Polzeath in North Cornwall is a quintessential surf village. Bridget and her family are summer regulars and give us the lowdown on where to go and what to do for a perfectly British beach holiday with children
- Sea, sand and sunshine
- Surfing, rock pooling and sandcastle building
- Local food, historic sights, boat trips, cycle paths
- Hotels, self-catering, camping
Who Bridget, Justin and their children Katie 20, James 17 and Patrick 15
Where Polzeath on the north coast of Cornwall, UK
Why Polzeath? Bridget: “We first went about 18 years ago when Katie was two years old. We were staying nearby in Port Isaac when we drove past Polzeath beach – the tide was out and it looked lovely. We were so taken with it – and the fact that whatever the weather there’s lots to do – that we’ve kept going back every summer. Even when we were living in the States and had the option of Yellowstone or Yosemite on our doorstep we’d still come back for our two week family holiday in Polzeath each year.
What’s the weather like? Bridget: When the weather’s good, you can’t beat it! We’ve been every year and probably only once had a week of rain so ghastly that we didn’t want to go outside. I’m a great believer that if the weather isn’t nice you go in the sea because it’s warmer in the water! And often that’s the time that the waves are better for surfing – it’s less good when there’s full sun and no wind. Generally speaking, even if the weather doesn’t look good, once you’re outside you realize that the sun does break through occasionally.
5 things to do in Cornwall with children
Bridget: These days we may be in Polzeath with a bunch of teenagers or the younger nephews and nieces. But there’s plenty to do for children of all ages:
Polzeath is perfect for beginners as it’s a very enclosed bay with shallow water – so you walk out with your surf board as opposed to swimming which makes it a lot less tiring for beginners. If it’s low tide you have to walk a long way down the beach with your board – but that’s all part of the experience!
If children come to stay who are 7 years or older we’ll book a beginners two-hour surf lesson for them at the surf school. Generally by the end of the first lesson everyone will be standing on their boards. After that we’ll try to take them surfing each morning. Surfing is a great daily activity, it tires everyone out, and then we’ll go home and have some lunch or a picnic. We generally drive to the beach – parking is easy and the children are often chilly after surfing and want to jump into the back of a car to get home.
For teens there’s a big waterski club in Rock and older teens can paddle-board in the estuary when conditions are right.
Rock pooling, beach games, cliff paths
If we want a rock pooling and sandcastle type beach we go to Daymer Bay. It’s quite busy but when the tide is out it is the most enormous beach and fantastic for playing football, cricket and racket games. Cricket is very popular and you see lots of families joining together to play. There’s rock pooling galore – you can buy buckets and nets there and my children still enjoy clambering around with their younger cousins. It’s perfect for building great big sandcastles and then waiting for the tide to come in.
At the south end of the beach is Brea Hill. It’s a 15 minute walk to the top which has the most amazing view over the Camel estuary towards Padstow. When the sailing boats and windsurfers are out it is quite beautiful.
If the weather’s good there’ll always be a couple of days when we take a great big picnic down to Daymer Bay and set up camp. We take masses of food for all the children, windbreaks, beach chairs, a newspaper and the dog. The children play cricket and go swimming or take a ball in the water. There’s a tea shop too for sandwiches and baked potatoes but really it’s more fun to picnic. In the evening we might take a portable barbecue and lots of sausages with a bottle of wine.
There are hundreds of miles of coast paths around Cornwall with spectacular views. We’ll always do one big long walk on the cliffs as a family with the dog (on a lead as it can be steep and dangerous for dogs) perhaps walking to a village for lunch then either walking back or getting a taxi.
From Daymer Bay you can walk round the headland to Polzeath in one direction or Rock in the other, which takes about half an hour each way. From Rock you can take the little yellow passenger ferry over to Padstow which is a great little trip – you can take dogs and bikes with you too. Padstow has a busy working fishing harbour and is also home to Rick Stein’s famous restaurants. It is absolutely heaving in summer but still a great place to visit to buy fudge and have an ice-cream; little children like to hang crab lines over the sea wall.
From Padstow you can go out on a half-day mackerel fishing trip. The fishermen give everyone a line and teach you how to read the tug and catch the mackerel. Sometimes you can get 20 or 30 – plus the occasional very small shark or fish that the fisherman will throw back. The look on the boys’ faces when they see a couple of mackerel hanging on the line is quite something. It’s a small fishing boat and the swell can be quite big – the boys seem to like it but I prefer to go out on a sunny day when it’s beautiful and calm! You can drive to Padstow from Polzeath in about 40 minutes but we go over on the ferry which is 15 minutes and much more fun.
There are nature watching trips too from Rock and Padstow. Groups of 10 or 12 people at a time go out on a RIB and we’ve seen seals, puffins, dolphins, sometimes dolphin babies – when the boat stops they literally swim all round you. You also get to see the amazing rocks and cliffs of the Cornish coastline from the water.
I wouldn’t recommend cycling on the roads as there are big Cornish hedges and it’s hard to see but there’s a great cycle path along the Camel estuary from Wadebridge which is about 15 minutes drive from Polzeath. You can hire bikes there and then cycle along the Camel Trail to either Padstow or Bodmin. It’s 11 miles of disused railway so there are no cars – and no hills! We always head to Padstow so that we can have fish and chips for lunch before we cycle back again.
It’s a really fun ride, totally road free, and for little children you can hire buggies, trail-alongs or tandems.
A popular day trip is to St Ives, to see the Tate Modern gallery and the Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden. There are lots of art, photographic and sculpture galleries and it is absolutely lovely – if completely crowded with tourists! I’d tend not to try to drive there in high summer as the traffic can be quite bad. Or you can visit Truro, the capital of Cornwall.
Another good outing is a morning or afternoon trip to Port Isaac – it’s a lovely fishing village on the North coast with old cottages and steep streets which wind down to the harbour. The TV series Doc Martin is filmed here. Beautiful little tea shops …..
Also on the coast are the castle ruins at Tintagel. You can spend a morning climbing thousands of steps and wandering round the ancient stones on the cliffs or, at low tide, visiting Merlin’s Cave down on the beach.
The fishing village of Boscastle nearby has a natural harbour and is also a great day trip. A lot of the land there is owned by the National Trust and there are some lovely walks.
For toddlers there are one or two mini farm activity centres and parks if you want a change from the beach.
We try to do one activity each day with the children: a cycle ride or a boat trip, a round of golf or surfing, then it’s very easy to spend the rest of the day out and about without getting bored. A week goes by before you know it. Occasionally we sit down and read a book – but not very often!
Family self-catering in Polzeath
Bridget: We always stay at The Point at Polzeath in the hills above the beach. It has a golf course, clubhouse and restaurant along with about 50 privately owned self-catering holiday houses and apartments to rent. They vary in size and can cater for two people or a party of 12; some take dogs, most can provide highchairs or a barbecue. We often go with friends or family so we can rent a house according to the size of our party. There’s a local Spar shop in Polzeath and Tesco will deliver too if you’re organized – it makes everything easier if you don’t have to go to the supermarket when you’re on holiday.
The Point is a 15 minute walk to the beach across the golf course (probably 25 mins with very young children) and a 5 minute walk to the clubhouse which has lots of facilities to keep families occupied. There’s an indoor swimming pool, steam room and Jacuzzi, two tennis courts, an astro turf football pitch and a driving range as well as an 18 hole challenging golf course. The beauty of the golf course is that although it’s a members club you don’t need to be a member to play – and the fees are reasonable for children and teens.
In the clubhouse bar there’s a big pool table, darts board and a great big screen – somewhere to watch the Wimbledon final or whatever football matches are going on. There’s a beauty salon as well if you have the chance to get a massage or nails done. You can have a golfer’s breakfast, a lovely lunch or book for an evening meal. The terrace looks out over the golf course down to the sea – on a summer’s evening it couldn’t be nicer.
In Cornwall in the summer it’s light until very late so our children might go out to play an hour’s tennis at 9pm. They’re outside the whole time and forget about TV and technology.
You don’t have to stay on site to use the facilities at The Point – you can pay a daily rate and the restaurant to open to everyone.”
Family holiday in Polzeath Cornwall
For information on The Point at Polzeath holiday rentals and one day or weekly membership click here: The Point at Polzeath
www.thepointatpolzeath.co.uk Tel:01208 863000