Watergate Bay Beach

Watergate Bay beach
Watergate Bay beach © Holly Donnelly

Set just to the north of Newquay is this fantastic stretch of golden sand backed by rugged cliffs. A firm favourite among surfers and families alike, Watergate Bay is also one of Cornwall's best dog-friendly beaches.

About Watergate Bay Beach

At low tide Watergate Bay beach becomes a vast expanse of unbroken golden sand backed by high cliffs. Watergate can be considered the first in a succession of fabulous golden sand beaches leading to (and through) Newquay. The bonus is with its generous size and distance from the town (3 miles) you can still find a quiet piece of sand to yourself.

Watergate Bay beach and hotel

The beach at Watergate Bay is set between the cliffs Trevelgue Head to the south and Stem Point in the north and the coast path here is well worth exploring. The neighbouring beaches of Porth and Mawgan Porth appear positively diminutive compared the stretch of Sand at Watergate Bay.

Watergate Bay - Low tide beach expanse from the northern end

As with all the beaches in Newquay Bay, Watergate provides some good waves and being west-facing picks up any Atlantic swell going. In fact, since 2007 the beach has played host to the English Nationals Surfing Championships. Combined with its size and location this has made it very popular with local surf schools and perhaps best known, the Extreme Academy.

The  Extreme Academy offers a range of "extreme sports" including surfing, kite surfing and kite buggying.

Aerial view of surf at Watergate Bay

For food, head to The Beach Hut for relaxed dining right on the seafront, or Restaurant Emily Scott next door serving local fish and seafood fresh from Cornish waters. Beach food takeout options include Nuvola pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, and Cubs coffee pop-up on sea lane.

The Boardmasters Festival

Over recent years Watergate Bay has become something of a staple on the British summer time events map. Born out of the original 1980s international surf competition held in Newquay, the festival has grown to become Europe's largest surf, skate, and music event, attracting thousands from across the globe.

Boardmasters Festival - Watergate Bay

Whilst still the biggest surfing event on the UK calendar this has been pretty much eclipsed by the size of the festival. The 5 day event is held across two locations; the Boardmasters surfing competition takes place at Fistral Beach, where it always has been and the festival proper is based at Trebelsue Farm in Watergate Bay. 

As the sun sets, the festival transforms, with various stages hosting an eclectic mix of artists, from up-and-coming acts to international headliners, all of which offer attendees a unique experience that blends the thrill of surfing with the allure of live music.

Visiting Watergate Bay Beach

As with all of Cornwall's beaches it is important to check the tides when planning a vist. We would recommend aiming for low to mid tide as the beach size is much reduced at higher tides. See Watergate Bay Beach tide times.

When is the best time to visit Watergate Bay Beach

It is definitely best to visit Watergate Bay towards low tide. At high tide the beach is very much diminished with the waves coming right up to the beachfront cafes on spring tides.

It is also essential that you check the tide times if you plan to walk to either end of the beach. While a bit of solitude may be welcome, getting cut off by an incoming tide and having to be rescued by helicopter won't be! Watergate Bay is somewhat notorious for this, so you certainly wouldn't be the first.

Where is Watergate Bay Beach

Watergate Bay is situated about 3 miles north of Newquay, a stone's throw from the airport. Whilst still popular, this stretch of Cornwall's north coast is outside of the main resort and largely undeveloped. In addition, there are a number of equally fantastic beaches close by including Mawgan Porth and Bedruthan Steps with its stunning rock formations.

Nearest town: Newquay

Find accommodation near Watergate Bay Beach

/public/photos/Watergate Bay at sunset


Watergate Bay is located on the coastal B3276 Newquay to Padstow road. Just follow the signs to Padstow or Newquay, depending on which direction you are going in and you'll find Watergate around three miles north of Newquay.

If you are heading down on the A30 take the Newquay exit. From there, follow signs for Newquay Airport/Watergate Bay, which will lead you onto the A3059. From here you will soon hit the B3276 coast road.

It is possible to get to Watergate Bay by bus with several buses running from Newquay and surrounding areas. The most straightforward service is the number 56 which runs between Newquay and Padstow hourly.

If you wanted to fly to a beach in Cornwall you won't get much closer than Watergate Bay. Newquay Airport (NQY) is located less than a couple of miles from the beach. So, in theory, you could be at the beach 5 minutes after touch down if you jump in a taxi!


There are 2 car parks towards the southern end of the beach both of which charge. The closest of these is right next to the beach and has around 150 spaces. This tends to fill up fairly quickly and it has an ANPR camera system so make sure you pay and put your registration in correctly.

Just across the road is the Cornwall Council run car park. This has around 400 spaces and charges pretty much the same price as the other car park.

Access - How to get down to the beach

Watergate Bay beach is fully accessible to wheelchair users. The main steps down to the beach were rebuilt a few years back to aid ambient disabled users.

Throughout the spring and summer months a Natural Access sand wheelchair which is available for use. This can be booked through the Watergate Bay surf school.

Is Watergate Bay Beach dog friendly?

Watergate Bay is one of Cornwall's truly dog friendly beaches. Dogs are allowed all year round on what is a privately owned beach.

Does Watergate Bay Beach have lifeguards

RNLI lifeguard Summer cover begins on the Easter school holidays, when cover is daily. After the holidays there are lifeguards on duty only on the weekends. Daily lifeguard patrols resume from early May to the end of September.

Cover has been extended to weekends in October and daily during the October half term.

Patrol times are from 10am to 6pm.

Is Watergate Bay Beach suitable for swimming?

This wide, open beach faces into the full force of the Atlantic Ocean meaning that there are often large waves and powerful currents. This tends to be less of an issue during the summer when there is also a lifeguard service. We would only recommend swimming here on supervised days and under the watchful eyes of the RNLI lifeguards.

If you don't fancy swimming in the sea but still want to swim at Watergate Bay there is a solution. The hotel here has a stunning 25 metre infinity pool with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the ocean. Admission to non-guests is quite pricey but can be combined with a meal at Zacry's restaurant.

/public/photos/Watergate Bay - View of the surf from Zarcy's cafe

What facilities are there at Watergate Bay Beach?

There are council-run, accessible toilets in the main car park, across the road from the beach. These are open from 10am-4pm during the winter and 9am-9pm in the summer. However, be warned there is a 50 pence charge for using them! There are also showers available in the toilet block.

If you are looking for a bite to eat Watergate Bay has some excellent options. The location was really put on the foodie map when Jamie Oliver set up his "Fifteen" restaurant and apprentice programme here. Nowadays there is still a great choice with not one but four eateries overlooking the beach. From fine dining at Zacry's restaurant to the more laid back Beach Hut all have stunning views out over the ocean.

Things to do at Watergate Bay Beach

Beyond surfing and the usual family-friendly beach activities Watergate Bay still comes up trumps for things to do. Wavehunters surf school run a host of other water-based activities such as stand-up paddleboard and kite surfing. Even if you are a complete novice thesy can get you started with plenty of kit to hire.

For those with energy to burn who don't want to throw themselves into the waves there are beach-based yoga and fitness sessions. Also run by Wavehunters these happen throughout the week at either end of the day.

Lying on a wonderfully scenic stretch of the South West coast path, Watergate provides a great starting point for some coastal hikes. Either direction (Padstow or Newquay) will provide some splendid clifftop scenery, although we would recommend the walk northwards past Mawgan Porth and on to Bedruthan Steps.

Once the day on the beach is done Watergate Bay offers a host of food and drink options (as mentioned above). All of these are ideal vantage points to watch the setting sun (weather permitting!). Facing almost due west the sunsets here are as good as anywhere as the sun sinks over Newquay Bay.

/public/photos/Watergate Bay Sunset - Beach Hut

Watergate Bay Beach Reviews (1)

Watergate bay


Jan 05th 2020

Honestly I love watergate bay so much I go every year and the second I turn 16 I’m going to apply to be a beach lifeguard there because that’s what I want to do all I want to do is help people and save lives I love swimming and I love the beach and swimming in the ocean is something special and gives me a reason to live for