Towan is Newquay’s central beach, and it is positioned in the heart of this fabulous Cornish town. The name derives from the Cornish “Tewyn”, meaning sand dune, which explains why Towan is a name you come across repeatedly along the Cornish coastline.
The beach itself is Newquays bucket and spade beach, it’s lined by colourful beach huts, and tends to be the most family friendly beach in town due to its good accessibility and proximity to attractions such as the aquarium and the harbour.
Towan Beach is located in the heart of Newquay, very close to the town center. It is a central and easily accessible beach in Newquay. To be more specific, Towan Beach is situated just north of the town’s main shopping and dining area, and it’s adjacent to the iconic Newquay Harbour. It’s also very near the prominent Towan Headland, which is the headland that separates Towan Beach from Fistral Beach. If you want to explore Towan headland more, a great way to do this is by Coasteering. Towan Beach is often a popular choice for visitors due to its convenient location and the various amenities and attractions in the surrounding area. Newquay Activity Centre is just a 5 minute walk away if you want to hire a surfboard and give riding the waves a try.
Any of the central Newquay car parks can service Towan, but a few of the closest places to park are Harbour Car Park (very limited spaces), Fore Street Short Stay Car Park and St Georges Road Car Park.
The main route down to Towan is via Beach Road, although it’s a fairly steep descent, it is tarmaced so is suitable for buggies, trollies and anyone who wants to avoid steps (please be aware that the last few metres are cobbles). Otherwise the beach can be accessed by a flight of steps from either Fore Street, The Harbour, Island Crescent or Killacourt. At mid to low tide you can also access Towan on foot from Great Western Beach.
Beach wheelchairs / sand chairs are available from Blue Reef Aquarium. Telephone: 01637878134. Sand chairs are provided by Cornwall Mobility in partnership with Disability Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.
There are public toilets up by the Fore Street short stay car park, and also in the harbour.
Lifeguard Patrols 2023 (Check with RNLI for latest schedules):
Easter School Holidays 01-16 April
Weekend 22-23 April
Daily 29 April-24 September
Weekends and Bank Holidays Only 30 September-15 October
October Half Term 21-29 October
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 Towan beach year round, without restriction, but should be kept under control.
Towan is a really special beach in Newquay due to its position tucked up against the Towan headland and the harbour wall. Apart from perhaps Porth at high tide, Towan is usually the most protected spot to surf in Newquay as the headland blocks much of the prevailing swell, dampening the power of the waves, and creating conditions ideal for beginners.
For every surfer coming to Newquay to chase the thrill of big waves, there are several more coming to try surfing for the first time. That’s where Towan comes in handy, it’s the ultimate classroom experience, and a great beach to build confidence on before venturing to other more exposed surf spots.
The harbour wall can give a great left hander at around mid tide, there has to be enough power in the swell to wrap around fly cellars and the harbour wall, but when it’s on it is a fun wave to catch. A local secret is to use the harbour for a dry hair paddle out as you can cruise straight out to the line up. Some more advanced surfers also enter via the rip in the harbour wall or via south west coast path at fly cellars, as these are also shortcuts to getting out back.
As the tide rises the island can start to work, forming right hand wedges which are really fun. There is a local byelaw that says no surfing once the rising tide passes the island, but often the waves drop out at high tide anyway.
At high tide Towan can be a fun playground for Hand Planing, Body Boarding and Body Surfing. On high spring tides when there is a big swell then you’ll often see bodyboarders playing around in the backwash off the wall by the aquarium. It’s a fun spot for those with experience to get thrown around, but certainly not for the faint hearted.
If you like to paddle board then it’s best at high tide as you can launch in the harbour and paddle straight out into deep water, just be aware of boat traffic as this is a working harbour and high tide is a key time for them to bring the boats in and out. You can also launch your SUP from the beach at Towan, but you’ll have waves, submerged rocks and possibly crowds to contend with. If there is an offshore wind, or a strong wind in any direction we do not recommend paddle boarding here.
Towan is Newquays town centre beach, so it attracts swimmers, and as mentioned above, a lot of learner surfers and bodyboarders. Therefore please exercise caution in the water if it’s crowded. The biggest danger to your safety is often other people, so keep your wits about you for rogue surfboards etc.
Surfing is a sport guided by etiquette rather than strict laws, it’s a moral code which states the right thing and the wrong things to do in the water. Surfers are quick to spot and correct water users who aren’t following the correct etiquette, as it’s not only rude, but often unsafe to ignore these guidelines. Be aware of your surroundings as Towan has a reputation for lawlessness, but this is mainly due to the number of beginners in the water who haven’t yet learnt correct etiquette.
Best views are to be had from 12 Beach Road, the back deck of Beluchi’s, the deck at Sailors and the terrace at The Fort (the later three are all on Fore Street).
Local coffee and baked good recommendations are Pavilion Bakery Newquay & Box & Barber on Fore Street.
For interesting food we recommend The Boat House which is in the harbour, it’s a pop up street food market and has a variety of vendors offering global cuisine.
For a picnic vibe with a view try Killacourt, it’s a grassy area just above Towan beach with fantastic views.
Towan’s unique feature is its island, complete with private bridge and million pound mansion (now a luxury Airbnb) on top. Back in 1838 the island was first sold at auction to the Billing brothers, entrepreneurial siblings with a penchant for acquiring land.They utilised this prime slice of Newquay real estate by planting a potato patch and allowing chickens to roam free on the summit. Around this time religious services for children were also held here, the suspension bridge wasn’t built until 1902 so the children would have had to ascend and descend via a sheer path cut into the rock face – if that didn’t get them praying for salvation then nothing would!
On 21st June 1986, a day of torrential rain in Newquay, 22 year old Karl Edwards an Australian lifeguard volunteered to come into work on his day off and cover a shift. Karl was just 6 weeks into his season in the UK and had made plenty of friends around town already. Karl was in the lifeguard hut sheltering from the rain, when tragedy struck; the relentless rain caused a catastrophic landslide, and 40 tonnes of earth slipped down and crushed the building below it. Despite the best efforts of those on the beach who tried to dig through the rubble and save Karl, sadly he expired before he could be rescued. Look out for the plaque on “Karl’s Steps”, the stairway behind Towan beach, and spare a thought for the bronzed Australian lifeguard, who had an adventurous spirit and his whole life ahead of him – sadly lost too soon.