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Experience kayaking in Cornwall and discover the best way to explore the wondrous Cornish coast!

Whether a seasoned paddler, or new to kayaking completely, kayaking in Cornwall is a must-do activity.

Cornwall has over 300 miles of picturesque coastline to explore, as well as several rivers too.

Explore dreamy, tree-lined rivers and crystal clear creeks. Or soak up spectacular coastal views and sunbathe on beaches all to yourself.

We’ve put together a guide on kayaking in Cornwall so you can head straight to the best spots.

Read on to discover the best places to kayak in Cornwall…


It’s no secret that the North Cornwall town of Newquay is truly a watersports haven. The jewel in Cornwall’s surfing crown, Newquay is also a great spot for kayaking in Cornwall.

Those new to paddling can launch from Newquay’s harbour beach amongst paddle boarders and swimmers. Build up your skills here before heading to one of Newquay’s several beaches.

Launch from Towan Beach and head towards the Gazzle, a 2km stretch of craggy coastline. Reach hidden smuggler’s coves and secluded shores only accessible from the water.

Enjoy the light swell and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, porpoises and seabirds in this area.

Another great spot for kayaking in Cornwall is the Gannel Estuary. Enjoy this route at high tide and head up river before turning back to ride the waves home.

Take a look at our top Things to do in Newquay if you’re planning a visit!

Equipment hire and excursions in Newquay:

St Ives and Carbis Bay

The crystal clear waters of St Ives are tempting even on a cold day. So when it’s the height of summer and the weather is fine, don’t miss a great opportunity for some kayaking in Cornwall.

You can set off on your sea kayak adventure from Porthminster Beach. Keep St Ives on your left, and follow the coastline around the headland. You’ll pass St Ives Harbour, Smeaton’s Pier, and Porthgwidden, before rounding the corner to Porthmeor.

Extend your route by starting off from the gorgeous Blue Flag Carbis Bay Beach. At high tide, you could head in the other direction to explore Hayle Estuary. Ensure you get the tide times correct here though, as you can easily be swept into some tricky spots.

Equipment hire and excursions in St Ives and Carbis Bay:

River Fowey

Explore the area that inspired Kenneth Grahame to write ‘The Wind in the Willows’.

The River Fowey offers serene, tree-lined waters perfect for beginner paddlers. Build up confidence and basic skills, all whilst keeping your eyes peeled for a myriad of wildlife.

Start out in Golant and head towards Fowey, continuing on to Polruan. Why not stop off in Readymoney Cove? Walk in the footsteps of Daphne Du Maurier and explore the ruins of St Catherine’s Castle on the headland, before setting off for Golant.

Alternatively, explore the smaller branches of the river. Find peaceful and quiet locations like Penpol Creek and the River Lerryn. The latter leads you up to the quaint village of Lerryn, perfect for a pit stop!

Encounter Cornwall not only offer kayak hire, but 3-man Canadian canoes too. Enjoy the ultimate canoeing in Cornwall experience.

Equipment hire and excursions in Fowey:

St Agnes

Who knew you could enjoy a history lesson whilst kayaking in Cornwall? Explore North Cornwall’s mining history from the water along the St Agnes Heritage Coast.

Setting off from Trevaunance Cove, keep the coast on your left to round St Agnes Head, catching sight of the famous Wheal Coates mine. Stop off at Chapel Porth Beach or simply head back along the coast.

Another popular route will see you take a right out of Trevaunance Cove, passing Hanover Cove and Cligga Head.

Continue to the southern end of Perranporth Beach and come to a spectacular 30-metre sea arch. Explore the secret cove through here before you return.

Be aware, both of these routes are for more adventurous and experienced kayakers and paddlers, so please take care!

Equipment hire and excursions in St Agnes:

Helford River

The best way to explore the Helford River is most certainly from the water. Kayaking in Cornwall has never been so picturesque.

Little beaches and coves lay scattered along the riverbank, often providing you with a private bay all to yourself.

Paddle past ancient oak forests along Frenchman’s Creek, the inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier’s novel of the same name.

Discover old shipwrecks and enjoy wild swimming in the calm waters.

Some of the most beautiful spots include Grebe Beach, which sits tucked away around the corner from Durgan village.

Bosahan Cove is a must-visit, only accessible via water or footpaths. It’s one of Helford River’s truly hidden gems, and is just a stroll away from Bosahan Gardens.

Equipment hire and excursions near Helford River:

River Fal

The wood-fringed channels of the River Fal make for a beautiful setting for kayaking in Cornwall.

Set off from Falmouth and take in the beautiful waters of the Carrick Roads, passing St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula.

Kayaking instead of paddle boarding allows you to venture further up the river, up towards Truro River.

Stop off at places like Carricknath Cove, Porthbeor Beach and countless secluded beaches.

This area makes for an easy self-led kayaking experience, much like the other river locations.

Kayaking from Swanpool Beach and Gylly Beach are also great options. Both beaches are quite sheltered with calm waters. Keep the coast on your right and head south to Maenporth, stopping off at The Cove restaurant or Maenporth Beach Cafe.

Equipment hire and excursions in Falmouth:

Lizard Peninsula

The Lizard Peninsula is definitely one of the best places to kayak in Cornwall. There are plenty of options for where to launch your kayaks too.

Discover a breath-taking stretch of coastline between Mullion Cove and Kynance Cove. This area is definitely for the more experienced kayaker, or as part of a guided tour if you’re a beginner.

Conditions can be choppy, even on calm days, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning headlands and hidden caves.

Navigate around Mullion Island and Asparagus Island before coming to Kynance Cove. This recognisable beach was actually a filming location for the popular BBC drama Poldark.

Equipment hire and excursions on Lizard Peninsula:

Kayaking in Cornwall: Hire and Excursion Summary

Staying Safe when Kayaking in Cornwall

  • Book a kayaking excursion with professional guides if you’ve never been kayaking before. They will take you through all the required safety procedures and give you essential advice and tips.
  • Check the weather, tides and flow. The water might look calm to you on the surface, but this can be very deceiving. Currents and flow can be checked at National River Flow Archive website if you’re planning a self-led outing. It’s important to check the surf and tide times when sea kayaking along the coast too, as choppy and unsafe waters can lead you into dangerous situations.
  • Tell someone where you’re going. Even if you’re heading out in a pair or group, it’s always best to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
  • Consider wearing safety equipment, including life jackets and other buoyancy aids.
  • Check any waterway restrictions or license requirements. Not many, but some waterways require you to purchase a kayaking license, which is usually only a few pounds.
  • Stay hydrated and maintain energy levels. Cornwall can get very hot in spring and summer, so pack sun cream and a hat too!
  • Purchase a waterproof phone case/pouch, or hire one from a hire shop. Accidents happen, and you’ll thank yourself for investing in a protective covering if your phone drops in the water!

If you’re feeling inspired to get outdoors in Cornwall, take a look at our guide to the Best Wild Swimming Spots in Cornwall.

We also have a fantastic guide on Climbing in Cornwall too, great for any avid climbers looking for some scenic routes to tackle.

Make your next adventure kayaking in Cornwall at a Cornish Cottage Holidays cottage.