The village itself is like Newquays grown up mature sibling, its pristine thatched cottages, community library and picture postcard church give it a quaint and timeless feel. Don’t be fooled though by its appearance as a sleepy and peaceful backwater; Crantock’s unique blend of river estuary and beach paradise means it’s hugely popular with those who like to set up camp and stay for the whole day. During the summer plan to arrive early, it’s normal for the beach carpark to be full before 9am.
The Gannel, for those who haven’t had the pleasure, is a stunningly beautiful river estuary on the southern edge of Newquay. Being tidal it’s an environment of extremes, at low tide its moonscape sands are a playground for rock poolers, dog walkers, and horse riders alike, whilst at high tide, wild swimmers, kayakers and paddle boarders are drawn to its pool-like vibe. When visiting Crantock you have the option to enjoy the coastal delights of the beach, or wander inland, along this epic river valley. If you’re arriving early the Gannel is one of the best spots in Newquay to get an easterly vantage point for sunrise, and if you’re staying all day, simply retrace your steps to Crantock beach for sundowners; this combination of beach and river makes Crantock one of Cornwall’s ultimate beauty spots.
In the winter the national trust beach car park provides ample space for visitors, however in the summer this car park is often full first thing in the morning. As many people stay for the whole day it’s advisable to arrive early.
There are additional pay and display car parks on west pentire which service Crantock beach. Be prepared for a walk across the sand dunes or down the rocks on the side of the south west coast path.
National Trust members and Blue Badge holders park for free. Members please scan for a ticket.
Parking charges (1 March to 31 October)
£2 up to 1hr
£4 up to 4hrs
£8 all day
Winter charges (1 November to 28 February)
£1 up to 1hr
£2 up to 4hrs
£4 all day
There is a National Trust car park which has a height barrier, from here you have the option of walking up and over the sand dunes, or a longer way around via a flatter sandy path. If the tide is low please note that it is a lengthy walk from the national trust car park to where the waves are breaking.
A more accessible stretch of water is the tidal Gannel river estuary which runs perpendicular to the national trust car park and offers a sandy beach and a usually shallow stretch of water to enjoy. Please note that this is a tidal river estuary and therefore the depth and currents can change rapidly, and the strength of the rip current will almost certainly take you by surprise.
West Pentire and Poly Joke car parks offer access to Crantock beach via the south west coast path or over the sand dunes.
There are free toilets in the national trust car park, but none on the beach itself.
Lifeguard Patrols 2023 (Check with RNLI for latest schedules):
Daily 13 May-24 September
Patrol times 10am-6pm
Stay within the black and white flags if you are surfing
Stay within the red and yellow flags if you are swimming or bodyboarding
If you are visiting the beach outside of lifeguarded hours then read the local signs and exercise caution in the water. If you find yourself in trouble in the water, stay calm and float to survive.
Dogs are welcome off lead on Crantock beach year round without restriction, but should be kept under control.
Crantock has a few awesome waves. The first is a peak known as Bowgie Left, it’s on the left hand side as you look out to sea, just below the Bowgie Inn. It’s a wedging left hander which breaks very well when it’s small, and as it gets bigger holds swell but gets more powerful. It gives nice barrelling left handers, with the added perk of a permanent rip along the headland which, if you’re lucky, allows for a dry hair paddle out.
On the other side of the beach, where the Gannel river joins the ocean you can get amazing sand banks created by the outflow of the Gannel estuary. There are righthanders (and occasionally left handers) which can break for hundreds of metres so this is a spot that’s popular with long boarders.
At low tide in front of the Pentire headland you get some nice wedgy waves which are popular with body boarders and some surfers, it’s a bit of a secret spot. Crowds are minimal because of the access which involves parking on Pentire and running down the headland, and considering the proximity to crowded Fistral beach, it seems like a hidden gem.
The Gannel may look like a lazy river, but exercise caution as children on inflatables (or in fact anyone) can get caught in the rip currents.
Crantock is a challenging beach to lifeguard due to the currents created by the flow of the tidal river estuary, the Gannnel, and conditions do change rapidly throughout the day. They also change season to season as storms shift the underlying sand banks which can alter the direction of the water course.
The Fern Pit Cafe is a legendary spot with breathtaking views overlooking Crantock beach, famous for its crab sandwiches. 2023 may well be the Fern Pit’s last season so be sure to check it out before it’s too late.
Beachcombers is a popular place to re-fuel, set back from the hustle of the beach and with a lovely deck for people watching. Scoop is situated right on the beach and specialises in coffee and ice cream.
Look out for Cargo Coffee, it’s a repurposed military vehicle with all terrain tyres which drives on to the beach and literally sets up camp to serve all manner of delights. It’s quirky and fabulous.
At the West Pentire end you have C-Bay and The Bowgie, both are pub/restaurant style venues with great views. C-Bay is dog friendly inside, whereas The Bowgie dogs are only allowed outside.
Legend has it that underneath the sand dunes of Crantock lies the remains of a wealthy city, which was lost centuries ago after a sandstorm buried it completely. While its existence, and tragic fate is the stuff of legend, Langurroc was a very real place. Located on the site of modern day Crantock, Langurroc was a vast settlement that carried great influence, and it was at the time more developed than its neighbour Towan Blystra (Newquay).
On a more tragic and romantic note, there is the story of the lady of Pipers Hole. Crantock beach is very flat which means that the incoming tide can make progress surprisingly quickly. The cliffs are in places sheer and unforgiving to anyone unfortunate enough to be caught below when the tide comes racing in. There are small caves dotted along the bottom of the cliffs, hidden deep in a zawn is one named Piper’s Hole, which holds a heartbreaking secret. A woman’s features stare shiny and wet where they are carved into solid rock, almost smiling, but somehow sad. Beside her face, etched into the stone, is the following poem:
Mar not my face but let me be,
Secure in this lone cavern by the sea,
Let the wild waves around me roar,
Kissing my lips for evermore.
The story goes that this image and these tender words were carved by local man Joseph Prater who was heartbroken after he lost his great love on Crantock beach in the early 1920s. She was horse riding on the beach when she became unable to escape the rising tide. Tragically both she and the horse were drowned when they became trapped against the cliffs and unable to reach safety.