St Ives has proven over the years to be a worldwide favourite spot to travel to for those who are fascinated by the ocean and by arts and culture. Long thought of to be the artistic heart of Cornwall, there’s never any shortage of things to do in St Ives, whether it be summer or winter, raining or shining. 

Below we’ve compiled a list of all the best activities in St Ives that should be tried at least once in order to capture the charm of the town and make the most of your adventure on the coast. 

Boat Trips in St Ives

St Ives is renowned for its fishing history and its stunning sights along the coast and out to sea. 

There’s no better way to make the most of the ocean in St Ives than taking a boat trip out along the waves, exploring everything the ocean has to offer and enjoying a relaxing journey that may just help to give you a new perspective on the town. 

1. Seal Island Boat Tour

One of the most popular boat trips to try out on a trip to St Ives is a tour out to Seal Island. Head off all around the coast and around the Island, drinking in the striking sights of the rocky headland before making it to Seal Island. 

The rocky island is home to a colony of Grey Atlantic seals and it’s always a pleasure to spot them in the water or resting on the rocks in the sunlight. 

2. Godrevy to Hell’s Mouth

This boat tour departs from and returns to the nearby town of Hayle so if you want to take the trip, you can drive or take public transport up to Hayle. The tour will take you all along the coast and around Godrevy Lighthouse, a point of inspiration for the author Virginia Woolf.

Admire the sights of the dramatic coastline along the way with plenty of opportunities to spot seals, pods of dolphins, whales and seabirds along the way. 

3. Sea Safari

Sea safaris also head out from St Ives with lengths of either one and a half or two hours. The trip will take you around Godrevy Lighthouse and is a narrated tour, allowing visitors to observe seals in their natural habitat and learn a number of interesting facts about local sealife.

On the longer tour, the safari will also give you an ocean’s perspective on St Ives’ impressive array of beaches, with stunning views out across the town and the surrounding coast. 

Watersports in St Ives

As a coastal town, you can find a wide range of watersports and other ocean-based activities that will get your adrenaline racing and bring a bit of excitement and adventure to your holiday in St Ives. 

1. Surfing in St Ives

The most popular watersport is surfing with many of the beaches offering good waves for beginners and pros. The most recommended beach is Porthmeor, famous for its easy, clean waves. The western edge of Porthkidney Sands is a popular spot as well so pick your times carefully and be aware of rips that can make surfing dangerous

If you haven’t been surfing before, you can always take a lesson out of the St Ives Surf School and spend your time in St Ives trying out something new. 

A young man bodyboarding a powerfully wave on the north Cornwall coast on a sunny day.

2. Paddle Boarding

You can also learn to paddleboard at the St Ives Surf School. It provides a more relaxing way to enjoy the surf and waves off the coast while also giving you a pretty strenuous work out. You can book lessons in a public setting or hire a private session, a popular choice for families and birthday parties.

If you can already paddleboard, you can hire out one of the Surf School’s guided tours, spending 90 minutes out on the coast with plenty of opportunities to be met by seals, dolphins, sunfish and a variety of local seabirds. 

3. Sea Kayaking

Another great way to spend time on the water while in St Ives is through sea kayaking. Through the St Ives Surf School, you can enjoy public or private kayak tours around the coast, allowing you a more intimate connection with the ocean and the sealife you may encounter. 

The tours come with narrated information about the sealife and shipwrecks in the area as well as the possibility of a detour into a sea cave for an extra rush of adventure.

Beach Activities in St Ives

No trip to St Ives is complete without a trip to at least one of its famous beaches with the town offering a wealth of opportunities for you to kick back and relax on the sand or take part in any one of a number of beach activities. 

1. Porthmeor Beach

Noted above for its popularity with surfers and the St Ives Surf School, Porthmeor is also a great beach for those looking to explore rock pools as well as being th perfect spot to catch some refreshments at the nearby cafe or bakery.

It’s also directly in front of the Tate Gallery St Ives, making Porthmeor Beach the perfect choice for planning a day out. 

2. Porthminster Beach

Porthminster is one of the best choices in St Ives for families to go and play in the sand. It’s a good place for paddling and playing beach games in the summer such as beach volleyball and tug of war. 

If you want to head away from the beach for a little while, you can take a quick walk up to the mini golf course and compete with the family against the stunning backdrop of Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance.

3. Bamaluz Beach

Bamaluz Beach is a great beach for anyone looking for a quieter getaway from the busier beaches and the best thing is it’s dog friendly all year round, giving you ample opportunity to exercise and play with your pet. 

Bamaluz is a tidal beach however so make sure to plan your trip accordingly as at high tide, the beach vanishes. 

Galleries and Museums in St Ives

St Ives is famous for two things: its stunning beaches and its strong standing in the world of art and culture. St Ives is packed with galleries and museums that celebrate the history and creativity of the town and the surrounding area, providing plenty of opportunities for discovery on your trip. 

1. Tate St Ives

No trip to St Ives will ever be complete if you don’t visit the iconic Tate Gallery situated right behind Porthmeor Beach. There’s always a wide range of unique exhibitions giving visitors an insight into the world and highlighting cultures far removed from the Cornish coast. Currently, the gallery is holding an exhibition detailing the achievements of the artistic rebirth in Morocco’s Casablanca Art School. 

There’s always plenty of local art to celebrate as well, with over a hundred years of history packed into the gallery, giving viewers the chance to discover the work of local famous artists from Alfred Wallis to Barbara Hepworth. 

2. Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Speaking of Barbara Hepworth, another unmissable stop in St Ives is the Barbara Hepworth Museum, created in the home she lived and worked in with the Sculpture Garden being just how she laid it out. 

A visit to the artist’s home feels like taking a step back in time and the museum gives a deep insight into Hepworth’s life and art, making it the perfect trip for art enthusiasts looking to immerse themselves in the life’s work of one of Cornwall’s greats.

3. Leach Pottery

Leach Pottery is a unique studio and museum that doubles as an active workshop with pieces made at the studio being sold in the museum’s shop, allowing you to take a piece of this unique art home with you after exploring the museum’s pottery exhibitions. 

You can also sign up for classes and workshops to try your hand at some pottery as well for a unique experience. They have a wide range of classes on hand building, kick wheel throwing, firing and more with classes available to adults, families, the community, schools and teens. 

Food and Drink in St Ives

With a wide range of cuisines on offer and plenty of places to eat from cafes to pubs to restaurants, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding on the perfect place to have a meal. It means St Ives is also a perfect spot for anyone looking to do a food and drink tour, turning simple meals into an experience. 

1. Rum and Crab Shack

A St Ives’ favourite, the Rum and Crab Shack is a Harbour-front eatery that gives visitors a taste of the sea from shrimp and crab to lobster and clams with inspirations coming from all over the world including influences from Louisiana and Creole flavours. 

They also have a selection of over 100 rums for guests to sample at the R Bar behind the shack. Take part in a bespoke and personal cocktail making experience and enjoy their very own cocktail creations, including their signature Dead Man’s Finger Rum and the Stargazy Cosmic Caramel Rum. 

2. Tarquin’s Gin School

Tarquin’s Gin is famous for its award-winning drinks and where better to serve and offer gin than in the cultural heart of Cornwall? Tarquin’s Gin School and Shop is the perfect destination for couples and adult friends looking to find new and interesting flavours with their extensive range sure to please all guests. 

The Gin School meanwhile provides a perfect opportunity to get hands on with the alcohol and turn the visit into an event. In the masterclass, you’ll learn to distill gin using whichever botanicals you fancy and take the bottle of your own personal gin home with you at the end of the class. 

Festivals in St Ives

As well as all the regular activities you can find on a day to day basis, St Ives is also a hotspot for festivals, whether they be musical, culinary or artistic in nature, giving visitors the opportunity to celebrate their passions with like-minded people and discover something new along the way. 

1. St Ives’ September Festival

Make it to St Ives in September and you’ll catch at least some of the two week long festival that celebrates St Ives’ rich history and connection with the arts. Live music line ups grace locations such as the Guildhall and St Ia’s Church with a jazz club being a particular highlight over at the Western Hotel. 

Outside of music, you’ll be able to enjoy exhibitions and poetry in Penwith Gallery or take a moment to relax with your friends at the St Ives Art Club where there will be more music and an impressive roster of films from which you’re bound to find something to love. 

2. Christmas in St Ives

St Ives goes all out at Christmas time with markets and lights as well as Santa’s iconic arrival via boat from which he then tours the town with Santa’s Grotto being a big highlight for kids on top of other entertainment during the almost month-long celebrations. 

The fun doesn’t stop at Christmas though. Take part in the Boxing Day swim if you’re in the area and stick around for the New Year’s party, complete with costumes and fireworks with the celebrations lasting way past midnight. 

Coastal Walks in St Ives

Sticking around in town and exploring the streets and beaches isn’t the only thing on offer when visiting St Ives. The area is famous for its coastal walks as part of the South West Coast Path with the opportunity to see some striking views and admire Cornwall away from the hubbub of town. 

1. St Michael’s Way

A beautiful and popular walk, St Michael’s Way is a 12 mile long trek running from Lelant to Marazion, finishing with the awe-inspiring sight of St Michael’s Mount. You can pick up the walk at Carbis Bay and it takes you all along the dramatic coastline with plenty of chances to catch sight of sealife off the coast and enjoy the scenery. 

When you get to the finish line in Marazion, you can extend the adventure with a visit to St Michael’s Mount, absorbing the history of the area and making the most of the sights before walking or catching a bus back to St Ives. 

2. St Ives to Zennor

A coastal walk for the more adventurous, the Zennor coastal path offers unmatched views of the rocky peninsula and the rich blue ocean beyond it. The walk takes you over some rough terrain but it’s worth it for the striking scenery.

Start the walk at Porthmeor Beach and head past Man’s Head. You’ll be able to spot Seal Island off the coast and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of the rare local wildlife. 

3. St Ives to Lelant

This is a great walk for those who love the beach more than anything as this walk will take you from Porthminster Beach, across Carbis Bay Beach all the way to Porthkidney Sands. This is a great walk to take with your dog, giving them plenty of exercise along with stunning seaside views. 

You can extend the walk by continuing to Hayle and venturing over to Hell’s Mouth with beautiful views from the top of the staggering cliffs. Hell’s Mouth is a must-see on a sightseeing tour of the area around St Ives and the extra bit of effort to walk there is well rewarded.

Activities Near St Ives

As the coastal walks have proven, you don’t need to stay in St Ives proper during your visit as the surrounding area holds plenty of charm and beauty for you to discover in order to get the full Cornish experience. 

1. Minack Theatre

The Minack Theatre is always worth a visit just to see the natural beauty of the amphitheatre perched on the cliffs above Porthcurno Beach. Catch a play, concert  or film in the open air, the sea providing a stunning backdrop or wander amongst the flowers in the garden to get a taste of paradise. 

You can also head down the cliff to relax on the beach. Porthcurno Beach is famous for its white gold sand and crystal clear water and the shallows are the perfect place to paddle on warm days. 

2. Lost Gardens of Heligan

On a longer stay in St Ives, you may find the time to head out on a longer excursion. The Lost Gardens of Heligan are 80 minutes away by car but the drive is worth it to experience one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Cornwall. 

With an estate, gardens, farm and woodlands, there’s no shortage of areas to explore, making for a fun day out before heading back to St Ives. 

3. Mousehole Village

Thirty minutes down the road, you’ll find Mousehole on the opposite coast, a historic fishing village with plenty of charm and tradition passed down through history giving visitors a chance to immerse themselves in classic Cornish culture.

Stargazy pie originated here so why not enjoy a bite to eat while you explore the streets and the harbour, looking out towards St Clement’s Island? You can even head out on a boat tour to get a new perspective of the village and enjoy a closer look at sealife off the coast. 

Where to Stay in St Ives

At Cornish Riviera we have over 60 holiday cottages and apartments for you to choose from to make your stay as enjoyable as possible and ensure you always have easy access to any activity you want to take part in while you’re here whether it be in the heart of town or by the sea. 

Our apartments with a sea view such as 26 Piazza and 4 Crusoes puts you minutes away from a beach, giving you the freedom to enjoy your choice of beach activities and watersports whenever you want. 

Our dog friendly properties such as Penryn or Surfer’s Nest ensures there’s plenty of room for your dog on your holiday while our properties with parking like Dolly and Windjammer allow you to have easy access to your car so if you want to head further afield than St Ives, you can do so with no hassle at all.

There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in St Ives. There’s always something for everyone and chances are you’ll find yourself trying something new, giving you the opportunity to make new memories. Your trip to St Ives will leave you itching to come back to see more of what the town has to offer and whenever you return, there will always be a place in one of our holiday cottages for you.