Best of Porthleven, Cornwall: Picturesque harbour and rugged coast

Porthleven is one of the best villages to visit in Cornwall. A quaint fishing village on the Lizard Peninsula, the southernmost tip in Great Britain, Porthleven is an ideal base to explore South Cornwall and the dramatic peninsula.

From the picturesque harbour to the beautiful rugged coast, the white sand beaches and gorgeous coves, Porthleven offers the perfect coastal escape. The fishing village also boasts top walks along the South West Coastal path, wild seas for surfing and watching storms, and awe-inspiring coastal scenery.

The picturesque Porthleven harbour

One of the highlights of Porthleven is its picturesque harbour. The fishing village is centred and built around the harbour, which is still the hub of the community today. The harbour dates back to the 1800s, and with several large and deep seawalls, offers a strong defence against the wild Cornish seas.

Line of moored boats in Porthleven harbour
Porthleven harbour

As you walk around the picturesque harbour and spot moored boats, you’ll discover the delightful shops, market stalls, cafés, restaurants and pubs lining the harbourside. You can dine out at one of the many seafood restaurants, eat takeaway fish and chips on the benches overlooking the harbour, enjoy refreshments at iconic pubs and soak up the serene ambience of this quaint Cornish village.

Another key sight in Porthleven is the clock tower located at the sea end of the harbour. Renowned for battling the giant and wild Cornish waves, the clock tower is best admired from the long and daunting jetty. From there, you can also marvel at the dramatic coast spanning out on both sides of the village.

Warning: Do not attempt to visit the jetty in bad weather.

Porthleven Clock Tower and town of Porthleven
Porthleven clock tower

Porthleven, like many Cornish villages, is wedged between lush rolling hills and rugged coast. The fishing village is built on steep hills, from where you can enjoy the best views of the town, the harbour and the coast. As you walk along the streets of Porthleven, you can also appreciate the charming townhouses, especially the ones lining the harbourside.

The beautiful and rugged Cornish coast

While the dramatic coastline can be admired from Porthleven harbour, the best way to fully appreciate the wild and rugged soul of the Cornish coast is to explore it on foot or on water. The beautiful coast offers a seaside escape to catch everyone’s fancy: surfing, kayaking, relaxing on the beach, walking, spotting wildlife and watching storms.

The South West coastal path runs along the Cornish coast and through Porthleven, and offers splendid coastal walks. You can explore the coastal path on either side of the fishing village by heading north to Rinsey Head and the old tin mines of Trewavas and Wheal Prosper, or south to Gunwalloe. Wherever you walk, the coastal path features gorgeous views of the rugged cliffs, white sand beaches and gorgeous coves.

Walking along the South West Coastal Path to Church Cove Beach in South Cornwall
The South West coastal path in Gunwalloe

A coastal walk I would highly recommend is the Lizard coastal walk from Kynance Cove to Lizard Point (the southernmost point in Great Britain) and Bass Point. This circular walk leads you along one of the most beautiful sections of the Cornish coast and enjoys jaw-dropping scenery of the dramatic cliffs. Check out the Lizard Peninsula walk guide.

Porthleven boasts wild seas ideal for experienced surfers as well as storm watchers. The fishing village is a well-known surfing spot. However, do not underestimate the rough waves. Porthleven is also the perfect base for exploring the coastline by kayak or paddle board. Throughout the many seaside and coastal activities, keep an eye out for the wildlife. From seals and dolphins to sea birds, the Cornish coast attracts all kinds of local and far-flung visitors.

Kayaking along the Cornish coast
Kayaking along the Cornish coast (Credit: Ian from Vertical Blue)

The best white sand beaches near Porthleven

Aside from its dramatic coast, Cornwall is also renowned for its white sand beaches and beautiful coves. Featuring breathtaking views of the rugged coastline, here are the best beaches and coves in and around Porthleven.

Porthleven Beach

Location: Porthleven, TR13 9EH

The closest beach to the fishing village is Porthleven beach. Starting from the clock tower at the harbour, Porthleven beach stretches from the village to Loe Bar, a freshwater lake. Due to the wild seas that regularly hit Porthleven, the beach isn’t the ideal place for swimming or water activities. The long stretch of white sand is, however, perfect for strolls and can be fully enjoyed at low tide.

Gunwalloe Beach

Location: Gunwalloe, TR12 7QB

Gunwalloe beach is located further along the coast from Porthleven (3 miles south). The beach merges with Porthleven beach and Loe Bar at low tide. The long stretch of white sand is quiet and idyllic, and offers more shelter than Porthleven Beach. From Gunwalloe beach, you can fully admire the famed rugged cliffs of Cornwall.

View from South West Coastal path of Gunwalloe coast and beach in Cornwall
The coast and beach of Gunwalloe

You can access the hamlet of Gunwalloe via a small country road and the beach by a steep ramp. Parking spaces are limited. Alternatively, you can walk to the beach along the coastal path from Porthleven or the National Trust Church Cove car park (TR12 7QE).

Church Cove Beach

Location: Gunwalloe, TR12 7QG

Church Cove features one of the best beaches near Porthleven. The white sand beach is located near Gunwalloe in the cute Church Cove, named after the medieval church of St Wynwallow which sits just off the cove. Surrounded by tall cliffs, Church Cove beach offers the perfect Cornish seaside escape, although you’ll have to share it with fellow beachgoers. Church Cove is fairly popular in Cornwall, as is its neighbouring beach Dollar Cove (don’t get them mixed up).

Beach and Rugged Cliff of Church Cove in Cornwall
Church Cove Beach

Poldhu Cove Beach

Location: Mullion, TR12 7JB

Poldhu Cove Beach sits in a quaint cove surrounded by the rugged Cornish cliffs. The white sand beach is more remote and thus quieter than Church Cove. Known as a surfing spot, Poldhu Cove features a surf school as well as a delightful café. From Poldhu Cove, you can walk along the coastal path to Marconi’s station. You can visit the station, now turned into a museum commemorating the first transatlantic radio signal.

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2 thoughts on “Best of Porthleven, Cornwall: Picturesque harbour and rugged coast”

  1. A lovely article, Porthleven is a place I love very much and it’s wonderful to see it being so well written about. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much Shirley for your lovely comment. The Cornish coast is absolutely stunning, I loved exploring Porthleven and the surrounding area.


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