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What to See and Do in St Ives - Surfing, Coastal Walks, and Art

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St Ives is a fantastic destination for all ages, with 4 main sandy beaches close to the town centre where you can build sandcastles, have pasty picnics, and go surfing. The coastline stretches for miles, and boat trips can provide an insight into the town’s ancient fishing industry. Galleries showcase an art scene that has been thriving for decades and attracted artists like Barbara Hepworth.

Water adventures


Surfing is a popular activity in St Ives and there are many surf schools where you can learn how to ride the rolling Atlantic waves. Beaches like Carbis Bay are sheltered with calm waters, and perfect for young children who can paddle or fish for scampering crabs. You can catch a boat from the harbor in town and head out to Seal Island to watch sunbathing seals, or enjoy an exhilarating sea-spraying rib ride around the bay. Kayaking is a great way to explore the coast and guided tours are available.


  • St Ives Surf School, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives TR26 1JZ; Tel: +44 1736 793 938; Website: St Ives Surf School

  • St Ives Boat Rides, St Ives Harbour, The Wharf, St Ives TR26 1LP; Tel: +44 7824 633 447; Website: St Ives Boat Rides

Beach picnics and games


With 4 glorious sandy beaches to choose from, there’s no shortage of fun activities for all ages. You can build sandcastles with kids on Porthmeor, fish for crabs on the harbor foreshore, take a paddle in the calm sea waters at Porthgwidden, or play volleyball on Porthminster before tucking into a delicious Kelly's Cornish ice cream.



Tropical gardens


The sub-tropical climate in St Ives allows exotic shrubs and palms to grow, and there are many green areas and gardens that display scarlet Bellis perennis and tree ferns. Close to town, Trewyn Gardens offers a tranquil setting for a picnic amid colourful pansies, shrubs, green lawns, and wooden benches. The gardens at the Barbara Hepworth Museum boast the British artist’s modern bronze, stone and wood sculptures.



Art galleries and workshops


St Ives has many art galleries, working studios, and schools that run painting and drawing classes, and pottery workshops. When Great Western Railway introduced the Cornish Riviera Express in 1908, a gateway was opened to many artists from London and beyond who flocked to St Ives for its landscapes and fresh sea air. You can browse art shops and galleries, or visit Tate St Ives and take the artist, Ben Nicholson's, walking tour.


  • St Ives School of Painting, Porthmeor Studios, St Ives 
TR26 1NG; Tel: +44 1736 797180; Website: St Ives School of Painting

  • Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives TR26 1TG; Tel: +44 1736 796 226; Website: Tate St Ives


Coastal walks


Cornwall is full of spectacular coastal landscapes and the best way to experience the rugged charm and natural beauty of St Ives is to walk around its coastal paths. As you breathe in the fresh sea air, you can marvel at dramatic views that stretch around the bay to Godrevy Island, which is said to have inspired Virginia Woolf’s famous novel "To the Lighthouse". You’ll learn about the region’s history and you might catch sightings of local wildlife including nesting razorbills and bottlenose dolphins. Seasonal guided tours are available or you can go solo and explore the stunning coastline.


  • Guided Tours of St Ives, The Guildhall, Street-an-Pol, St Ives TR26 2DS; Tel: 07816 180639; Website: Guided Tours of St Ives