a submarine telegraph cable was laid from the sandy shores of Porthcurno Beach, linking Europe with India, reducing the time it took to transmit messages from weeks to minutes. Porthcurno became a hub for global communications and today a museum stands proudly behind the beach.
It’s strangely fitting that this area now has no phone reception. But there are worse places to go off-grid than Porthcurno, here’s how to see the best of it.
HOW TO GET TO PORTHCURNO BEACH, CORNWALL
Porthcurno beach is at the southern end of the Penwith Peninsula – the western point of Cornwall. It’s a glorious beach but being at the end of small country lanes in a remote part of the country, it can be a little tricky to get to.
Driving is by far the easiest way to get to Porthcurno, however reasonably regular buses run during summer months from Penzance.
PARKING AT PORTHCURNO BEACH
Porthcurno Car Park is a 25-minute drive from Penzance or 45 minutes from St Ives, and it’s just a short walk to the beach.
The car park is large, but it fills up quickly on peak weekends and sunny summer vacation days, so it’s a good idea to arrive early or late in the day.
How to pay for parking – The parking machines at Porthcurno Car Park only take coins, so bring plenty with you. The cost is £2.20 for up to 2 hours, £4.80 for up to 4 hours or £6.60 for up to 24 hours.
Car park facilities – The car park has toilets.
Additional parking at Porthcurno – If the car park is full, there is additional parking at Treen Car Park. It’s only a 5-minute drive away, but it will take about 25 minutes to walk along the Coastal Path to Porthcurno beach. Treen Car Park has toilets (20p, coin only) and takes cash and card (£2 for up to 2 hours, £4 all day).
BUS TO PORTHCURNO BEACH
During summer months, buses run roughly hourly during daylight hours from Penzance to Porthcurno (50 minutes), continuing on to Land’s End before returning on a circular route.
Porthcurno bush schedule – check here in advance, as the schedule can change.
The bus stop is next to the car park which is only a short walk to the beach.
THINGS TO DO AT PORTHCURNO BEACH, CORNWALL
There are several beautiful beaches to explore in the Porthcurno area, making it one of the prettiest spots in the country.
If idyllic beaches and stunning scenery is not enough, there are theatres and museums a short walk from Porthcurno Beach.
1 – PORTHCURNO BEACH
Porthcurno Beach is a lovely triangle of sand hemmed in on two sides by high coastal cliffs, with shimmering turquoise water lapping at the edges. It’s a little wedge of paradise in the United Kingdom.
The sand is powder soft and perfect for sunbathing on a warm day. The sea, often protected from larger swells, is great for families.
Lifeguard service – Lifeguards operate from 10am to 6pm from mid-May to mid-September.
Facilities – There’s a café near the car park for coffee, beer, and a few basic snacks, but we would probably suggest bringing your own picnic.
2 – MINACK THEATRE
At the western end of Porthcurno Beach, a series of steps cut into the cliff form the spectacular Minack Theatre. Following the natural contour of the bay, the views over the outdoor terrace theatre across the ocean provide a truly unique setting.
Visiting Minack Theatre – During the day you can pay £10 to look around in pre-booked timeslots between 10am to 4:30pm. However, it’s a much better experience to come and see a show. Tickets can be as little as £20 depending on the performance.
What to take to a performance – You’ll be sitting on a stone bench, so bring a cushion to sit on and a blanket for some extra warmth. If it looks like it’s going to rain, don’t forget to bring a raincoat.
Bar / Cafe – There’s a small bar where you can pick up snacks and drinks on the way in, but you can also take food and drinks in with you.
Check performances and book day visits on their website – minack.com
The Minack season runs from May to September, and performances will continue regardless of the weather (including rain) unless it’s dangerous.
3 – PORTHCHAPEL BEACH
Walking west from the Minack Theatre, you can enjoy a lovely section of the South-West Coast Path on the 10-minute walk to Porthchapel Cove.
There’s a short climb through a beautiful section of coastline before the path descends to the quiet cove, sheltered by granite cliffs.
At high tide, the beach is covered, but as it retreats, a fine slither of powdery sand is revealed.
Facilities at Porthchapel Beach – There are no facilities at Porthchapel Beach and the slightly remote location, means it’s never crowded.
More wild swimming – If you’re looking for out-of-the-way locations, read our guide to the best wild swimming in Cornwall.
Porthchapel Beach is a popular spot for seals who are often spotted just offshore, possibly enjoying the quiet beach as well.
4 – PEDN VOUNDER BEACH
A further 15-minute walk east along the coastal path from Porthcurno Beach will take you to Pedn Vounder. This mesmerising secret beach is possibly the most beautiful we’ve seen in the UK.
The beach is completely covered at high tide, but as the tide retreats, a golden sandbar rises out of the turquoise sea creating a shallow lagoon pool.
What time to visit Pedn Vounder? – The beach only begins to appear about 90 minutes after high tide, with the sandbar is visible for around 2 hours either side of low tide.
Getting to the beach – The descent onto the beach is a little tricky, but if you are sure on your feet it’s definitely worth the effort. If you don’t want to scramble down, the views of Pedn Vounder at low tide from the clifftop above are still staggering.
All the details are on our Pedn Vounder guide.
5 – PK PORTHCURNO, MUSEUM OF GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS
About 150 years ago, the first international telegraph cable connected Britain to the rest of the world. This cable reduced the time it took to get messages from Britain to India from 6 weeks to around 9 minutes.
The telegraph cable came ashore at Porthcurno and by the late Victorian era, Porthcurno Telegraph station (codename PK), had become the most important in the world.
Today PK Porthcurno houses the Global Communication Museum. Set back behind Porthcurno Beach car park, it explores the progress of communications from electricity and Morse Code through to fibre optics.
There is a café and toilets onsite.
6 – LOGAN ROCK
Continue past Pedn Vounder on the coastal path and you quickly arrive at Logan Rock, an 80-ton rocking stone sitting on a dramatic wall of granite.
It used to be naturally balanced and sway back and forth when pushed. However, in 1824 a group of sailors moved it. It was later returned to its original position, but the move meant it now only rocks slightly.
The scenery on the walk from Pedn Vounder to Logan Rock is beautiful. The remains of Treryn Dias Iron Age Castle can also be found, although today they are little more than a few mounds.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT NEAR PORTHCURNO BEACH
If you are staying near Porthcurno, there are some other great things to do in the area that are just a short drive away. Here are a few suggestions.
LOGAN ROCK INN
The Logan Rock Inn is a 16th-century village pub that does everything a local pub should, including a good variety of real ales and home-cooked food.
NANJIZAL SEA CAVE
Nanjizal Bay is a short drive west of Porthcurno Beach (or a 1 hour, 20-minute walk). It’s a wild and rugged part of the coastline best known for the ‘Song of the Sea’ – a towering arch carved by the forces of nature.
It can be seen at any time but is best at low tide when you can make your way through the narrow passageway under the arch.
45 QUEEN STREET PENZANCE
Looking for somewhere cool for dinner? Try 45 Queen Street in Penzance – a cavernous warehouse with a young vibe in an age-old fishing town. The menu is simple, just individual items you select to create a tasting board, but the ambience makes it well worth the visit.
The lovely fishing village of Mousehole (pronounce Mowzel) is only a 25-minute drive from Porthcurno Beach. Its tiny harbour surrounded by stone houses and packed with bobbling boats is a slice of old Cornish life. Don’t miss Rock Pool Café perched above a tidal pool overlooking the ocean.
MAP – PORTHCURNO BEACH, CORNWALL
Download the map below which includes all our top attractions around Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall, as well as helpful information like where to park.
How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.
WHERE TO STAY
A holiday cottage is a great way to experience the best of the English countryside during your stay in this stunning part of Cornwall.
Classic Cottages have a wide selection of properties to suit all types of trips.
Here are some other recommendations from us.
The Pigsty is a beautifully appointed pad, ideal for a relaxing country getaway. The barn conversion is in a lovely rural setting, but with Porthcurno Beach just a few minutes’ drive away, you can spend the days soaking up the sun and the afternoons unwinding in the enclosed patio.
Set in a delightful field, Bluebell is a spacious safari tent with two bedrooms, a living area, bathroom and a well-appointed kitchen. Relax on the deck overlooking the fields, laze in the hot tub, or take a stroll on the nearby coastal path before finishing the day with a BBQ in the field.
In a prime position overlooking one of the top surfing beaches in Cornwall, Oystercatcher is an all-weather option. Head to the beach on sunny days or relax with stunning views as the waves pound under your doorstep.
THANKS FOR VISITING // WHERE NEXT?
// This guide was produced in partnership with Classic Cottages.
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