Cornwall is paradise for lovers of the great outdoors. Though it's best known for its surf scene, this sea-facing county has a wealth of ways to get active – from hiking the clifftops to kayaking the waves and cycling the trails.

Surf Spots in Cornwall

If you've always had a secret hankering to hit the waves, then there's no doubt about it: Cornwall is the place to do it in the UK. Thanks to its full-frontal access to the restless Atlantic waves, it's blessed with some of the best surf conditions anywhere in Europe (paralleled, aficionados say, by Ireland's west coast and the Landes département in southwest France).

The north coast is the epicentre of Cornwall's surf scene, and Newquay is its capital. The nearby beaches receive some of the most reliable swells, and local surfers take full advantage, with beaches like Fistral and Mawgan Porth packed with surfers throughout summer (and even winter, too). Surf schools are ubiquitous here, so they're a great option if you just want to learn the basics.

Just along the coast, the beaches around Padstow feel more low-key, and are a better alternative for experienced surfers: Constantine Bay, Treyarnon Bay, Harlyn and Polzeath are prime options here. Further still come the many beaches around Bude – Summerleaze is the one for learners, with rockier, rougher beaches nearby best left for the experienced.

The beaches around Porthtowan and St Agnes tend to have a heavy locals-only scene – novices generally won't be welcome here, so they're best avoided; Perranporth is a better option. Further west, the area around St Ives is another classic spot, especially the grand sweep of Gwithian, with Sennen another option as you head out towards Land's End.

The south coast has some surf too, especially around Praa Sands and Whitesand Bay in the southeast. Surfing the legendary swell at the harbour wall at Porthleven is an absolute no-no unless you definitely know what you're doing.

As always, the best way to get familiar with Cornwall's surf scene is to take the advice of the experts. If you're still learning, we strongly recommend taking a few refresher lessons with an accredited local surf school, who can help refine your skills and give you a few tips on where to try them out.