St Ives. The famous seaside destination requires little introduction, but for those keen to be reminded of its boundless allure, firstly imagine an oh-so pretty harbour flanked by breath-taking bay views sweeping from Godrevy Lighthouse to Hayle Estuary. Then picture the town’s quaint cobbled streets dotted with cafes, restaurants and art galleries - and that’s before we even mention the smattering of coves and powdery soft beaches rivalling the most sought-after tropical stretches on Earth.
Scenery aside, there’s also a host of things to do guaranteed to entertain and inspire every type of visitor. Delve into the history and culture of St Ives with a guided tour, visit the renowned Tate St Ives or Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Gardens, and sample some freshly landed seafood and top-notch cuisine at any of the range of celebrated eateries throughout the town.
Take a scenic train ride, roam the South West Coast Path, relish a watersport or yoga on the beach, attend an exciting event and explore St Ives’ famed art scene for a holiday in Cornwall like no other.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in St Ives...
For activity junkies...
St Ives Surf School
Porthmeor Beach TR26 1JZ
Whether you fancy mastering the waves, learning stand-up paddleboarding, taking a kayak tour, or experiencing the phenomenon of coasteering, St Ives Surf School is the place to start. Based at Porthmeor Beach (and also running St Ives Watersports on Porthminster Beach), their fantastic range of activities and expert tuition gives visitors the chance to fully (and safely) immerse yourselves into St Ives’ sublime seascapes, whatever your ability or age. Equipment and wetsuit hire are also available.
St Ives eBikes
Alexandra Road, St Ives TR26 1DY
The locally owned bike hire company also offers guided tours amongst St Ives’ spectacular surrounds and further afield, so whether you wish to strike out on one of their high-end electric or regular bikes, or book a ride accompanied by a member of their knowledgeable team, you’ll be taking your cycling to new, uber scenic heights. Pick a recommended route such as the 10-mile Zennor Zoom along the coast road; up the ante with the 25 mile-long Moorland Meander, or challenge yourself with the Land’s End Loop: a 45-55 mile ride around the entire stunning peninsula.
Studio 7, Showcase Studios, The Drill Hall, Chapel Street, St Ives TR26 2LR
Offering a wide range of yoga, pilates, dance and performing arts classes, Showcase Studios are St Ives’ go-to for anyone searching for a more holistic and laidback activity. They also host regular events such as summer beach parties, feel good club yoga and surf days, zumba masterclasses and surf and yoga retreats, meaning that whether it’s a one-off stretch on the beach or a daily dose of dance that you crave, they’ll make it happen.
St Ives Leisure Centre
Trenwith Burrows, St Ives TR26 1HB
Hit the gym, take the kids swimming, or enroll into a class for a stint of leisure and fitness at St Ives’ fantastic leisure centre. Complete with a 25m main pool, 12m learner pool, 53 Technogym equipment stations, a cafe and classes ranging from yoga to Tai Chi, the fabulously refurbished space offers something for all visitors – as well as stunning views over the bay.
For culture vultures...
Tate St Ives
Porthmeor Beach TR26 1TG
The beachside gallery is not just an architectural jaw-dropper, but is home to a staggering assortment of world renowned modern British and local artworks. Admire masterpieces from the lauded likes of Alfred Wallis, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and Patrick Heron through a selection of sculptures, paintings, films and installations – as well as to-die-for sea views from every floor. With both on-going and temporary exhibitions alongside a year-round schedule of events and activities, whether you wish to peruse the extensive collections as a couple or bring the family for a day of art-filled fun, the Tate is perfectly primed to accommodate.
Discover more art galleries in St Ives to really round out your cultural tour.
Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Gallery
Barnoon Hill, St Ives TR26 1AD
Giving visitors an exclusive insight into the life and work of Dame Barbara Hepworth through access to her former home, studio and gardens, a trip here is as enlightening as it is inspiring. Explore the spaces where she worked and wander the gorgeous gardens, where you’ll be treated to a series of beautiful bronzes still where Hepworth originally positioned them.
Higher Stennack, St Ives TR26 2HE
Visit the renowned museum – the original home and workplace of famous potter Bernard Leach - to discover all about the history of this extraordinary place. View 100-year old pottery, the clay room and throwing room complete with Japanese climbing kiln before enjoying the exhibition spaces that present both historic and modern pieces from an eclectic mix of potters. Stock up on keepsakes and gifts from the shop, where you’ll find a wide range of standard ware as well as a host of carefully curated pieces from individual makers.
Festivals & events
St Ives spoils visitors with a fabulous year-round schedule of must-attend events including the St Ives Feast Day and Hurling the Silver Ball (February), St Ives May Day, St Ives Food & Drink Festival (May), St Ives Northern Soul Weekender (June), St Ives Lifeboat Day (August) and St Ives September Festival – so time your stay to coincide with one of these unique experiences of local life and Cornish culture.
For nature and landscape lovers...
With miles of the famous South West Coast Path along with a network of rural routes, St Ives provides prime walking ground for all ambling types. A number traverse West Penwith’s staggeringly beautiful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while others involve short strolls through the town to vantage points peering over the bay.
Particular routes of note include venturing six miles west to Zennor (where you’ll pass the renowned Seal Island), two miles east to the expansive golden sands of Porthkidney Beach, and the 18-mile cross-country ancient pilgrim’s route, The Tinner’s Way.
Holidaymakers flock to St Ives for its beaches alone. From quiet coves to family (and dog) friendly stretches, there’s a piece of sand to suit everyone from wild swimmers and surfers to avid sunbathers. Porthminster Beach provides a gloriously sheltered spot that's perfect for swimming and comes complete with a multi-award-winning restaurant of the same name alongside the Takeaway & Bar at the other end of the beach. There’s also watersport tuition and hire, toilets and even an 18-hole mini golf course. The harbour unveils beaches with the low and dropping tide, while either side of it you’ll discover the diminutive haunts of Lambeth Walk, Bamaluz (both dog friendly), Clodgy Point and Porthgwidden (complete with a gorgeous sea-gazing café).
Porthmeor is perhaps St Ives’ most famous beach owing to its north-facing position that catches the Atlantic swells. Ride the waves, learn a watersport, dine at the divine Porthmeor Beach Café and grab breakfast or sink a gin and pizza at locals favourite, West Beach.
There’s nothing like hitting the high seas, and there’s plenty of boat trips to pick from in St Ives. Leaving from the harbour, St Ives Boats will take you on a seal-spotting trip to Seal Island or to the colony in and around Godrevy Lighthouse as you explore St Ives and its oceanic surrounds to spellbinding effect.
St Ives Bay Line
The wow-inducing train ride takes you from St Erth to St Ives (via Carbis Bay) over the clifflines for breath-taking views of the whole bay and beaches below. You’ll pass Porthminster Beach before rounding the headland to Carbis Bay and Porthkidney Beach, leading to panoramas of the estuary (made famous by artist John Miller) and three miles of Hayle’s golden sands, with Virginia Woolf’s muse of Godrevy Lighthouse rising in the near distance.
As well as those found in the grounds of the Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives is a treasure trove of flora and fauna. Trewyn Subtropical Garden can be found behind Fore Street, offering immaculate lawns and a ‘Megalith’ sculpture by John Milne, while the nearby St Ives Memorial Gardens by Market Place provides a small subtropical retreat in the centre of town. For aerial views of the bay and town, head to The Malakoff Garden, which combines bright blooms with sweeping vistas for the beautiful best of both worlds.
For the best food and drink...
St Ives is chock with places to eat and drink, from cafés and sea view restaurants to bakeries, bars and pubs, meaning that every taste is catered for in inimitable style. Try everything from the freshest seafood to award-winning tapas with a Thai twist, Cornish pasties and traditional pub grub - and treat your hound to some local flavour at the array of dog friendly establishments too.
Meanwhile, St Ives Farmers’ Market takes place at St Ives Guildhall every Thursday from 9.30am until 2pm, presenting the perfect opportunity for you to stock up on the best local produce to sample and take home.
With so much to see and do in St Ives, you can tailor your holiday to suit their every whim and individual requirement – including accommodation. Peruse our fabulous collection of cottages in St Ives to find your perfect place to stay.