A jagged and vibrantly-colored coastline melts into a turquoise ocean at St. Ives, which became a borough in 1588. Formerly known as ‘Saynt Iyes', it is regarded as one of the most naturally sublime towns in all of England, not to mention Cornwall. There are so many attractions and things to do in St. Ives Cornwall. With its sandy beaches, photogenic fishing boats and modern art, St. Ives is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall.
Speckled with Cornish buildings, this famous island's backdrop truly sets the scene for a picturesque weekend or week-long surfing getaway.
Well-known for its vibrant art scene, screensaver-worthy beaches, and harbour-facing eateries, St. Ives is named after an Irish princess and missionary known as ‘Saint La’. Legend has it that she embarked on an ocean-bound voyage from Ireland in the direction of Cornwall on nothing more than a leaf during the 5th Century. St. La is also remembered for constructing a small chapel on the land that is now home to St. Ives Parish Church.
The small town started to blossom in the Middle Ages, before it reached its pinnacle of industrial success in the 19th Century with its popular fishing and mining trades. In the early to mid 20th century, the tourism industry overtook the fishing industry. By the 1800’s, the coastal town had expanded into a busy port transporting mineral ore-natural rock or sediment that is enriched with valuable minerals-that was sourced from the area’s shimmering streams.
It is also home to Trenwith Mine, which churned out 13,000 tons of copper ore between the 1820s and the 1850s. Not sure where to begin when you arrive? Here are the top things to do in St. Ives.
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Swim and Surf in St Ives
St. Ives boasts more than 300 beaches, many of which are dog- and family-friendly. A handful of beaches are within walking distance from town centre, including Carbis Bay Beach, Porthgwidden beach for families, and surfer's hotspot Porthmeor beach.
Make sure to visit the Harbour beach, a beautiful harbour with lots of history which comes with a lovely beach section. It's ideal for families with kids if you're looking for a spot to swim because it's well sheltered from strong wind and currents.
While some of the coastal spots are covered with pebbles, others are blanketed in golden sand. From the busy coves to the peaceful promenades, the old fishing port of St. Ives is the perfect place for sun and sea lovers.
Enjoy Art-Inspired Attractions
Some of the world's most talented artists and sculptors have resided in beautiful St. Ives, including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, and Whistler. The serene landscape sets an awe-inspiring scene for artists to express themselves.
So much so that St. Ives is considered to be a globally famous art hotspot, with a vast range of galleries and studios scattered around the town centre. Have a look at the rotating art exhibitions at the seafront Tate St Ives which first opened in 1993, or visit the Porthminster Gallery located on Fore Street to satisfy your inner artistic urges.
Tate St Ives: Porthmeor Beach, Saint Ives TR26 1TG
Porthminster Gallery: 22 Fore St, Saint Ives TR26 1HE
Learn pottery at Leach Pottery
In addition to the canvas paintings and watercolour masterpieces on display at St. Ives' many art galleries, the coastal town is also home to one of the world's most respected potteries---The Leach Pottery.
Established in 1920 by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, the charity-focused Leach Pottery merges a museum, gallery, studio, and a shop.
Visit the museum at your leisure or book a guided tour for just £13. There are 7 parking spaces at the Leach Pottery including 2 Disabled Parking bays.
For something exceptional to do in St Ives, book an engaging and creative session to learn how to do pottery.
The Leach Pottery, Higher Stennack, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 2HE
See the sunrise at Smeatons Pier
During the 1890s, Smeaton's Pier was enlarged by 300ft to accommodate the two lighthouses of St. Ives. This St Ives attraction is quite a spectacle to behold, what with the design of the pier and the original lighthouse mirroring the talents of the civil engineer responsible for designing them, John Smeaton.
Once the extension was officially carried out, a brand-new lighthouse that stood at 9 metres tall was constructed at the end. If you venture to the base, you will see that Smeaton's Pier features a reservoir that floods during high tide to minimize the harbour's wave activity.
Notice the three arches, which were carefully designed to amplify the flow of seawater and block sand build-up. Continue your sightseeing experience of St. Ives Harbour by taking a dip in the lovely waters, where local fishermen can be seen reeling in their catch.
Buy unique gifts at St Ives Art Galleries
An iridescent golden glow sweeps over the inspiring landscape of West Cornwall. Fighting the artistic urge was simply not possible for many world-renowned artists who either lived or visited the many things to do in St. Ives.
The works of such artists decorate the walls of the coastal town's various galleries, which include (but are not limited to) Brooks Smith Gallery, Gallery Latitude 50, Hudson Art, Porthminster Gallery, Penwith Gallery, and the St. Ives Society of Artists.
Another highly recommended art gallery is the Blue Bramble Gallery. Housed inside the Historic Round Market House building, this is one of many local attractions in St. Ives featuring relics of the Medieval times.
Buy local products at St. Ives Farmers' Market
Get to know the locals at St. Ives Farmers' Market, which was originally founded in 2008. Everything sold and displayed at this award-winning market is strictly from the best of local Cornish producers. It takes place every Thursday at St. Ives Guildhall between the hours of 9:30am and 2:00 pm.
Examples of the products on offer include alcoholic beverages, baked goods, fish, plants, meats, and handmade crafts. Regular visitors can take the opportunity to speak with the local event organizers about becoming a stallholder. The market is run and overseen by a community group known as Great-tasting Unbeatable Local Produce (GULP).
Visit the Capt Sir Richard Francis Burton Museum
Capt Sir Richard Francis Burton Museum is the only museum on the planet that is dedicated to Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890). He is well known for adventuring across Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures.
An entry ticket to this local attraction in St. Ives will only set you back £8. Once you've made an appointment at the private residence (which is absolutely necessary for each visitor) you will be able to roam around 28 exhibits. A handful of the exhibits feature some of Burton's personal artefacts, all of which are arranged in a storytelling fashion.
Address: 28 Trenwith Pl, Saint Ives TR26 1QD
Marvel at St. Ia, St. Ives Parish Church
This place of religious worship was dedicated to the Irish 5th-century, leaf-voyaging princess St. Ia. A Grade I listed building that exudes a powerful energy, St. Ives Parish Church dates back to the reign of King Henry V of England. It was constructed sometime between 1410 and 1434 as a chapel of ease. Then, in 1826, it was formally designated as a Church of England parish church.
A baptism ceremony vessel, also known as a font, serves as one of the church's most appealing embellishments. Fortified with granite and moulded with four shield-wielding angels, the font is believed to date back to the 15th century. Benches can be found in the church, as well as a monument honouring the Hitchens family by Garland & Fieldwic (1815), and a pipe organ crafted in the year 1831.
Address: 15 St Andrew's St, Saint Ives TR26 1AH
Walk the Cornwall Coast Path
The South West Coast Path is England's longest waymarked long-distance footpath. Known as the Cornwall Coast path, this pleaser for nature and walking enthusiasts runs from Minehead in Somerset, along the ocean-kissed coasts of Cornwall and Devon, in the direction of Poole Harbour in Dorset. In total, this National Trail extends for 630 miles.
Joining the path from eastern St. Ives means that you can easily access St. Ives Bay, before migrating towards Hayle, Godrevy Head. Wildlife is abundant in these parts, with many visitors claiming to spot grey seals, bottlenose dolphins, seabirds, and cliff-nesting guillemots, razorbills, fulmar, and cormorant.
Take the scenic St. Ives Bay Line
This 10-minute journey might be short, but it sure is pretty sweet, too. Beginning at St. Erth, the line curves through the countryside, which gradually melts into a coastal backdrop, before arriving in St. Ives. Of course, if you're already in St. Ives, you'll be going in the opposite direction.
Two trains depart from St. Ives Bay Line every single hour, and you can hop aboard seven days per week. Closed just two days a year (December 25 & 26), the line moves past Carbis Bay and Hayle Towans before arriving in the postcard-like setting that is St. Ives.
This is recommended for spectacular views of turquoise waters. It's one of my favourite things to do in St Ives.
Hike the Zennor Circular Walk
Another of the best things to do in St Ives for active individuals and sightseers is the Zennor Circular Walk. Connecting Zennor with St. Ives, this tourist-friendly footpath will expose you to the mermaid of Zennor, before you arrive at the seal-peppered islets of The Carracks and Coffin Path, the latter of which leads to Zennor church.
Expect a rugged walk over some uneasy terrain; don't forget to wear comfortable footwear and pack a bag with some water and energy-boosting snacks.
While this walk is more challenging than others, it's probably one of the most magnificent views of rich wildlife and beautiful beaches.
Visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden
Even if you've never taken an interest in the works of 20th-century sculptor Barbara Hepworth before, you're sure to get lost in the late artist's world during a visit to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives, Cornwall.
This local attraction was formerly used as a studio for Hepworth, who was originally a native of Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Stroll around the gardens to see where she sourced much of her artistic inspiration and get up-close to her sculptures, which are on display around the premises.
After purchasing the site way back in 1949, Hepworth spent 26 years residing and crafting masterpieces there until she tragically lost her life when a fire broke out on the premises in 1975. Despite the inferno, the garden, grounds, and art are extremely well-preserved.
The museum is one of the top attractions in St Ives, and you'll get to see fantastic contemporary art. The museum is conveniently located in the heart of St Ives, just minutes from other points of interest and galleries.
Details: Tickets are limited and the museum encourages advanced booking. Tickets are £8 with donation, £7 without donation. Visitors under 18 can enter free of charge.
Address: Barnoon Hill, Saint Ives TR26 1AD
Take Boat Trips and Sea Safaris
Each day of the week, daily boat trips set off from St. Ives Harbour around various unique spots on the Cornish coast, including the bayside at Godrevy lighthouse and Seal Island. Sea safaris can be arranged on the renovated St. Ives Lifeboat, James Stevens No. 10.
Dating back to 1899, the antiquated lifeboat sails across St. Ives Bay. It has been featured in the Most Beautiful Bays Club as one of the world's only two bays in the world that stand up to the margin for naturally bejewelled scenery.
Grab superb photos at St. Ives Coastguard Lookout
The St Ives Coastguard Lookout is sculpted onto the northeastern tip of The Island-Pendinas. In 1994, a few years after Her Majesty's Coastguard halted operation of the coastal watch stations, the National Coastwatch Institution was founded as a charity to continue coastal watch operations.
Members of the public can gain full access to the station grounds, where a viewing bay and nautical chart provides visitors with a crystal clear scene of the coastal town. Visitors who don't want to spend too long walking across the more aesthetically pleasing coastal path walkways may prefer to visit the St Ives Coastguard Lookout, where the crew is sometimes present.
Visit the St. Ives War Memorial and Memorial Gardens
A photo opportunity awaits anyone who visits this sandstone obelisk, which is adorned with a laurel wreath sculpture. The St Ives War Memorial features four separate sides that are fixed with an inscribed marble plaque in honour of those who played their part serving the First World War.
Plonked among the beautifully landscaped grounds of St Ives Memorial Park, a flagpole complements the war memorial. It is also based on an easy walk from some of the town's best attractions, such as, Crowan Crafts, The Blue Bramble Gallery or St. Andrews street Craft & Gift Centre.
Learn new watersports
Top off your Cornish seaside holiday by participating in some water sports activities in St. Ives, which is renowned for its thrilling surfing, water-skiing, and windsurfing. There's nothing quite as exhilarating as feeling the breeze blowing through your hair and the salt on your skin with St. Ives' beach front coasteering activities, SUP lessons, and sea kayaking.
On 'Blue Flag' Porthminster Beach, you'll find St. Ives Watersports centre. Here, you can try your hand at rock pooling. Alternatively, practice popping up on the surfboard at St. Ives' Surf School or visit Stithians Lake Country Park to embark on a boat trip to Seal Island.
Where to eat in St Ives
St Ives is not just a beautiful looking town but ideal for foodies too. Indulge in local seafood, enjoy a cornish pasty or relax with a Cornish cream tea.
Porthminster Beach Cafe
A multi award-winning seafood restaurant with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. You're going to love the terrace and sea views. We recommend booking a table in advance.
Address: Wharf Rd, Saint Ives TR26 1LG
The Seafood Cafe
This is where I had lunch in St Ives, and we truly recommend it. Go for 2-3 sharing plates and promise, you won't regret it. Definitely try their chowder and the whitebait. Delicious! Don't forget to make a reservation in advance.
Address: 45 Fore St, Saint Ives TR26 1HE
The Rum & Crab Shack
A really cool rustic eatery with seafood platters and rum drinks. It's only a couple of minutes away from the Barbara Hepworth Museum, so if you're in the area, it's a great place for lunch.
Address: Wharf Rd, Saint Ives TR26 1LGSt Ives Bakery
This is your place for a quick pick me up snack. Get those Cornish pastries, or grab a superbly baked meringue. It's ideal for bread if you're having breakfast at your accommodation, or for a delicious cruffin.
Address: 52 Fore St, Saint Ives TR26 1HE
Where to stay in St Ives
St Ives is a lovely place but during the summer it can get fairly busy. It's so gorgeous, everyone wants to see it during the sunny months. Which is why you would like to be smart and book your accommodation well in advance. The place really does book up months in advance, and if you want the best place for the best price, you will want to get ahead.
St Ives Harbour Hotel & Spa - Hotel overlooking Porthminster Beach with impressive views across St Ives Bay and Godrevy Lighthouse.
Storm in a tea cup - Great family rooms or delux doubles set in St Ives, 550 yards from Porthmeor Beach.
Loggans Lodge - Perfect accommodation just 4 miles from the centre of St Ives. Comes with private parking and it includes a full Engligh breakfast.
Hotel Penzance - With wonderful views across Penzance Bay, Hotel Penzance offers award-winning cuisine and boutique bedrooms. Guests can relax in the swimming pool in the Mediterranean-style gardens. The hotel is 6.6 miles away from St Ives.
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