St Ives is a wonderful seaside town, full of character and charm, and packed with beautiful beaches. The town lies on the North coast, nestled in St Ives Bay in West Cornwall. Only a short train ride away from Penzance and an easy drive from many of Cornwall’s best-known attractions, it’s no wonder the town fills with visitors every Spring. If you’re visiting this year here’s 20 things to do in St Ives.
Wander around tate St Ives
Tate St Ives is an art gallery in St Ives that exhibits work by modern British artists with links to the St Ives area. The Tate is a family of four museums in London, Liverpool and Cornwall known as Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St Ives that exhibit British and international modern and contemporary art. The recent £20 million development and expansion 600 square metres of gallery space, and created spectacular new studios for learning activities.
Experience the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden
A visit to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden offers a unique insight into the work of one of Britain’s most important twentieth-century artists. Spend the afternoon exploring sculptures in bronze, stone and wood in the museum and garden, as well as viewing some of Hepworth’s paintings, drawings and archive material.
Relax at the Harbour Hotel Spa
If all that walking starts to tire you out, why not spend the day relaxing in the St Ives Harbour Hotel’s spa? They have a swimming pool and hydrotherapy pool with views over the bay as well as a sauna, steam room and fitness suite. For a real treat book yourself in for a holistic ESPA massage in one of their treatment rooms.
You simply cannot visit Cornwall without trying a Cornish cream tea! We’re very proud of our excellent scones and clotted cream, just remember, in Cornwall, it’s always jam first!
Take a surfing lesson on Porthmeor Beach
St Ives Surf School is well established as one of the best places to learn to surf in Cornwall. Their lessons are well organised, safe and fun and cater to all ages and abilities. They also provide SUP, Coasteering and sea kayaking activities, all from Porthmeor beach.
Explore the ancient streets
Get lost in the historic charm of St Ives’ old town. St Ives is full cobbled streets and quaint fisherman’s cottages as well as the Sloop Inn, the town’s oldest pub, which was first established in the 14th century.
St Ives Bakery is an independent, unique bakery on Fore Street, in heart of St Ives. Perhaps one of the most photographed shopfronts in Cornwall, this quaint little bakery draws you in from first glance, with a window display of pink meringues and the smell of freshly baked bread. Every visitor needs to try one of their delicious Cornish pasties, we promise it will change your life! Check out my favourite vegan pasties here.
Sit and watch the sun go down in this beachside cafe. Arguably with the best views in the town, Porthmeor Beach Café serves an exciting menu and tapas and cocktails with alfresco dining and heated pods for chillier days.
St Ives’ picturesque fishing harbour dates back to the 18th Century when the pier was first built by John Smeaton. It’s the perfect spot to take in the town and watch the world go by. Why not pick up an ice cream from Moomaid of Zennor, luxury Cornish ice cream that’s made just up the road from St Ives. Don’t forget to mind the seagulls.
Leech Pottery was founded back in 1920 by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, and to this day is one of the most respected potters in the world. Over the last hundred years, it has forged the shape of Studio Pottery in the United Kingdom and beyond. Leech Pottery offers a range of classes from taster sessions to 5-day courses and for those with experience courses which focus on specialist skills such as teapot making.
Climb the island
Porthmeor is overlooked by ‘The Island’, not actually an island at all, but a grassy peninsula with spectacular panoramic views across St Ives, Carbis Bay and Godrevy Lighthouse. Take the short walk around the island, which you to take in 360-degree views across the bay, or head to the top to see the Chapel of St Nicholas.
There’s plenty of picnic spots in and around St Ives, but there’s nothing quite like packing a hamper and heading to the beach. Porthminster is St Ives’ second-largest beach and the majority of the time remains pretty sheltered. If you’re heading there on a summer’s day, we do suggest getting a spot early, as it can get very busy.
New to St Ives’ culinary scene, Talay Thai Kitchen offers an exciting menu of street food tapas, curries and stir-fries and a small but perfectly formed cocktail menu featuring Mekhong Iced Tea and a Talay Spritz. The perfect spot for a meal with friends. We recommend getting a selection to share, as you may have a hard time choosing.
Sail out to Seal Island
Cruise along the Cornish coast on The Little Mermaid with St Ives Boat Rides, and spot an array of Cornish sea life including dolphins, basking sharks and sunfish. The tour culminates at Seal Island, where you will get to see the wonderful Grey Atlantic Seals.
St Ives’ farmers market offers a host of local seasonal food and drink including; Cornish produce, fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, meats, cheeses, baked goods and handmade chocolate. A must if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation and would like to cook with some authentic Cornish ingredients. The market runs every Thursday throughout the year at The Guildhall and is open from 9.30 am until 2.00 pm.
The coastal path starts above Porthminster Beach heading away from the harbour and towards Carbis Bay. It then takes you around the headland, above Porthkidney Sands, ending at the picturesque St Uny’s church in Lelant. The route is 3.5 miles one way, with buses and trains available for those wishing not to walk too far!
Take the train to Carbis Bay
The St Ives branch line is one of the most famous and picturesque in the country. You will journey along the entirety of St Ives Bay, with views across the Hayle Estuary Nature Reserve, Lelant, Porthkidney Beach, Carbis Bay and of course Porthminster Beach. This short train ride connects the town to the mainline at St Erth, and allows each transport to Penzance, Truro and beyond…!
If you feel like going a little further afield…
One of Cornwall’s most famous attractions, St Michael’s Mount is a quaint tidal island in Mount’s Bay, near Penzance. Uniquely situated 500 metres from the shore, it’s only accessible by foot during low tide along a man-made granite walkway. The island has a beautiful garden, a charming harbour and a medieval castle and church that was first constructed in the 12th Century by French monks.
Polgoon Vineyard is an award-winning family-owned Vineyard in Penzance. They are particularly known for their wonderful white wines and artisan ciders and offer wine tastings throughout Spring and Summer, with a few in early Autumn. Tours start from £12.50 and include an insight into the workings of the vineyard and a tasting of five different wines.
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens is a unique sub-tropical, and exotic gardens just outside of Penzance, Cornwall. Interspersed throughout the plants are contemporary artworks and sculptures by internationally acclaimed artists. Towards the top of the gardens are views towards St Michael’s Mount and the real highlight is James Turrell’s Skyspace, an elliptical domed chamber which allows you to sit and watch the sky.