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Cobbled alleys and slate roofs, sandy white beaches and blissful blue bays, quaint old pubs and classic chip shops – St Ives is everything we love about the British seaside, wrapped up in a distinctly Cornish package.
Of all Cornwall’s coastal towns – and there’s a fair few to choose from – St Ives might just be the prettiest. Beyond its three beautiful main beaches, Harbour Beach, Porthmeor, and Porthminster, St Ives has a rich arts scene centred around Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum. Inspired by the idyllic coastline, Hepworth made St Ives her home in the late 40s and never left. Over time, other prominent artists were drawn to the town, and today its tiny streets are packed with private galleries and studios.
Whether you’re passing through on a longer trip, or are visiting on a weekend escape from the everyday, holidays to St Ives offer the perfect mix of coastal Cornwall’s staggering beauty and deep-rooted culture.
Surfers, sculptors, seafood lovers – St Ives has that rare knack of being able to please almost anybody. Between beaches and coastal walks, family activities and contemporary bars, you’ll be able to pack plenty into your St Ives staycation.
Best things to do on a weekend break
If you’re only in town for a weekend break, make Tate St Ives your first stop. The gallery houses a brilliant collection of modern art, including works by Hepworth, Picasso, Wallis and Matisse. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, just outside of St Ives, is another must visit. A joint ticket gets you into both galleries at a reduced rate.
St Ives has some brilliant surf, and, during the summer, Porthmeor beach is particularly good for beginners who fancy a lesson. Don’t feel like getting wet yourself? Take a sea safari out to Seal Island, instead.
Best things to do for families
With three lovely beaches, most family holidays to St Ives start by the sea (more on that below). Beyond that, there’s loads to keep kids of all ages occupied for a few days.
St Ives surf school offers lessons for children, as well as coasteering and kayaking. For a rainy day, the St Ives Museum and St Ives Tate are brilliant options, while Barnoon Craft Workshop is great for creative kids. If you’ve got a car, classic theme park Flambards is just 30 minutes away. Alternatively, take a walk along the cliff tops at Godrevy for some seal spotting.
Best beaches near St Ives
St Ives has three soft, sandy beaches within easy walking of the town centre. Tiny Harbour Beach sits at the foot of the old town, sheltered by the pier wall and perfect for kids. On the west side of the peninsula, Porthmeor is a popular for water sports, including surfing, paddle boarding and kayaking. The third, white-sand Porthminster is only a 20-minute walk west of St Ives, where you can also try out a variety of water sports.
If those three don’t do the trick, just keep going east along the coast where you’ll find Carbis Bay Beach, Hayle Sands, Hayle Beach, Towans and Gwithian Beach.
Best restaurants and pubs in St Ives
Sitting on a peninsula with the Atlantic on all sides, there are no prizes for guessing the sort of food that dominates menus in St Ives.
For something a bit special, check out Porthminster Beach Café, Seafood Café or The Cellar Bistro. Cheap and easy fish and chips can be found at any one of Harbour Fish and Chips, The Harbour St Ives, The Beach Restaurant, or Albatross Fish and Chips.
After a pint with a dose of Cornish culture? Get down to the Sloop. Supposedly one of the oldest in Cornwall, it’s got plenty of local character and Cornish ale. For cocktails, try Rum and Crab Shack.
With white-sand beaches, pretty fishing villages and a footpath that hugs a dramatic, craggy coastline, Cornwall's got all the ingredients for the perfect summer break. Discover the best of it here.Read moreabout 10 of the best places to visit in Cornwall