Things to do

A definitive guide on things to do while on holiday in St Ives; activities for the whole family to enjoy

St Ives is a true Cornish gem of a holiday destination in the UK. Located in the far west of Cornwall, it offers outstanding natural beauty with its white-sand beaches, turquoise sea, rocky headlands, and miles of open moors ideal for keen ramblers. It is a vibrant coastal harbour town full of life, art and culture. Coming on holiday and staying in self-catering accommodation in St Ives means you will not be scratching around to entertain your family or friends; there is so much to do all year round. There are so many wonderful things to do whether staying for a few nights only or for a couple of weeks mid-summer. Here are a few of our suggestions for a super varied and enjoyable holiday in St Ives!

Surfing

Porthmeor beach in St Ives is the place to head to learn to surf or hone already acquired skills. The beach is on the west side of St Ives and, due to its position and direction of westerly winds, the waves are usually favourable! There is a surf school on Porthmeor beach called St Ives Surf School which also hires out wetsuits and foam boards if you fancy a play without an instructor. They instruct little ones who want to try surfing for the very first time as well as adults who are willing to give it a go. Surfing can be tried any time of the year but we recommend getting a good wetsuit for the chillier months.



With the surf school being right on Porthmeor Beach, it is an ideal spot to give surfing a try! Saltwater ocean specialists are on hand to teach surfing on a 1-2-1 basis or group lessons.

All of St Ives Surf School’s water activities operate from either Porthmeor beach or Porthminster beach which are in the heart of St Ives. Their motto is to provide an unforgettable ocean experience in a safe, fun and friendly environment. As well as being one of the best water sport providers in Cornwall, St Ives Surf School also hires a huge selection of surf, paddleboard and kayak equipment meaning, to make the most of your St Ives holiday, having fun in the sea is super easy to arrange. Their surf and water sports rental is available from Porthmeor and Porthminster Beach. Secure changing rooms and safe valuable storage is also provided upon request.

Visit their website or call them on 01736 793938

Boat rides

Sightseeing from the sea can give a whole new perspective on St Ives and just how beautiful it is. There are a number of boat trip organisers along St Ives harbour front who will take you to Seal Island (where you will no doubt see seals!) to the west and Godrevy Lighthouse to the east. Be guided by a St Ives local who will point out places of interest and landmarks, share local knowledge and love for the coastal environment and marine life. The same boat trip organisers also rent out pedalos and offer exhilarating Rib rides. For something a little more special, charter your very own boat and explore the coastline for yourselves. Gazing over to St Ives from St Ives Bay is a magical experience and one we highly recommend.



Whether it’s sightseeing, mackerel fishing, deep-sea fishing, historical sea tours or glass-bottom boats, there is a boat trip organiser to suit your plans all situated around St Ives Harbour.

Leave your holiday cottage in St Ives and set sail for some adventures on the water. If you have booked dog-friendly self-catering accommodation and want to have your dog by your side, some of the organisers are happy to accept dogs on the boats also. For more information and prices, please visit their websites below:

Whether it’s sightseeing, mackerel fishing, deep-sea fishing, historical sea tours or glass-bottom boats, there is a boat trip organiser to suit your plans all situated around St Ives Harbour.

Leave your holiday cottage in St Ives and set sail for some adventures on the water. If you have booked dog-friendly self-catering accommodation and want to have your dog by your side, some of the organisers are happy to accept dogs on the boats also. For more information and prices, please visit their websites below:

 



The historical heroine St Ives Lifeboat JAMES STEVENS No.10 has been restored to her former glory after being neglected for many years.

This old Lifeboat was at risk of being cut up and burnt, so she was rescued and restored to preserve a very important part of St Ives’s history. The Lifeboat was built in 1899 and served as the St Ives Lifeboat from 1900 to 1933. With the restoration mission now complete, the newly restored JAMES STEVENS No.10 sailed back into St Ives harbour at the end of summer 2021. Starting in 2022, you can board this magnificent Lifeboat to experience a historic Lifeboat trip around St Ives Bay.

The old St Ives Lifeboat JAMES STEVENS No.10 will take you on a gentle and serene boat trip around the Bay. Experience St Ives from the sea and get to see the beautiful beaches and stunning scenery from a completely different perspective. There is a chance of spotting some of the local marine inhabitants such as seals and dolphins. You will also learn about the history of this Lifeboat, shipwrecks and the heroic rescues that were performed. Licensed to carry up to 12 passengers and is also dog friendly.

Visit their website for more information

A walk with a yarn

St Ives is an intricate network of cobbled lanes, narrow roads, cut-throughs, traditional fisherman cottages and old pilchard presses and net lofts. It is rich in history and folklore with many stories making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end! Hear of smugglers, pirates, fishermen’s wives leading their horses onto the beaches to bring in the daily catch full of gossip and woe. Each corner of the town carries a tale, some funny, some mysterious and some leaving a veil of intrigue. Join an organised walk and be guided by a St Ives expert and get to see St Ives in all its glory. Step away from the crowded areas and discover places and their associated stories – we guarantee you will be gripped.



Nobody loves anything more than a good story!

Learn the intricate and sometimes intimate tales of ye old St Ives by the most entertaining storyteller Shanty Baba who is so familiar with our coastal town, you wonder if Cornish piskies really do exist! Walk the cobbled lanes by day or night and be taken to corners of the town where there is a story of historical interest and some questionable folklore shenanigans. St Ives comes alive for the couple of hours you are guided around the town and you will be left with something to talk about for quite a while after!

Visit Shanty Baba’s website below for more information.

 

Learn to paint

St Ives in Cornwall has the most special and unique light that artists find hard to express in words yet can commit their love for it on canvas beautifully. Rugged, yellow gorse lined clifftops, golden sandy beaches, colourful boats in St Ives Harbour, orange rooftops cascading down the hill to meet the turquoise sea, moody, stormy skies to cloudless expanses of deep blue, there is so much to inspire great pieces of artwork for the beginner to more experienced artists.



The St Ives School of Painting is at the forefront of art in St Ives and it was established in 1938 by two army officers who had made a pledge, whilst in the trenches, that if they were to survive the war they would fulfil their dreams of moving to St Ives in Cornwall to paint.

Created as a centralised art school in St Ives, one of the founding members Borlase Smart was also responsible for the St Ives Society of Artists, promoting local artists and their work. Today the St Ives School of Painting is cared for by The Borlase Smart John Wells Trust and supported by Arts Council England.  The school regularly supports art events, exhibitions and lectures, as well as hosting various art courses in which you can enrol and take part.

Visit their website or call them on 01736 797180

St Ives light is well known to be special and captivating so the art tutors at Barnoon Arts and Workshop are here to help you depict it on paper.

Join others with a love of art and craft at the studio and exhibition space of Barnoon Workshop located just off Barnoon car park overlooking spectacular scenery and Porthmeor Beach. Workshops are run for private individuals, groups or shared groups. From the Barnoon Arts Gallery on The Wharf in St Ives, join like-minded people taking part in outdoor workshops on ‘Drawing St Ives’ and ‘Watercolour St Ives’.

Visit their website or call them on 0790 0095203

Visit a theatre

St Ives is all about the local community and an example of this close knit community is the Kidz R Us theatre in Royal Square. If you love musicals and want to be amazed by the local talent who have created shows such as Dis-enchanted, The Greatest Show, Bugsy Malone, Wizard of Oz and many other firm favourites then book ahead of your holiday to avoid disappointment.

‘’well choreographed’’
‘’the kids were brilliant performers’’
‘’an incredible well performed musical’’
‘’performances will amaze and entertain’’
‘’highly recommend the next time you holiday in St Ives’’

The reviews say it all and so, when on holiday in St Ives, book yourselves a ticket to a show at this vibrant and creative theatre that locals and visitors alike love.



Love the pizzazz of show business, musicals and young talent? Book a seat at Kidz R Us Theatre!

Kidz R Us is an award-winning youth theatre company, dedicated to getting young people involved in the performing arts, supporting their development and also the wider community. The rave reviews and standing ovations are a bonus! The theatre works with around 100 children, teenagers and young adults a year, and since its inception in 1994, has produced more than 100 shows and won numerous awards. Keep your eyes peeled for unmissable musicals during half-terms and holidays, and a traditional family pantomime at Christmas.

Visit their website or call them on 01739 797007

Retail therapy

There are many independent shops in St Ives with wonderful clothing and gifts for sale as well as scrumptious delis selling local food and drink. Fore Street is lined with shops starting from the market square down to St Ives Harbour front. Whether it’s adults or children’s clothing, sustainable children’s toys, shoes, woollen jumpers, walking boots, handcrafted gold and silver jewellery, cosmetics, candles, artwork, sculptures, pottery, wetsuits, bodyboards, quirky gifts or soft furnishings, St Ives has possibly everything your heart will desire and that is just along the cobbled street in the heart of the town! Branching from Fore Street is St Ives Harbour and the Wharf with beautiful, narrow streets with equally interesting and attractive shops so we thoroughly recommend you explore to find the hidden treasures and treat yourselves.

Go for a walk

There are so many wonderful walks right on the doorstep of your St Ives holiday cottage. It can be a ‘follow your nose’ type stroll where it can lead from shop to beach to harbour to another beach whilst stopping off at galleries and cafes serving Cornish coffee and homemade cakes or picking up an ice cream along the way. These are stress-busting and relaxing walks where senses are awakened and refreshed by the sea air and glorious landscapes.

Then there are other walks that will get the heart rate up and thighs burning! We love the App iWalkCornwall with a variety of walks available where it guides its walkers step by step using a mobile phone or smartwatch and sharing local and historical information along the way. Distances range from 3 miles to 7 miles and you will be guaranteed a stupendous walk taking in the breathtaking scenery and sea air.

Orange Roofs has also provided some guided walks in and around St Ives with a step by step approach so no getting lost! Click here to read our blog walks for St Ives.

Stand up paddle board

Rather than riding a wave on Porthmeor beach, try the gentle (but nothing short of a great core workout!) sport of paddle boarding from Porthminster beach or St Ives Harbour beach.

It’s best to have a less energetic and calmer sea to enjoy stand up paddleboarding. The ultimate aim is to be able to stand up on a large, inflatable board and use a long, single paddle to power forward, backward or steering movement. It’s an incredibly peaceful exercise to do once mastered and a fabulous sport that can be enjoyed in the sea, on lakes and on gentle rivers. For beginners, St Ives Surf School provides tuition from Porthminster beach which includes the use of all the equipment (wetsuit, board and paddle). Start off getting a feel for the board on your knees then start to stand up and feel euphoric! Our advice? Don’t be afraid to fall off then it won’t happen!

All of St Ives Surf School’s water activities operate from either Porthmeor beach or Porthminster beach which are in the heart of St Ives.

Their motto is to provide an unforgettable ocean experience in a safe, fun and friendly environment. As well as being one of the best water sport providers in Cornwall, St Ives Surf School also hires a huge selection of surf, paddleboard and kayak equipment meaning, to make the most of your St Ives holiday, having fun in the sea is super easy to arrange. Their paddleboard lessons take place from Porthminster Beach. Secure changing rooms and safe valuable storage is also provided upon request.

Visit their website or call them on 01736 793938

Relax and read on the beach

This seems a fairly obvious thing to do on your summer St Ives holidays but we thought we would share some of our favourite places to find a sheltered spot to sit and watch the world go by, read a book or have a snooze. As locals, we know that if there is a strong wind whipping up the sand in your face on Porthmeor beach, head for St Ives Harbour beach instead and vice versa.

A wonderful place to soak up the sun in a sheltered part of St Ives Harbour beach is next to the arches which form part of Smeatons Pier. Alternatively, head to the steps opposite The Sloop Inn and tuck in against the harbour wall.

Porthgwidden beach is a gem of a beach for sheltered bathing and relaxing on the beach. The best place is against the wall under the beach huts; nice and toasty!

Porthmeor beach can feel rather exposed to the westerly winds that are prevalent in Cornwall. The best spot is on the right as you walk down the slipway off the Island. It’s a natural windbreak and offers a perfect view of the entire beach.

For more information on all the beaches in St Ives, read our St Ives Guide and select Beaches.

Get pampered

Coming to St Ives in Cornwall will relax, replenish and revive your soul with its restorative sea air and outstanding natural beauty. Why not go the extra mile and pamper yourself with a half-day or full-day at a Spa? There are two-day Spas to choose from within a close distance of your St Ives holiday cottage, each of them offers an extensive list of pampering and beauty treatments as well as pools, hot tubs and private gyms.

St Ives Harbour & Spa is at the top of Tregenna Terrace and overlooks St Ives town with spectacular sea views.

It has a heated pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and fitness suite. Enjoy the TempleSpa holistic treatment menu which ranges from facials, body massages and manicures pedicures. Choose from Spa packages like 3 hours of bliss in the late afternoon to early evening to get you super relaxed and smelling divine before dinner or a full day package with a 90-minute treatment included and lunch at their restaurant with incredible sea views!

Visit their website or call them on 01736 795221

Una St Ives is actually on the edge of Carbis Bay and has ample parking.

It has a heated indoor swimming pool, gym, sauna and steam room as well as a jacuzzi. The Spa offers treatments using Elemis with hot stone massages, deep tissue massage, hot mineral body boost as well as a wonderful choice of treatments for your face, hands and feet!

Visit their website or call them on 01736 257000

Catch a film

St Ives has a cinema which may seem dinky compared to the ones found in busy retail parks around the rest of the UK but we are still proud of it! It’s a great way to spend a rainy afternoon or grab dinner first followed by a film then walk home to your holiday cottage passing a beach along the way to make the whole experience that little bit different and special!

Part of Merlin Cinemas, St Ives’ cinema is on Royal Square and has 3 screens showing a handful of latest films.

Visit their website or call them on 01736 796843

Throw a pot

Ever wanted to try and recreate the scene from Ghost? The one where Demi Moore makes getting your hands covered in wet, mucky clay look sexy! Well, pot throwing is cool and is a wonderful way to enjoy a few hours and come away with a memento from your holiday in St Ives made by your own fair hand. Wheel-throwing lessons can be booked for the beginners to the more experienced ceramicists in St Ives, so release your inner Bernard Leach and create a masterpiece of your own. Perfect as a rainy day activity!

St Ives Pottery teaches pot and wheel throwing lessons at their studio in Foundry Farm, Hayle.

You can choose to have your own pot bisque-fired, glazed and posted to you where it can take pride of place in your own home. There is a choice of family group lessons or individual lessons with an experienced and trained ceramicist. The lessons have a relaxed, flexible learning-to-throw style with a demonstration, guidance throughout and plenty of clay. Book yourselves in for a relaxing and creative couple of hours during your holiday.

Visit their website to find out more.



Founded by friends Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, Leach Pottery is steeped in history and has attracted potters wishing to train and study from all over the world being a hub for Studio Pottery in the UK.

Previously being home to Bernard and a number of other potters who joined him throughout the years, the Leach Pottery is now managed by the Bernard Leach (St Ives) Trust Ltd and is made up of the pottery workshop, on-site museum and shop. Visit the museum and explore the 100-year-old pottery barn, the clay room and the throwing room with Japanese climbing kiln, as well as their changing program of exhibitions and Leach’s work. Why not get hands-on and book onto a taster course? And create your own holiday souvenir. Or for budding potters, Leach pottery offers intensive three-day courses.

Visit their website or call them on 01736 799703

Make chocolate

Making chocolate is something which can easily be done from your own kitchen at your self-catering accommodation in St Ives but why not make it a fun-filled afternoon activity for all the family to enjoy (particularly appealing for a rainy-day activity with children in St Ives!). Be taught by expert chocolatiers and hone your skills in chocolate-making (and eating!) in readiness for planning Easter and Christmas present goodies to share with loved ones.



We are lucky enough to have our own chocolatiers of St Ives called I Should Coco where you can buy their delicious hand-crafted chocolates as well as make your own.

Located on the High Street, Coco Kitchen runs regular chocolate-making workshops with benefits! Take your truffles home with you at the end of the day or, if you are heading to the beach first to sunbathe and swim, pick them up on your way back to your self-catering accommodation in St Ives. Coco Kitchen has all the equipment you need with a purpose-made workspace and all the tools to make a selection of exquisite choccies. This is a great activity to do with all the family whether rain or shine. Chocolates are welcome any time of the year!

Visit their website or call them on 01736 798756

 

Yoga on the beach, what better way to start or end a day while on holiday in St Ives or Carbis Bay?

Is it better to do exercise outdoors? Here in St Ives, we would all say yes! Any form of activity and exercise is better done outdoors as it lowers blood pressure and heart rate more than if the same exercise is done indoors. Ever dreamed of doing yoga with paradise as the backdrop? Get lost in the rhythmic sound of the sea and the stunning colour of the ocean against the soft white sand of Porthmeor Beach. Join Lucy Alridge, a senior Iyengar instructor, for a 1-2-1 lesson or group lesson for some soul-enriching exercise in St Ives.

Visit her website or call 07817 968936

Play a round of golf

The pleasure and benefits of playing a round of golf are enjoyed by many and is often a social activity with quite a few hours passed catching up with a friend, negotiating a business deal and even making new friends. It is great exercise so good for you physically but also boosts your mood and therefore is great for mental health also. as well as mentally. All of those benefits can be enjoyed while on holiday in St Ives with an 18 hole golf course at Tregenna Castle being the closest and West Cornwall Golf Course is a very short car drive away. The views from both courses are extraordinarily beautiful so a round of golf is made instantly even more pleasurable. Best done on a sunny, warm day but both golf courses are open all year round if you are an all-weather player!



Located in Lelant and overlooking St Ives Bay and Hayle Estuary, the views from this 18-hole golf course are superb.

The coastal railway track runs alongside the course and the links land gives perfect golfing all year round. Porthkidney beach is also at the foot of the golf course offering 4km of beautiful white sand and crystal clear seawater. West Cornwall Golf Course has a restaurant and a relaxing bar for an after round drink. Their pro shop is fully stocked and offers one to one and group coaching.

They are also proud to be the home of ‘Long’ Jim Barnes, a 4-time major winner and in more recent times of Walker Cup players, Philip Rowe (1999) and Harry Hall (2019).

Visit their website or call them on 01736 753401

Tregenna Castle has 72 acres of beautiful woodland that slopes down to St Ives so the views are quite spectacular.

Tregenna has an 18-hole par 3 golf course boasting uninterrupted views of St Ives Bay, and was voted one of the most scenic golf courses in the UK. A round of golf costs from £15 and there are no tee times.

Visit their website or call them on 01736 795254

Rock Pooling

Rocks are exposed at low tide at Porthmeor beach and the best place to go and explore the rock pools is on the west side of the beach.

All you need is a net, non-slip shoes and perhaps a bucket full of seawater to see what you have collected before releasing back to its sea home.

 

The best time to rock pool is an hour before low tide so the joys of the local marine life are available to see (and respect!) for a few hours before the tide returns to wet your toes. There are some amazing places to rock pool in St Ives and we recommend Porthminster beach below the Pedn Olva hotel and then onto St Ives Harbour beach below Lambeth Walk. You’ll need to roll up your trousers or wear wellies if you want to cross the water to the harbour beach!

Hire an e-bike

Rent an e-bike and enjoy cycling effortlessly (well, almost effortless!) along some of the most scenic coastal routes in Cornwall. What better way to explore West Cornwall? Pack a picnic, sun cream, a map and head off to explore some of the prettiest and most secluded coves and beaches around St Ives, Zennor and you may even get as far as Land’s End!



Take a ride around spectacularly beautiful coastal routes exploring Cornish coves without the effort of too much peddling!

Hire an e-bike from St Ives Bikes and download one of their set routes from the Zennor Zoom which is a 10-mile bike ride to Land’s End Loop which is a whopping 55-mile bike ride (but so worth it!). Try their Cape Caper, Godrevy Gambol or Moorland Meander; they have rides for everyone and the sheer sense of being outdoors, inhaling the freshest of sea air and feeling the benefits of cycling (made easy) is a perfect way to spend a day in the saddle exploring beauty spots around West Cornwall while on holiday in St Ives.

Visit their website or call them on 07536 171214

Swim with horses

Not quite an activity carried out in St Ives but it's very much worth a 20-minute drive to experience something quite magical! 

Even if you have never ridden a horse before, the sense of being in the sea (with experts controlling your horse) and feeling the powerful horse swimming beneath you through the most beautiful clear sea off Marazion,  with St Michael’s Mount island and castle in the background, is not to be missed. You will finish your activity exhilarated and connected to nature in a way almost too difficult to describe with words. Horse sea swims run from May to September and the experience lasts between 2 to 3 hours from the introduction and briefing to the actual swim. Part of the experience is riding your horse to the beach, bareback! Don’t worry, if you are nervous, your horse will be led by a handler or you can opt to meet your horse at the beach.

Cornwall Swimming Horses offer a bespoke hacking experience for experienced riders or the sheer joy of swimming with horses for riders of all abilities.

Experienced horse riders can enjoy a 1-2-1 beach ride or moorland hack or join a small group of 4 at most. The difference between Cornwall’s Swimming Horse to other local riding schools is that they define ‘experienced rider’ as someone who is comfortable and confident when riding horses that are independent thinkers, rather than ‘nose to tail’ horses. You don’t need to be a Grand Prix dressage rider or compete at BE100 events, you simply need to have a relaxed approach to riding and an ability to communicate easily, clearly and safely with your mount in open spaces. You don’t need to be speed freaks, but if you are, they cater for that too! Please note all their horses are very forward going and need to be ridden. They don’t just take passengers.

Take it a step further and join your horse for some sea swimming from Marazion beach. This is an expertly organised activity which we thoroughly recommend, even for beginners!

For more information visit their website or call them on 07460 865167

Go to Gin School

Become a gin master by attending St Ives Tarquin's Gin School on Fore Street and learn what it takes to make some top quality gin!

Holidays in Cornwall can be synonymous with fish and chips, pasties, ice cream and enjoying a gin and tonic while feeling the sun on your face. Tarquin’s Gin is a delicious Cornish gin bottled in a very unique way but why not attend their gin school to learn what goes into each delicious bottle?



Nestled along St Ives’ beautiful Fore Street and just a stone’s throw away from the St Ives Harbour front, is home to Tarquin’s Gin School & Shop.

Cross the threshold, to discover Tarquin’s family of Cornish Craft Gin, including generous tasters of their flagship Cornish Dry Gin and world-beating SeaDog Navy Gin, as well as in-store exclusives and seasonal limited-editions. Plus, you can also join Tarquin’s Gin School – a unique, hands-on masterclass experience where you can make your very own one-of-a-kind bottle of gin to take home. On arrival, you will be treated to a Tarquin’s & Tonic and share Tarquin’s incredible story behind setting up the first gin distillery in Cornwall for over 100 years.

The team will guide you through the Tarquin’s distilling process and you’ll be able to pick your own selection of botanicals, fire up your own copper pot still and from your unique recipe distil your own one-of-a-kind bottle of gin!

Visit their website for more information