Snorkelling near Tintagel and diving in North Cornwall

Seaweeds at Hole Beach
Seaweeds at Hole Beach

There is a lot of marine life on the North Cornish coast that suddenly becomes apparent when you put on a snorkel and mask. Amongst the rocky areas along the sides of most beaches you're pretty much guaranteed to see bass, wrasse and pollock during the summer. Being surrounded by a huge shoal of bass or mackerel is an awesome experience (in all senses of the word). Grey seals are common along the coast and may come to check you out. If you're very lucky you may encounter dolphins or basking sharks. See our wildlife page for more information about the marine wildlife in the area.

Good places for snorkelling

Bass at Hole Beach
Bass at Hole Beach
Port Quin
Anemone

Good spots for snorkelling include:

  • Port William and Hole Beach at Trebarwith strand have lots of bass. Basking sharks sometimes come into the bay in the Summer.
  • Backways cove has lots of bass and pollock and an interesting underwater landscape to explore.
  • Castle Beach has kelp beds with loads of wrasse and quite a few crabs and lobsters tucked in holes. Bass and pollock lurk in the kelp beds off Castle Island. Watch out if there are people fishing off Black Rock (you should be OK along the side of castle island if there are)
  • Bossiney - there are some good rocky outcrops round to the left.
  • Port Quin - lots of kelp with pollock and wrasse. Keep your eye out for kayaks when you are in the main inlet.

There can be strong currents around the Cornish Coast so we recommend you wear fins so you can swim against currents if you need to and also to be mindful of how far you have travelled so you don't find yourself with a very long tiring swim back. Since fins can be a bit of a pain to carry down coastal footpaths, you might want to go for cut-down surfing fins rather than 5ft long freediving fins (though most normal diving/snorkelling fins will fit in a decent-sized rucksack).

Foraging

Mussels at Hole Beach
Mussels at Hole Beach

If you enjoy fresh mussels, snorkelling allows you to harvest the really big ones particularly close to low tide the water above the offshore rocks is shallow. See our mussel foraging page for information about when to harvest them, how to prepare them and some suggestions for recipes.

If you fancy making your own miso soup then you'll need some kelp which you can easily harvest using a knife when snorkelling, along with other edible seaweeds such as bladderwrack. See our seaweed foraging page for more information about the edible species, preparation and some recipes.

Snorkelling gear

Trebarwith Surf Shop
Trebarwith Surf Shop

For less than £10 you can buy a perfectly usable snorkel (pick one with a purge valve - most have them) and mask on the internet and have it delivered, so we'd probably advise bringing one to save the hassle of trying to hire one (plus you can take it abroad with you on holiday). You may also want to consider bringing your own fins as again you can pick up a reasonable pair for £20 on the internet and then you have everything you need to go snorkelling in the tropics! That just leaves you with the non-tropical part to worry about: you'll need a wetsuit. Fortunately the upturn in the popularity of surfing makes that easy to hire:

  • Trebarwith Strand - the surf shop hire wetsuits, fins and gloves
  • Polzeath - Anne's Cottage hires wetsuits and fins
  • Bude - there are a several surf shops that hire wetsuits and you should at least be able to hire bodyboarding fins (which will do for snorkelling)
  • Crackington Haven - NCS surfboards at Mineshop or The Cabin café hire wetsuits

If you're considering buying a wetsuit - you can pick up 3mm wetsuits for £30 which are fine in mid Summer and early Autumn (July-October). Earlier than this you'll want a 5mm suit which are £70 upwards. If you're considering April-May then we recommend semi-dry with a hood and gloves to keep you warm. Note that unlike surfing you are fully immersed in the water all the time so you may notice wetsuit recommendations for surfing being slightly more lightweight.

A typical pattern of sea temperatures in Cornwall is shown below, although it can vary by a degree or two between years

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
10109101214161716141211
Jan10
Feb10
Mar9
Apr10
May12
Jun14
Jul16
Aug17
Sep16
Oct14
Nov12
Dec11

More information about the sea temperature (including the current temperature).

Scuba Diving

Jellyfish at Tintagel Castle
Jellyfish at Tintagel Castle

If you fancy scuba diving, there are dive schools at Padstow, Newquay and St Austell.

Sphene wreck(off Port Quin)

Page about the dive site

If you are experienced divers with your own gear: