Busy St Ives harbour with boats

Top things to see and do in St Ives

St Ives may be small, but it’s spectacularly beautiful, and you’ll be amazed by how much there is to do.

Whilst surrounded by four stunning sandy beaches, St Ives also boasts a diverse arts scene and is the perfect base to explore the rest of Cornwall. Read on for the top things to do in the area.

St Ives by Coastal Path

There is no better way to travel to St Ives than to walk along the stunning South West Coast Path. This very gentle stroll (which runs through Carbis Bay Estate) crosses above the railway line, with spectacular views over St Ives Bay.

Did you know that the South West Coast Path ranks alongside New Zealand's Milford Track, Chile's Torres del Paine trek and Alaska's Chilkoot Trail as one of the world's most awe-inspiring hikes, according to Lonely Planet?

St Ives by Train

If you don't fancy the two-mile walk along the South West Coast Path, the St Ives Branch line takes you directly into the heart of the town without the hassle of trying to find a parking space.

Top Tip: Sit on the right-hand side of the train when you get on at Carbis Bay. The views out across the sea are simply stunning!

Smeaton’s Pier & Carbis Bay Beach

Smeaton’s Pier is an iconic symbol of St Ives and is located at the northern side of the harbour.

Did you know? The anchor on Smeaton's Pier, recovered from the seabed in May 1959, came from the “Cintra”, one of four ships wrecked in St Ives Bay during a raging storm on November 18, 1893.

Due to the severity of the gale, the lifeboat could not be launched. Crews of two vessels were rescued by Breeches Buoy from Carbis Bay beach. Seven of Cintra’s crew of twelve drowned. The other five were rescued by Breeches Buoy from Carbis Bay beach and Carrack Gladden cliffs.

The eerie shipwrecks can be seen on Carbis Bay beach at low tide.

The Island

Despite being known as ‘The Island’, it’s actually a small grassy headland connected to St Ives by a narrow strip of land.

At the top, stands the medieval chapel of St Nicholas, also known as the Island Chapel. Unfortunately, it is not known when it was built, but we do know that it has withstood patching and alterations since the latter half of the 15th Century – or even earlier.

It is worth the walk up to the headland for the uninterrupted views of the surrounding coastline, it is quite a wild place even though it is so close to the centre of St Ives and well worth exploring.

Seal Island

Located approximately 3.5 miles west of St Ives, Seal Island is home to a colony of grey seals.

Boat trips are run on a daily basis from the harbour. On arriving at seal island visitors can get fairly close to the seals and generally soak up the scenery. The boat trips operate throughout the day during the season (in good weather), departing from whichever point in the harbour the tide allows. And it's not just seals; on the right day, there is a whole host of other wildlife to be spotted on this sea safari.

Tate St Ives & Barbara Hepworth Museum

Inspiring art and breath-taking scenery meet at Tate St Ives.

The iconic gallery and museum showcase some of the best-loved British artworks of the twentieth century alongside an ever-changing programme of exhibitions embracing the best of British and International modern and contemporary art.

The Barbara Hepworth Museum has been owned and run by Tate since 1980 and offers a remarkable insight into the work and outlook of one of Britain’s most important twentieth-century artists.

It contains the largest group of Hepworth's works, permanently on display at Trewyn Studio and garden where she lived and worked from 1949 until her death in 1975.

St Ives Harbour

Soak up the Cornish sea air and watch local fishermen landing their daily catches of fresh seafood. Whilst fishing is no longer the primary industry; the harbour still manages to retain much of its charm.

Top Tip: Seagulls love ice cream and pasties. Shield your food when walking along the quays or sitting on the harbour beach.

St Ives E-bikes

Ditch the car and explore St Ives and the stunning wilds of West Cornwall in a cleaner, greener way this year.

Head west from St Ives for far-reaching views of the Atlantic and remote moors, or make a day of it and cycle along the Coast Road to Zennor.

Prices start from £40 per day.

Hike to Zennor

When you've finished exploring St Ives town, why not escape the hustle and bustle and hike to Zennor?

This remote, sleepy Cornish village is hidden away on the coast, reached by heading west from St Ives along the South West Coastal Path.

You'll be surrounded by high rocky cliffs and wild granite hills, with stunning views along the Cornish coast the whole way.

Ocean Sports

Located halfway along Carbis Bay Beach, the Ocean Sports Centre offers everything from lessons, beach hire (deck chairs & wind breakers) SUP safari’s, eco-tours or splash and dash equipment hire (kayaks or stand up paddleboards available).

All equipment is maintained to the highest standards and, with friendly instructors on-hand, you can always glean a few handy tips before heading out. There’s no need to book ahead for hire; just turn up at the beach.

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