10 best things to do on holiday in St Ives

Whether you have booked a holiday cottage in this gorgeous coastal town or are staying nearby and want to enjoy the same entertainment as families enjoying their annual St Ives holidays, read below to find out what are the top 10 things to do in St Ives, whatever the time of year!

1. Boat trips

Anyone having their holidays in St Ives should book themselves on a boat trip. There is something quite wonderful about being on a boat and looking back at the town as it climbs from the Wharf and harbour front up the hillside with its various terraces of Captain’s houses majestically looking down onto the boats below. St Ives harbour is a busy, thriving and sheltered part of the coastline that shares its calm tidal waters with fishermen, rib hire, pedalo hire, SUP boarders, sea swimmers and kayaks as well as boat trip organisers. As you approach the harbour from either The Sloop Inn end near Fore Street or from the RNLI Lifeboat House off Lambeth Walk, you will see a handful of boat trip companies that invite you to book a trip to see Seal Island, Godrevy Lighthouse or perhaps try sea-fishing.

What is Seal Island?

Seal Island in St Ives is a small rocky island about 3.5 miles west of St Ives in the direction of Zennor. Its inhabitants are a colony of Atlantic grey seals so it is very aptly named. It is the largest of a group of islands called The Carracks which is derived from the Cornish work ‘Kerrek’ which means rocks. The seals share their home with anglerfish, dogfish and sea anemones. There is a shipwreck – the Enrico Parodi – which is a 103m long steel ship which was on wartime cargo duty back in 1916. It struck Gurnard’s Head (a headland west of Zennor) in dense fog while it was carrying coal from Cardiff to Messina in Italy. Tragically, the ship sank off the Carracks while in the process of being towed to the harbour. Enrico Parodi is still found there now and is a popular diving site. So, if you are an experienced diver, perhaps seek out a local diving club to show you around?

Boat trip to Godrevy Lighthouse

Try the boat trip that takes you on an historical journey to Godrevy Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in the late 1850’s to warn sea farers of the perils of Stones Reef. It stands at 26 metres tall on a small island off the coastline of North Cliffs. Sadly, the area is littered with shipwrecks, so why not go aboard the lovingly restored James Stevens Lifeboat that served between 1900 to 1933 (saving 225 lives!) and take in the joys of a historical trip that will no doubt be quite evocative.

Private boat hire

Holidays in St Ives can be made a little more exciting by chartering a boat of your own for a private and unique experience. Explore the outstanding beauty of the rugged and dramatic North Cornwall coast line while being the captain of your own boat! Perhaps a romantic at heart, you want to propose to your loved one? Or organise a family-outing with a difference. We can highly recommend making a day of it and don’t forget to pack your camera!

Mackerel Fishing

Imagine this… you are looking out of your holiday cottage in St Ives with sea views and taking in the glorious sunshine glinting off the sea and watching the local fishermen heading out to catch mackerel fish for restaurants, why not try catching your own?! Head out on a boat with an experienced fisherman who will love to tell you yarns of old St Ives whilst fishing for your supper (or breakfast!) off the coast. There’s a great saying in Cornwall for line caught mackerel and it goes like this ‘’it makes a right tasty treat and every bit as good as meat!’’

To book your boat trip or ask for more information, here are a few of the boating companies in St Ives:

2. Try throwing your own pot at The Leach Pottery

The Leach Pottery in St Ives is located a little higher up out the town but is a 15 minute walk (uphill) from the town centre or a very short bus ride. The pottery is named Leach after its founder, Bernard Leach (1887 – 1979). Bernard was born in Hong Kong where his mum tragically died at childbirth and he was raised by his father in Japan until they returned to Hong Kong three years later. Leach was educated at the Slade School of Fine Art in the UK but returned to Japan in 1909 with his young wife. In 1920, he returned back to the UK, specifically joining the colony of artists in St Ives, Cornwall to join the Guild of Handicrafts. His earlier life in Japan and Hong Kong plays a large influence in his pottery and this can be enjoyed at the Leach Pottery museum and shop. Have a guided tour of the museum and then why not try throwing a pot in one of their intensive courses over 3 to 5 days or evening classes run at various times of the year.

To find out more and book yourself a pot throwing taster session, click here

3. Water sports

Surfer in West Cornwall

There are 5 beaches in St Ives namely Porthmeor beach, Porthgwidden beach, Porthminster beach, Bamaluz beach and St Ives harbour beach (inside and outside of the harbour wall). Without even needing to don a wetsuit or get too wet, you can lose an entire day rock pooling (best time to do this is a few hours before low tide). The beaches have wonderful rock pools exposed at low tide and so you can take your pick armed with a bucket and net or perhaps just your camera.

There is a surf school on Porthmeor beach called St Ives Surf school that run 1-2-1 lessons to larger groups or families. Wetsuits and foam boards are provided as part of the tuition. Surfing is an exhilarating way to enjoy the sea and burn off hundreds of calories too! If you don’t want to go as far as having a surf lesson, try bodyboarding. All you need is a wetsuit, fins and a body board and you can enjoy whizzing with the waves as they return to shore.

SUP boarding or stand up paddle boarding is a wonderful way to enjoy the sea (the calmer the sea the better!) where you slowly learn to rise from your knees to a standing position on a large inflatable board and navigate your way using a single paddle. The natural paddle boarders tend to be the ones with a good sense of balance and no fear of falling in if balance is lost!

Kayaking is a superb way to get further away from the shoreline of the beaches and explore the rugged and ridiculously beautiful headlands around St Ives. Hire a kayak and lose yourself in the rhythmic paddling.

Hire a pedalo or jet ski from one of the St Ives boat trip organisers along the harbour front and zoom around St Ives Bay!

To find our more detailed guide to water sports in St Ives and Carbis Bay, click here

4. Visit Art Galleries

St Ives is well known for its very special light and why so many modern artists love it here as well as famous artists of old. There are many galleries to visit to take in the immense talents of so many whether its pottery, oils on wood, acrylic, watercolours, jewellery or sculptures; St Ives is rich with talent. Here is a list of galleries we highly recommend visiting:

The Penwith Art Gallery

Located in an old pilchard packing factory on Back Road West, it is home to the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall founded in 1949 by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Bernard Leach and Peter Lanyon, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Sven Berlin. Members from later on are Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and the honorary member Henry Moore. The gallery has 3 public galleries, a sculpture area, artists studios and an archive.

Porthminster Gallery

Just off Lambeth Walk (behind the RNLI Lifeboat House), the gallery used to be a pilchard warehouse and so exudes plenty of character. Enjoy viewing sculptures, jewellery, original prints and ceramics from modern artists and collectable items from past and famous St Ives artists.

Anima Mundi

Opposite the Guildhall on Street-an-Pol, you will be amazed by this gallery for its stunning contemporary artwork.

New Craftsman

On Fore Street, it has over 50 years experience established in 1965 and is still considered one of the country’s most important and influential galleries. Enjoy looking at a varied range of contemporary craft including glasswork, woodwork, metal work, handmade jewellery and ceramic sculptures.

The Tate St Ives

Possibly the most well known gallery in St Ives? Its architecturally designed building overlooks Porthmeor beach and is a huge space for showcasing some incredible and emerging artists to collectable and historical pieces of art by the well known St Ives artists. It also has an amazing cafe on the top floor that has some of the best sea views in St Ives.

To read our article of St Ives galleries, follow this link

5. Eat and drink!

Blas truffle burger

If you have booked a holiday cottage or apartment in St Ives then you are most likely within a short walk of all the wonderful eateries in the town which means you can also enjoy the wonderful places to have a drink too!

For the best burgers in St Ives, read more here

If your holiday cottage doesn’t have sea views, why not book a restaurant with gorgeous views to dine from instead, click here to find out where

For the 5 top children-friendly restaurants in St Ives, click this link

For our top 5 favourite restaurants in St Ives, look no further and read more now

St Ives caters for all food preferences, so read our vegan food in St Ives article here


There are some wonderful ice-cream parlours in town which offer flavours from the traditional rum and raisin to outlandish blue bubblegum! Here are 3 of our favourite ice cream parlours in St Ives:.

Moomaid of Zennor – you will find this wonderful ice cream parlour on Street-an-Pol (near St Ives Guildhall) and you can see their cows grazing in the fields very near Zennor just outside St Ives. In fact, if you walk to Zennor from St Ives, you will be sure to pass their friendly cows!

Valenti’s Ice-Cream Workshop just off Fore Street behind the harbour. New to St Ives and already very popular!

Jus’ Desserts St Ives along the harbour front. Grab a cone with your favourite ice-cream and make sure you protect it from the seagulls swooping.

Best fish and chips in St Ives

You can’t enjoy your St Ives holidays completely without having fish and chips! Whether it’s eaten out of the paper bag on a bench looking out to sea or at a restaurant with triple-cooked chips or on a plate, cosied up in your self-catering accommodation in St Ives, we think the below will tick all those boxes:

Harbour fish & chips takeaway and cafe

The Beach Restaurant

Porthminster Cafe

Porthminster Kitchen

The Balancing Eel – at the entrance to Sloop car park

Seafood Cafe

The Mermaid

Sharkey’s Fish & Chips

6. Walk from St Ives to Zennor

The walk to Zennor via the South West Coastal Path takes in the breath-taking views from Porthmeor beach to Zennor via Clodgy Point, Pen Enys Point, Carn Nuan Point and Mussel Point from where you can see The Carracks (the rocky islands off Zennor). Being a coastal path, it will be steep in some places and also uneven under foot so please wear suitable walking boots or shoes. It’s definitely not one for flip flops or white trainers!

Walking just one way via the coastal path, covers around 6 miles (up to 2 hours walking) and if you don’t fancy the walk back to your holiday cottage in St Ives then there are buses that travel regularly along the coastal route which is also spectacularly beautiful – click here for the bus timetable in order to plan your walk; maybe some lunch or a pint at The Tinner’s Arms before heading home?

If you have the fitness then we recommend planning a whole day out to do this walk, as it is a circular route and in total is around 12 miles. Head to Zennor on the coastal path and then head home (perhaps after refreshments, Moomaid of Zennor have a gorgeous cafe serving up calorie replenishing ice-creams, cakes, coffees and sandwiches) through grassy fields and small valleys. Again, we don’t recommend wearing light clothing or flimsy shoes as the footpath takes you through fields where cows graze!

To follow the route on the map, click here.

7. Make homemade chocolates with I Should Coco

Who doesn’t love chocolate? As locals, we are exceptionally lucky as we have our very own chocolatiers called I Should Coco and they absolutely welcome chocoholics into their workshops to learn everything there is to know about making melt in your mouth chocolate! Do a Chocolate Workshop with your family or friends, make bespoke gifts for friends at home and enjoy a holiday in St Ives activity that everyone will relish from tots (even under 7 years old) to teenagers, parents and grandparents. Go on, be naughty!

8. Take a walk around St Ives with Shanty Baba Storyteller

Love St Ives through its storytelling! Join Storyteller Shanty Baba for some captivating and enthralling stories that really bring our amazing harbour town to life. From the historical to the comical, tragedy to abstract and folklore and superstition to customs of the town. The walks take you through the ancient town where there is a tale around every corner. Try the Cornish folklore walk and be lost in the myths, magic and mystery that St Ives holds. Tales of witches, spriggans, giants, piskies, seals and mermaids. Cornwall has such a rich heritage of folktales and when it comes to giants, they are known worldwide.

Why not try something different this Halloween? Or any time of the year… Join Shanty on his Lantern Ghost walks and, as an eerie darkness falls over St Ives, Shanty Baba will light his hurricane lantern and show you “the darker side of St Ives”. See the most haunted places, the spooky alleyways where the dead are restless (apparently!), the graveyards where supernatural activity is still witnessed (so they say…), and parts of the town where dark deeds have happened… Lose yourself in the tales and learn a different side to St Ives!

9. Get creative with Barnoon Arts

Barnoon Arts Gallery is located in the Harbour Galleries on the Wharf, St Ives and you can get involved by meeting there to join in their outdoor workshops (Draw St Ives and Watercolours St Ives).

Go to their Barnoon Workshop which is a studio perched above Porthmeor beach and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. Enjoy being creative through their art and craft workshops on Abstract drawing by Peter Giles, make aluminium jewellery with Caroline Foremen or try a resin workshop using sea glass or other treasures you may have found on the beach. Perhaps try the Natural Soap making workshop or Shoreline Beach crafts or Paint a Canvas. If colouring in allows mindfulness and calm, then buy one of their colouring in books with a difference! There is a range of charming colouring books – ‘Colour St.Ives’ and ‘Pubs in Penwith’ and Abstract St Ives , illustrated by Zoe Eaton and Pete Giles. They make a perfect souvenir or gift! Each A4 book contains images to colour in, or keep as they are. The Drawings are printed on quality, single sided paper, so that individual pages can be removed and placed in a frame. The books are ideal for colouring with pencils, felt tips, inks and water soluble pencils. A wonderful activity for both adults and children and can be enjoyed in the comfort of your self-catering accommodation in St Ives.

10. Go the theatre!

Kidz R Us is an award-winning youth theatre company, committed to getting young people involved in the performing arts and supporting their development and the wider community.

The theatre enjoys supporting hundreds of local children, teenagers and young adults a year, and since 1994 have produced more than 100 shows and won numerous awards. Kidz R Us can be found at St Ives Theatre, in the heart of St Ives. Sir Tim Rice is their Patron and the Director, Phil Barnett, was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2012. Past productions have been Jack and the Beanstalk, Our House – The Musical Madness and Sister Act to name a few. Soak up the joy of theatre and book your seats now!

Check out their website to see what is on when you are enjoying your holidays in St Ives.

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