Belgium is a massive music festival country and so I've been to my fair share of festivals. Yet I'd never attended one abroad until I visited the beautiful Cornwall in the UK to enjoy three days of music and excitement at Boardmasters Newquay Festival.
If you're looking for specific information about the festival, click the related link in the content table. You'll find all the basic information to help you plan your perfect weekend of surf and music near the beach at the Boardmasters festival in Cornwall – the 2023 dates and lineup, how to get there, how to get tickets, and when they get on sale, where to camp, what you can expect at the surf festival in Newquay, and so much more!
If not, scroll on to read my review about my experience at Boardmasters a few years ago.
- What is Boardmasters Newquay?
- When is Boardmasters Festival?
- What's the Boardmasters lineup in 2023?
- Where is Boardmasters?
- How to get to Boardmasters and move between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach
- How to get Boardmasters tickets
- Boardmasters camping and glamping
- What to bring to Boardmasters
- Wrap up: my Boardmasters experience
- Don't forget travel insurance
What is Boardmasters Newquay?
Boardmasters is one of the best-known music festivals in Cornwall. It combines live music performances, a bit of comedy and DJ sets with a world class surf festival at Watergate Bay, BMX and skate competitions.
In 2022, 50,000 people went to Boardmasters, and in 2023 the site has a capacity of 53,000 festival-goers.
When is Boardmasters Festival?
The festival usually takes place around the second weekend of August, and the dates for this year’s edition have already been announced – Boardmasters 2023 will take place from August 9-13.
You get a handy booklet on-site listing the full lineup and timings and a Boardmasters map of the stages and camping rounds once you arrive at the festival.
What's the Boardmasters lineup in 2023?
Each year, Newquay hosts some of the best music acts around, and 2023 is not the exception. Expect dozens of unforgettable concerts throughout the weekend on 10 different stages! The headliners this year include Lorde, Ben Howard, Liam Gallagher and Florence and The Machine.
The full lineup for Boardmasters 2023 is now on the official website.
Where is Boardmasters?
Boardmasters takes place in Newquay, in Cornwall, which is in the south of the UK. The Boardmasters festival location is actually split between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach.
Watergate Bay is the main Boardmasters location. It's where you can find the festival camping grounds as well as the festival arena with more than 10 stages, some fun entertainment, and a lot of food and drink stands.
Fistral Beach is where all the sports action happens. There's a Surf Village where you can find surf and skate brands – watch out for the outlet stand, it's dangerous! ;-) – as well as some food stands. It also has a beach bar where you can catch some live music during the day, but the main events at Fistral Beach are surfing, BMX, and skate sessions.
How to get to Boardmasters and move between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach
If you're coming from abroad, as I did, you have two main options. You can either fly to Bristol Airport and then book a shuttle to take you to the festival grounds, or you can fly into Newquay Airport.
As there are no direct flights between Newquay and Brussels, it was quicker for my friend and me to fly into Bristol and then take a shuttle taxi. The drive from Bristol to Newquay is about 2.5 hours without traffic.
If you're planning to extend your trip with a little road trip along the Cornish coast, you can also rent a car at the airport. Just take into account that you'll then have to pay to park it at the festival while you're there.
By car or campervan
If you’re driving to the festival this year, Boardmasters has set up two car parks nearby. You can pay for weekend and day parking in advance.
Keep in mind that there's a charge if you want to leave the parking and get back on. During Boardmasters, traffic in the Newquay area can get heavy, so people are discouraged to use their cars.
Not to worry, though – parking at Boardmasters is within walking distance from the festival site and the beach, and there are shuttle buses available too.
If you can have someone drop you off, they can do so at one of the drop off zones.
Campervans get their own parking.
All of these parking sites, as well as the festival's campsites, are located at Watergate Bay. To get to Fistral Beach, you can take a shuttle. More on that a bit further down below.
Newquay train station is a 10-minute drive from Watergate Bay and a 20- to 30-minute walk from Fistral Beach. There are shuttle buses running between the train station and both of the festival locations.
Buses to Boardmasters With Big Green Coach
Big Green Coach is the official Boardmasters bus partner. The company will pick up festival-goers from 23 different locations around the UK and bring them straight to the Newquay festival.
The Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach Boardmasters shuttle bus
There's a Boardmasters coach running from early in the morning until late at night (4 p.m. Monday after the festival) between Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach. The coach to Boardmasters is a short ride that lasts only 20 minutes without traffic, but we experienced quite a bit of traffic 3 of the 4 times we used the shuttle.
A single ticket cost £4 while a return ticket was £6 when I visited, but prices may have gone up since.
Also, while the shuttle bus does drop you off right at the campground entrance when going to Watergate Bay, it doesn't actually drop you off at Fistral Beach. Instead, it drops you in the center of Newquay from where it's another 20-minute walk to the actual beach.
I think it's organized like this both to spare the town the traffic and to give a boost to the local economy. You see, the walk from the Boardmasters shuttle bus drop-off point to Fistral Beach goes straight through the main shopping street and you'll pass lots of supermarkets, coffee bars, and clothing stores.
How to get Boardmasters tickets
Boardmasters 2023 tickets can be bought via the official website. Prices go from adult single-day for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to top VIP Charger experience tickets. At the time I'm updating this article for the 2023 edition of the festival, the Boardmasters Saturday day tickets are 95% sold out, and you can still get glamping tickets and surf and adventure passes.
My friend and I enjoyed a Boardmasters VIP ticket when we went to the festival. This included access to an exclusive VIP area with a bar and its own stage.
The Boardmasters VIP ticket also gives you access to the VIP camping ground, but we stayed in the glamping area. More about both below in my Cloud 9 glamping review.
A few things to know
How to get your ticket
When you order your ticket online, you won't get it sent to you straight away. In 2023, all tickets for the Boardmasters festival will be e-tickets which you’ll receive one month before the opening day. Keep in mind that the ticket will have your name – you can provide your details at the point of purchase or by logging in to your account before July 1st, 2023.
This is to prevent ticket fraud and scalping, which is a big problem for festivals all over the world. You can still give away or resale your ticket if you can’t make it to the festival for any reason – just make sure to contact customer service to change the name on the ticket before June 30th.
Tickets for Boardmasters are for sale on the official Boardmasters Festival Newquay website. You can also find them on licensed ticket sellers, but it’s a good idea to get them on the festival website if possible just to make sure your tickets are legitimate. Nothing worse than ending up with fake tickets!
Tiered ticket system and Boardmasters deposit scheme
Boardmasters works with a tiered ticket system. That means that tickets are cheapest when they go on sale (“early bird”) and get more expensive as the festival approaches. If you want to get VIP tickets for Boardmasters at excellent prices, it’s worth keeping an eye on early bird sales.
Usually, you can be the first to find out when early bird tickets are available by subscribing to the festival’s newsletter or following them on social media.
If you want to get one of the early bird tickets but don't have the money yet to pay everything at once, there's a deposit scheme. This system allows you to pay a deposit that secures your ticket at the then-current price. You then have to pay the remaining amount by a certain deadline.
Normally, it's not possible to get a refund for Boardmasters tickets unless you buy extra refund protection. This goes for all types of tickets as well as for the deposit scheme. You can add the refund protection option to your order during checkout for £2.65.
Separate tickets for the Boardmasters Beach Sessions and after parties
Also good to know is that you need separate tickets for the Beach Sessions on Wednesday and Thursday at Fistral Beach, as well as for the after parties in Newquay center. This is unless you have the most expensive Boardmasters charger ticket.
In previous years, Boardmaster after-party tickets ranged from £4 to £13 depending on the date and location, but the ticket prices for the 2023 edition have not been announced as of yet. The Beach Sessions cost £16 per night. Once the tickets for the after-parties are available, they will appear on the official tickets page.
Day ticket limitations
Boardmasters day tickets do not allow entrance to the camping grounds and do also not allow you to leave the festival site and re-enter again.
Boardmasters age restrictions
The good news is that there are no age restrictions to attending the festival. But if you want to go without parental supervision, you have to be at least 16 years old. And if you want to drink alcohol while at the festival, you have to be 18 or older. Don’t forget to bring your ID.
Boardmasters camping and glamping
The Boardmasters campsite consists of the regular camping grounds which are divided up into different areas, the Boardmasters VIP camping and the glamping area.
We stayed at the Cloud 9 glamping site. I'll review that first and will then tell you what I noticed about the regular camping grounds, as we needed to walk through there to get to the main arena and the shuttle buses.
Glamping at Boardmasters Review
The glamping area could be entered from the main campsite. The entrance was guarded by security and there was a campsite manager keeping an eye on things or there if you had any questions.
Features of the glamping site:
- reservation of lodging possible beforehand
- proper toilets and sinks
- a lounge area with makeup tables and couches
- free WiFi
- its own food bus
Glamping ticket holders also got a VIP parking pass.
Accommodation at the glamping site consisted of pre-erected tents, bell tents, tipis, yurts, shire huts, and domes. Each of these options came with a bunch of in-tent features.
We stayed in a two-person bell tent which included the following, aside from use of all the glamping site features:
- a canvas Door w/ entrance doormat
- 2 single beds with cotton linen, duvets and pillows
- a ground sheet and flooring
- 2 beach chairs
- a small table and a bedside table
- a small vanity mirror
- a battery operated hanging room light
- a battery operated lantern
- 2 bath towels
I'd been glamping once before and while this was different, I absolutely loved having a bit of luxury at the festival. I stayed in regular tents at a festival for a few years, but chocolate knows I've gotten too old for that. Age is a valid excuse, right? :D
When we arrived, we could just throw our suitcase inside and head to Fistral Beach. The free WiFi was also a major plus for me as my data wasn't always working the way it should have.
And the toilets. Well, I would book the glamping just for the toilets!
Glamping vs VIP camping at Boardmasters
Aside from the glamping area, there was also a Boardmasters VIP camping. As far as I could tell, there was only one difference between the VIP camping and the glamping area and that was that at the VIP campsite, you had to pitch your own tent.
All VIP ticket holders could make use of the VIP campsite, but you could also have a VIP festival ticket and still book the glamping.
My friend and I were hosted by Visa at the festival as I was on assignment for them there and we got the VIP festival experience as well as a spot on the glamping site.
Regular camping at Boardmasters
If you plan on staying at the regular campsite, there's no need to make a reservation beforehand. Tents are pitched on a first-come, first-serve basis so it's best to come early if you want to choose your spot.
A nice option, I think, is that you can order a tent package. If you do that, someone else will set up a tent for you when you arrive, including a sleeping bag and a therm rest.
The regular campsites at Boardmasters have plenty of toilets, but they're all Toi Tois *shudders*. However, it appears for the 2023 festival the organizers have pledged to use better toilets, add more throughout the site, and hire more cleaning teams, so that sounds promising.
There are showers as well and using the shower cost £3 in the 2017 edition. When we walked to and from the festival arena, there were huge lines of people queuing for the showers, so maybe it's best to prepare yourself mentally and simply not shower while you're there.
There's a campsite village with fun rides and lots of food stands. In fact, you won’t find just your typical festival food – Boardmasters is keen to help you discover some of the most traditional Cornish dishes at the Cornish market.
With such a big variety of options at Boardmasters, you’ll find delicious food and drink at all prices.
DJs play here at night as well, so take that into account when erecting your tent.
Drinking water is available from taps at various locations on the campsite. And if you’re concerned about how much drinks are at Boardmasters, keep in mind that you can bring your own alcohol, but only in limited amounts.
As I said, we only walked through the regular campsite to get to the shuttle bus and the festival arena, but I do have to say I was happy we weren't staying there. Festival days are already filled with lots of noise and craziness, so I was happy to be able to have a quiet place to retreat to sometimes.
Campsites near Boardmasters
If you prefer peace and quiet plus a bit of luxury over staying right by the festival, there are some permanent privately-owned campsites near Watergate Bay as well.
Or maybe you're there mainly for surfing? While Fistral Beach camping is not allowed, you can still get a spot near the beach to stay close to the action at an exciting Cornwall surf festival.
What to bring to Boardmasters
Leaving camping gear aside, there are a couple of things that are good to have at this Newquay music festival.
1. Warm clothes
I know, I know, summer festivals should go with tank tops and sunglasses, but this is a Cornwall festival, and Cornwall, like the rest of the UK, isn't exactly known for its exotic temperatures.
While we were there, the daily temperatures rarely went higher than 16°C so I was happy that I came prepared. Aside from comfy trousers and t-shirts, I also brought:
- walking socks that kept my feet cool when it was warm and warm when it cooled down
- my fleece hoodie and my fleece vest
- a wind-resistant rain coat
2. Comfortable rainproof shoes
Because: England :D
I brought a pair of old sneakers that could deal with the rain and mud. The campsites are on farmland and the main arena is a big patch of grass, so even when it hasn't rained (and it did rain), the ground is moist in the mornings and evenings.
You'll also be on your feet most of the day (I hope) so it's important to wear proper shoes to protect your back and knees a bit from all that dancing and jumping.
3. A Visa card
A Visa card? Yup, because you don't need any cash at Boardmasters. How cool is that? For us non-UK peeps that meant we didn't have to exchange Euros, and for everyone it meant no fiddling with money, carrying around a ton of coins, or having notes that stick to each other because of your beer/cola/smoothie hands.
Wrap up: my Boardmasters experience
My trip to Boardmasters was my eight trip in just as many weeks and so I was a bit concerned beforehand about how tired I'd be and how I'd hold up in the evenings.
But you know what? I had a great time!
It sure helped that I didn't need to worry about getting cash or bringing camping gear with me and that I could sleep in a proper bed every night. But Boardmasters also simply has a great vibe to it.
It never felt super crowded at the main festival area. Everyone was super chill and there were plenty of picnic tables and other places you could sit for a while to eat something or chill for a bit.
Darn, I sound boring now, don't I? :D I just mean to say that it was a relaxed festival and you could choose to jump into the crowds and party (which we did) or take a step back to watch it all without people running into you (which we also did).
I'd honestly expected to see many more people really drunk as well and was quite surprised at how normal most people kept acting as the day turned into night. I think it's great that Boardmasters limits how much alcohol you can bring onto the campsites and that you need to be 18 to buy it at the festival itself.
I don't drink and my friend and I mostly went for tea and coffee (we're crazy enough sober :-)) so we didn't really get to test this (or wonder how much is a pint at Boardmasters,) but when my friend wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes at the festival, she needed to show her international passport. Even her Belgian ID wasn't enough. And she's well over 18 :-D
Before attending the festival, I'd read that the crowd is a bit different depending on where you hang and there is truth to that. I found the audience to be older at the Surfers Village and stages like the Keg and Pasty and the VIP stage, while the party tents seemed to have more teenagers in them. Anyway, we weren't the youngest, but also definitely not the oldest people there!
Lastly, it needs to be said that it's hard to beat the Boardmasters Newquay location. The Cornish coast is stunning and there are several great viewpoints right at the festival site. I might just have to come back next year and extend my stay with a little road trip.
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets canceled, you get sick or hurt abroad, and sometimes even when your electronics break or get stolen. I always make sure I'm covered on every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
PIN FOR LATER
I was invited by Visa to participate in the Visa contactless challenge and pay only by card at the festival. As always, my opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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