One of my two favourite places in North Cornwall are Newquay and Tintagel. Both are very different but both very typically Cornish. Driving the route from Newquay to Tintagel takes in some amazing beaches, delightful villages and breath-taking coastal walks. The 30 mile drive which is mainly along the A39 will take you just over an hour. But don’t do that, make sure you take a day or two to fully explore this beautiful part of Cornwall. After all, a Cornish road trip is one of the best ways to spend a summer!
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Here are the top things to see on the route from Newquay to Tintagel.
Newquay is probably the top place to visit in North Cornwall for teens on their first parent free holiday or hen and stag dos making use of the great surf in the area. It’s gone a long way to dispel its party central reputation but it’s still actually super fun and a great visit with kids.
On a good day in Newquay then the beach is the place to be. There are several to choose from in and around Newquay but Towan beach is probably my favourite. Just head down through town, all roads lead to the sea! The beach is pretty sheltered with shallow waves making it ideal for a visit with little ones who’ll also love the small pools at the base of the island.
If the weather turns during your trip to Newquay then the Blue Reef aquarium is a great place to spend a few hours. They have 40 themed habitats and creatures from local seas to exotic far away shores. They have sharks, an octopus and a fantastic underwater tunnel.
Also located in the town centre is Newquay Zoo, home to lions, monkeys and even a sloth. An absolute delight for little animal lovers.
Where to stay in Newquay
For a family friendly hotel with a little history thrown in you can’t beat the Headland Hotel. This huge Victorian building perched high on the headland was the setting for the film, the Witches from Roald Dahl. Although the exterior may look a little creepy, the interior most definitely is not.
The Grade II listed building has been lovingly restored with many of the original features retained. The hotel boasts a first class spa with hydro pool, offers surfing lessons and equipment hire. They have an indoor and outdoor pool and even a putting green, ideal for keeping the little ones entertained.
The Headland hotel is brilliantly set up for families with interconnecting rooms and even self catering cottages for a relaxed holiday.
Fistral beach is probably the top surfing spot in Cornwall. And my favourite just outside of Newquay. This is where most of the big UK surf competitions are held so make sure you check the schedule before you visit – it can get very busy. Fistral beach has plenty of family friendly facilities with toilets, showers, lifeguard cover from May until September and plenty of bars and restaurants for when you get peckish.
Dining options at Fistral Beach
There are several places to eat in and around Fistral Beach. For dinner we chose to head up the coastpath and walked a brisk 15 minutes from Fistral to the stunning Lewinnick Lodge. This is a hotel with restaurant which is open to the public. The atmosphere is buzzing and the food was delicious. We chose the seafood pasta and traditional fish and chips. Perfectly presented and mouth-wateringly good.
Make sure you stay long enough for the magnificent display presented on clear nights in the sky. It’s possibly the best place to watch the sunset in the whole of Cornwall. I couldn’t stop taking pictures!
Head East out of Newquay, hugging the coast and after around 15 minutes you’ll drive down into Watergate Bay. There are so many reasons to stop off here, the beach, the food, the caves to explore. This is the place where my childhood memories were made. We stayed at the hotel every summer and basically had the run of the place, it’s that kid friendly. It really is one of the best beaches in North Cornwall.
Over the years the place has had a bit of a facelift, Watergate Bay Hotel itself has been revamped to become one of the most family friendly hotels in the UK and the arrival of some high end restaurants has made this a real foodie destination.
I could happily spend the whole day on Watergate Bay beach. It’s one of the best in the area for surfing and there are plenty of caves to explore. As kids we spent ages inverstigating them all, lighting campfires as the sun went down and telling ghosts stories.
If you’re peckish then the beach hut café at the Watergate Bay hotel is a fantastic spot for lunch. Its cosy interior and outdoor terrace are ideal whatever the weather. Dogs are welcome and food is served pretty much all day. The menu is extensive offering breakfasts to burgers and everything in between. Take a look at the Beach Hut menus here.
At the entrance to the beach you’ll also find a couple of beach shops full of surf and sand gear and this rather awesome 15ft Warrior of the Surf sculpture.
If you’re not staying at the hotel then you can park in the public car park, just steps from the beach.
Where to stay at Watergate Bay
Obviously there’s the amazing Watergate Bay Hotel. One of my favourite hotels in the world. It’s made for relaxation but perfectly geared up for families.
Watergate Bay Hotel has a wonderful pool, spa and offers everything from surf lessons to yoga sessions. This is a luxury hotel but about as unpretentious as it gets. You’ll hear squeals of delight from little ones having a ball in the kids zone and dodge the sandy wellies parked at reception. All this does come at a cost and availability goes quick, especially in the UK school holidays.
If you’re after something a bit more affordable then there are a couple of campsites a little further inland. Check out The View at Watergate Bay for more.
Another fantastic stop off on your trip from Newquay to Tintagel is Bedruthan Steps. This is one of my favourite coastal walks in North Cornwall offering some of the most amazing views I’ve seen in the whole of the UK. The clifftop walk can feel pretty hairy at times, there are no barriers so keep the kids close and dogs should probably remain on a lead. The secluded beach is well worth the climb down 120 steps. Just be careful to check the tide times on your way down. In high tide you can get cut off from the entrance. You can check the tide times here.
Bedruthan steps car park is owned by the National Trust, follow the signs to Carnewas at Bedruthan. If you’re not a member then you can pay at the ticket machines onsite. If you’re planning on exploring a lot of Cornwall on your visit to the UK then I highly recommend annual membership. Family membership for 4 is just £126 and includes admission to over 500 venues. It also gives you free parking in many car parks around the UK which more than pays for itself!
Where to stay at Bedruthan Steps
For me there’s only one option here, the fabulous Bedruthan Steps hotel, another luxury family friendly place to stay in Cornwall. I visited a few weeks ago and have written all about my stay at the Bedruthan here.
Pretty much right in the middle on your journey from Newquay to Tintagel is the small fishing town of Padstow. Possibly most famous for being the epicentre of Rick Steins Cornish empire. There are plenty of other things to entertain the whole family besides eating sea food. Read about what to do in Padstow here.
Keep going toward Tintagel along the coast road and you’ll get to Port Isaac. A picturesque fishing village with a cute harbour. This village was made famous as the location for Doc Martin, the TV show starring Martin Clunes and it does feel exactly how it looks on screen. Quaint, friendly and very Cornish! Parts of Poldark were also filmed here.
Port Isaac is a great place to watch local Fishermen bring in their lobster catch or just explore the narrow winding streets. I prefer to do this by foot rather than car! You can park at the top of the hill and easily walk down into the village.
And finally to Tintagel. Home to various myths and legends and one of the most magical places in Cornwall. The new bridge out to Tintagel Castle is once again putting this small village on the map and little ones will love the stories of King Arthur and Merlin who are said to have have lived in the castle. Read what to do in Tintagel in my recent post and see more pictures of the castle and surrounding area.
I hope this has given you plenty of inspiration for your trip from Newquay to Tintagel. Yes you could just take the quick route along the A39 in an hour but as you can see, there is so much else to see and do along the way, it would be a shame to miss it.
You might also enjoy reading this list of the best restaurants in North Cornwall for your next visit.
Make sure you pin for later for planning your roadtrip from Newquay to Tintagel.