Is Watergate Bay Cornwall’s best kept secret?
By Helen Wright
Cornwall’s most famous surf spot, Newquay, has always been a young and lively UK summer destination. But that doesn’t mean the area is off the map for those looking for a slightly more serene vibe. This year we discovered Watergate Bay, situated on the north Cornwall coast. Only three miles from Newquay in distance but a million miles in style. White sand and choppy waters make this a surfer’s paradise but the wide beach, picturesque ocean path and slick restaurant options make this spot ideal for anyone hoping for a relaxing weekend away.
Watergate Bay Hotel
We stayed at the stylish Watergate Bay Hotel, the only accommodation directly on the beach. The beach house interior sets the scene for the weekend – a mix of laid-back beach vibes and luxury touches. At the entrance, the lobby is lined with sandy boots, flip flops and beachballs fresh from a hard day at the beach. To the side of reception there is a large cafe bar, The Living Space, serving seaside classics like fish and chips along with more creative options, the Thai fish curry and Duck Laksa. A charcuterie plate named ‘The Long Board’ made for a delicious snack. Floor to ceiling windows flood the room with light and give you a glimpse at the beautiful bay outside. A mix of families, couples and friendship groups had already started to fill up the large space but we were lucky enough to snag a couple of armchairs by the window.
For short trips in the UK it’s worth splashing out for a hotel with a room you actually want to spend some time in and the bedrooms here certainly didn’t disappoint. For our first night the only available rooms were the standard option. Described by the hotel’s website as ‘fresh and contemporary’ we were really impressed. The decor is elegant-charm-meets-surf-shack with rustic wooden floors and bright linens. For our second and third nights we upgraded to one of the hotel’s two suites – which had a show-stopping roll top bath in the bedroom itself looking down on to the beach below. A perfect place to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or special occasion.
Of course, with beds as comfy as these, we could have stayed in our room all weekend but I wanted to find out what it’s like to surf the famous Cornwall waves. Extreme Academy, a surf school is adjacent to the hotel and offers beginner to advanced surfing lessons as well as wetsuit and board hire. A half-day lesson costs £35 and involves some technique and safety training on the beach before getting into the water and perfecting your skills. It’s safe to say I wasn’t a natural but I did manage a few rides back to shore on the board before plummeting head first into the waves… It’s not easy but the challenge and enjoyment of being outside makes it a great way to enjoy the bay and experience the sensation of surfing first hand. After that we had worked up quite the appetite so treated ourself to fish and chips at The Beach Hut, a casual restaurant on the beach path with a simple but tasty menu.
As well as the two-miles of beach at Watergate Bay, there is a coastal path which follows 3.5 miles of clifftop coastline to Porth if you’re feeling extra energetic. Back at the hotel, the Swim Club, has a 25-metre infinity pool with ocean views, a chill-out space with arm chairs, books and magazines, spa treatment rooms and an outdoor barrel-style hot tub on the sun deck. A 60-minute ‘drench’ facial is £60 and a speedy manicure – in a cute room which looks over the pool and beach – is £30. If your bedroom isn’t one that has the splendid bath in the window, the hot tub is an ideal place to watch the spectacular sunset.
Watergate Bay Hotel is opposite Jamie Oliver’s famous ‘Fifteen’ restaurant and, in addition to The Living Space, the hotel has its own fine-dining restaurant, Zacry’s. Subtle industrial interiors compliment the low lighting and we were impressed with the inventive food options. A crab meat mac ‘n cheese for starters, followed by asian prawns, pork belly noodles as a main and a side of triple-cooked chips to finish made me thankful we’d done so much exercise during the day! There is also an extensive wine and cocktail list.
After dinner we stayed for a while at Zacry’s, soaking up the atmosphere, before a nightcap at The Living Space which was alive with guests and locals propping up the bar and generally enjoying life. It was easy to see why. This holiday haven, just an hour’s flight from London offers a style of casual luxury ideal for a weekend without fuss. I would absolutely return to Watergate Bay and hope to sooner rather than later. From friends to family with kids in tow and couples wanting a romantic break, there is a lot to choose from in one place here and a hefty dose of Cornwall charm.
Standard family suite rooms start from £255 (including breakfast) per room, per night. Standard house rooms start from £180 (including breakfast).
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