When you arrive at Newquay Harbour, you might at first think “nice harbour” and stand for 10-15 minutes enjoying the glorious views out to sea and across to Watergate Bay. But if you take time to really look around and explore this hidden gem with its secrets, you’ll get a lot more out of your day. So what’s to see and notice and what is there to do in Newquay Harbour?
Of course, you can simply enjoy the views – there are several vantage points, such as the top of South Quay Hill, or walking to the end of the fish landing areas. From North Quay there’s an narrow walkway that takes you round to the foot of the steps beside the Harbour Hotel.
The Newquay Harbour Seals are always around when the fishermen are bringing their catch in – plus some opportunistic visits to the pleasure trip boats, hoping they’re following a fishing boat. The seals have their own website
If you’d visited Newquay Harbour just 200 years ago, you’d have found that Newquay didn’t exist as a major town, it was a tiny fishing cove, rarely visited, at the end of the Bay, with St Columb Minor being the major local market town. You’d have seen a few fishing boats huddled in the corner under where the Harbour Hotel now stands and, above, a few thatched cottages. The fishermen based in this tiny cove made their living from fishing. There was no town and no churches – just a group of people living around the harbour in a small village, little knowing that they were on the brink of an industrial and economic explosion. It wasn’t until 1882 that the separate parish of Newquay was created, churches and graveyards were set up and people started being christened, married and buried there.
Over the next 100 years Newquay Harbour was built, a minerals railway was built to bring goods to the ships, then the passenger trains arrived, bringing throngs of Victorian visitors to the sandy beaches to enjoy the good, clean air. The remnants of this 100 years is all around you at the Harbour.
If you look to the left of the Rowing Club building, you’ll see the Treffry Tunnel, now closed off and used to store rowing club gig boats – if you’re at the Harbour on a rowing club night, or at the gig races, you’ll see the doors open. This tunnel was built to bring china clay, ore and other materials from the top of the cliff to the bottom, then along specially-built rails out to the central island, built in 1872, alongside waiting ships.
Restaurants at Newquay Harbour
If you’re hungry at the Harbour, there’s the restaurant on the old landing quay, the Harbour Hotel at the top of the steps at one end, a hot pasty in the rowing club, or you can walk right to the top and enjoy lunch on the terrace at The Fort pub, overlooking the harbour and bay.
If you’ve brought your own beach picnic then you can sit on the benches around the harbour, or down on the beach – just make sure you’re not in the way of the slipway as Newquay is a working harbour with an active RNLI lifeboat station. The sand on this beach is silky soft, probably the softest you’ll find anywhere.
Along the South Quay harbour wall you’ll see some huts where you can book fishing trips or pleasure trips. Next on South Quay you’ll see there’s a metal gate, limiting access along the quayside. The quay is a working harbour and fish are landed daily – because of this, dogs are not allowed beyond the metal gate. The Harbourmaster’s office is alongside the gate. At the end of South Quay there’s a handy viewing spot for looking out across the Bay; also, along the length of South Quay, you can stand and look out over the harbour wall.
Old Tunnel Under Newquay Harbour Quay
Underneath the South Quay is one of hidden Newquay’s little secret gems – if you stand on the harbour beach, by the slipway, and look along the quay wall, you might notice a small arch – the secret is that this arch was originally a full-sized walkway through to Towan Beach. Originally built to enable easy, ground level, access between the two beaches, over the years it has silted up with sand until now all you can see is the very top of the stonework. How fabulous it’d be to be able to walk through this tunnel again. It certainly shows you how sand builds up over time.
On the other side of Newquay Harbour is North Quay – where you’ll often see people fishing at the end. Beyond North Quay are the fish cellars, where fish used to be cleaned, prepared and salted by the women of Newquay. If you go to North Quay, up the slope and round the corner, you’ll find some interesting view points and, just beyond the fish cellars, a large/flat grassy area for a picnic with a view. Up the cliff another 200 yards is where you’d find the Huer’s Hut.
If you look up at the cliffs of Newquay Harbour, to where the old cottages are perched quite precariously on the cliff edge, you’ll notice one wall has an industrial look about it – this is where there used to be chutes, sending mineral ores from the top to the bottom of the cliff quickly to be loaded onto wagons and taken to the ships. To the right of these are the untouched Cornish cliffs of the original settlement, with some old steps rising to the foot of the Harbour Hotel.
Around the Harbour, you can’t help but notice all the crab pots – Newquay is a working harbour and crabs are one of the major catches, but you’ll rarely find these crabs for sale locally as 99% of them are exported directly from the Quay to Spain 2-3x a week. If you do want to buy a spider crab, speak to the harbourmaster, the fishermen or in the rowing club to get a name and a lead on who can supply you with one.
At the base of the South Quay Hill you’ll find a few buildings; to the left are supplies and stores for the fishermen, the Newquay Rowing Club clubhouse has a bar and great views over the Bay, then there’s the RNLI Lifeboat Station, a working lifeboat lives here and is launched regularly in response to 999 calls, then there’s the Seamen’s Mission, or Harbour Mission, which was originally set up in 1883 to provide Christian books to visiting sailors, with the first wooden building appearing in 1891 at a cost of £125. Sunday services were also held in this spot for fishermen, who were able to attend wearing their working clothes. The original building was demolished, with the new Mission building opening in 1994.
Above these is where the Newquay Sailing Club has its base. The club and the premises were established in 1954. There’s little space for boat storage and they have two club boats available for use by members too. Temporary membership for a week costs about £15, with a nominal charge for hiring a club boat. You’ll see sailing club members putting to sea about 10am most Sundays.
Events at Newquay Harbour
Throughout the year there are numerous events, from rowing club club nights, through to the huge Fish Festival and the County Gig Championships and the annual Newquay Harbour Water Sports Day. The RNLI have Lifeboat Days and various fundraising events use the harbour for water-sports based challenges and sponsored events. There’s a list of upcoming events at Newquay Harbour here: Harbour Events Calendar