If you are looking for things to do in St Ives, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will look at the best St Ives Attractions, beaches, and places to stay.
St Ives is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Cornwall thanks to its beautiful, sandy beaches, excellent restaurants, and thriving art scene.
The town is home to Tate St Ives, the smaller sister of London’s world-renowned Tate Modern among other interesting galleries. The town has been a haven for artists since Victorian times thanks to the unique light that bathes the surrounding coastline.
There are many activities on offer from swimming, surfing, and sunbathing to whale-watching boat trips, and the annual food and drink festival.
Getting to St Ives
By Car: From London, it’s a five-hour drive. Take the M4, M5 and A30. Although, if you are not a fan of motorway driving and want something more scenic, take the A303 followed by the A30.
By Bus: From London, you can take a National Express bus to Truro 9 (9 hours) and change to local buses for the final leg.
By Train: There are no direct trains from London, but it is possible to make the trip with a change at St Erth. The journey time is five to six hours with the change and tickets start from £59.50.
By Plane: It is possible to fly to nearby Newquay which has a small international airport. During peak season there are flights to and from the rest of the UK, Germany, Denmark, Portugal, and Spain.
Best Places to Stay in St Ives
- Cohort Hostel is the best budget option in St Ives with dorm beds at £29. The hostel is a three-minute walk from the beach, has an on-site bar, courtyard and large communal area. Book a stay at Cohort Hostel here.
- The St Ives Bay Hotel is a good mid-range option and only a few minutes’ walk from the beach. The hotel includes a bar, restaurant and snack bar. Prices start at £135 for a double room. Book a stay here.
- Carbis Bay Spa and Hotel is a luxurious resort set within tropical gardens and only one minute from the beach. The hotel includes a large terrace with sea views, an outdoor pool, and live entertainment. Deluxe double rooms with a sea view start at £400. Book a stay at Carbis Bay Spa and Hotel here.
Top Things to do in St Ives
Whether you’ve been to Cornwall a dozen times or it’s your first trip to this beautiful and romantic part of the UK, there’s something new to discover.
St Ives is definitely a beach-goers destination. While you don’t have to spend all of your time at the beach, most of the best things to do in all of Cornwall are either at the beach or located very close to the beach.
That being said, you’ll still find plenty of rainy day activities to keep you busy in St Ives (a necessity on any British holiday), and some really fantastic museums for art and culture lovers, too.
1. Porthmeor Beach
Porthmeor Beach is just minutes from the centre of St Ives and is a popular spot for both surfers and swimmers.
The beach is patrolled between Easter and October (always swim between the flags) and is one of only eight beaches in Cornwall to be awarded the prestigious Blue Flag for water quality.
Porthmeor is lined by a selection of galleries and is close to bars and restaurants, making it the perfect place for a day out!
2. Porthminster Beach
Porthminster is a beautiful crescent-shaped beach a minute’s walk from St Ives railway station. This golden bay is lined by palm trees and has incredible views out to Godrevy Lighthouse. These views were the inspiration for Virginia Woolfe’s novel “To the Lighthouse”.
This beach is a family favourite thanks to its calm, clear waters, beachside cafes, and mini 18-hole golf course.
The beach is patrolled between May and September.
3. Carbis Bay Beach
Carbis Beach is a mile-long sweeping bay with golden sands. The beach faces northeast which gives it a good deal of protection from the wind. This also means there is very little surf so is a great option for families.
To the east of the beach is a wildlife sanctuary and an important habitat for sea birds. Carbis Bay is also surrounded by tropical plants, and with the turquoise waters, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the Mediterranean rather than the UK!
The beach has been voted one of the best in the world by the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Organisation and it’s not difficult to see why!
The beach is patrolled by lifeguards daily from April to September and at weekends in October.
4. Tate St Ives
St Ives has had a connection to the art scene for over 100 years and has been the inspiration for artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, and Mark Rothco.
The Tate Gallery St Ives is located right on Porthmeor Beach and houses collections of contemporary art and visiting exhibitions.
Tate St Ives first opened its doors in June 1993 and since then has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
With this in mind, it is recommended to book tickets in advance, though a few tickets are usually available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. You can book tickets online on the Tate’s official website.
For those interested in modern art, the Tate Gallery is one of the best things to do in St Ives.
Ticket Prices: £12 with a donation, £10.50 without a donation
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:20
5. Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden
Barbara Hepworth was a sculptor who pioneered the abstract style and is celebrated as one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century.
Hepworth moved to St Ives in 1939 and lived and worked in Trewyn Studios (what is now the museum) until her death in 1975. Much of Hepworth’s work was bestowed to the nation and can be seen at the museum.
The bronze statues and sculptures in the gardens were positioned by Hepworth herself and remain in their original places.
Ticket Prices: £8 with a donation, £7 without a donation
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:20
6. Take a Sea Safari
Taking a sea safari is one of the best things to do for sea-lovers. You will witness seals in their natural habitat, and even dolphins and whales if you are very lucky.
The safari also gives you a unique perspective of Godrevy Lighthouse and the beautiful, sandy bays surrounding the town.
You can choose between a 1.5 hour or 2 hour safari, lighthouse tours, a trip to seal island or even charter your own boat and captain.
Ticket Prices: For the 1.5-hour trip £25 for adults and £15 for children. For the 2-hour trip £35 for adults and £20 for children.
7. St Ives Food and Drink Festival
The annual St Ives food and drink festival will take place on the weekend of 13th to 15th May 2022.
The festival is an important date in the town’s calendar and hosts a wonderful selection of street food and local produce for sale.
The festival hosts over 40 artisanal producers selling everything from cheeses, butter, and bread to locally brewed beers, cider, and gin.
If you can time your trip to St Ives around the festival you will be in for a real treat! This is definitely one of the best St Ives attractions!
The festival is located on Porthminster beach and entry is free.
8. Paradise Park Animal Sanctuary
Paradise Park is a great day out for the family. Here you can see a selection of wildlife from parrots and penguins to red pandas.
At feeding time, you can get up close and personal to the animals, and even feed the parrots!
The sanctuary includes a large indoor jungle play area, exotic gardens and a café and pub. If you are looking for things to do in St Ives if the weather is bad, then this a great option!
9. St Ives Museum
The St Ives Museum houses a collection of exhibits relating to the town’s history and connections to the sea.
The museum is located in an old pilchard curing cellar and contains a wide selection of artifacts from model boats, Victorian clothes, and shipwrecked items to paintings and old photographs of the town.
St Ives Museum is located in the centre of town on cliffs overlooking Bamaluz Beach.
There are eight rooms over two floors and this peek into St Ives’ history is well worth a look around. For lovers of history, this is one of the best things to do in St Ives.
Ticket Prices: Adults £5 and children go free.
Open Monday to Friday from 10:30 to 16:30 and Saturdays from 10:30 to 15:30.
10. Learn to Paint at the St Ives School of Painting
One of the more unusual things to do in St Ives is to take one of the short courses on offer by the School of Painting. The school has many three-day courses from beginner tips to abstract, oil painting and landscape drawing on location.
Prices start at £235 for a two-day course. You can book online on the school’s website.
Things to do near St Ives
If you’re traveling to St Ives with a car, you won’t want to miss out on these awesome things to do near St Ives that are just a short drive away.
11. Great Scenic Railway and St Erth
The St Ives Bay Line from St Erth to St Ives is one of the most scenic in Britain The line sweeps along the coast taking in Carbis Bay with views out to the headland beyond.
If you are coming to St Ives by train from London, then this forms part of the route, however, for those already in St Ives it is well worth the detour to make this short trip.
St Erth itself is one of the best places to visit near St Ives for its picturesque village with a river running through it and a charming 15th-century church.
There is also a bridge that is over 600 years old. There isn’t a great deal to do, but it is certainly worth a trip to see a slice of rural England trapped in time!
The journey time is just 10 minutes, but the views from the train are incredible. A one-way ticket costs just £3, or £4 for a return fare.
12. Land’s End
Land’s End is the westernmost point of the mainland UK and a well-loved landmark of Britain.
This stretch of windswept and dramatic coastline offers some of the best views in the country and there are clifftop paths and hiking trails from which to drink in the views.
No trip to Cornwall is complete without seeing the Iconic Land’s End signpost, and this is definitely one of the county’s most “Instagramable” places.
You can also find plenty of attractions including a small farm, 4D cinema and a shopping centre.
From May to September there is an open-top bus (The Land’s End Coaster) that goes from St Ives to Lands End. The bus runs hourly from 09:10 to 18:10 from St Ives Bus Station and takes in some of the most scenic coastal roads in Britain.
St Ives is only around 10 miles from the fishing town of Penzance, famous for its pirates! Penzance is a charming town with plenty to offer from galleries and restaurants to swimming, boat trips and even diving with blue sharks!
Penzance is just a 17-minute drive from St Ives and there are daily buses and trains.