A Cornish Road Trip, Newquay

A Cornish Road Trip

If you could only road trip around one part of the UK, we highly recommend that it be Cornwall. Cornwall is ideal for camper van lovers and surfers. Cornwall has warm weather, stunning seascapes and beautiful fishing towns. We spent ten days exploring some of the main parts of Cornwall in our camper van. See below for some of the highlights and fun places to explore!

We had departed from Portsmouth after a family wedding and set out on the four hour journey to Cornwall services, stopping only briefly for a shower on route. It was our first outing in our new camper van – Ajax, and although he was not yet fully converted, we were determined to hit the road and get away from everything for a couple of weeks.

South West UK, Portsmouth to Cornwall (Google Maps)

A few weeks prior to our trip, we decided to book into campsites, as we could not yet wild camp (no fridge, solar panels etc). In hindsight, this was a good idea, as it made our lives a little easier for our first outing and most of the roads in Cornwall, are rather small, difficult to navigate in a van and easy to get lost on. Side noteDo Not rely on a satnav to get you around Cornwall, buy a road map and have a good navigator in the co pilots seat! 

We arrived at Cornwall services at around 9pm and made camp for the night in the motorhome park. It cost us £10 for the night (15 hours parking) and the services are fully equip with showers, washing facilities and lots of lovely Cornish food. Our first night sleeping in the van was exciting and so much fun. We lay there, giddy like children the night before Christmas, looking up out of our skylight, excited for the next day, when we would arrive in Newquay.

Newquay, Cornwall

The following morning, after breakfast, we picked up some Cornish cream teas for later in the day. We wanted to beat the traffic heading into Newquay, which can be pretty busy on a sunny day. It would take us only twenty minutes to reach the campsite from the service station. As we drove down to the coast, we passed dozens of Bed and Breakfasts, hostels, hotels and other campsites. There are many different ways and places to stay in Newquay.

Newquay town has a very rich and interesting history, known also by it’s Cornish name as ‘Towan Blystra’ up until the 1400’s when it was changed to its current name. Newquay is one of the main tourist spots of the Cornish coast. It remains very popular with surfers and nomads. This is evident as you take a walk through the town. There are numerous surfing and sports shops along with small boutiques scattered around the high-street.

Our arrival at the campsite resulted in us receiving our first screen sticker for the van. This was very exciting! The campsite provided a relatively large pitch with full electric hook up and sufficient washing/laundry facilities. After reversing the van onto our pitch, we jumped out and had a look around the site.

Van Living

On looking in the van, we realised we had a small problem. Our cooking and holiday items were taking up all the free space in the van. This meant that we wouldn’t be able to pull the bed out. It also prevented us from securing anything outside of the van. After a quick google search, we found a camping store in town that sold awnings at a pretty reasonable price. We jumped back in the van, drove to the shop and purchased a new tent and some other supplies.

Handy Tip: If you park at the small ASDA grocery shop next to the train station in Newquay town centre, you get an hours free parking and avoid all the traffic through town. 
Rhian un-boxing our new awning tent

In the evenings, we used our time to make awesome meals and play boardgames. There are so many things that can be made on a camping stove and we wanted to try as many as possible! Rhian had purchased a mini projector and brought her laptop so that we could watch movies on the tent wall. We had no fridge so we stored our food in a 40 litre cool-box and a storage box for the dry goods.

It took us a while to adjust to living in such a small space together. This was alleviated by days out exploring and chilled out nights where we could cook or read (sometimes drink). Once we had a routine, we were well on our way to van living.

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Exploring the Area

Porth Beach is situated a few hundred meters from our campsite. This was fantastic as we could easily carry our bodyboards and beach gear that we would need for the day. There are many places to buy body boards, surf boards and wetsuits etc, in the town centre. Lots of the shops do great deals if you are buying a few bits.

The beach itself is very large. The tidal area is a couple of hundred meters long , with lifeguards for safety during the day. There is a riptide there for most of the year, so make sure that you know where the safety areas are. Bodyboarding is the main sporting pursuit on this beach and the surf is pretty good for it! I had tried bodyboarding before and Rhian was a newbie, yet we both found it challenging enough. When you are not fighting with the waves, there is an awesome hole in the wall coffee and ice cream shack. There is also decent family pub nearby for lunch or dinner, if you chose to eat out.

All in all Porth Beach is an ideal location for the newbie surfers and open water enthusiasts. If you like chilling out on the beach or exploring coves when the tide is out, this is the beach for you. For the hikers out there, you can grab some amazing coastal views by taking a walk along the surrounding cliffs. The sunsets in this location are incredible!

Food and Drink

If you are more inclined to party, Newquay town has a good selection of bars and pubs. The price of alcohol is moderate and the local beers and ciders are fantastic! There are many places to eat in the main town. Alternatively, if you like tapas, there is an amazing tapas bar outside the campsite. The best thing about the bar is that no kids are allowed, which makes for a relaxed atmosphere and the chance to drink lots of Sangria.

If you like to cook your own meals, there is a supermarket in town where you can by all the fresh produce you will need. Most campsites have smaller convenience shops on site to help in emergencies.

Go and explore

So remember…

  • buy a road map
  • find free or cheap parking
  • park in the Asda car park for access to town
  • bring some fun things to do in the evenings
  • check the beach rules and safety areas before entering the water

…and most of all, have fun, relax and enjoy yourselves in this awesome town. Newquay gently eased us into our road trip and van living. We highly recommend the town and surrounding areas. Grab your surfboards and go!

Useful links:
Wild campers
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