The best Blue Flag beaches to visit on a self-catering holiday


Cornwall is a location that can offer visitors so much, from wonderful walks to ancient history and beautiful beaches. The glorious coastline is one of the biggest draws for tourists and locals alike due to its abundance of wonderful Blue Flag Beach offerings perfect for all types of visitors. If you’ve booked an upcoming holiday at a Cornwall resort and want to know which beaches you should consider heading to when in the area, then keep on reading.

Blue Flag certification is a voluntary award for beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators. In order to get Blue Flag status, locations must adhere to stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria so only the very best beaches are listed.

The best Blue Flag beaches in Cornwall:

·         Gyllyngvase

·         Porthtowan

·         Widemouth Bay

·         Carbis Bay

·         Polzeath

Gyllyngvase Beach

Known as the largest beach in Falmouth, Gyllngvase Beach or Gylly Beach as it is commonly known is just a stone’s throw from St Michaels Resort sitting just in front of the hotel. Just 10 minutes from the centre of town and accompanied by a selection of great amenities including Gylly Beach Café.

Frankie from the blog Meet Me By The Sea, a Cornwall lifestyle blog recommends Gylly Beach to those visiting the area or staying at St Michaels Resort, commenting: “Here in Cornwall, we are so lucky to have multiple Blue Flag beaches. One of my personal favourites is Gylly Beach, Falmouth’s largest beach. The beach is great for water sports as the water is generally quite calm – you can hire SUP boards from WeSUP which can be found to the right of Gylly Beach Café. The café is such a fantastic spot for a glass of wine or a bite to eat, either on a summer's day or as we enter winter, and the seas get a little wilder. Gylly Beach is always kept very clean – fortunately, local businesses and the community all come together to make sure that the beach is kept as nice as possible – after all, we are lucky to call Cornwall home and want to make sure that everyone can enjoy it!”

Penny from the blog The Great Cornish Outdoors also highly recommends Gylly Beach, explaining a little more about the activities you can enjoy whilst visiting: “I’m fond of Gyllyngvase Beach. It’s another Cornish seaside beach that simply glows in the sun and is perfect for sea swimming. With a pretty, well-tendered garden behind the beach, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in your own exclusive resort. Gyllyngvase is quite a vibrant beach with water sports and activities on offer, including beach yoga. Plus, the Gylly Beach Café overlooks the shore, making it the perfect place to wind down after a taxing day in the sun! 

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Located within an area of outstanding natural beauty, Porthtowan Beach is just around the headland from St Agnes and gained its Blue Flag status in 2005. Unlike Carbis Bay, Porthtowan Beach is perfect for surfers due to its secluded location supported by rocky borders.

Anna, a blogger, and the face behind the website The Cornish Life recommends Porthowan Beach due to its unique nature compared to other popular Cornish beaches: “My favourite Blue Flag beaches are definitely Gylly Beach in Falmouth and Porthtowan Beach. They both offer something totally different from each and both are totally stunning! Porthtowan is on the north coast and typically has some great waves for surfing if that's your thing. It also has a dramatic coast path on either side of the beach to explore, and these are truly unique due to the old Cornish engine house ruins dotted along here too.”

“I love visiting Porthtowan Beach,” says Penny. “It’s excellent for little ones who like exploring rock pools and caves, not to mention its coveted tidal pool. Porthtowan Beach emulates relaxed surfer vibes and is home to some excellent places to eat and drink. At low tide, you can walk to neighbouring beach, Chapel Porth, which makes for an exhilarating and beautiful stroll.”

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Widemouth Bay

Closer to the Devon border than some of the other beaches on the list, Widemouth Bay Beach is just 3 miles south of Bude and accessible by the Southwest Coast Path from various directions. Known commonly for its abundance of rock pools that can be explored at low tide but also for its great surfing facilities, including local surf schools, as well as great waves all year round.

Visit Cornwall explains a little more about the beach on their website: “Viewing areas with free car parking are located at both the north and south end of the bay so you can enjoy the fantastic panorama without getting your feet sandy! Surfers will experience a variety of peaks from the north to the south end of the beach, breaking on sand or reef, producing spilling or heavy barrelling waves. You'll also spot the Black Rock landmark.”

Dogs are also welcome on the southern side of the beach all year round but only on the northern side of the beach outside of the summer season which runs from May 15th and September 30th.

Carbis Bay Beach
Carbis Bay

Carbis Bay has to be one of the best-known beaches in Cornwall and its close proximity to St Ives. Just a mile from the popular seaside location, the beach hardly ever sees any surf so is the perfect beach for families and those looking to sit back and enjoy the views. The location is also a hub of activity for sea birds as the natural habitat lends itself well to nesting.

Penny also recommended Carbis Bay to us, commenting: “We’re certainly blessed with some amazing Blue Flag beaches in Cornwall. I’ve a soft spot for Carbis Bay, near St Ives. Boasting soft sand and azure blue water, it's often likened to tropical beaches found in the Caribbean, For those who like to be active, there are SUP and kayaks for hire. Carbis Bay is easily accessible by train too, making it an ideal choice in peak season.”

Due to its lack of surf and the waves being small, the beach is a great spot for paddle boarders, kayakers or those just looking to dip their toes in the water.

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With a large expanse of sand on show when at low tide, Polzeath Beach is a popular choice for families looking to enjoy a day of activities and relaxation on a Cornish beach. Also, a popular spot for surfers due to the consistent waves and accessible location, Polzeath has something to offer everyone.

The beach is just a short walk from the village which offers a selection of shops, cafes, and eateries so you can browse the area or pick up some food for a picnic in the sun. Named again in 2022 as one of the Blue Flag beaches in Cornwall.

If you’re planning to visit St Michaels Resort but want to know which Blue Flag beaches you should visit on your self-catering holiday to Cornwall, then hopefully this guide has given you the information you need. For more articles like this, then head to the St Michaels blog.