Hayle is a port town in west Cornwall, just over 5 miles from St Ives. It is situated at the mouth of the Hayle River, and boasts a 3 mile stretch of golden sand at the glorious Hayle Beach. This beautiful beach spans from the Hayle Estuary to Gwithian Towans and Godrevy Point, which is famous for its lighthouse. It’s a haven for wildlife lovers, the Hayley Estuary is managed by the RSPB and regular visitors include curlews, little eygrets, oystercatchers, teals and wigeons.
Hayle is a great place to base yourself in Cornwall; a sandy beach on the doorstep and lots of beach cafes and bars along the coast. There is amazing cycling, walking, surfing, fishing and kayaking to name but a few activities to do all on the doorstep.
There is a train to St Ives along the coast, which is a stunning route. This can be caught at Hayle Station (change at St Erth).
Hayle is also near to the A30, which makes it easy to explore the north coast of Cornwall and all it has to offer. Head to Hayle along the scenic A303 route (beware this does tend to build traffic, particularly during the summer months), reaching the A30, the dual carriageway that runs across Cornwall. For Hayle, you’ll leave at Junction 31.
The train is an option too. It is probably faster and easier to take a train from London Paddington, or Birmingham or Bristol, on the line to Penzance, changing at St Erth station for Hayle Station. It’ll take you between 5-6 hours, which is similar to driving.
There are plenty of places to park in and around Hayle.
Cornwall Council have two centrally located long stay car parks on Commercial Road (84 spaces) and Foundry Square (57 spaces). An hour will cost you 70p and 3-4 hours costs £4.60.
Sandy Acres has a car park just moments from the beach. Gates to the car park open 8am – 10pm during the summer time only and out of season hours apply. The car park is a pay and display and you MUST display a ticket at all times, year round.
The largest car park is at Gwithian Towans, which is also has a Council run long stay car park. There are 275 spaces and it costs £1.10 for an hour, or 2-4 hours is £5.30.
For a relaxed boho-style beach cafe head to The Rockpool, situated on Godrevy Beach. Inspiration behind its tasty lunch menu comes from the natural, outdoor surroundings of Godrevy and Gwithian, using the freshest local ingredients. There are daily specials and mouthwatering bites and larger plates on the main menu to tempt you. Oh, and don’t forget to try one of their cocktails.
The Black Lobster should be on your list of places to eat. Serving fresh fish, lobster and all the trimmings… we recommend the dirty cajun fries and tacos. It’s strictly an outdoor eating venue, so it is weather dependent. Generally open during the day, but later into the evening if there’s live music and the weather is playing ball.
About 2 miles outside of Hayle is Lelant, and The Old Forge is certainly worth a visit. With a relaxed terrace space, serving Italian inspired food. There are plenty of options for vegans too.
If you’re looking for a traditional pub setting, then a trip to The Cornish Arms has to be on the cards. There are plenty of local classics on the menu including a Cornish Pisky burger and Cornish Chowder.
Hayle Estuary is the perfect spot if you’re into bird watching. Up to 18,000 migrant and wintering waterfowl flock here each year as it’s the most south-westerly estuary in the UK. The best time to visit is during the winter months, when conditions in Hayle may be milder than elsewhere in the UK.
Hayle is fortunate enough to have an open air swimming pool, which is open during the summer months. It costs £3 per person for a two session. It’s heated by a solar cover so the water temperature regularly reaches between 20-24 degrees. While it’s not huge, it’s lifeguarded so a safe place for little ones to splash about, and there’s a cafe – after all, all that swimming can build up quite an appetite.
Kids will enjoy a trip to Paradise Park which is just on the outskirts of Hayle. Home to over 130 species of birds, you’ll also find Red pandas, rare Red squirrels and Asian otters! In fact there are plenty of wonderful animals for visitors to see, including mini donkeys, pygmy goats and smaller creatures such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Open from 10am daily.
There are numerous surf schools and kayak hire on the estuary. You can see wild seals at Godrevy beach, which is just five minutes away by car.
If you’re hoping to ride some waves, Beach Shack Surf School‘s passionate instructors are all ISA qualified, experienced surfers and have surfed around the world. Located moments from the beach in Phillack which is a mile outside of Hayle their surf lessons are always in small groups to give you the attention needed when learning a new skill.
Shore Surf School was founded in 1999, and has since grown to have two locations near to Hayle in Godrevy and at Away Resorts in St Ives Bay. As well as offering private and group surf lessons, they also run SUP lessons, if you fancy trying something new.
There’s also Gwithian Academy of Surfing nearby. Operating from Gwithian (the Northernmost point of St Ives Bay), it’s around a ten minute drive from Hayle. Coaches are fully qualified as surf coaches, lifeguards and first aiders. Due to the gently sloping nature of Gwithian beach, it’s great for beginners as the surf forms and breaks very slowly.
Perhaps you’re more interested in kayaking or hopping on board a giant SUP? Lizard Adventure run two hour sea kayaking and SUP sessions from Hayle Harbour. A scenic bustling harbour, you’ll get to enjoy a tour of the estuary and see a wide variety of amazing bird life while enjoying some watersports.
The oldest established gallery in Hayle is the Foundry Gallery, you’ll find a mix of vintage and contemporary paintings and photography as well as ceramics and antiques.
Stargazey Crafts is owned by Marion Hoch who run events and workshops throughout the year, addicted to needle felting her workshops vary from making felt Christmas decorations to making your own brooches.
Of course you’re not far from St Ives, which is renowned for its vibrant art scene.
Towans is the Cornish word for dunes and Hayle Towans Beach has beautiful dunes to set up camp for the day in. This beach has previously been noted as having excellent water quality by the Marine Conservation Society Good Beach Guide. It comprises different sections of beach known as Harveys Towans, Hayle Towans, The Towans, Black Cliff and Mexico Towans.
Or on the south side of the estuary, Porthkidney Beach is just near Lelant and also has vast sandy shores that are ideal for families and couples alike.
View across the water from the beach to Godrevy lighthouse Godrevy, Cornwall. The lighthouse is said to have been the inspiration for Virginia Woolf's novel, To the Lighthouse. ©National Trust Images John Miller
Godrevy is the furthest beach from Hayle, about a 10 minute drive, but it’s certainly worth a trip. Owned by the National Trust it offers excellent view of the famous Godrevy lighthouse said to have inspired Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. During low tide it joins Gwithian beach but at high tide the beach almost vanishes.
A trip to Cornwall isn’t complete without stopping by a farm shop. Trevaskis Farm is situated 3 miles outside of Hayle, and won’t disappoint. Trading for over 30 years you’ll find plenty of homegrown and home-reared produce such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish and the most delicious sweet and savoury treats from the bakery. Leave enough time to sample their wonderful cakes in the Farmhouse Kitchen Restaurant.
Centrally located on Foundry Square you’ll find Emily Nixon‘s showroom full of unusual and distinctly coastal jewellery, crafted in her studio here in Hayle. A stunning collection featuring ocean sapphires and beautiful diamonds set in seaweed inspired ring settings.
Lily Rose is a family run gift shop based in Hayle. With a selection of gifts that are handmade in Cornwall – including delicious smelling handmade candles – alongside a lovely selection of children’s gifts, it’s well worth a visit.
If it’s surfing clobber you’re after, then looking no further than Hayle’s Down The Line Surf Shop. Opening back in 1993 it has garnered a great reputation for its offering of surfboards, wetsuits and surf hardware.
As previously mentioned Paradise Park is a great way to spend a few hours, if the weather is unkind then keep the kids happy at its JungleBarn Indoor Play Centre. With a massive multi -level soft play area, there’s slides and swings galore. Or for younger ones a dedicated toddler area.
St Ives is just over 5 miles away and there’s plenty to keep you entertained (and dry!). Why not kick back at the cinema? The Royal Cinema on Royal Square has three screens and popcorn aplenty.
At around 175 metres high, National Trust owned Trencrom Hill is the highest point in the old district of Penwith with wonderful views from the top. To the south you’ll see Mount’s Bay and St Michael’s Mount and to the east appreciate Hayle’s beaches in all their glory.
For history buffs the Hayle Heritage Centre is fantastic to visit and is located on the historic site of the Harvey’s Foundry. There are displays dedicated to The Cornish Copper Company, shipbuilding, the Hayle Carnival, decorative art and many more.
View from the summit of Trencrom Hill, West Cornwall. ©National Trust Images Shaun Boyns
The Hayle and Towans Trail is a circular route covering 6.5 miles, while it’s a lengthy walk it is pretty level. The start and end point is at Hayle swimming pool. Follow the coast path from Hayle all the way through the dunes to Gwithian, returning along the beach. The Hayle Towans is Cornwall’s second largest dune system, which make it a Site of Special Scientific Interest for both the geology and its wildlife. As you follow this route it passes the site of one of Britain’s largest explosives factories during the First World War, so there’s plenty to take in on your ramble.
Evening walk overlooking Gwithian beach, Godrevy, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images John Miller
Hayle has a huge industrial heritage, with the names of the town’s two districts; Copperhouse and Foundry reflecting this. Dating back over 2,000 years, it is said the Phoenicians came to Hayle to trade tin.
In 2006, the harbour and Foundry part of the town were awarded World Heritage status, and it’s certainly worth exploring the old Foundry and taking a walk along the quaysides. There’s also a rather lovely old Millpond, which again has a colourful history. In times gone by he pond was part of a water system which drove a mill used for grinding corn. This was in turn fed to an army of horses which transported the goods produced by the foundry over land or to the nearby harbour. However, nowadays you’re more likely to see ducks fight over bread.
As with most of Cornwall the best time to visit Hayle is during the summer season, the hottest and sunniest months tend to be from June to September.
There are council-owned toilets at Gwithians which are free to use.
Hayle is a brilliant base for exploring the west coast of Cornwall and the area is well known for its birdlife and wildlife