St Ives has everything you need for a holiday in Cornwall. A choice of beaches, stunning views, great surf, a wide range of places to eat and some of the finest art galleries in the UK. No wonder people come back year after year.
Spoilt for choice
St Ives has five fantastic beaches to choose from, these range from Porthmeor, with its almost constant surf, to the family friendly Porthminster nestled below the railway station. In-between you have Town Beach, always busy and with every facility near by, and the two east facing beaches, Porthgwidden and the tiny Bamaluz, reached by steep steps below the museum.
All are within easy reach of the heart of the town and all its facilities. So, whether it’s sandcastles, sandwiches or a swell that you are looking for, St Ives has a beach for you. The problem is deciding which one to choose?
And if it’s out of season, nothing beats a bracing walk along a windswept beach, followed by a warming drink in a St Ives pub, or a visit to a gallery.
In 2022 both Porthmeor and Porthminster were awarded a Blue Flag, as was nearby Carbis Bay.
Every picture tells a story
These days St Ives is well known across the world for its art. Tate St Ives, overlooking Porthmeor Beach, is home both to exhibitions of work by contemporary artists and those who made the area their home over the years. Close by the studio and gardens of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth can be visited, whilst on the western edge of the town the Bernard Leach Pottery offers classes for budding potters and a chance to view the work..
There are also plenty of other galleries dotted around the town including the Penwith Gallery, who have ever changing exhibitions, or you could just pick up some paints and have a go yourself?
People claim St Ives has a light like nowhere else. It has certainly inspired many over the years, from the naïve art of Alfred Wallis to the bold colourful work of Terry Frost, both of whom feature in the exhibitions at Tate St Ives.
This crescent of golden sand has glorious views across St Ives Bay to Godrevy Lighthouse, inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s famous novel ‘To the Lighthouse’. With the benefit of the mildest climate in the UK, along with waving palm trees and translucent waters, there is a definite tropical feel to the Porthminster Beach.
Explore the Island
No visit to St Ives is complete without a walk around the Island. Not a true island, it’s joined to the town by a narrow stretch of land, much of which is now a carpark!. It’s a chance to escape the crowds and see if you can spot some seals or just take in the views across the bay.
On the summit you will find, at the eastern end, the National Coastwatch Station, built in and around a Victorian coastal battery that also saw action during World War II. At the other end stands a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors. This may at one time have also been a lighthouse and in the 1700s was used as a lookout to stop smuggling. Restored in the early 1970s, it is once again a place of worship and wedding blessings can take place there.
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Plan your trip
Everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip to St Ives
From the M5 at Exeter, follow the A30 all the way down through Cornwall until the end of the Hayle bypass. Here go around the roundabout and take the A3074. Depending on what time of year it is and where you want to go, you may want to turn left onto the road that goes south of St Ives and then enters the town from the west, making it easier to access the large Trenwith carpark in the summertime.
St Ives has several short and long stay carparks, but be aware many are full for most of the summer. A good idea for day trippers is to use the Park & Ride at St Erth Railway Station (on the A30).
The nearest National Express stop to St Ives is Hayle or St Erth, from where local buses and trains serve St Ives.
The towns bus station is close to the town centre and has good connections with most West Cornwall towns and villages.
St Ives Railway Station is reached by a branch line from St Erth, one stop before the end of the main line at Penzance. The scenic line hugs the coast all the way into St Ives, making it one of the finest short rail journeys in the UK
- RNLI Lifeguards
Porthmeor Beach is patrolled by RNLI Lifeguards from the 1st of April to the 29th of October, between 10am and 6pm (2023).
Visit Cornwall would hate to take sides here by saying one place is better than the other.
Padstow is best known these days for its foodie connections, though that's not to say there aren't some fine places to eat in St Ives. Padstow might not have the beaches that St Ives has but with the tide out the sandy estuary provides a wonderful place to relax in the sunshine.
St Ives possibly has more for the family than Padstow, although you can't beat sitting on the harbour catching crabs! And Padstow also has the Camel Trail, a safe flat cycle route up river to Wadebridge.
Of course, St Ives is known for it's art, and although there are a few galleries in Padstow, they can't compete with the Tate St Ives, or can they? I suppose it depends on your taste's?
To use an overused term, it has something for everyone! Kids love the beaches, surfers love the beaches, adults love the beaches! There's the art, the views, the coastal walks, the trips out to Seal Island, the harbourside pubs....
Yes, once you get down into the town. The main carpark is up on the hill, but there are hoppa-busses that take you down into the centre.
Although the town centre is not pedestrianied, it's never too busy with vehicles and easy to browse the shops and galleries.
Dogs are welcome on Harbour beach except between the 1st July and the 31st August (10am - 6pm) when a seasonal dog ban is in place.
Dogs are welcome on Porthminster beach except between 15th May and 30 September (10am - 6pm) when a seasonal dog ban is in place.
Dogs are welcome on Porthgwidden beach except from the 1st July to the 31st August between 10am and 6pm when a seasonal dog ban is in place.
Dogs are welcome on Porthmeor beach except between 15th May and 30 September (10am - 6pm) when a seasonal dog ban is in place.
Dogs are allowed on Bamaluz beach all year around.
Discover your Cornwall
Long sandy beaches, hidden coves, rugged moorland, quaint fishing villages, deep wooded valleys, bustling seaside resorts, industrial heritage, rocky headlands, colourful gardens, idyllic rivers and a bijou city, Cornwall has a bit of everything for those who want to explore.
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