48 Hours in Newquay
PUBLISHED: 12:17 18 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:16 20 February 2013
In this July issue we take you around the vibrant town of Newquay, made famous for its great beaches and surf. There is more to the town than meets the eye however, even if you don't like the water.
48 Hours In...Newquay
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!
Where can we stay?
Perched high on the headland above Fistral Beach is the Headland Hotel (01637) 872211, an impressive building with an exciting history involving an ancient settlement, rioting fishermen and royal patronage. The Beatles stayed at the Atlantic Hotel (01637) 872244 while filming Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. Several of the larger hotels have stunning views out to sea, such as The Esplanade (01637) 873333 and Carnmarth Hotel (01637) 872519, which both overlook Fistral Beach, and the Hotel Victoria (0845) 1664287, which looks out over Newquay Bay. Some smaller hotels and guesthouses, such as Lynton House (01637) 873048 and Roma Guest House (01637 875085), also enjoy sea views, whereas others, like Three Beaches (01637) 873931 and St Breca (01637) 872745, are just minutes from the nearest beach. Stones Throw (01637) 878179 is a town centre guesthouse for couples only, Chynoweth Lodge (01637) 876684 is convenient for the zoo and Trenance Gardens, and The Sutherland (01637 879027 and Pengilley Guest House (01637) 872039 are both dog-friendly. Beachcombers Apartments (01637) 839542, which is 200 yards from Watergate Bay, and Fistral View Apartments (01637) 875137, overlooking the golf course, are both self-catering properties offering short-break holidays. Bring your tent, tourer or motorvan to Watergate Bay Touring Park (01637) 860387 or Treloy (01637) 872063.
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. The Sand Brasserie and Bar (01637) 872211 at the Headlands Hotel overlooks Fistral Beach, and The Regency Restaurant (01637) 873455 at Hotel Victoria looks towards Trevone. 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 (01637) 874262 in Fore Street offers a mainly steak and seafood menu. The Fort Inn (01637) 311288, also in Fore Street, has a garden with superb views down to the harbour. For something different, a visit to Senor Dicks (01637) 870350 with its Central American ambience, spicy food such as tortillas, nachos, enchiladas, and Margaritas, is a must - look out for its elaborately decorated building in East Street.
Many cafs 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 Caf (01637) 859000 in East Street.
Things to do
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. The Tropical Shark Lagoon is a new attraction for 2008. 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
Until 23 July at the Lane Theatre: Laying the Ghost by Simon Williams, every Tuesday and Wednesday at 8.15pm. (01637) 876945
5-6 July: Quiksilver 'King of the Groms' surfing competition, Fistral Beach
20 July: Cornwall Leukaemia Trust Memorial Gig Race, The Harbour
20 July: Lions Sandcastle Competition, Towan Beach
26 July: White Stuff Surf Relief UK Festival, Watergate Bay
26 July: Newquay Zoo: The Wild Breakfast - help prepare breakfast and join keepers on their first round of the day, from 5am-8.30am. (01637) 873342
Tourist Information Centre: Marcus Hill (01637) 854020/(01637) 854040 (events hotline), www.newquay.co.uk
The Atlantic Coast Line Rail Ale Trail: from Newquay to Par (01637) 233094
Lappa Valley Steam Railway: St Newlyn East, Newquay (01872) 510317
Newquay Airport: (01637) 860600, www.newquaycornwallairport.com
Travel Line South West: Newquay Bus Station, East Street (0870) 6082608
Surf Rider Road Train: hop on and off at any stop, ride around the streets of Newquay, or park-and-ride from the zoo, from 10am to 5pm daily. www.newquaytrain.com
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