After a hard day’s walk, there’s nothing more tempting than taking off your boots and dipping your feet in the ocean to soothe away aches and pains. Thankfully, on the South West Coast Path there’s plenty of opportunities to do so, as the 630-mile route leads you to over 320 glorious beaches and 32 beaches were awarded blue flag status, an accolade widely considered the gold standard for beaches. But there’s a lot more you can do than just go for a quick dip!
Whether you’re an adrenalin junkie looking for your next fix or interested in trying something new on your next walking holiday, there really is something for everyone. We’ve put together our Top 5 water-based activities in the South West and where best to try them – all just a stone’s throw from the Path.
You don’t have to be Michael Phelps to brave the sea this summer. If you’re not a strong swimmer, lidos are the perfect place to get your saltwater fix. Most lidos date back to the 1930’s, when package holidays didn’t exist, bringing a touch of continental style to our somewhat chillier shores. The Second World War brought an abrupt end to their moment of glory, but today they’re firmly back in fashion. In the South West, we really are spoilt for choice, offering you a great swim as your gaze out to the sea itself. We recommend visiting:
- Tinside Lido, Plymouth
- Shoalstone Pool, Brixham
- Jubilee Pool, Penzance
- Bude Sea Pool, Bude
- Tunnels Beaches, Ilfracombe
- Westward Ho! Rock Seawater Pool
It may have originated in Hawaii, but surfing has well and truly found a home for itself in the South West. We have some of the best spots for surfing in the whole of the UK and plenty of great surf schools just waiting to help you take to the waves. We’d always recommend going with a qualified trainer or surf school for your first few outings, just until you’ve picked up the rules and general surfer etiquette. You’ll probably be given a foam board to use, which are larger than most surfboards and really buoyant making them easier to ride. You may even be standing up on your first lesson! If you fancy having a go this summer, head to one of the following beaches that all great options for surf lessons and equipment hire:
- Woolacombe, Putsborough, Croyde, Saunton Sands, Bantham, Bigbury-on-sea, Bude, Harlyn Bay, Polzeath, Watergate Bay, Fistral in Newquay, Perranporth, Porthtowan, Porthmeor in St Ives
Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP)
This sport broke onto the scene in the UK about 10 years ago and its popularity has been steadily growing ever since. This relaxing, and more gentle water sport is the perfect way to create your own mini-adventure on the water – and it’s a pretty good workout too! It’s surprisingly easy when you get the hang of it and lets you see the coast from a totally different point of view. The introduction of inflatable boards in recent years has made the sport even more appealing. Now you can roll the board up and pop it in your suitcase! You can try SUPing pretty much anywhere there is water, but here are just some locations that offer board and paddle rental so you can try it out:
Minehead, Porlock Weir, Combe Martin, Woolacombe, Croyde, Westward Ho!, Bude, Widemouth Bay, Rock, Harlyn Bay, Mawgan Porth, Newquay, Perranporth, Saint Agnes, Gwithian, St Ives, Marazion, Porthleven, The Lizard Peninsula, Falmouth, Pentewan, Fowey, Plymouth, Salcombe, Stoke Fleming, Paignton, Babbacombe, Teignmouth, Exmouth, Lyme Regis, Weymouth
Unlike stand up paddle boarding, kayaking has been around for a while, some 8,000 years to be exact. People living in the artic would have crafted kayaks out of driftwood before covering them in sealskin to head out hunting. Thankfully, kayaks have moved on somewhat and the sport is now a popular activity for holidaymakers and locals wanting to get closer to the sea. The thing we love most about it though are the health benefits. It’s been proven that this rhythmic sport strengthens mental health, brings clarity to the mind, reduces stress and boosts confidence. It’s also a fantastic way of spotting marine wildlife including dolphins, sea lions and a range of coast dwelling birds. There are lots of places in the South West to hire kayaks, but if you’re not sure where to start check out any of the locations we’ve already mentioned as most of these are hotspots for a number of water sports.
This one is for the adrenaline junkies! There’s probably no better way of really getting to know our varied, craggy coastline than by coasteering. For this, you’ll need to go with a qualified instructor, wear a helmet, lifejacket and suitable footwear. An old pair of trainers will do! The idea is to move along the intertidal zone of a section of coast, whereby you’ll get a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most inaccessible parts of our coastline. It’s the perfect blend of sea level traversing, rock scrambling, cliff jumping and swimming. Coasteering is really exhilarating and guaranteed to get your pulse racing, it’s also a great option if you’re looking for an activity to do as a group. Find a course at any of the following locations:
- Combe Martin, Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, Croyde, Port Gaverne, Polzeath, Wadebridge, Newquay, Penzance, The Lizard, Falmouth, Pentewan, Porthpean, Salcombe, Paignton, Torquay, Maidencombe, Portland, Wareham, Swanage
Please remember to always respect the sea and stay safe. We’re proud members of the BeachWise Partnership, a group of organisations and charities with the coast at their heart, founded by our sponsors South West Water. Visit www.beachwise.uk for lots of tips and advice on staying safe, and for any specific safety advice on the activities mentioned above please visit the RNLI www.rnli.org