There are so many reasons to choose St Ives as your next holiday destination, whatever time of year it is! Let us tell you what we know about St Ives in Cornwall and why it is voted one of the best holiday destinations in the UK.
St Ives Beaches
There are 5 beaches in St Ives. For a coastal small town, that means the distance to walk between beaches is really minimal! We’re not talking needing to walk coastal paths or cliffs between them either, they are easily accessible from one side of the harbour town to the other. The names of the beaches are:
- Porthmeor Beach
- Porthminster Beach
- Porthgwidden Beach
- St Ives Harbour Beach
- Bamaluz Beach
We have gone into a lot of detail about each of these beaches in our St Ives Guide – Beaches where you can find out about any dog restrictions, if and when the RNLI Lifeguards patrol the beaches, if there are public loos nearby and whether there are beach cafes too.
Insider knowledge – if the wind is blowing strongly on Porthmeor beach, head to the Harbour beach and you will be beautifully sheltered and vice versa. There is a car park just above Porthmeor Beach but it’s only short stay which means no parking for any longer than 3 hours. The best car park for Porthmeor Beach is Barnoon car park as it is a long stay (more on this under ‘parking in St Ives’). Porthmeor Beach is the best place for sunsets!
St Ives Restaurants
There are many restaurants in St Ives! Again, for a small coastal town, there is a huge choice. Most of the restaurants are around the harbour and have dreamy sea views. Some of these also have outdoor tables but, given the restricted space along either The Wharf or the Harbour front, there aren’t a great number that have the option for outdoor dining or many tables outdoors. There are a few restaurants worth visiting that aren’t along the waterfront and these are on Fore Street, Fish Street, The Digey and The Warren. It’s worth reading our St Ives Guide – Food and Drink for detailed listings and descriptions of what restaurants are in St Ives and how to contact them. What makes St Ives restaurants so special? The produce is fresh and local from Cornwall plus the views are quite spectacular, most particularly from the beach restaurants on Porthmeor Beach, Porthgwidden Beach and Porthminster Beach!
St Ives caters for vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters plus there are quite a few that are very welcoming to children and pets. Read our St Ives Guide to find out the minute detail, we promise not to have left anything out!
Insider knowledge – We strongly recommended to book tables far in advance of St Ives holidays; we mean months in advance! Even 10 months in advance if for New Year’s Eve, seriously, the demand is incredible. Book a table at Porthmeor Beach Cafe or The Fish Shed in the summer and stay until late as you will be sure to catch an amazing sunset. Most restaurants stay open all year round in St Ives but the odd few close for January and sometimes February so it is worth checking if your favourite is open if you are planning a winter getaway.
By The Sea
Being a coastal town with 5 beaches, there is quite a lot of outdoor fun to be hard, whatever the weather! Try any of these activities in St Ives:
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Rib riding
- Horse riding
- E-bike riding
- Coast path walking
- Sea swimming
There is a surf school in St Ives plus, from Porthminster Beach, kayaks and paddle boards can be hired and tuition is available also. St Ives E-bikes has a great showroom in the heart of the town so you can take your pick of bikes and get some great guidance on where to explore.
We have a whole list of other Things To Do in St Ives which doesn’t mean being in the water, so dip into our St Ives Guide to get some inspiration on what activities there are to do in St Ives whatever the weather.
Insider knowledge – the sea warms up from late May onwards and so if you prefer to be in warmer water, dipping a toe during Whit holidays, you can expect it to be around 13.5 degrees. The sea is at its warmest in August and September being 17 degrees. There are no known sharks in our sea (well, apart from Basking Sharks that you will normally see off the west coast of Cornwall coast paths in September. They are huge and only eat plankton!) and you will occasionally see a jellyfish. Beware of weever fish at the shallows, weever fish hide beneath the sand so you can’t see them and they sting so the first thing to do is head straight to the Lifeguard who will help administer first aid. Don’t worry, the sting fades just like a jellyfish sting but it is unpleasant when it happens! St Ives Surf School is open all year round but the kayak hire and tuition from Porthminster Beach is seasonal.
St Ives is well known as being a place where artists visit for its magnificent and unique light. It really does uplift the spirits and inspires many by offering the most incredible coastal colours at their very best. It is no surprise then that the choice of galleries is vast plus The Tate St Ives above Porthmeor Beach is a big favourite for many St Ives visitors. Barbara Hepworth museum and The Leach Pottery are visited all year round and The Tate is open all year also. There are independent galleries along Fore Street as well as Lambert Walk, Street-an-Pol and The Wharf. If you simply mooch around St Ives with no set destination on the compass, you pass a gallery almost every shop!
There are some monuments to visit in St Ives too such as The Malakoff boasting a Barbara Hepworth sculpture or Knills Monument on Steeple Hill. There’s also the infamous Little Green Door on Virgin Street which is purported to be over 200 years old and a much loved relic of old St Ives. We have a list of these must-see places under our St Ives Guide Places to Visit
Insider knowledge – you will need to book tickets to visit the busier museums and galleries such as Barbara Hepworth museum but most are open all year round with perhaps slightly shorter hours during mid-winter. St Ives Museum closes over the winter and some art galleries close in January so again, worth doing some checking before planning a visit.
St Ives is in the south west of Cornwall and is just 20 miles from Land’s End (the most south westerly point of the UK). The climate is very different to the rest of the UK and is the reason why exotic gardens thrive down here. Here is what to expect across the year:
Winter in St Ives
Expect mild weather when the rest of the UK is getting minus temperatures. It has been known to be 20 degrees difference between Oxford and St Ives mid-winter. Oxford -8 degrees, St Ives 12 degrees! We hardly get any snow in St Ives. The last proper snowfall was when the Beast from the East hit the whole of the UK in 2018. In fact, frost in St Ives is rare. What you can expect is mild, wet and windy weather during mid to late winter. Storms predominantly hit in November and February so great for huge wave watching. Beach walks in winter mean wrapping up against the wind but are invigorating and, quite often a sheltered corner can be found where layers are removed as it’s so warm.
Spring in St Ives
Expect to see acres and acres of flowering daffodil fields in Spring as you drive through Cornwall. Where most of the UK see their first daffodil in March/ April, most are flowering from early February in Cornwall. March can be typically like the saying – in like a lion, out like a lamb – the temperature can range between 8 degrees to 15 degrees (in one day sometimes!). Between April and May, the weather settles where rain is less prolonged and sunny showers leave gardens across the county in an early bloom. May tends to heat up quickly like the rest of the UK and top temperatures are around 20 degrees. On a beach, sheltered from any breeze, the temperature can feel as much as 25/26 degrees.
Summer in St Ives
Days are long and temperatures are often between 22 degrees and 30 degrees. The one thing that can occasionally happen in St Ives during the summer is sea mist when just 5 miles across the peninsular it is flooded in warm sunshine. This is because St Ives is surrounded by sea and is almost an island in itself so when warm, moist air flows over the sea, it can cause sea mist. It normally hovers over the town for the morning and the sun then burns it away. It can happen maybe for one or two days in August mainly. Rain showers can happen during the summer much like the rest of the UK but these are normally infrequent and when the sun comes back out again, it’s hot.
September is often referred to as one of the best months to visit St Ives as it’s normally holding onto the heat of the summer and sunsets are slightly earlier and spectacular. September can be a dry month with very few showers and the sea temperature is at its warmest too. October sees the start of rain showers and wind picking back up again but with pockets of settled weather that is 4 or 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the UK. November can be a stormy month with storms reaching our coastline from across the pond. Perhaps the storms are not as dramatic as when they are hitting the USA and, by the time they cross Ireland and reach Cornwall, they are still impressive but not as destructive.
Overall, when you look at the weather maps on TV, temperatures over St Ives are often 5-10 degrees warmer than the rest of the UK in winter and around 5 degrees cooler in the summer.
St Ives residents and visitors
The population of St Ives is just over 5,400 (taken from the 2021 census). The residents mainly live higher up in the town as most of the houses in the heart of St Ives are now holiday homes. There are exceptions to this so if you book a holiday cottage in St Ives with Orange Roofs, we will let you know if local residents live nearby. There is just one last resident in one of the Downalong streets! There are quite a few holiday letting agencies in St Ives who manage the properties in St Ives and much of these are checked during quieter times and the streets can seem eerily quiet. During the pandemic, St Ives felt like a ghost town with tumbleweed and very dirty windows. Many local residents of St Ives have jobs within tourism so whether it’s working at the holiday home agencies, housekeeping staff, restaurant and bar staff, RNLI Lifeguards, boat ride operators, tradesmen and women, St Ives tour guides, shop and gallery assistants, chefs, kitchen staff, fishermen and so on, it is to service the tourism sector and continue to make it a popular holiday resort for many visitors.
There are hundreds and hundreds of holiday cottages in St Ives. At Orange Roofs, we like to keep things at a high standard, small and personal so we only manage 38 holiday homes in St Ives, 2 in Carbis Bay, 1 in Hayle and 1 near Zennor. During the peak weeks, Easter to September, the town livens up considerably with a lot of the holiday accommodation providers being fully-booked. This means our small coastal town becomes a lot busier around the streets and the beaches fill up too. Thankfully, with there being 5 beaches, there is plenty of room for everyone! The car parks fill up with people who park in a space and don’t move their for a week plus day visitors too as well as coach trips.
If it is a peaceful coastal village with very few visitors during July you want; St Ives is not the destination for you! St Ives is a holiday destination in itself where many people take their St Ives holidays annually and they don’t feel the need to explore much further afield. There is enough to do for the whole family without visiting a same restaurant twice plus things to do and places to visit too. St Ives is very close to other incredible beauty spots of Cornwall which are well-worth visiting when staying in St Ives so it may be worth booking a holiday cottage in St Ives with parking to facilitate this easier. To see where is also worth planning a visit when staying in St Ives, check out our Guide to Cornwall.
Parking in St Ives
There are 7 long stay and 2 short stay Cornwall Council car parks in St Ives. Long stay means you can park for 24 hours and for days at a time so a week or a fortnight stay is absolutely fine! Short stay means you can only park for up to 3 hours before moving your car. After 6pm, you can park at the short stay car park called The Sloop (just behind The Sloop Inn) until the following morning when it reverts back to short stay. To get much finer details on parking in St Ives, read our St Ives Guide – Getting Around
Doctors and A&E
There is a doctors surgery in St Ives called The Stennack Surgery and their number is 01736 793333 which has a Boots Pharmacy next door to it. To walk to the surgery, you head up the hill from the cinema on Royal Square and the surgery is at the top of the hill next to the little mini roundabout.
The nearest A&E is at West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance. There is also an A&E at Royal Cornwall Hospital otherwise known as Treliske Hospital in Truro.
Insider knowledge – The Boots in St Ives town centre no longer has a pharmacy. The nearest pharmacy to the town centre is Leddra’s on Fore Street.
In the case you have a dental emergency, unregistered patients on holiday in St Ives and Carbis Bay should call Smile Together on 0333 405 0290. A dentist will give advice about the dental problem and any patients who require emergency treatment will be referred to an Urgent Dental Care Hub. If it is out of hours, call NHS 111.
We definitely hope you never need to visit a vet while on holiday in St Ives with your dog. If you do need a vet’s help, there is a vets practice in St Ives and it’s called St Ives Veterinary Surgery and there is another in Carbis Bay called Animal Vets
Supermarkets/ grocery shops
Tesco is the only supermarket within a mile of St Ives located in Carbis Bay. The next nearest is Asdas in Hayle and also there is a Lidl just off Logan Moor roundabout at the bottom of the A30 in Hayle. There are five supermarkets in Penzance; Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl and Co-op.
There are a couple of local grocery shops in St Ives; Norway Stores is on Back Road West and is the most local shop to anyone staying in the Downalong and Porthmeor area. There are two smaller co-op shops in the heart of St Ives in Royal Square and Tregenna Place and another at the top of The Stennack which has a few parking spaces outside.
Fresh fish in St Ives
If you want to buy freshly caught mackerel, talk a stroll on Smeaton’s Pier and ask one of the local fishermen as they land their catch of the day. Otherwise, head to the fish counter at the Beach Restaurant at the end of the harbour front before reaching Fore Street where there is a selection of fresh fish. If you want an even greater choice of freshly caught shellfish and fish, head to Newlyn and visit Trelawny Fish and Deli.
Banks/ cashpoints/ foreign currency
There is just one bank in St Ives and that is Barclays Bank on High Street and it has a cashpoint. There is a cashpoint outside Colenso’s shop on Royal Square in St Ives and inside McColls on Tregenna Place. There is also a cashpoint inside the Co-op on The Stennack and inside Carnellis Stores off Tremar Road. If you travel to Penzance, you will find more banks available so we recommend you check online to check what opening times. For foreign currency, head to the Post Office on The Wharf.
Public transport in St Ives
There is a train station in St Ives which is the end of a branch line from St Erth. Travelling by train to St Ives is on the GWR train service (Great Western Railway) and it means a change at St Erth before stopping at Carbis Bay and then St Ives. There is a bus station in St Ives located at The Malakoff and buses run from St Ives across West Cornwall. The bus service that runs from St Ives is First Bus so check out their timetables online.
You have a choice of a few taxi firms in St Ives a list of these can be found in detail at the bottom of our St Ives Guide – Getting Around. There is a taxi rank next to the cinema in Royal Square where it is a first come, first served basis.
How dog-friendly is St Ives?
St Ives welcomes dogs with their well-behaved owners. There are a number of poo bins around the town so you’re never carrying poop very far! There are dog-friendly restaurants and cafes in St Ives and the beaches are mostly open to dogs all year round with some summer seasonal restrictions. There is a section in our St Ives Guide that is entirely focussed on how dog-friendly is St Ives – here you can find tips on where to eat with them, where to walk them, the rules around beach restrictions, which galleries accept dogs, where to get them washed, dried and clipped as well as some doggy day care options too.
How accessible is St Ives?
Sadly, St Ives is not very accessible. It is on a hill so the only flat walking area is around the harbour, Wharf, Downalong and Porthmeor. When visiting St Ives, you will find a lot of:
Push along wheelchairs can be hired from a St Ives company called Star Linen Equipment Hire
Beach wheelchairs can be hired from Porthminster Beach Cafe by calling 01736 795352 and the same Sand chairs can be hired from other beach towns in Cornwall, check out this map for more information – click Sand_Chair_Map_Hire
Mobility scooters can also be hired for your holiday to St Ives and we recommend contacting Mobility Scooter and Wheelchair Hire Cornwall
Book a St Ives Holiday with Orange Roofs
Our pledge is that you will leave your holiday in St Ives having felt thoroughly looked after. Holidays are precious and so incredibly deserved; this is why we take our job super seriously. The self-catering holiday cottages we handpick all offer something special. The upkeep, maintenance and presentation is the first thing that guests see and we work tirelessly so that each experience is a happy one. Don’t take our word for it though, read the reviews on our website and Google ‘Orange Roofs’ and read our Google reviews (last count was 70 reviews that all (but one!) mean the world to us!)
Artist’s Light is a delightful property, tastefully decorated and really well equipped with the perfect view – watching the sea and boats from the sitting room and people-watching in Fore Street from the kitchen. This is our second Orange Roofs property and we have been really impressed both times, not only with the property but also with the customer service and care and information. A great experience all round.
It is rare to find a Company as dedicated to customer service as Orange Roofs. Their attention to detail in ensuring that from the moment of booking to the end of your stay is perfect in every way. Our apartment was not only spotlessly clean but truly wonderful – ensuring that our time in St Ives could not have been more perfect. Orange Roofs really have set the bar to another level, we will definitely be back with you again very soon…