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Scuba Diving in Cornwall - a Guide to England’s Riviera

16th January 2012   |   Jackie Hutchings

Cornwall is England’s Riviera. Since Victorian times the Major beach resorts such as Newquay, Bude & Perranporth to name a few have seen sun worshipers heading to England’s most southerly and westerly region. The relatively warm waters and hot sunny days could please even the most discerning of folk.

Over time things change, during the 60’s the surfers start to invade, in increasing numbers every year, especially to the north coast to surf the Atlantic Ocean. In later years with the advent of 18-30 holidays and ‘Run To The Sun’ type events people still keep coming in their droves.

Cornwall is now most famous for its Pasties, it was once a centre of industry famous for its tin mines, the remnants of which are scattered over the Cornish countryside. The very first road going vehicle was in Cornwall, the Puffing Devil, designed by Richard Trevithick it ran a short journey on Christmas Eve 1801. There are also attractions for all ages, whether it is a walk on the moors or go kart racing, Cornwall has a lot to offer.

Cornwall’s diving industry is well developed, nitrox & trimix are available at several locations. A.P. Valves, makers of the Buddy and obviously the A.P. Valves ranges, A.P.D. Makers of the Inspiration & Evolution rebreathers are based in Cornwall, so you can always get spare parts. What is probably one of the best kept secrets, is that the diving is world class, with the U.K.’s two most dived salt water wrecks, the Scylla and the James Egan Layne.

How to get there

Airport: There is a Domestic Airport located 4 miles outside of Newquay.
Taxi: There are many taxis available at the airport as well as a few car hire companies.

Where to stay

Cornwall has more miles of coastline than any other county in England, there is accommodation available in almost every town and village, especially seaside resorts. If you intend to do a lot of diving, you will need to be near one of the main dive operators, they are based at Looe, Pentewan, Falmouth, The Lizard, St Keverne and Penzance. If you are a member, there are many active B.S.A.C. Clubs all over Cornwall. There are only two dive boats left working the north coast.  Newquay is the big party town, it is home to several 1000+ capacity night clubs. Fistral beach in Newquay holds several international surfing rounds during the summer months.

Renting accommodation:

For people staying longer periods rentals are available! A quick Google and you will find plenty of rental places. Your best bet is to speak to local staff and get advice from them! They live there, know what the market is like and who to speak to.

Guidelines for choosing accommodation:

Before choosing a hotel it is worth asking if they have facilities for washing kit etc. The Metro Hotel in Newquay is just about to fit a secure cupboard for surfboards and dive equipment, they are even going to put a dustbin full of water and a hose pipe for rinsing kit nearby. They already have an area for hanging wetsuits. This may be happening elsewhere.

Whilst most of the hotels in Cornwall are of high quality and are a pleasure to stay in, with excellent food and good entertainment, there are an increasing amount of surf lodges, budget accommodation for people willing to share a room.

When to go:

Low season: Low season in Cornwall is October to Easter, the sea temperature varies from 7 degree in February and March to 16 degrees from July to September.

Best diving

The best time of the year to dive in Cornwall are the months of July to October, although there is an active diving scene all year round. Basking Sharks are regularly sighted during the summer months as well as visiting pods of Dolphins and the odd Orca whale. Wrecks are in abundance at depths from 1m to 100m. Download a Guide to Diving in Cornwall.

Expenses Guide

Diving per day: Single dives are usually around the £20 mark or a few pounds more if you are traveling further offshore. Many boats may be chartered for the day or even the week


Local Currency: British Pound (GBP) – Check current Rates of Exchange
Banks: The main high street banks are in every town.


  • Finding a Doctor or Dentist(how to?): Hotels have a contact for a Doctor which will come and see you at the hotel. The contact for the Doctor/Dentist is usually in the welcome brochure found in the hotel room. If not ask at your dive centre.
  • Hyperbaric centre: Phone +44 752 209999

Crime & Safety

  • Being ripped off: Cornwall is fairly laid back and trouble free, most postcode areas in Cornwall have the lowest insurance rates in the U.K. The exceptions being the major towns such as Newquay, Penzance & St. Austell which do see an increase in crime during the summer months.
  • Police in Cornwall: There is an increased presence during the summer months due to the large increase in population. Speed cameras do exist but are few and far between.


  • Cybercafes for email access: Usually available in your hotel, with many having wireless networks for laptops.
  • Phones: All hotels provide phones at extortionate rates for phoning home. Mobile phone signals vary all over Cornwall and it has quite a few black spots, if you have two phones on different networks, bring both.

Dive Dive Dive:

Diving Options: With so much choice available it is hard to know where to start. If the north coast is flat for a few days visibility can be over 20m especially on dives deeper than 40m. The south coast tends to be flatter than the north coast and you have more chance of getting out. Every dive centre has its favourite few wrecks and reefs, they are all good. Want to see steam locomotives underwater? Cornwall has them.

Rules for diving in Cornwall operated by most dive boat and operators:

Diving Schools

  • Cornwall has quite a few diving schools, teaching anything from PADI’s bubblemaker to TDI’s Advanced Trimix, or rebreather courses.
  • Technical Diving: The main dive centres have technical arms providing training and guided dives, and there are some specialist tech centres. If you are intending to do a lot of trimix dives make sure you are near to a supply, any dive centre should be able to tell you the closest supplier.

Cool things to do in Cornwall:

© Atlantic Scuba – Scuba Diving instruction from novice to Professional with qualified SDI/TDI instructors. Dive Boat charter based at Mylor, Falmouth, Cornwall. Escorted Dives and Try Dives at various sites around Cornwall.


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