Things to do in St Ives holiday cottages

Things to do in St Ives

Kate W 22 October 2018

St Ives is a cultural centre, known for playing host to the Tate Gallery and for its contrasting landscape of lush greenery and sandy beaches. This beautiful seafront town attracts creatives from all over with its range of galleries and exhibitions, there is excellent surf at Porthminster beach, it has a working harbour, endless cafes pubs and award-winning eateries, and of course, a golden sandy coastline.

While you explore, discover works by such artists as Barbara Hepworth, Henri Matisse and Damien Hirst, or enjoy a freshly brewed coffee at one of the eclectic cafes, you could even create your own work of art by sketching the seafront or heading to the hilltops for a panorama suitable for any canvas. 

Take a look at our fine selection of cottages in St Ives and secure your seaside stay. 

St Ives cottages

Read on to discover our guide to the best things to do in St Ives.


Skip to section:


The beaches

The galleries

Seal Island and Godrevy


Food and drink

The history

The sights


About St Ives:

the town

Find this spectacular resort on the rugged northern coast of Cornwall. It sits on the edge of the Penwith Heritage Coast and has a thriving arts scene alongside beautiful sandy beaches. It’s an inspirational place to holiday and is an excellent travel destination for families looking to have a fun getaway and creatives after a cultural experience.

St Ives beaches:

Porthminster Beach
View from Porthminster Beach across to the harbour


In the centre of town, you’ll find Lambeth Walk Beach, a dog-friendly beach that is often overlooked as it’s hidden during high tide but perfect for walking the dog during low tide. For a family-friendly stretch of sand, head to Porthmeor Beach. It claims to be one of Cornwall’s finest beaches and sits just in front of the Tate Gallery, providing the best St Ives has to offer all in one place. Surfers flock to Porthminster Beach while St Ives Harbour Beach is a working harbour in the centre of town with local cafes at its edges, so you can sit down to lunch while watching the boats sail out to sea.

St Ives galleries:

One of the best things to do in St Ives is to visit the amazing galleries. Of course, the best known is the fantastic Tate Gallery but the creative culture has drawn artists from all over so it’s overflowing with tiny independent galleries and exhibition spaces to investigate. 

A couple of other famed galleries in the area include the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden which features work by this prominent artist; Belgrave St Ives: The Gallery, which specialises in work produced in Cornwall; and The Leach Pottery, a small charity that runs classes, events and exhibits throughout the year.

If you fancy a spot of painting yourself then the St Ives School of Painting offers quality art classes for all levels in stunning studios right on Porthmeor beach.  

Seal Island and Godrevy:

Seal Island

Home to a colony of Atlantic grey seals and many seabirds, this island is one of the best things to see in St Ives. The tiny rocky outcrop of Seal Island is west of St Ives and reachable by boat. There are regular trips across during the high season, so you can visit to try and spot the seals. It’s a great wildlife area, so if you’re lucky you might also spot basking sharks, dolphins or porpoises during the ride.

Godrevy Island, just off Godrevy Heritage Coast, is east of St Ives and a beautiful spot that you are also welcome to visit by boat. It’s larger than Seal Island and there is still a chance of spotting a grey seal, while the most sought-after feature is the lighthouse. Tours of the lighthouse are offered during high season and you can also hear about the Stones reef and The Nile shipwreck (1854).

Over on mainland Godrevy, there is plenty more to explore. Park up at the National Trust car park and walk down the beautiful coastline and gaze out to Godrevy Island. This area has its own beach and café with rock pools and sandy stretches so even if the waters are too choppy for a boat ride across to the island, it’s a fantastic area to visit and investigate.

St Ives accommodation:

St Ives Hideaway

Known for its exciting art scene and stunning turquoise waters, St Ives is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall, and where better to stay than in one of our fantastic self-catering holiday cottages. From coastal properties, so you have the best views of the beautiful coastline, to romantic cottages and cottages with hot tubs, ideal for a couples retreat, we have a great range of accommodation to suit you. 

St Ives cottages

St Ives food and drink:

Scarlet Wines, Lelant is an off-beat, stylish bar, café and wine shop. Once you’ve enjoyed one of their tapas-style lunches, peruse the shelves for a wine to take home for your evening. 

If you visit Tate Gallery, you must head across to Porthmeor Beach Café which is directly opposite. 

Book in for an evening at The Mermaid, one of St Ives's oldest restaurants and great for a family meal with kids. They specialise in fresh seafood dishes and it’s a great way to make the most of this seaside holiday resort.

Browse our full guide to St Ives restaurants for more delicious inspiration. 

St Ives history:

Levant mine
Levant Mine near Geevor Tin Mine


It has been home to an eclectic mix of artists, writers and creatives over the years, but before all that, it was a fishing and mining town. You can visit the St Ives Museum or drive down the Penwith Heritage Coast to Geevor Tin Mine, once a working mine but now a heritage centre that welcomes visitors.

Bernard Leach, known as the ‘father of British pottery’, made his home here and his old studio is now The Leach Pottery, a great place to stop by. Meanwhile, the landscape surrounding St Ives plays host to countless ancient Stone and Bronze Age sites.

St Ives sights:

St Ives harbour

One of the best ways to truly see the spectacular beauty of the Cornish coast is by walking or cycling the South West Coast Path. Walk east around St Ives Bay, towards Hayle and you can reach Godrevy Head, or travel west for a more rugged, atmospheric coastal walk. You’ll pass Clodgy Point, and if you are a keen explorer, can follow the trail 9 miles all the way to Cape Cornwall. There’s no need to leave the town for the view though, as St Ives's own harbour is regularly referred to as one of the top holiday views in Cornwall.

Continue investigating this incredible region of the South West. Get inspired by browsing our St Ives holiday cottages, or read more about St Ives holidays.

St Ives cottages

Discover more of Cornwall:

Guide to Cornwall

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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