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Best beach hotels in Cornwall 2023: Where to stay for sandy shores and sea views

Enjoy walking and swimming along Cornwall’s coastline, during a stay at one of these beachfront beauties

Oliver Berry
Thursday 15 June 2023 16:11 BST
<p>The Old Coastguard Hotel boasts stunning views of the ocean</p>

The Old Coastguard Hotel boasts stunning views of the ocean

Cornwall is, of course, all about its windswept, sea-smacked, dune-backed coast – all 422 miles of it. If you’re a fan of early morning dips, sunset walks and wild swims, you really want to be as close to the beach as possible.

As such, here’s our special selection of our favourite Cornish seaside hotels, from cliff-top wonders to island getaways and secluded beachfront manors. Some stand right beside the sand, while others provide a grandstand beach panorama from the top of the bluffs – all offer maximum beach time.

The restaurants nearby are full of the catch of the day and quality local produce, so you can refuel after your adventures before retreating to a room with views over the ocean. Whether you’re after a romantic retreat with your significant other or looking to take the family for an adventure by the sea, Cornwall has it all. Just don’t forget to pack your snorkel and swimsuit.

Best hotel for activities: Watergate Bay Hotel

Location: Newquay

Atlantic views fill the huge windows, so you can stay in bed and watch the sea

You can’t really get any closer to the beach than this: as the name suggests, this activity-focused family hotel sits right alongside its namesake bay, just a couple of miles along the coast from Newquay. In many ways, this is really the ultimate Cornish beach hotel: Atlantic views fill every window, you’re steps from a magnificent sweep of golden sand, and the in-house activity centre, Wavehunters at the Extreme Academy, offers you the chance to indulge in all manner of beachy pursuits, including surfing, wild swimming and stand-up paddleboarding. The majority of rooms overlook the bay from one perspective or another – some have balconies, others, sliding glass doors, and for the consummate experience, the seven bespoke-designed Beach Lofts sit literally by the tideline.

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Best hotel for families: The Bedruthan Hotel & Spa

Location: Newquay

The hotel’s boxy breezeblock exterior conceals an unexpectedly fun interior

The sister property of the swish Scarlet – another deluxe beach proposition – this clifftop hotel is a firm favourite for holidaying families. It’s named after the Bedruthan Steps – the rock stacks that rise from the Atlantic waves a mile or so to the north – but the nearest beach is Mawgan Porth, which unfurls right below the hotel’s windows. The hotel itself was built in the late 1950s, but its boxy breezeblock exterior conceals an unexpectedly fun interior: all swirly fabrics, zingy pops of colour and expansive glass windows to make the most of the beach view. It’s very laid-back: kids (and dogs) are welcome, and there’s plenty for them to do, from craft sessions to an indoor cinema, surf lessons and a couple of pools. Meanwhile, you can relax in the hotel’s spa – or perhaps indulge in a sustainable, super-seasonal supper at the hotel’s recently revamped restaurant, Ogo. The clifftop gardens are a pleasure, too.

Best hotel for garden-lovers: Hotel Meudon

Location: Falmouth

The subtropical gardens at Hotel Meudon are a delight

This under-the-radar hotel is hidden among fields outside Falmouth, between the popular beach of Maenporth and the Helford River. It was originally built as a private manor by the Fox family, who also planted the nearby estates of Trebah and Glendurgan – and the hotel’s own secret gardens are a delight, tumbling down through lawns, terraces and a subtropical valley filled with exotic palms, giant gunnera and rhododendrons en route to a secluded little beach, Bream Cove. Family-run for decades, and acquired in 2021 by the local Kingfisher hotel group, it’s been smartly updated with colourful mid-century furniture, bright fabrics and lively artwork, all with a slightly retro, Seventies feel. There’s a fun speakeasy-style bar for cocktails, and the restaurant has a fine garden view – even if the food doesn’t quite live up to its elevated price-tag. For once, the garden or sea view dilemma isn’t an issue here: you’ll be happy with either, but do book one with a balcony or patio. Our tip: get up early, wander down to Bream Cove for a morning swim, get coffee from the hotel’s pop-up truck, The Bream Box, and spend an hour or two soaking up those glorious gardens.

Best for historic architecture: The Headland Hotel

Location: Newquay

Watch surfers in action from the comfort of the Headland Hotel

It’s impossible to miss this striking Victorian-era hotel: it sits in what is undoubtedly Newquay’s prime patch of real estate, on its own headland overlooking the legendary surfing beach of Fistral, where you can watch surfers in action (or even have a go yourself). With its turrets and red-brick façade, it’s a classic slice of neo-Gothic Victoriana but, inside, the whole place has been modernised while retaining traditional architectural features. Rooms are bright and welcoming, there’s a fancy spa, and the flashy new Aqua Club has added six pools, including a hydrotherapy pool, sunset spa pool and infinity-edge pool looking over the Atlantic. For more space, book one of the cliffside cottages.

Best hotel for seclusion: Hell Bay Hotel

Location: Bryher, Isles of Scilly

Enjoy the feeling of an upmarket Hamptons getaway at this hotel

When you want to get away from it all, Hell Bay is the place. It’s the only hotel on Bryher, the quietest (and perhaps the prettiest) of the Isles of Scilly, and stands in glorious seaside isolation beside the island’s biggest, wildest beach, Hell Bay (if you’re wondering why it’s so named, come in midwinter and you’ll get a pretty good idea). With its pastel colours, sea-themed stripes and wicker furniture, the hotel has the feeling of an upmarket Hamptons getaway: several rooms and suites have private patios and views over the hotel’s neat, flower-filled gardens, and there’s a pleasant outdoor pool, garden yoga studio and a treatment shed for spa spoils. But it’s the setting that sells this place – from the doorstep, you can follow Bryher’s coast path to discover quiet beaches and swimming spots, or hike up to the top of Watch Hill for a panorama across all of Scilly.

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Best hotel for Scandi style: Primrose House

Location: St Ives

Elegant rooms look out over the golden sands of Porthminster

This is a stylish St Ives bolthole that’s only 50m from the sands of Porthminster. Although it’s not quite on the beachfront, it’s close enough – all you need do is follow the path under the train track that runs across the bottom of the car-park, and you’re there. It’s an elegant affair, studiously minimal and decorated throughout in tasteful hues of taupe, grey, cream and mustard, with carefully chosen pieces of furniture to conjure a fashionable, Scandi-inspired vibe – a driftwood sculpture or willow-filled vase here, a rattan chair or seagrass mat there. Sea views are essential – ask for one of the rooms with a balcony, such as room 2, 3, 4 or 5, which also has a rolltop bath. The Pod, a loft-style room accessed via a steep stepladder, is a fun option.

Best hotel for a spa break: St Michaels Resort

Location: Falmouth

Enjoy having Falmouth’s largest beach on your doorstep

This is a solid, sensible seaside hotel – not too pricey, and with some good out-of-season deals on offer. This longstanding Falmouth hotel is renowned locally for its top-class spa, which includes a big hydrothermal pool (the largest in the southwest, apparently), as well as various treatment rooms and a new Spa Garden, with a 12-seater hot tub and barrel sauna. There’s a wide choice of rooms, from basic doubles to deluxe beach apartments, all decorated in the same unfussy style: navy blues and greys, with pictures of boats and shells to remind you of the seaside location. Falmouth’s biggest beach, Gyllyngvase, is only a minute’s walk away, through the hotel gardens.

Best hotel for peace and quiet: The Rosevine

Location: The Roseland peninsula

You’re free to wander the lovely grounds at will during your stay

This country house on the rural Roseland has been converted into a sort of Cornish apart-hotel: 15 attractive, spacious studios and suites, with open-plan layouts, little kitchens where you can prepare meals, and fine views across lawned gardens to the coast. There’s also a shared drawing room with a wood-burning stove, a kids’ area and heated indoor pool, and a very good restaurant. Plus, you’re free to wander the lovely grounds at will. It’s a lovely spot, just uphill from popular Porthcurnick Beach and its well-known beachside cafe, The Hidden Hut. For quieter sands, head out on the coast path to Porthbean beach or one of the many others nearby.

Best hotel for traditional style: The Nare

Location: The Roseland peninsula

Rooms feature old-fashioned style, with antique furniture and Roberts radios

A reassuringly old-school hotel in a superb spot above the long, golden stretch of Carne, which joins up with neighbouring Pendower at low tide to form one of the Roseland’s biggest expanses of sand. This is definitely not a hotel for the minimalists, however: its chintzy, country-house style is geared towards guests looking for a more classic English hotel experience, from nightly turn-downs and valet service to afternoon tea served on the lawn. The rooms are spacious and have a choice of sea or country views: they all share the same sense of old-fashioned style, with pelmets, armchairs, antique furniture and Roberts radios. Several have separate lounges or adjoining bedrooms, making them ideal for families. There’s a formal fine-dining restaurant, a pleasant spa and two pools, one indoor and one outdoor; braver guests opt for an early morning sea dip on Carne, before the daytime crowds arrive.

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Best for a weekend getaway: The Old Coastguard Hotel

Location: Mousehole

The Old Coastguard Hotel feels cosy and countrified

Run by the owners of The Gurnard’s Head in Zennor (as well as the Felin Fach Griffin near Hay-on-Wye), this small hotel on the outskirts of Mousehole is just the ticket for a quick coastal getaway – it runs a popular Sunday Sleepover package that includes Sunday lunch, supper and one night’s B&B. The location is wonderful – trimmed gardens rolling down to the coast and views over Mount’s Bay towards the rocky silhouette of St Michael’s Mount. Design-wise, it feels cosy and countrified: checked bedspreads, Roberts radios, traditional wooden furniture and little windows that peep onto the briny blue. The nearest beach is Mousehole’s harbour, where banks of soft sand are revealed at low tide; alternatively, hike out along the coast path in search of the rocky coves where locals like to swim. Alternatively, take a bracing dip in Mousehole Rock Pool, the tidal pool opposite the hotel gardens.

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Best hotel for the southeast coast: Talland Bay Hotel

Location: Looe

The whimsical Talland Bay has both traditional and modern rooms with stunning sea views

Cornwall’s southeast coast is short on swish hotels, but the Talland Bay is a rare exception – and you’re in a prime location for exploring the gorgeous coastline between Looe and Polperro. The hotel isn’t quite beachside – you’re a 10-minute walk from the sandy beach at Talland Bay – but the lawned gardens (and most of the rooms) offer a widescreen view out to sea. The design here mixes traditional and modern: some rooms are flouncy and floral, others more contemporary, with sleigh beds, twisted wooden lamps and statement wallpapers. It’s very dog-friendly (canine guests get their own doggy welcome pack) and the front gardens are a pleasure at sunset. There’s no pool, though, so you’ll be limited to sea swims – much more fun.

Best hotel for boat-watching: The Greenbank

Location: Falmouth

The hotel is dotted with bits of nautical memorabilia, such as old maps and model ships

There’s a whiff of Agatha Christie grandeur about this venerable waterside hotel, which spans several buildings at the end of Falmouth’s handsomest street: Dunstanville Terrace. A feature of Falmouth’s waterfront since 1640, when the buildings were the homes of Packet ship captains, the hotel is dotted with bits of nautical memorabilia – old maps, model ships, black-and-white photos of the town’s seafaring heyday. The watery views steal the show here – river vistas fill every window, in the bar, the restaurant, the hotel’s lively pub, The Working Boat, and in many of the rooms too. Skip the inland rooms – you want one with a big bay window looking across the water to Flushing, ideally with a balcony or terrace (the fancy Lookout Suite even has its own telescope for lazy boatwatching). Directly in front of the hotel, there’s a pebbly beach to explore at low tide. When the tide comes in, the Greenbank’s quay is popular with local swimmers and paddleboarders.

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