As a coastal town, St Ives is famous for its extensive choice of water activities whether you’re sticking close to the beach or heading further out to sea. No matter what you choose, there’s a wide range of adventures for you to sample and always something new to discover. 

Below, we’ve put together a list of 14 water activities you can try in the St Ives area, whether you’re looking for a relaxing experience closer to home or looking for a thrilling and sporty experience out on the waves. 

Beach Activities in St Ives

Water activities by the beach are great activities for families to enjoy together, giving you plenty of opportunities to soak in the water or go exploring along the coast without having to stray too far. 

There are many beaches in St Ives from Porthmeor to Porthgwidden, with each famous for something different and giving you plenty of options to find the best water activity for you. 

1. Swimming

No trip to the beach is complete without a little bit of swimming, whether it’s to refresh yourself after a long summer’s day or to give you a little pick-me-up on a winter’s morning. 

You can swim at any one of the five beaches in St Ives all blessed with glorious white sand and clear blue water.

2. Snorkelling

Snorkelling is an easier and more accessible option for swimmers who don’t want to put in for the training and cost requirements of scuba diving. Snorkelling is great fun and still offers ocean lovers the chance to explore the sea around St Ives in a new and exciting way. 

Some of the best beaches for snorkelling in St Ives are Godrevy Beach at the far end of the Bay and Porthminster Beach which is a short distance from the centre of town. 

These beaches boast clear waters where intrepid snorkelers can spot a large variety of fish, crabs and other marine life, including sea anemones. Try to visit during high tide, especially at Godrevy, when the rewards for exploring the underwater world of St Ives will be far greater. 

3. Rockpooling

Rock pools are the perfect miniature snapshot of the sea, providing you with the perfect opportunity to explore St Ives’ marine life in concentrated doses. 

All manner of aquatic discoveries can be found in the rock pools of St Ives and Mousehole including crabs, anemones, shrimp, starfish and even a few species of some of the smaller fish. No two rock pools will ever be the same and there is a good chance you’ll find something new and exciting at each rock pool you visit. 

Some of the best beaches to go to for rock pooling in St Ives are Porthmeor, Porthminster and Bamaluz and, of course, the areas around the harbour in Mousehole out towards the sea-water pool.  The rock pools are often revealed at low tide so be sure to bring some sturdy wellingtons with you on your excursion to protect against slipping as you get up close and personal with the sea life.

4. Crabbing

St Ives and Mousehole are an attractive lure for crabbers and aspiring crabbers with plenty of crabs to be caught during both low and high tide. There’s a pretty strong guarantee that you’ll always be rewarded with an interesting catch whether you’re throwing the crab back to sea afterwards or planning on a tasty seafood dinner.

With the high concentration of crabs in the St Ives bay, you never know what kind of species you’re going to nab. Some of the varieties in the area include:

  • Spider crabs
  • Shore crabs
  • Hermit crabs
  • Velvet swimming crabs
  • Pea crabs

Some of the best crabbing in St Ives can be done off Smeaton’s Pier and in Mousehole, off the harbour wall. All you’ll need is a bucket, crab line and some bait and you can get started. Crabbing is pretty relaxing for a day out and nothing beats breathing in the fresh sea air as you wait for a crab to take the line.

Watersports in St Ives

For those of you looking for a bit more of a thrill during your time in St Ives, the seas here provide the perfect opportunity for any number of watersports that will get the heart racing. 

Watersports in St Ives are accessible to both experienced practitioners and beginners, allowing the more seasoned athletes to find a challenge and encouraging newcomers to discover and cultivate new passions. 

1. Surfing

One of the most popular sports in St Ives is surfing with strong waves that create good conditions all year round. Flat seas are a pretty rare occurrence so don’t worry about missing out if you’ve come to town with surfing in mind. 

One of the best surfing spots in St Ives is Porthmeor though you can also find good surf on the beaches of Godrevy and Gwithian if you’re okay with travelling a little further afield to find the best surfing conditions that suit your needs. 

Porthmeor is also home to the renowned St Ives Surf School which offers lessons to surfers at all experience levels from beginner to intermediate to advanced. Depending on your skill level, you will be taught everything about how to catch waves and surf each one perfectly.

2. Paddleboarding

The St Ives Surf School also teaches stand up paddleboarding which provides a more relaxing and calmer alternative to exploring the coast while also getting in a strong core workout.

There’s no shortage of scenic views to enjoy on the coast of St Ives and paddleboarding provides explorers with a new perspective that will give them some stunning memories to look back on after their trip.

With the St Ives Surf School, you can book some lessons to learn and perfect your craft and you can even go ahead and hire guided tours that will take you through all the sights of the coast along with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of seals, seabirds and even dolphins if you’re lucky.

3. Coasteering

Coasteering in St Ives provides the ultimate adventure for diehard thrill-seekers and lovers of the sea. Coasteering tours start from either Porthmeor or Porthminster, depending which side of St Ives has the best conditions and both routes come with their own set of wondrous views and rewarding challenges. 

Experienced guides will take you through the coasteering experience complete with:

  • Traversing rocks
  • Swimming through gullies
  • Wild sea swimming
  • Cave exploration 
  • Rock jumping

Coasteering experiences in St Ives can be done through the St Ives Surf School and great care will be taken to ensure your safety while also creating a memorable experience that you’ll want to take part in again and again. 

4. Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing is a thrilling alternative to ordinary surfing that allows you to harness the wind for speed and jumps, combining the very best of surfing, windsurfing and paragliding into one neat and exciting little package. 

Gwithian often has the most perfect conditions for kitesurfing so long as you don’t mind a short drive or a walk along the South West Coast Path to get there. As long as the wind conditions are right, you will be able to enjoy some exhilarating heights. 

With kitesurfing, you don’t need good waves as you are relying on the wind so heading out on the windiest days can often lead to the best challenge. If you’re a beginner, try to choose more sheltered beaches so that you can master the basics without having to contend with the strong breezes.

5. Scuba Diving

We mentioned the more relaxed hobby of snorkelling earlier on but you shouldn’t miss out on the adventure that is scuba diving. The training and cost of equipment hire is worth it to gain a deeper look into the aquatic world and explore the depths of the ocean. 

Sites with clearer waters are often best, giving you a chance to see marine life in their own habitat and even explore a number of shipwrecks, sending you back in time and getting you some first-hand experience with the history of the area. 

Some shipwrecks you can explore around St Ives include:

  • The Enrico Parodi
  • SS Kintuck
  • St Chamond

You can try scuba diving off the nearby Runnell Stone. This site is best for experienced divers who can get to lower depths. 

6. Kayaking

St Ives Bay is a wide open spot that accommodates kayaking well, whether you want to hire your own boat to explore the bay at your own leisure or you want to take part in a guided tour that allows you to see the best of the many shipwrecks along the coast. 

The St Ives Surf School offers its own guided tours with private options available, giving you a detailed look into the life of the aquatic animals and even offering opportunities to head into one of the sea caves in the cliff and do a little exploring. 

You don’t need any prior kayaking experience before one of the tours as the school will teach you the basics and give you everything you need to start off on your kayaking adventure. 

Boat Trips in St Ives and Mousehole

In addition to kayaking, there are plenty of other boating trips in St Ives that don’t fall under the category of watersports and can provide another great way to experience the bay. Some of the boat trips are more relaxed cruises while other tours can be more fast-paced or educational depending on what you’re looking for. 

1. Seal Island

Some of the best boat trips in St Ives involve heading over to Seal Island to see the seals in their natural habitat and learn more about their way of life. 

There are not only seals at the island either. You can also admire the ruins of an old shipwreck (the Enrico Parodi we mentioned earlier) as well as catch glimpses of a variety of other fish including dogfish and angler fish. 

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding boat tours out to the island, including trips with:

  • Yellow Fin
  • Dolly P
  • NEMO
  • Seahorse Boat Trips

2. Fishing Trips

St Ives, Mousehole and, of course, nearby Newlyn have long been historic fishing towns with many of the restaurants in the area cooking and serving local and freshly caught fish.

Taking a trip on a fishing charter is a fun and active way to see the coast and get some hands-on experiences with the sea life. Mackerel fishing is a popular pastime but you can also learn how to fish for bigger species such as pollock and cod.

Some fishing trips like the ones you can hire from Bluefin take you out into deep sea, creating a peaceful and serene atmosphere on a small boat that helps to immerse you in the local culture without any prior fishing experience needed.

3. Sea Safaris

One of the biggest draws of heading out onto the water is learning more about the various species of wildlife found on the coast. St Ives is home to a variety of sea life that would make any trip out onto the waters worth it, including the chance to spot dolphins, whales, sharks and, of course, seals.

You can either take a relaxed cruise as you visit the wildlife or you can opt for a fast-paced adventure. A popular choice for the former is booking a spot on NEMO. These are glass bottom boat trips that enable you to see the sea life beneath your feet, eliminating the need to peer over the sides in the hopes of spotting something exciting.

The latter includes taking part in a Blue Thunder Rib Ride, a high-speed tour of the coast that provides a snapshot of life in St Ives as well as the chance to spend some time with the dolphins and seals out at sea.

4. Romantic Cruises

For those of you on a romantic trip who want to slow things down and spend some quality time as a couple, there are also romantic cruises on offer.

Bluefin Charters offers a magical sunset dolphin tour that takes you out on a leisurely four-hour boating experience that gives you plenty of time to relax and bask in the atmosphere with your partner.

Tiger Lilly Boat Cruises also offers sunset cruises out around Seal Island or Godrevy Lighthouse, providing the perfect backdrop to the end of your day together along with some tea and champagne that can help to get you in the perfect romantic mood.

Here in St Ives and Mousehole, there’s a water activity for every mood, providing the perfect balance between high-octane adventure and a peaceful chance to unwind. Stay with us in one of our cottages with a sea view and you’ll find the sea and all the adventures that await you are right at your fingertips.