It has to be one of my favourite places in Cornwall – St Ives. I’m not sure quite what appealed to me about this place rather than many of the other villages in the area, but there’s something quite special about it. It has a great vibe, small enough to walk round on foot and is generally just a chilled out little town. If you’re looking for things to do in St Ives Cornwall (not to be confused with the other St Ives in England!) then take a look at these fab ideas and scroll on down below if you need help getting there and ideas of places to stay.
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12 things to do in St Ives Cornwall
1. Eat a Cornish Pasty
My lists of things to do always seem to include food and this one is no different. All along the harbour front you’ll find bakeries or cafes selling the most Cornish of food – the Cornish Pasty. When travelling to Land’s End a few years ago we learned that the pasty was a staple lunch food of the miners in the area. What they did was hold the crimped pastry edge and eat everything but that bit – they’d often have dirty hands that might even be contaminated by the mine so it allowed them to hold the pasty. No such need to throw away the pastry nowadays, unless you happen to have sandy fingers!
A Cornish Pasty is meat, potato, swede and onion cooked in a shortcrust pastry and there are lots in the area to try – would be rude not to sample a few no?
2. Go on a boat trip
There are many different boat trips available from St Ives harbour from wildlife watching trips (there are dolphins and seals in the area plus all the seabirds) to mackerel fishing trips. A walk along the harbour should show you what’s available and the prices – there’s a few different operators which keeps prices competitive!
3. Try some watersports – learn to surf, paddle board and much more
The amazing waters around St Ives are perfect for water sports and there are many places offering hire of equipment or lessons. You could learn to surf, perhaps try stand up paddle boarding or maybe even kitesurfing. Check out the neighbouring beaches to see if they have what you want on offer.
4. Beach and ice cream
You can’t go to the English coast without a trip to the beach. And that trip to the beach is not complete without an ice cream! Just like the Cornish pasties above, you’ll find lots of ice cream sellers by the beach and harbour in St Ives with as many flavours as you can probably think of! The beach in St Ives is lovely and clean but can also get busy – there’s also lots more in the area if you can explore a bit further afield.
5. Walk the coastal path
The Cornish coast is simply stunning and I could not recommend a trip to the area without attempting at least part of the coastal walk. There are many areas that you could walk to if you’re based in St Ives and the official name of the walk is the South West Coastal Path. No matter where you’re based in Cornwall you’ll find stunning views!
6. Visit Leach pottery museum or have a go yourself
As you may have gathered, St Ives has been home to many artists – potters included! There is a museum at the Leach Pottery studios that is well worth a small trip to. It shows a historical look at an old potters studio that was built in the 1920s as well as exhibitions on work that has been done. If you’re interested you could also check out their courses that they have on offer as they have half, full day and even longer sessions that could make a trip to St Ives very memorable!
7. Visit an escape room
Slightly different this one – try to escape! This is perfect for rainy days in St Ives, and as we’re in England we can probably expect some. It’s basically an interactive puzzle activity that you work together with your ‘team’ of 2-6 people to escape a room. This one has two rooms to escape – a chocolate factory and Prison X. Great fun for families! See more here.
8. The island pendinas
The ‘island’ isn’t actually an island and it’s a great place to escape from the touristy hustle and bustle of the town of St Ives – which if you’re there in high season you will find is incredibly welcome. It’s between the harbour and Porthmeorn beach and is a small headland. The walk up to the headland is breathtaking with 360 degree views around the coast, a small chapel that isn’t open but perhaps you can peer in the windows plus an opportunity to spot dolphins without taking to the sea.
9. Go shopping
St Ives is one of those really nice areas that have tonnes of independent shops to look round and enjoy. Yes there are some boutique chain shops, but the majority of the town is filled with quirky clothes, home and gift shops that should satisfy anyone who enjoys a bit of shopping.
10. Visit the Tate Gallery or the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden
It’s not just London that gets a Tate Gallery – St Ives gets one too! If you’re interested in modern art then this is a must to visit. It showcases some of the artists who lived in the area and often has events on for families too. Check out the museum here.
Staying with the artist vibe, the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden is another place that is well worth a visit. Barbara Hepworth was a local and prominent artist who came to the area at the outbreak of the second world war. She was a sculptor of many mediums such as bronze and stone and these are on display in the museum which is her former studio.
11. visit the farmers market
If you’re around on a Thursday then you’re in luck as that’s when the local farmers market happens. It’s on between 10 and 1 at the Guildhall which is just near the Tourist Information. I love checking out the local produce and this is no different – meats, cheeses, cakes, you name it!
12. Take a train line along the coast
I’d heard that the train journey along to St Ives was one of the most beautiful in the country but I couldn’t really imagine how that could be until I took it. Stunning blue waters, white beaches and the rugged coast is what you get to see as you travel by train. If you’re staying in the town itself I highly recommend you take the train to experience it – lots of places to visit nearby – and if you’re visiting St Ives it’s a great way to combine a fab journey with the benefit of not needing to park.
How to get to St Ives – parking and public transport
It’s perfectly easy to drive to St Ives if you have transport – what is not easy is parking when you get there. The streets are narrow and the car parks are often very busy so it’s often recommended to do a ‘park and ride’ in to the town.
If you do want to park there are some short stay (3 hours or less) and log stay car parks in the town – the best place to see up to date advice about this is the Cornwall council website which details the exact location and prices to park.
The train park and ride is what we did and found it really easy. We parked at Lelant Saltings and got the 10 minute train journey in. There is a charge for car parking (£2.80) and then also to go on the train (a family was around about £10 return) so for more people it’s a less financially sensible option, but it’s so much easier we decided it was worth it. Trains run every half hour during the day and hourly in the evening.
There are also frequent buses in to the town so if you’re based nearby they should also be worth a look.
Accommodation in St Ives
St Ives is full of lovely bed and breakfasts, hotels and apartments. We stayed in a nearby Airbnb which is a great option for those who like a little home from home comfort. If you haven’t used Airbnb then I’d highly recommend it although always check the reviews before booking somewhere.
There are loads to choose from in the area though as what’s nice about St Ives is the plethora of independent hotels and guest houses rather than chains. If you just want to browse what’s available in St Ives then check out here. Many of these don’t even require payment at the time of booking which is great!
If you have a car with you then do check about parking options as it can be a bit tricky. There’s always the option of staying slightly outside St Ives if needed too.
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