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Canoeing and Kayaking In Cornwall

Read our guide for Canoeing and Kayaking In Cornwall and Find and Book experiences, courses, activities and tours! Browse through the list of experiences, either instantly book onto your dates or enquire to book. All you have to do is turn up and enjoy! If you’ve got any questions about any specific experience, send a message and the providers will aim to get back to you as soon as possible. Have a specific experience in mind that we don’t have listed? No problem, drop us a message and we’ll send your quote around to hundreds of the best experience providers nationwide and come back with you the best quote, making it easy for you to make the most of your spare time!


This peninsula at the south-western tip of the UK is a tale of two coasts in many ways. The south coast is known as the ‘Cornish Riviera’ and is home to many pretty harbour villages such as Fowey and Falmouth, and some gorgeous estuaries. The north coast is much more exposed to the Atlantic swells and is a lot more rugged as a result, but home to one of the activities Cornwall is most famous for: surfing. Both coastlines are awash with stunning beaches, and between them are home to a huge array of great activities, pretty villages, superb restaurants and various other great attractions. And that’s not to forget about the inland areas too, most notably Bodmin Moor, which provides some spectacular vistas and activities. The region is host to a fantastic growing arts and crafts scene centred around St Ives, and home to the world-renowned Eden Project too. There is evidence both inland and on the coast of the area’s mining heritage too, often providing an interesting backdrop to many activities there, and related to its most famous literary denizen, Poldark.
Where to hire Kayaks in Cornwall

About Kayaking and Canoeing in Cornwall

With over 300 miles of pristine coastline, filled with glorious beaches, mysterious coves, peaceful creeks and stunning sea cliffs, Cornwall is a dream canoeing and kayaking destination for all types of paddler: sea kayaking, canadian canoeing, surf kayaking, white water kayaking and open topped ‘messing about’ paddling are all well catered for here! You can almost take your pick of the coastline, with the north and south coasts offering a fantastic diversity of experiences. The many creeks leave paddlers spoilt for choice too, though four key ones stand out in the Fal, Fowey, Camel and Tamar estuaries. Inland paddlers are catered for too. For a gentle family trip the canal running inland from Bude offers a nice peaceful option, whilst for the thrill seekers looking for white water there are sections of the Fowey and Camel that will keep the smiles on their faces.
Kayaking for families in Cornwall

Best Canoeing and Kayaking locations in Cornwall

  • Porthcurno: there are few beaches and locations to match the breathtaking beauty of Porthcurno, with it’s crystal clear waters, golden sands and stunning cliffs. Paddlers can enjoy exploring this captivating stretch of south Cornwall, and if you’re lucky even have a Basking Shark as a travelling companion! As an added bonus you may even get small small waves to surf in on.
  • Fal-Ruan Upper Creeks, River Fal: if you’re looking for peace and quiet, somewhere you can paddle in serene wood-fringed channels, with the only sounds being the paddle in the water and the accompanying birdsong, then this is for you. Take a picnic or enjoy a well-earned pub lunch in Ruan Lanihorne.
  • The Tamar: there are few better ways to experience the stunning scenery and wildlife of the Tamar Valley than by canoe or kayak. Often launching from Cotehele Quay the route upriver contains many points of interest beside the natural beauty, including the Cotehele estate and the chapel built there by Sir Richard Edgcumbe after his escape from the Roundheads. You’ll paddle underneath the impressive Calstock viaduct, built in 1907, and see many signs of the thriving copper mining industry that once occupied this stretch of the river. If you’re lucky you may spot kingfishers, peregrine falcons or deer too.
  • Hanover Cove, Cligga Head, St Agnes: the more adventurous - and experienced - paddlers might like to explore the more inaccessible north coast, heading out to Cligga Head to discover the awesome 30 metre sea arch and the inner cavern beyond. Why not stop by Hanover Cove for lunch, a picture-postcard cove with pristine white sand.
  • St Agnes - for a kayaking experience rich with local history, then head out from Trevaunance Cove. This is the heartland of Cornish mining history, and with its iconic clifftop engine houses has World Heritage Site status. Tucked away beneath the cliffs are another feature that Cornwall is famous for - smuggler’s caves. When you’ve finished exploring this fascinating stretch of coastline, make for the St Agnes Bakery and find out why their sausage rolls are so famous!

What are the best canoeing and kayaking trips for families in Cornwall?

  • Bosahan Cove & Frenchman’s Creek, Helford: the Helford estuary is a fantastic place for a family paddling expedition, with its many hidden coves and sandy beaches. Bosahan Cove is a firm favourite due to its pretty location - nice and secluded and bordered by pretty woods - and also the fact it’s only a mile from Helford Village. Heading further inland on the estuary takes you to Frenchman’s Creek, of Daphne du Maurier fame.
  • Wind in the Willows on the Fowey River: paddle out from Golant and up the Fowey River to the creeks around Lerryn that helped inspire Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’. If you’ve time head to Penpoll Creek too for it’s shipwrecks and surrounding ancient woodland. There’s plenty of birdlife to take in as you go too, including herons, kingfishers, egrets and plenty of waders. For an extra special experience paddle out nice and early when the wildlife is at its most active but the river is nice and quiet.
  • The Gannel Estuary, Newquay: just the other side of the Pentire Headland from hectic and bustling Newquay and Fistral Beach, the Gannel Estuary is a firm family favourite. Whilst still busy in the summer months, get there at high tide and paddle up the estuary and you’ll soon forget about everyone else. It’s a beautiful steep sided valley on one side, whilst wooded on the other side heading into Penpol Creek. It's still, and quiet, and an oasis of peacefulness compared to just a few hundred metres back onto Crantock Beach. If you get the tides right coming back you can enjoy a ride with the river all the way out to the surf for a little play (just watch out for all the children playing in the river as you go!).
  • Bude canal: heading inland from this popular seaside town, the canal is a perfect place to learn some new skills and take a gentle family paddle towards the village of Helebridge, 2.5 miles away. The canal also borders the Bude Marshes Nature Reserve meaning wildlife is abundant and there’s a good chance of spotting herons, moorhens, cormorants and kingfishers, and maybe even an otter, water vole or snake!

White water kayaking Cornwall

The best white water kayaking and canoeing in Cornwall

  • River Camel: from Trecarne to Tuckingmill. A great grade 3 creek, although being quite narrow there is only room for 3 or 4 paddlers. This stretch of the river has continuous small rapids broken up by bedrock ledges which form small drops. In high water some of these may form stoppers, and eddies are limited so portage or inspection can be difficult.
  • Fowey: from Golitha Falls to Treverbyn Mill. After a fairly innocuous start - stick with it - the river bends, the trees clear and you’re left with a rewarding section of rapids interspersed with falls. Mostly grade 3 rapids and grade 4 drops, this could merge into a single grade 5 rapid in high water, so be wary. The section becomes more gentle again towards the end, finishing after a small weir.

Safety Advice for Canoeing and Kayaking in Cornwall

A license is just one small part of the puzzle when it comes to working out where and when to paddle. See our list below on things to consider before going canoeing or kayaking:
  • Weather, flow, tides and visibility: Attention should be paid to the flow of the river by checking the environment agency website and others. A significant flow on the river can be caused by excessive rain, often hundreds of miles away, that over a number of days, pour into the river can cause significant currents. Whilst its often hard to see ‘flow’ just by looking at the river the National River Flow Archive can provide specific information on the flow to enable you to decide if it’s worth the outing. Often, it’s much nicer to paddle in calmer waters, rather than battling a surging river and having greater risk around meanders, bridges and other boat vessels, so this is something to consider. Likewise, wind, tide, weather and visibility should be taken into consideration when planning your canoeing or kayaking trip.
  • Conditions within your level of capability Always err on the side of caution when going out in your canoe or kayak and make sure you’re comfortable with the conditions of the water
  • Tell your friends: Let people know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Ideally go with a group of people so if someone falls in, you’ll have others to help or raise the alarm
  • Get training: Book in a canoeing or kayaking instructor course or experience days on Beyonk
  • Practice falling in drills: In calmer waters and with the supervision of an instructor, practice how to fall in and what to do when you do fall in, so you’re prepared on what to do
  • Consider wearing safety equipment such as buoyancy aids, which can be life-savers in many scenarios even if you’re a strong swimmer. The water temperature, flow or taking a knock to the head can all present risks that will make your swimming skills useless and a buoyancy aid life-saving
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions of your paddle. Don’t risk getting soaking wet and cold in the rain if you’re going out for prolonged periods
  • Be aware of waterway restrictions, from boating lanes, military operations and more, to avoid any dangers
  • Make sure to get stacked up on nutrition and water to maintain energy levels if you’re going for over an hour's paddle.
  • Take a communication device, mobile or radio in case of emergency and call 999 if needed.

Kayaking Cornwall

Where can I go canoeing or kayaking in Cornwall?

Unfortunately there are all sorts of restrictions on where you can go canoeing or kayaking in Wales, as many bodies of water are owned by different organisations and there are more specific protections in place. It’s not quite as simple as just rocking up to your closest river and going for a paddle. There have been stories of authorities asking to see licenses and being able to fine those canoeing and kayaking without a license.
There are some places where licenses aren’t required, like paddling in the sea, estuaries or most tidal water (which can often travel quite far up many rivers). However, these are the areas that require skill and experience to go paddling. Nevertheless, estuary and sea kayaking can offer some of the most rewarding experiences with sightings of seals, a wealth of other animals and stunning coastal scenes.
Canals and inland rivers can be great places to kayak and canoe as waters can be easier to navigate and manage than tidal waters. However, for many inland rivers in the UK you’ll need to work out whether you are able to canoe or kayak there due to both private restrictions and licensing restrictions. In Wales, check out the Canoe Wales website for the rivers where you can canoe or kayak under their membership. If there are any questions, you’re best off sending them a message to see what license is required (if any) for your stretch of river. Restrictions also exist for where land is privately owned (e.g. beaches), where there are environmental protection schemes such as Nature reserves, where there are military bases or activity happening or where there are restrictions due to safety such as avoiding shipping lanes, waste disposal or dangerous wrecks.
Kayaking Cornwall

Canoe and Kayak Clubs, Hire and Lessons in Cornwall, near me

Search through our map of hundreds of canoe and kayak clubs, places to hire equipment or find lessons. If you’re looking for something specific, drop us a message and we’ll find it for you.

Canoeing and Kayaking for Families and Kids in Cornwall, near me

Canoeing and Kayaking are great family friendly sports. Canoes are more of the stable and spacious choice that allow for gentle and calm paddling experiences. Kayaking also offers the option for two-seaters that are a great way to bond with a friend or family member. Sea Kayaks and Touring Kayaks are incredibly stable, like Canoes, so it's more difficult to fall in or get wet. When it comes to the types of water to look out for, calmer water makes for a more enjoyable experience with kids. Look out for local lakes or canals for safer and more tranquil paddling. The beauty of canoeing and kayaking are that they are 'sit down' sports. The level of fitness required for both - at entry level - is relatively low, so most people can get involved with the sport.

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