You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy Newquay, a vibrant town that will keep everyone occupied, as LESLEY DOUBLE discovers…
Despite having a reputation as a town for the young, Newquay is much more than that. It may be trite to say that it has something for everyone, but this is certainly the case. It is the perfect family resort where no one, whatever their age, will complain of being bored. Beautiful beaches run for several miles either side of the town and are extremely popular with surfers, who can usually catch a decent wave whichever way the wind is blowing, and the wide stretches of sand are perfect for those with children. There are golf clubs and parks, a zoo and an aquarium, boat trips and swimming pools, historical sites and wildlife walks, museums and scenic train rides – far too much to be explored in a mere 48 hours!
Beautiful beaches run for several miles either side of the town and are extremely popular with surfers, who can usually catch a decent wave whichever way the wind is blowing, and the wide stretches of sand are perfect for those with children.
Where can we stay?
Perched high on the headland above Fistral Beach is The Headland Hotel, an impressive building with an exciting history involving an ancient settlement, rioting fishermen and royal patronage.
The Beatles stayed at The Atlantic Hotel while filming Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. Several of the larger hotels have stunning views out to sea, such as The Esplanade and Carnmarth Hotel, which both overlook Fistral Beach, and the Hotel Victoria, which looks out over Newquay Bay.
Stone’s Throw is a town centre one-bedroom apartment ideal for couples, Chynoweth Lodge is convenient for the zoo and Trenance Gardens, and The Sutherland and Pengilley Guest House are both dog-friendly.
Beachcombers Apartments, which is 200 yards from Watergate Bay, and Fistral View Apartments, overlooking the golf course, are both self-catering properties offering short-break holidays. Bring your tent, tourer or motorvan to Watergate Bay Touring Park or Treloy.
A quick look along the main shopping streets appears to indicate that there are rather a lot of surf shops, cafs and amusement arcades, but on closer inspection little galleries and gift shops are there too. Some roads are pedestrianised, whereas others are lined with ornamental seats and large stone balls, but all of them are very close to the sea. Look down some of the alleys or peer between shops and houses, and you will see flashes of blue sea and sky. Everywhere there are churches and chapels, many of which have bright, gleaming stonework that shows off the stained-glass windows.
Many new buildings have been built on historic sites. For example, the Aquarium was once the site of the old steam laundry. Tunnels that were once used to transport iron ore from the tramway to the harbour now house Newquay Rowing Club’s pilot gigs and the original lifeboat house on Fore Street is now an artist’s studio.
Away from the shops and the buckets and spades, Trenance Gardens and Boating Lake is a haven of tranquillity. Attracting a wide variety of wildlife, such as cormorants, dabchicks and swans, the lake is surrounded by mature plants and well-kept flowerbeds, and is crossed by little bridges. Pedaloes and rowing boats can be hired from May to September. Compared to the steep slopes of the town and beach, the Gardens are almost level. An island in the lake is home to three 4.9m (16ft) high wicker figures created by Serena de la Hey who also made the willow man standing next to the M5 in Somerset. Also in the lake, a stainless-steel swan with a 3m (10ft) wingspan was made by sculptor Tim Fortune.
Three things to take home
A Trevilley Farm Hamper – apart from producing meat from their own cattle and sheep, baking bread and cakes and growing endless varieties of vegetables, Trevilley Farm sells all manner of Cornish goodies. Fill a wicker basket with a delicious selection from their shelves.
Art – see many kinds of art at Driftwood Gallery in Central Square, ranging from work by figurative artist Sheree Valentine Daines, whose paintings are collected by members of the Royal Family, to shellfish-decorated tableware from Richard Bramble.
Bonsai – a 10-year-old fig tree or a 20-year-old Chinese elm are both less than 305mm (1ft) high. There are dozens of bonsai trees to choose from at Newquay Bonsai in East Street.
Some restaurants attached to the larger hotels have stunning views including The Sand Brasserie and Bar at The Headlands Hotel which overlooks Fistral Beach.
The Regency Restaurant at Hotel Victoria looks towards Trevone while the Fistral Blu Bar Restaurant (01637 879444) is set right on the beach and offers a mixture of formal dining tables as well as sofas and coffee tables.
Ye Olde Dolphin Restaurant in Fore Street offers a mainly steak and seafood menu. The Fort Inn, also in Fore Street, has a garden with superb views down to the harbour. For something different, a visit to Senor Dicks with its Central American ambiance, spicy food such as tortillas, nachos, enchiladas, and margaritas, is a must. Look out for its elaborately decorated building in East Street.
Many cafés and bars have outside sitting areas. The Central (01637 873810) in Central Square has a wrought-iron-enclosed patio. Enjoy real ale with your food and keep warm beside the patio heater at Sugar (01637 872228), a bar and bistro in Bank Street, or enjoy the sheltered sun terrace at the rear of Oceans Café (01637 859000) in East Street.
With some of the best beaches in Cornwall – some would say the world – it would be a sin to visit Newquay and not feel the sand between your toes. Towan Beach is right next to the town and has its own little island with a solitary house on top, linked to the mainland by a bridge. Porth Beach is sheltered, whereas Fistral, Crantock and Holywell beaches are huge expanses of sand. Harbour Beach is a suntrap where you can watch the fishing boats arrive, and Tolcarne has beach huts for hire. There are rock pools and caves to explore at Porth Joke, but whatever your mood, there’s a beach to suit you. And should you fancy a go at surfing or bodyboarding, there are many surf schools that will be happy to show you how it’s done.
Never mind riding the waves, if you want to see what’s beneath them then visit the Blue Reef Aquarium where you’ll meet octopuses, jellyfish, turtles, seahorses and many other exotic creatures. Newquay Zoo holds more than 130 different species in its sub-tropical lakeside gardens. Opened in 1969, the zoo has been a major player in the conservation world. See red pandas and lemurs, lions and zebra, tapirs and tarantulas, or adopt your favourite animal for as little as £30 a year.
Boat trips are available from the harbour, where you can go sharking, wreck and reef fishing, or enjoy a pleasure trip around Newquay Bay.
The 136-seater Lane Theatre is owned by Newquay Dramatic Society, who have been presenting plays since 1931. The theatre has a bar, disabled facilities and ample free parking, and has Phillip Schofield as Honorary Patron.
Good to know…
Long-stay car parks: Atlantic Road, Harbour, Pentire Head, Towan Head and Tregunnel
Short-stay car parks: Fore Street, The Manor, Mount Wise, St George’s Road and Albany Road