THE last time I dragged my family to Cornwall, we were greeted by an almighty downpour which threatened to sweep us off the road. Happily the rest of our stay belied this alarming introduction.

So this time, when the heavens dump what appears to be an entire lake on our section of the road not 30 minutes from our destination of Newquay, we treat it as an omen of good fortune.

We are right to do so.

Our host for the weekend is the Esplanade Hotel, situated so close to the magnificently deep Fistral Beach we can nearly surf on the room's generously sized television (this newspaper does not condone partaking in water sports with high-end electrical goods). Waiting for us are a couple of bucket-and-spade sets with the names of Master 13 and Miss 11 stamped on them. A lovely touch.

Attached to the hotel is the Quicksilver Surf School where, in two days, the four of us have an appointment with some waves. Three quarters of us have never surfed before. I am one of those, and swim about as confidently as a blind gibbon wearing iron undies.

But we don't need to bother with that just yet. We explore the gloriously deep, golden beach and hurl projectiles to each other before Master 13 detaches himself from the herd to throw stones at other stones "to see what's inside". Presumably he expects to find untold riches or a velociraptor shin.

Dinner at the Esplanade's Cove Restaurant offers a terrific view of the beach and three more-than-ample courses which we attempt to work off in the rather posh swimming pool. There's also a spa, indoor soft play and Build-a-Bear parties. It's certainly a spot which welcomes families with the most open of arms.

Pasties and piracy are two of Cornwall's firmest tourism foundations. Only one of these has survived (music and movie piracy doesn't count, unless its patrons dress in knickerbockers and flowing blouses) and the town's Pirate Quest experience beckons to take us through a potted history of the area's swashbuckling scallywags. It's perhaps geared towards a fresher youngster than my two, but our pirate host's enthusiasm is undimmed by this, regaling us with merry tales of the region's unsavoury historical celebrities while strolling through in an elaborately dressed set. Typically, Miss 11 rewards her participation with gift-shop mood rings.

Our second evening meal takes us further along Fistral to The Slope, a casual bar-style spot right on the beach below a sured-up cliff face, specialising in burgers and fine atmosphere. I can't resist a food-based pun, so mine's a Slope'y Joe. (I'm close to suggesting the apostrophe should be replaced by a hyphen, but that's no way to make friends.) The Slope boasts the 'best burgers on the beach' and I for one won't be arguing with that, although I'd be surprised if its 'best' radius doesn't extend several miles inland as well. The patties are thicker than a fat guy's hand, and it's smashed with Swiss cheese, chilli, sour cream and red onion. I can barely get my lips around it, and I do not have a small mouth.

The morning finds the four of us squashed into wetsuits sitting on large surfboards on the sand and listening to our teacher for the day, Dan. Dan doesn't give us a quick run through the basics and throw us to the mercy of the elements, he's here to make sure new and potentially regular surfers are aware of environmental impacts, from what board to buy to the disastrous effects of some sunscreens given that tonnes of it are rinsed from our bodies into the ocean every minute. It's a holistic, eye-opening approach to wave-riding.

Instruction over, Dan naturally dedicates a good deal of his time to Miss 11 and Master 13, the latter (despite slicing his hand open during a surprisingly violent and bloody session of rock collision the previous day) standing on his second wave without so much as a disparaging remark towards his struggling dad.

Happily, we're all successful in popping up over the course of our session, some more consistently than others. I remain firmly in the 'others' camp, but I swallowed the most seawater so at least I'm winning at something.

Given our morning workout in the waves, the trip home is a quiet affair, with all three passengers emitting horrible noises, mouths agape, eyes closed and heads at those unnatural angles which only a car seat can offer. At least there's no one conscious to complain about the cricket on the radio.

We will be back; two-and-a-half days isn't anywhere near enough time, and there's still a lot we haven't done. Besides, there still a lot of seawater left to drink.


The Esplanade Hotel

Rates from £99, £120 for a family room bed and breakfast

Esplanade Rd, Fistral Beach, Newquay TR7 1PS

The Slope Beach Bar + Kitchen

Great Western Beach, Cliff Rd, Newquay TR7 2NE

Quicksilver Surf School

9 Esplanade Rd, Newquay TR7 1PS

Pirate Quest

St Michael’s Road, Newquay TR7 1RA