72 hours in Newquay: Natasha Heard’s luxury guide to one of Britain’s best-loved seaside resorts
Your first thought of Newquay might not be the culinary delights that are on offer but a recent visit proved that there are some seriously decent eateries to be found in and around the area – and most come with a beautiful beach too -what a bonus!
I love that each beach holds it own identity and offers something different for its visitors. Surfing championships and a silent disco at Fistral, a secluded wedding at Lusty Glaze, fine-dining and fine sands at Watergate Bay – find one that suits your style or discover them all.
I spent a long weekend here in spring revisiting some welcoming places and discovering new ones too, and I certainly got around the area; across a selection of the best beaches, out on the water, dining in some of the finest eateries in town and even enjoying a safari or two.
It wouldn’t be a luxury stay if you didn’t have a glamorous base from which to explore the beautiful beaches, and the best place for me is the iconic Headland Hotel.
I’ve stayed here a few times now and I very much look forward to returning each time, largely due to the hospitality from staff and the relaxed atmosphere. The fine dining eatery, Samphire Restaurant improves with every visit (now holding 2 AA rosettes), the location could not be better next to Fistral Beach and it truly feels like a home from home. The majestic building rises up from the rocks and offers 360 degree views – I had great fun spotting the distinctive hotel from various locations throughout the trip.
My room was spacious with a balcony and view facing straight out towards the Atlantic. The sun chose to make a very welcome appearance this trip and graced me with the most picturesque sunrises and sunsets. A dark wood four poster bed took pride of place in the room and some armchairs by the French doors, as well as a two seater sofa, offered up some areas to relax. Classically decorated in cool greens and dark wood, the room held a modern bathroom with 2 sinks, spacious bath and a walk in shower as well as a separate bedroom with two small single beds, TV and window with a view.
The hotel holds the aforementioned Samphire Restaurant, which offers a more formal approach in the grand dining room, while The Terrace takes in views of Fistral Beach and has a fresh, brasserie feel to it. The bar serves up creative cocktails – try the espresso Martini after dinner – yum! And the lounge areas are so inviting for an afternoon tea, private dining or a quiet place to relax .
There is a pool and spa on the lower ground floor with treatments using Elemis products – I’m a big fan of this brand; the scents and quality are great – and I was pleased to find the toiletries in the room were also Elemis. There’s a rather noticeable area sectioned off outside to make way for a new leisure complex, and if you crave a bit of anonymity but the luxury of a high quality stay, the on-site lodges may be the place for you.
This wasn’t a trip for relaxing, this was a trip for eating too, therefore a visit to Samphire on the first evening was a must. Executive chef, Christopher Archambault uses largely local produce to produce worldly treats. The setting is second to none with mesmerising views of the sunset over the water delighting all dinner guests, encouraging a few to get their phones out for a quick snap.
My starter was an Asian crab and charred squid roulade with coconut, coriander and lime. Presented to resemble sushi, the dish was refreshing, vibrant in colour and flavour and a delightful plate of food overall. An earthy sauce was lifted with a mouthwatering coconut cream and the crab and squid were perfect. I followed this with beef shin, served with fried polenta, pico de gallo, avocado mousse and asparagus. The rough texture of the beef along with the gravy were divine, while a tomato salad and the avocado mousse lightened the dish for spring.
For dessert I opted for the rose macarons with raspberry, lychee and Turkish delight. This was a gorgeous fruity dessert full of differing textures, sweet flavours, little crispy meringues against fresh whipped cream and delightful macarons with fresh raspberries – yum!
After a hearty Eggs Royale for breakfast at Samphire I headed out to explore my nearby surroundings. Huer’s Hut is a must-see and is only a short walk from the hotel. Built in the 14th century as a lookout for fish arriving in the bay, the small all-white building can be spotted from afar and evidently offers up some lovely sea views. Back past the hotel and down to Fistral, a surfer’s paradise with a huge focus on water sports (check out the surf sanctuary at the hotel), casual eateries, surf shops and the occasional silent disco. I headed across the length of beach around the coast and found a lovely spot for a drink at Lewennick Lodge, at the edge of the coast with views from the other side of Fistral Bay.
I headed back to the complex at the beach and found myself at The Stable for lunch. With a focus on pizza, pies and cider, you would think that after a big breakfast and dinner to come that I wouldn’t indulge, but that’s why I’m good at this! One look at the Billy the Kid pizza on the menu and my decision was made – Rosary goat’s cheese, spinach, field mushrooms, caramelised onion, mozzarella, and hazelnuts – yum.
The next stop on my culinary tour was dinner at Lusty Glaze. A private beach that can be used for exclusive events (a wedding here would be a stunner), Lusty Glaze is set up for this purpose with a marquee, bar and dining options. There’s that casual beach vibe going on with the décor along with great food, a cosy atmosphere with fairy lights twinkling and those inviting sunset views too, making you want to stay all night. I enjoyed some seafood delights starting with an Atlantic prawn Waldorf salad with diced apple, cucumber and roasted walnuts – any dish with nuts in gets my vote (I don’t know what my obsession is I just love it) and this was a tasty, fresh start to the meal.
Monkfish kebabs with spiced roasted veg, new potatoes and pesto were up next and I loved how the tasty vegetables complemented the monkfish. I finished with a flourish and would certainly recommend the mini dessert platter. I’m not sure what was mini about it – I was treated to five desserts – and no tiny portions either! My favourites were the tiramisu and orange sorbet but the sticky toffee pudding, Lusty mess and chocolate orange cheesecake were equally as delicious!
After a rather filling meal the night before I found myself not requiring breakfast the next day – just a coffee would do, especially as I had a lunch booked at Fifteen and a boat trip to get to. I headed to the harbour (a great place to take some scenic photos) to meet skipper Chris Lowe from Newquay Sea Safaris who was to take me on one of his sea safari trips.
It was a great experience to sail around the shores of Newquay on such a beautifully sunny day. We headed off towards Fistral, spotting birds along the way and points of interest on land, with Chris keeping me well informed of the origins of Newquay (previously named Towan Blystra) as well as a brief history (originally a fishing village that became a tourist town with the introduction of the railway – there’s more but you’d have to find that out for yourself when you go). Further around the coast to try and spot some elusive seals – we saw a head or two popping up from a feeding dive and it was fun to try and spot them. We found out that skipper, Chris is involved in monitoring the seals and, being heavily involved in sea life in the area, we chatted about plastic pollution, marine life, our shared appreciation of shellfish and also sustainable fishing.
We started to head away from land and a breeze was making the water a little bumpy for my liking, especially from my spot at the front of the boat. Chris called the water calm, I disagreed! We were there to find dolphins on the off chance but this time there were none about so we headed back to calmer waters (yes, I’m a bit of a wimp!) to check some lobsters pots. One lobster and a crab was found, they were measured and it was decided the crab was too small so was to be put back in the water (it was also missing a claw – they can shed them in a fight apparently). Back to land and I was thrilled with my informative and fun sea safari – a great two hours spent on a sunny morning.
I made my way over to Watergate Bay for a sumptuous lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall. Head chef Adam Banks makes the most of local produce to produce the renowned Italian style this restaurant is recognised for. (If you’ve heard recent news of the Jamie’s closures, fear not this restaurant is run separately by the Cornwall Food Foundation and will not be closing).
I started with prosciutto di San Daniele with broad bean salsa, pickled red onion, parsley, lemon zest, mint and Cornish leaves – it was packed with flavour and looked pretty on the plate too. Some of the leaves were a little too flavourful for me but I just set them aside. My main course of brill with smoked peas, Tropea onion and farro was a delight. The skin of the fish was crispy, perfectly seasoned and was simply a beautiful piece of fish. A glass of Di Montana Chardonnay went down very well with this with its fuller flavour and it paired well with the tasty peas, herby cabbage and pancetta side, and onions too.
Dessert was Buttervilla strawberries, hazelnut caramel, buttermilk sorbet and Coombeshead bread crisp and it was the ideal dish for a summery day. Soaked strawberries were full of flavour, the sorbet was refreshing and the nutty caramel sauce topped this off beautifully.
It was a really relaxing place to spend a few hours; those stunning views, the gentle waves below, and the fresh, beachy but upscale interior with an open kitchen all played a part as well as our attentive waitress.
The evening was another chilled affair back at Fistral with a drink at the beach bar followed by a light bite at rick steins – I had chicken and prawn pad Thai and I love the casual nature of a meal here with with everything being served in takeaway boxes, but containing really good food each time.
To start my final stretch of time in Newquay I headed to breakfast for a very nice pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and to take in those Atlantic views for one last time (during this trip anyway), before heading off to the zoo.
Celebrating 50 years since opening, Newquay Zoo is a delightful way to spend a few hours. The penguins put on a great show during feeding time and I could watch the meerkats and monkeys for hours. You can get very close to the lion and lionesses at their enclosure and one lioness put on an impressive display of her footballing skills with one of her enrichment balls. The talks that are put on throughout the day are casual and informative – I listened in on the Sulawesi macaque talk and learned how they communicate with one another and also that they are a delicacy on their native island! I loved that some of the animals share pens and thought the very spacious African land enclosure with zebras and wildebeest was great to see. There’s a café and shop there too and you can get up and close with an animal experience , including lion feeding, penguin encounter and a keeper experience.
For those of you who have visited Newquay you will know there is much more to do (water sports, more beaches, walks galore, golfing, spas etc.) but above are some highlights I experienced on this occasion. And for those who have never travelled to Newquay then I hope I have encouraged you to seek out this fantastic coastal destination.
IN A NUTSHELL
Every time I visit Newquay my experience turns out to be a better one than the last. Good weather certainly has a part to play, which you can’t guarantee, but when it does make an appearance it comes out in full force, illuminating the glorious sands, waters and faces of those basking in its beauty. The town seems to have shaken off the stigma of the stag do and has a more family-friendly appeal than in previous years, though is still open for all to enjoy. As ever, I had a wonderful time here, embracing the slower Cornish pace and discovering some new delights, which I cannot wait to return to.