St Ives is a picturesque fishing town, often called the ‘jewel in Cornwall’s crown’. It has beautiful beaches, incredible light beloved by artists and creatives, and a vibrant buzz – there’s always lots going on. Food is also important here, so you will not be disappointed gastronomically.
If driving, take the motorway (M5) to Exeter, then taking the A30, the dual carriageway that runs across Cornwall. For St Ives, you need the A3074 or B3311 from the A30 near St Erth. It is ideal to have a car to travel around St Ives.
If you’re driving to West Cornwall in a plug-in electric vehicle, see our list of charging locations here.
If you are flying, the nearest airport is Newquay Airport or you could travel via Exeter Airport. These are slightly tricky as there are no direct rail links from the airports, so unless someone is meeting you or you grab a taxi, then it adds a fair few hours to your journey. Flying time from London to Newquay is approximately 1 hour 10 minutes.
Train: 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 St Ives.
As St Ives is such a popular town with narrow streets, and lots to do, parking can be a challenge in summer unless you have chosen accommodation with parking included.
There are two short-stay car parks at Porthmeor by the Tate (30 spaces) and Sloop (42 spaces), where your maximum stay is three hours (with no return within three hours). So, it is an expensive way to park, with prices ranging (2023) from £1.30 for 30 mins to £5.50 for 3 hours.
Long-stay makes more sense. Most car parks are owned by Cornwall Council so you can check prices here. A weekly pass (£25 at time of writing) allows you to park at any of the following: Island (129 spaces) , Park Avenue (77 spaces), Station (106 spaces) and Trenwith (759 spaces) so is well worth considering if you plan to remain close to base. Smeaton’s Pier (31 spaces), meanwhile costs £10 per day during high season.
Trenwith Carpark is the largest car park in St Ives at the top of a steep hill, with shuttle buses into town until 11 pm during the summer. Parking here means you avoid driving into the town centre. Alternatively, out of town there is St Ives Rugby Club TR26 1ER with a bus shuttle service or a 15-20-minute walk into town. Buses cost £2.50 return, and the car park costs £7 for 24 hours.
You could try Porthrepta at Carbis Bay, which works out cheaper at £6 for 24 hours or £15 for the week. There is also a private car park with CCTV and keypad access at St Ives secure car park, one mile out of town. You need to reserve before arrival.
During peak months there is a park and ride system. Park at Lelant Saltings station (£4.10 for the day plus train tickets) then board the ‘park and ride’ train with its breathtaking sea views of Carbis Bay and Porthminster (both with stops). Trains run about every half hour. St Ives Station car park (106 spaces) overlooks Porthminster Beach, a 5-10 minute walk into town.
What better way to start the day than with great coffee? The Kiosk in St Ives is nestled on the waterfront, overlooking the harbour, from where it sells single-origin coffee, roasted in Cornwall by Yallah Coffee Roasters (it doesn’t come any more local than that) – why not try it with a doughnut for a continental feel to your day? Yallah pride themselves on their sustainability; they know the provenance of their freshly roasted (to perfection) coffee. Coffee aficionados may also enjoy a strong brew from Mount Zion Coffee. Take your own cake!
Talay Thai is positioned above an ice cream parlour, also overlooking the harbour, so it’s a pretty amazing location to sit and enjoy authentic Thai food. The tapas menu includes classic Thai fish cakes, prawn toast and Chicken Satay. For more unusual dishes, try LAAB oyster mushroom salad, Moo Ping (chargrilled pork skewers) and green papaya salad. The mains again have some great classic dishes, panang and massaman curry, Pad Thai and finally their Talay recommended dishes, Tamarind Duck, Chu Chi hake and seafood jungle curry.
The Seafood Cafe positioned on Fore Street is popular for all things poisson. They have a fish counter showcasing the wonderful locally caught fish and shellfish, ready for customers to pick their meal of choice. Off-the-boat fresh fish eaten here will be different to anything you can buy inland.
Meanwhile, Pizza lovers who like hand-stretched dough and a tasty sauce will adore the St Ives Pizza Company. Or grab a burger from Blas Burgerworks tucked away in The Warren – you’ll struggle to find a bad review. The Wall Street Journal lists it as one of the top places in Europe for a burger (vegetarians are catered for). This eco-friendly spot has communal tables for an authentic experience.
St Ives’ cobbled streets boast wonderful bakeries serving everything from fresh loaves to meringues and pastries. St Ives Bakery is an independent, perfect for a pasty. It sits on the corner of Fore Street, offering a beautiful array of baked meringues, bread and other treats to tickle your tastebuds or to take home.
Try a ‘small plate’ experience at Porthminster Kitchen overlooking the beach. The Godrevy Café is brilliant for quick, light bites and cakes, where maybe you will go ‘to the lighthouse’ or at least have a good view of it from the beach or cliffs. Then, there is the famous Sloop Inn situated right on the harbour, in the heart of the town. For real ale, opt for The Castle Inn on Fore Street. Take in a legendary sunset with your beer.
Ice creams? Of course. Check out the Moomaid of Zennor at the harbour, which offers some amazing flavours for you to try, such as almond and cherry or Prosecco sorbet.
St Ives is a great place to potter and meander, weaving from cobble-lined back streets to glorious sea views. ‘Cool’ but also quaint, with sandy Blue Flag beaches, cobbled streets, wonderfully famous light-quality, good enough to attract many artists, and independent galleries and shops, it is unmissable for a Cornish holiday to remember.
St Ives is the kind of place where one person can go surfing at Porthmeor Beach while the other books a visit to the Tate Gallery and still be only minutes away from each other. Indeed, you have a fabulous view over the beach from the wonderful Tate Gallery. From the harbour, why not take a boat trip to Seal Island, home to a colony of grey seals. Get up close and soak up the scenery – things always look gloriously different from the sea.
The beautiful sandy beaches with turquoise summer sea are the obvious choice for a bucket and spade day out with children. Try bodyboarding with the younger ones, while older siblings might wish to try surfing. Don’t forget to trawl the sand for colourful pieces of sea glass. It is wonderfully addictive, and you can use it to make things. Sea glass is glass which has ended up in the sea and been polished by the waves. It is a treasure you can take home, so it also feels like a mini beach clean. St Ives mainly gives you white sea glass. It is best collected after high tide at the harbour beach. Here are some collecting tips.
Children love investigating, so try getting lost in the narrow back streets, or maybe a barbecue at Porthkidney Beach. Further round the bay are the expansive Hayle sands and The Towans including Gwithian (perfect for kitesurfing). Treat them to a trip to Porthgwidden Beach Cafe, next to the soft, sandy beach. Always use lifeguarded beaches with your children, such as Porthmeor, Porthminster and Carbis Bay, and heed RNLI beach safety advice. Don’t forget to also get away from the busy seafront area to unveil some of the real character of the place along the cobbled lanes.
Cornish people love the sea and seem to have many ideas to make the best use of it. Porthmeor Beach is a haven for surfers and bodyboarders. Learn the ropes at St Ives Surf School or check out the rugged Cornish Coast by trying coasteering. Ocean Sports Centre at Carbis Bay is AALS (Adventurous Activity Licensing Service) Approved and offers a host of specialist watersports adventures, such as Hawaiian canoeing, outrigging and foiling (hydrofoils). There is sure to be something there you have never tried before.
Vibrant and alive, there is plenty for the culturally-minded in St Ives. Art lovers will enjoy the sensitively renovated Penwith Gallery with displays of local artworks, but there are many more dotted around in this art mecca. After World War II this fishing village became the centre of British Modernism, so here you can revel in the inspirational and tranquil Barbara Hepworth Museum for sculpture or check out the ceramics at the renowned Bernard Leach Pottery. If you want to test your own creative juices, then the St Ives School of Painting offers classes and courses. For something a little different, Porth Jewellery offers silver and sea glass jewellery-making sessions, so you take your unique handmade creation home with you. Try Porthminster Gallery for art, although individual artists’ studios are your best bet for original pieces, sometimes at knock-down prices. For more galleries to explore, check the list here.
St Ives is truly blessed with its beaches. Porthminster, crescent shaped and fringed by palm trees, has superb views and golden sand but also open-air cinema in summer. Meanwhile, Porthmeor has the Tate Gallery directly on the promenade and the town centre not far away. Porthgwidden Beach is more of a walk from the town centre. It is a small and beautifully sheltered beach set between Bamaluz Beach and The Island-Pendinas, with pretty beach huts. Meanwhile, Bamaluz Bay is between the harbour and Porthgwidden, an elusive beach which is hidden at high tide. Or venture out slightly further to Carbis Bay. To relax, tootle along to Smeaton’s Pier on St Ives harbour. Dangle your toes off the edge – and relax.
If you love independent shops and galleries, St Ives is perfect for you.
The main shopping district in central St. Ives is centred around Chapel Street, Fore Street (the prettiest) and High Street.
If you want to splash the cash, the shopping here is delightful with an array of gift and boutique shops, but if you want a little more, try out a chocolate workshop (perfect for a damp day) at Coco Kitchen.
Artists will enjoy St Ives Ceramics, displaying works produced by 20th century master potters, such as Bernard Leach, but also pottery produced in Mashiko, Japan. Academy & Co is an independent lifestyle shop, offering a host of coveted brands. For clothing, try traditional but sustainable at Atlantic Shore. Book lovers will enjoy the independent St Ives Bookseller. Just mooch and explore at your leisure, for your pleasure.
The obvious answer to wet weather is the Tate Gallery with its collection of modern art but if you have children to entertain, then try Paradise Park, a wildlife sanctuary and jungle barn. Older children may enjoy a family game of Country Skittles, not far from St Ives on the road to Hayle. You can still surf in wet weather, or do something totally different and head off down a tin mine at Geevor or the Poldark Mine. Conversely, Healey’s Cyder Farm for a cider-making tour, is not too far away.
St Ives is an especially fabulous town to visit off-season.
Leave your car at Lelant Saltings and explore the neighbourhood on an eBike or ride the branch line around the bay, pondering on the history of the town. It is one of the prettiest rail journeys and just a 10 minute ride. Back in 1907, over 13 million pilchards would be landed here in a single day. Maybe that is what attracted the infamous gulls who are now partial to pasties and ice cream – they are maybe the downside to St Ives, but they also help create its seaside atmosphere.
If you enjoy a historical wander, then stroll around by the harbour and the fishermen’s cottages at Downalong, or book in for a quirkily atmospheric storytelling walk about pirates or ghosts with Shanty Baba.
Meanwhile, if you are there in summer, check out the Swellboard Shootout, an annual fun, fundraising event and festival. Most tourists will hit St Ives’s beaches for the sunset, but if you are a lover of glowing skies, then head off to Man’s Head – just a few minutes’ walk along the South West Coast Path towards Land’s End for a spectacular view.
If you are in an energetic mood try the three-hour (6 miles) cliff hike to Zennor, on this spectacular stretch of Cornish coastline, looking out for seals basking on the carracks (offshore rocks). Catch a bus back after a refreshing visit to the medieval hostelry, The Tinners Arms.
Somewhat easier, try Carbis Bay to St Ives (2 miles or 4.5mile circular walk). Start your walk from Carbis Bay train station and follow the path all the way to Porthmeor Beach, home to Tate St Ives and an excellent beach cafe too. You can extend it when the tide’s out by walking along the sand to Porthgwidden or make it a loop and head back to Carbis Bay in-land, via Trelyon Downs and Steeple Woods nature reserve.
Alternatively, walk the 20 minute coast path around ‘The Island’ (perfect for children). The path starts above Porthmeor Beach and takes you past the coastguard station, finishing at the hilltop chapel above Porthgwidden Beach. That’s a walk you can do barefoot if you are so minded.
Bear in mind this is tucked away, so harder to access. Try Fishing Cove (Fisherman’s Cove) if you are steady on your feet and have a good head for heights as the drop can be a little off-putting. Head through the gorse, along the path to a secluded beach tucked between Navax Point and Hell’s Mouth. The postcode is TR27 5EG and the OS map grid reference is SW 5959 4289. It is used by some as a naturist/nudist beach, so be aware.
In the parish church in St Ives, sits a memorial sculpture called Madonna and Child by Dame Barbara Hepworth. This was for her eldest son, Paul, who sadly died in a RAF plane crash in 1953. The twentieth century composer, George Walter Selwyn Lloyd was born in the town, while academic author Frank Halliday moved to St Ives, where he became a professional writer.
The Cornish weather is unpredictable – this is the UK. However, the weather in St Ives is usually warmer than much of the UK, with day time temperatures seldom dropping below 10°C. Frost is unusual. The best time of the year to visit St Ives is in early June to early October, but the hottest months tend to be July to September.
Here’s the list from St Ives Town Council:
During the summer season there are nine public conveniences open throughout the town and in the winter season there are four, details are listed below. The toilets are usually open from dawn-to-dusk and are generally good quality/clean.
The town council is proud to provide good quality, clean toilets across the town.
These may be found at West Pier [RADAR key required], Porthminster, the Sloop Car Park, Porthmeor and Porthgwidden (Seasonal).
We have curated a collection of our favourite luxury self-catering holiday cottages in St Ives, just for you.