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Coast and Seas

Cornwall lies on a long peninsula with no inland area more than 20 miles from the sea. It has a coastline of over 400 miles with 158 miles designated as Heritage Coast.  The inherent quality and beauty of Cornwall's seas, coastal landscape and environment has consistently attracted visitors. Much of its industry (for example fishing and tourism) is reliant on the continued health of the environment and its scenic qualities.

Cornwall's coastline is composed of an extensive range of natural features, including granite cliffs, small rocky coves and headlands, sand dunes, sandy beaches and tranquil estuaries. The North and South coasts of Cornwall have differing landscape and biodiversity characteristics. The North coast is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean, and is exposed to the prevailing south-westerly to northwesterly winds associated with low pressure weather conditions which move in from the Atlantic.  As a result it has a wilder nature, with rugged sheer cliffs, steep valleys and a greater number of dunes. The South coast, on the English Channel, contains more sheltered beaches and tree lined estuaries. Of the twelve separate areas that make up the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), eleven cover sections of the Cornish coastline including the Fal, Helford, Fowey and Camel estuaries.

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The coast and seas of Cornwall host a wide range of biodiversity with habitats including estuaries, rocky shores and reefs, mudflats, dunes, cliffs, sub-tidal sand banks, maerl beds, eel grass beds and kelp forest.

Cornwall’s has six Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCAs) [Polzeath, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, Helford, Fowey and Looe) provide an additional focus for coastal and marine habitat protection, public awareness and engagement.

Cornwall’s marine and coastal habitats provide a range of ecosystem services of significant economic and cultural value to Cornish residents and visitors, including food production, climate regulation, fertiliser, pollution control, coastal protection, energy production and improving mental and physical health and well-being.

Cornwall Council has produced a dedicated Maritime Strategy which will be used by the Council to integrate maritime issues into Council policy and strategy and guiding the development of programmes across its operations, including environmental management and protection.

For information about beaches please see our Beaches in Cornwall page.