St Ives - Things to see and do

St Ives, in Cornwall, has long been attracting adventure lovers and artists alike. Its stunning surf beaches are frequented by water sports lovers while its fascinating beachscapes and the numerous art studios overlooking the ocean draw in the artists. And then there are those who come solely for the food, scenery and relaxation. It is an all-round and popular holiday destination and so is no wonder that St Ives frequently gets voted as one of the UK's best seaside towns.

St Ives in Cornwall

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And so, a while back, we made our way to St Ives to find out what is so special about this coastal Cornish town and why it seems to steal the hearts of its visitors.

St Ives is a quintessential British seaside town with quaint fishermen’s cottages, sandy beaches, lovely views, traditional tearooms and a fab shopping scene. Although we spent just a day in this tiny port, we loved it here. It is a little town but it has something for everyone. Listed below are some of my suggestions/highlights of St Ives. Take a look.

The St Ives Harbour

This is the hub of St Ives. Sheltered by the pier on either end, the harbour is dotted with colourful boats. There are a number of small cafes and restaurants overlooking the harbour. You could go for a walk along the Smeaton's pier or just relax at the harbour and do some people watching.

The St Ives Harbour

Beaches of St Ives

St Ives has some of the best beaches in Cornwall. From the award-winning Blue Flag 2019 Carbis Bay beach to the vibrant St Ives Harbour Beach and from the Porthgwidden Beach (very popular with families) to the golden sand Porthminster Beach, you will be spoilt for choice. My favourite was the Porthmeor Beach, a lovely, family-friendly beach located just a stone’s throw from the centre of St Ives. It is perfect for beach picnics, swimming and surfing alike.

Porthmeor Beach

Water sports at St Ives

St Ives is one of the best spots in Cornwall to enjoy water sports. From surfing to coasteering and from kayaking to Stand up paddleboarding (SUP), St Ives has a lot to offer the watersport enthusiast. There is a surf school in St Ives, which is open 7 days a week and provides lessons in all the water sports mentioned above, to learners of all abilities and ages. If you have always wanted to learn surfing or SUP, then there is no better location than St Ives to do it.

Water sports at St Ives

Related | Top things to do in Cornwall

The food scene in St Ives

There are a large number of cafes and restaurants in St Ives with all of them offering the best, net-fresh seafood. At Sea Food Café,  you can personally choose from the fish and meat displayed in a refrigerated cabinet, along with your choice of sauce(s) and vegetables making it a custom meal!

Fresh sea food at St Ives

While seafood is the main draw, vegetarians and vegans are also well represented.

Sample Cornish Fudge and Cornish Ice Cream

A trip to St Ives would be incomplete if you did not sample the traditional Cornish fudge. There are a number of small, independent shops where you can sample and buy traditional, irresistible, clotted cream fudge.

Fudge shop in St Ives

Cornish Fudge

And Cornish Ice Creams! You will find them everywhere - from restaurants to beach cafes and shops to quayside kiosks. Do note that the seagulls love ice cream and if you are enjoying one while walking along the quay, keep an eye out for these birds.

Art Galleries in St Ives

St Ives has been considered as Cornwall's art hub for a very long time. When Tate St Ives was opened in the early 1990s it kind of cemented the town's position as a top creative community. Today, St Ives is home to a large community of artists and if you walk along the streets of this little town you will be surprised by the number of art galleries and artists' studios. You will find all kinds of artworks - from traditional seascape paintings to ceramics and modern art. Some of the popular art galleries include Tate St Ives, Porthminster Gallery (with excellent views of the bay and the harbour), Anima-Mundi, Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St. Ives Museum and the St Ives Society of Artists.

Hike/Walk and explore the coastline

Explore the Island (St Ives Head), a small grassy peninsula that is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. It provides a stunning view across the St Ives Bay. Also, see the Chapel of St Nicholas, which dates back to the fifteenth century and also offers excellent views across the bay. You can reach the Island by a footpath from the Tate Gallery side or from the Porthgwidden side where there is an all-day car park.

St Ives coastline

St Ives coastline

St Ives coastline

St Ives

For the more adventurous, why not try a longer coastal walk. You could head to Land's End (on the South West Coast Path); although it might take you a good six hours (one-way).

Explore the streets of St Ives

And when all is done, why not wander around the wonderful narrow streets of St Ives and explore the hidden corners! Recommend a walk along the 'Downalong' (a narrow street dotted with fishermen's cottages) which is said to be one of the oldest parts of St Ives.

Exploring St Ives

Where to stay in St Ives 

Cornwall Hideaways have a huge selection of holiday homes in and around St Ives to make your holiday extra special. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a family holiday or a break with friends, they have a range of properties from cosy country cottages to luxury modern retreats.

Check out Cornwall Hideaways' holiday cottages in St Ives and the surrounding villages here.

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