Things to do in St Ives

You’ve booked a St Ives cottage so naturally the next thing you want to know is what is there to see and do in St Ives. It is the sort of coastal harbour town that can entertain a family for a summer holiday and leave couples wanting more after their romantic short break. It has not 1, not 2 but 5 beaches in total, all of which can be reached on foot from the heart of the town. From the most westerly beach (Porthmeor Beach) to the east side of the harbour, Porthminster Beach, it takes just 15 minutes on foot. If you want to know more about the beaches of St Ives, we have written a whole section about where they are, if they are dog-friendly and what water sports activities they offer.

Don’t forget to browse our collection of St Ives cottages. We have places with parking directly outside or nearby, dog-friendly cottages in St Ives, cottages with sea views or on the beach and lucury apartments too!

Grab a notebook and make a list of all things to do in St Ives

Our Holiday Guides are written to offer as much help and guidance on what you can find in St Ives. Therefore, they are designed in such a way you can click on a link taking you directly to a providers website. We have pinpointed where they are on a map and give you a taster of what you can expect from an experience with them. In fact, as we are locals, don’t be shy to ask us any questions, we are very happy to share our experiences.

In this part of our St Ives Holiday Guide – Things to do in St Ives, this is what you can expect:

  1. Water sports activity providers
  2. Boat trips
  3. Swimming with horses
  4. Rock pooling
  5. Walks around St Ives with a guide
  6. Theatre antics
  7. Chocolate workshops
  8. See a film at one of the UK’s smallest cinemas
  9. Throw a pot
  10. A photography lesson around St Ives
  11. Learn to paint
  12. Explore the coast on an e-Bike from St Ives
  13. Retail therapy
  14. Go for a walk
  15. Spa treatments
  16. Yoga on the beach
  17. Play Golf
  18. Make and taste your own gin

1. Water sports activities in St Ives

St Ives holidays equals sinking your toes in the softest of sands on any of the 5 beaches. Gaze out to the most beautiful sea or dip a toe. It will be hard to resist not enjoying the water and getting in!

Surfing in St Ives

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. Consequently, it has the best westerly winds and the waves are usually favourable! There is a surf school on Porthmeor beach called St Ives Surf School. They hire out wetsuits and foam boards if you fancy a play without an instructor. Instructors teach 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 is great any time of the year but we recommend getting a good wetsuit for the chillier months.

St Ives Surf School is right on Porthmeor Beach and 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 by clicking on their name above or call them on 01736 793938

Stand up paddle boarding in St Ives

Rather than riding a wave on Porthmeor beach, try paddle boarding from Porthminster Beach or St Ives Harbour Beach.

Paddleboarding is best practiced on a calm sea. The ultimate aim is to be able to stand up on a large, inflatable board and use a single paddle to power forward, backward or steer. It’s an incredibly peaceful exercise to do once mastered.  Paddleboarding is enjoyed on 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!

St Ives Surf School runs water sports activities from either Porthmeor Beach or Porthminster Beach in St Ives.

St Ives Surf School hires a huge selection of surf, paddleboard and kayak equipment. So, make the most of your St Ives holidays, have plenty of fun in the sea. Their paddle board lessons take place from Porthminster Beach. Secure changing rooms and safe valuable storage is also provided upon request.

Visit their website by clicking on their name or call them on 01736 793938

2. Boat trips from St Ives

We love the perspective of St Ives from a boat. Several boat trip organisers along St Ives harbour front will take you to Seal Island (where you will no doubt see seals) to the west and Godrevy Lighthouse to the east. A St Ives local will point out places of interest and landmarks, share local knowledge and their love for the coastal environment and marine life. Additionally, the same boat trip organisers rent out pedalos and offer exhilarating Rib rides. For something a little more special, charter your own boat and explore the coastline for yourselves.

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 St Ives cottage 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 too. For more information and prices, please visit their websites below:


St Ives Lifeboat JAMES STEVENS No.10 is a former RNLI Lifeboat restored to its 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.

Go for a gentle and serene boat trip around the Bay and experience St Ives from the sea. 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 by clicking on their name above for booking information

3. 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! Indeed, we thought it worth adding this to our things to do in St Ives even if it’s not actually based in St Ives. Furthermore, we know so many people who have experienced swimming with horses in Marazion. They return to St Ives glowing and positively exhilarated by the worthwhile experience.

Cornwall Swimming Horses offer the sheer joy of swimming with horses for riders of all abilities.

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.

For more information visit their website by clicking on their name above or call them on 07460 865167

4. Rock pooling

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

All you need is a net, non-slip shoes and perhaps a bucket full of seawater before releasing sea creatures 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!). Explore for a few hours before the tide returns to wet your toes. There are some amazing places to rock pool in St Ives. 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.

5. Walking St Ives with a guide

St Ives is an intricate network of cobbled lanes and narrow roads. It has cut-throughs that pass traditional fisherman cottages, old pilchard presses and net lofts. Our town is rich in history and folklore. Indeed, many of the tales will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Listen to stories of smugglers, pirates, and fishermen’s wives who led 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 where a St Ives expert will show St Ives in all its glory.

Shanty Baba will guide you around St Ives and will share a world of Cornish piskies and pirates!

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 by clicking on the name above for booking information.


6. Theatre antics

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, 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. Book yourselves a ticket to a show at this vibrant and creative theatre that locals and visitors alike love. St Ives holidays with added pizzazz!

Kidz R Us Theatre loves the pizzazz of show business, musicals and young talent.

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 by clicking on their name above or call them on 01739 797007

7. Make your own chocolate

Okay, so you can make chocolate from your own St Ives cottage but why not make it a fun-filled afternoon activity for all the family?  This is a great rainy-day activity with children in St Ives. Expert chocolatiers share their skills in chocolate-making with delicious spoils at the end of the day. In readiness for Easter and Christmas, make your own chocolate gifts to share with loved ones.

Coco Kitchen are expert chocolatiers of St Ives. Their shop, I Should Coco, is 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. If you are heading to the beach first to sunbathe and swim, pick them up on your way back to your St Ives cottage. 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 by clicking on their name above or call them on 01736 798756


8. Visit the cinema on Royal Square

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

Visit their website or call them on 01736 796843

9. 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. Come away with a memento from your holiday in St Ives made by your own fair hand. Wheel-throwing lessons can be booked for beginners to the more experienced ceramicists. Go on, 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 by clicking on their name above to book your pottery lesson.

10. Photography lessons around St Ives

There isn’t a corner of St Ives that can’t be photographed and framed. Every single angle is utterly captivating. Indeed, it’s so beautiful surely a lens can’t do it justice? That’s where having an expert landscape photographer can help you capture that award-winning shot to cherish.

100 Steps is an innovative way to get creative and journey through St Ives, capturing shots of your beautiful surroundings as you go!

Your guide for the day will be local photographer, Gavan Goulder, whose aim will be to share a unique lens for you to view St Ives through all whilst leading you on a tour that will develop your photography skills. Stopping every 100 steps or so, you’ll have the opportunity to practice many different photography styles including nature, landscape and of course, capturing some of the little details that make St Ives so special. Gavin will provide you with your own Fujifilm X-T2 professional camera, so no need to have your own kit! You’ll also have the opportunity to take back your own print of your favourite photo you have taken. 100 Steps welcomes all abilities with plenty of individual tuition.

Visit Gavan’s website by clicking on 100 Steps above or call him on 07956 550173

11. Learn to paint

St Ives in Cornwall has the most special and unique light. Artists find it hard to express in words yet can commit their love for it on canvas beautifully. What’s not to love about rugged, yellow gorse-lined clifftops? Golden sandy beaches and colourful boats in St Ives Harbour. Orange rooftops cascade down the hill to meet the turquoise sea. From moody, stormy skies to cloudless expanses of deep blue, there is so much to inspire great pieces of artwork for 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 pledged, 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 by clicking on the school name above or call them on 01736 797180 for more booking information

Barnoon Arts and Workshop love nothing more than to capture St Ives’ special light and landscape 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 by clicking on their name above or call them on 0790 0095203 for more information on their courses

12. Hire an e-bike

Rent an e-bike and enjoy cycling (almost) effortlessly along some of the most scenic coastal routes in Cornwall. What better way to explore West Cornwall? Pack a picnic, sun cream, and a map then head off to explore. You will find 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!

St Ives eBikes provide fabulous bikes for exploring spectacularly beautiful coastal routes and 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 by clicking on their name above or call them on 07536 171214

13. Retail therapy

There are many independent shops in St Ives with wonderful clothing and gifts for sale.  Scrumptious delis selling local food and drink. Fore Street is lined with shops starting from the market square down to the Harbourfront. Find clothing, jewellery, candles, cosmetics and so much more. St Ives has possibly everything your heart can desire and that is just along the cobbled street in the heart of the town! Branching from Fore Street is the Harbour and the Wharf with beautiful, narrow streets. Each has equally interesting and attractive shops so we thoroughly recommend you explore to find the hidden treasures and treat yourselves.

14. 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.  Beach hop and visit galleries and cafes serving Cornish coffee and homemade cakes. Try stress-busting and relaxing walks where senses wake-up and are refreshed by the sea air and glorious landscapes.

Other walks around St Ives will get the heart rate up and thighs burning! We love the App iWalkCornwall with a variety of walks available. It guides  walkers step by step using a mobile phone or smartwatch. Learn about local and historical information along the way. Distances range from 3 miles to 7 miles and you are 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.

15. Get a treatment at a Spa

Coming to 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, manicures and 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 by clicking on their name above 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 by clicking on their name above or call them on 01736 257000

16. Yogis on the beach

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 by clicking on ‘yoga on the beach’ above or call Lucy on 07817 968936

17. Play a round of golf

The pleasure and benefits of playing a round of golf are many and is often a social activity with quite a few hours passed catching up with a friend. It is great exercise plus boosts mood. 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. Indeed, a round of golf is made instantly even more pleasurable with expansive sea views. Best done on a sunny, warm day but both golf courses are open all year round if you are an all-weather player.

West Cornwall Golf Club is located in Lelant overlooking St Ives Bay and Hayle Estuary, the views from this 18-hole golf course are divine.

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 by clicking on their name above or call them on 01736 753401 to book your next round of golf

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 by clicking on ‘Tregenna Castle’ above or call them on 01736 795254 to book your next golf round

18. Make and taste gin

Go to Gin School and become a gin master by attending 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 and ice cream. It may also mean sipping 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?

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

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 select botanicals, fire up a copper pot still and from your unique recipe distil a one-of-a-kind bottle of gin!

Visit their website by clicking on their name above to book your place on a gin-making course