Hayle is situated at the center of St. Ives Bay, Cornwall, in southwest England. Several large campgrounds are located along this rugged stretch of coastline, with additional accommodation in vacation cottages and family-run hotels. Hayle is renowned for its three miles of golden beaches, which are united at low tide. They are seldom crowded and are patrolled by lifeguards from May until mid-September.
Hayle Towans Beach
Hayle Towans is Hayle’s principal beach and stretches for almost 2 miles from the River Hayle estuary. The mudflats are a good location for birding, as they provide a feeding ground for dozens of species of migratory birds, including teals, curlews and grey plovers. This wide, sheltered beach is backed by hundreds of acres of grassy dunes known locally as “towans,” which are full of wildflowers and a haven for wildlife. This is a clean beach and safe for family bathing as long as you remain within the flag markers, but the soft sand is not buggy- or wheelchair-friendly. Ample car parking is available at the St. Ives Bay Holiday Park (stivesbay.co.uk), and the town end of the beach is just a short walk from shops and restaurants.
Gwithian Beach is another good family beach, with small caves and rock pools to explore. You can access the beach on foot from Hayle via clifftop paths or trails through the sand dunes; or drive along the coastal road to the picturesque village of Gwithian. The main parking lot offers a café and beach shop, with additional parking along the roadside. One of Cornwall’s oldest churches is actually buried beneath the sand at this beach.
Godrevy Beach, at the northernmost end of St. Ives Bay, is owned by the National Trust. It is the most exposed of Hayle’s three beaches and only 125 yards long. The beach almost disappears at high tide, and swimmers should stay close to shore because the open water near Godrevy Point has dangerous undertows and rip currents. The octagonal 19th century Godrevy Lighthouse, which stands on a rocky island just off-shore, features in Virginia Woolfe’s novel “To the Lighthouse”.
Beach and Water Sports
Gwithian Beach is one of the coastline’s best surfing beaches, with year-round consistent swells from the Atlantic Ocean and occasional barrel waves. Godrevy Beach is another top class surfing beach, with 8-foot swells and fast, hollow waves, but it is more difficult to paddle out. Shore Surf School (shoresurf.com) offers individually tailored surfing lessons and runs a summer surf camp at Godrevy Beach, with a second surf center below the St. Ives Bay Holiday Park. The Hayle Canoe Club (haylecanoeclub.co.uk), which is based at Hayle Towans Beach, offers canoe and sea-kayak lessons, white-water paddling and summertime fun days. Other beach activities include kitesurfing, horseback riding, snorkeling and blo-karting, which is similar to sand yachting.
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