10 Cornish Kayaking Spots for Beginners You Don’t Want to Miss
Cornwall offers some of the most picturesque kayaking experiences in the UK. As a beginner, you’ll find that Cornwall’s waters can be as forgiving as they are beautiful, providing the perfect backdrop for your paddling adventures. Having recently explored these waters, I’m excited to share the top 10 kayaking spots in Cornwall that are ideal for those just starting.
1. Bude Canal
Location & Route: Bude Canal offers a peaceful kayaking experience, away from the coastal winds. Starting near the Bude Tourist Information Centre, you can paddle along the canal towards Helebridge, a serene and picturesque journey of approximately 2 miles. This route is sheltered by trees and greenery, making it a tranquil escape with ample opportunities to observe local wildlife.
Conditions: Sheltered and calm, Bude Canal is perfect for beginners looking to get comfortable in a kayak.
Sights: Enjoy the tranquil surroundings and spot local wildlife along the banks.
Parking and Starting Point: Use the car park near the Bude Tourist Information Centre. You can start your paddle from the canal side here, with easy access to the water.
2. Fowey Estuary
Location & Route: The Fowey Estuary is a haven for paddlers, rich in scenery and wildlife. Starting from Caffa Mill car park, paddle along the estuary towards Polruan, hugging the coastline for a scenic route that offers views of quaint cottages and verdant hillsides. This journey of around 3 miles takes you past the historic town of Fowey and under the iconic Fowey bridges, providing a gentle introduction to estuarine kayaking.
Conditions: Protected waters with gentle tides make this estuary a safe choice for newcomers.
Sights: Paddle past quaint Cornish villages and under the historic Fowey bridges. Keep an eye out for diverse birdlife.
Parking and Starting Point: Caffa Mill car park offers nearby access, with launching points along the quay.
3. Frenchman’s Creek, Helford River
Location & Route: Launch your kayak from Helford Village and paddle up the Helford River towards the legendary Frenchman’s Creek. The round trip is about 4 miles and takes you through a mosaic of ancient woodlands and quiet waters. The creek itself is a secluded, narrow inlet, famously immortalised by Daphne du Maurier, offering a serene paddling experience that feels like stepping into another world.
Conditions: This sheltered creek offers calm conditions, ideal for practicing paddling techniques.
Sights: The inspiration behind Daphne du Maurier’s novel, this area boasts lush landscapes and serene waters.
Parking and Starting Point: Park at Helford Village and launch from the jetty, embarking on a journey straight out of a storybook.
4. Stithians Lake
Location & Route: Situated inland, Stithians Lake provides a controlled environment ideal for beginners. Starting from the water sports centre, you can circumnavigate the lake, a journey of approximately 5 miles. This route allows you to explore different parts of the lake at your own pace, with designated picnic spots along the shore for breaks and bird watching.
Conditions: As an inland water spot, Stithians Lake presents controlled conditions for beginners.
Sights: Surrounded by open countryside, it’s a perfect spot for a peaceful paddle.
Parking and Starting Point: The lake has a dedicated water sports centre where you can park and easily access the water. They also offer guided sessions for beginners.
Location & Route: The calm waters of Looe are perfect for beginners, offering a mix of river and coastal kayaking. Starting from the beach near the harbour, you can paddle around Looe Island, a marine nature reserve, and then along the estuary towards Watergate. This round trip of around 4 miles offers stunning coastal views, opportunities to see marine wildlife, and the charm of Looe’s bustling harbour.
Conditions: The gentle waters around Looe are great for beginners, especially within the estuary.
Sights: Explore the bustling harbour and coastline, offering picturesque views and wildlife spotting.
Parking and Starting Point: Use the Millpool car park, then head to the beach near the harbour to start your adventure.
6. Padstow Estuary
Location & Route: Padstow Estuary is an ideal spot for beginners to explore the Camel River. Starting from the harbour, paddle up the estuary towards Wadebridge. The route is about 5 miles long and takes you through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife. The tidal nature of the estuary makes it a dynamic environment to learn how tides affect paddling conditions.
Conditions: The estuary provides sheltered waters, suitable for those new to kayaking.
Sights: Experience views of the Camel Trail and the historic Padstow harbour.
Parking and Starting Point: The Link Road car park in Padstow is a good starting point, with access to the water near the harbour.
7. Sennen Cove
Location & Route: For those ready to brave the open sea under safe conditions, Sennen Cove offers an ideal starting point. Launch from the beach and paddle south towards Land’s End, keeping the coastline within a comfortable distance. This route of about 3 miles round trip allows you to experience the thrill of sea kayaking with the iconic cliffs of Cornwall as your backdrop, and the chance to spot seals and seabirds.
Conditions: For those ready to venture slightly beyond calm estuaries, Sennen Cove offers a gentle introduction to coastal kayaking.
Sights: Enjoy breathtaking views of Land’s End and potentially spot seals along the coast.
Parking and Starting Point: Park at Sennen Cove car park. The beach is directly accessible for an easy launch into the clear blue waters.
Location & Route: Hayle Harbour offers a sheltered paddling experience with a mix of natural beauty and industrial heritage. Starting from North Quay, you can paddle around the harbour’s perimeter and then venture up the Hayle River towards St Erth, experiencing a serene river paddle. This round trip is about 4 miles and is perfect for observing birdlife and the changing tides.
Conditions: The harbour and river offer calm waters, ideal for beginners. The estuarine environment means water conditions are largely influenced by tides, so planning your trip around high tide will make for easier paddling.
Sights: The route offers views of the dunes of Gwithian and Godrevy at the mouth of the estuary, historic quays, and an abundance of wildlife, especially birds, in the RSPB reserves.
Parking and Starting Point: Park at the large car park on North Quay, where you’ll find easy access to the water’s edge for launching your kayak.
Location & Route: The Lizard Peninsula provides an opportunity for beginners to experience coastal kayaking in a relatively sheltered environment. A recommended route is from Mullion Cove to Kynance Cove, about a 3-mile round trip along the coast. This area offers sheltered paddling conditions, especially in the coves, with more open waters being an option for those feeling adventurous.
Conditions: The waters can vary from calm in the coves to slightly more challenging as you venture out. Weather and sea conditions should be checked before setting out, especially for wind direction and swell.
Sights: Dramatic cliffs, hidden coves, and crystal-clear waters define this route. Kynance Cove, with its white sand beaches and turquoise water, is a highlight not to be missed.
Parking and Starting Point: Start at Mullion Cove, where there’s a harbour car park. The cove is well-protected, making it an ideal launching spot for beginners.
Location & Route: The Fal Estuary, one of Cornwall’s most historic and biodiverse waterways, offers a sheltered paddle experience. A great beginner route is from Mylor Harbour to Trelissick Garden, roughly 5 miles round trip. This route takes you past maritime woodlands, under the iconic King Harry Ferry, and alongside the historic Trelissick House.
Conditions: The estuary’s sheltered waters are perfect for beginners, with minimal tidal currents and gentle breezes. The estuary is tidal, so planning your journey with the tides in mind will help ensure a smooth trip.
Sights: This route is rich in scenery and wildlife, including herons and egrets. The views of stately homes and lush landscapes along the banks are truly captivating.
Parking and Starting Point: Mylor Harbour offers convenient parking and easy water access. The harbour is a bustling hub with facilities for kayakers.
Tips for Kayaking in Cornwall
- Check the Weather: Conditions can change rapidly; always check the forecast before heading out.
- Safety Gear: Ensure you have a buoyancy aid, and it’s advisable to carry a waterproof bag with essentials.
- Tide Times: Understanding the tides can significantly impact your experience, particularly for coastal and estuarine locations.
- Local Advice: Don’t hesitate to seek advice from local kayaking centres or clubs. They often provide insights into the best times and spots for beginners.
Kayaking in Cornwall is an unforgettable experience, with each location offering a unique charm. Whether you’re gliding through sheltered creeks, exploring historic estuaries, or admiring the coastline, these beginner-friendly spots provide the perfect setting to start your paddling journey. Happy kayaking!
Here are some other articles you may find helpful:
- Discover the Best River Kayaking Spots in the UK
- Best Kayaking Spots in London: Paddle Your Way Through History and Scenery
- British Canoeing Paddle Awards Overview
- Kayaking Safety 101: The Do’s and Don’ts
- Is It Clean to Kayak or Paddleboard on the Thames?
- Canoeing and Kayaking Qualifications: What You Need to Know
- Is Kayaking A Good Workout?
- What Is The Difference Between A Kayak And A Canoe?
- Perfect Your Paddling Technique
I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.
For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.