As lockdown begins to ease and our sense of wanderlust returns, many are flocking to Cornwall and its picturesque seaside towns. And it’s easy to see why…
With its cobbled streets, golden beaches, fisherman cottages and olde-worlde scenery, St Ives town is a treasured bolthole. A cultural hub for artists, independent shops, drool-worthy seafood, charming pubs and impressive surf, there’s a reason this has become the holiday hotspot to visit this summer.
7 dreamy things to do when spending 24 hours in St Ives
Dreaming of a St Ives holiday? Here’s how to spend a perfect 24 hours at this coastline gem.
1. Head to the harbour
Image by Simon Godfrey
The heart of St Ives town, here you’ll find clear, turquoise waters, weather-battered fishing boats and lobster pots lining the street. It’s quite literally postcard perfection.
Even better, the harbour doubles up as both a beach and a busy shopping street. Take a seat and enjoy a morning coffee at one of the many cafes overlooking the bay – your day has only just begun!
2. Meander along Downalong
The jumble of cobbled streets leading away from the harbour is known as Downalong, shortened from ‘down along the harbour’ – how endearing!
Lined with white-washed cottages, independent shops and attractive cafes, Downalong is the quintessential St Ives vibe.
When you’re planning your itinerary of things to do in St Ives, Fore Street should definitely make the cut. In the bustling summer months, the atmosphere on this busy shopping stretch is second to none. Take a slow meander down the winding pavements and…
- Browse sustainable and fashion-forward outdoor wear at The Common Wanderer
- Bask in the stylish lifestyle goodies from Academy & Co
- Get your interior fix from coastal-inspired Cream Cornwall
- Immerse yourself in all things books from the independent St Ives Bookseller
- Try to resist the temptation of cakes and pastries at St Ives Bakery
- Treat yourself to some artwork from New Craftsman Gallery
3. Lose yourself in St Ives’ art scene
When someone asks, “what is St Ives known for?”, don’t be surprised if the answer is its light.
The soft glow that makes every photograph look Insta perfect is often what strikes those who visit St Ives town. Surrounded on three sides by golden beaches and reflective waters creates a unique quality of light that makes working with the landscape a pure delight.
This is the reason why so many artists have been drawn here over the years including renowned sculptor, Barbara Hepworth. An artistic haven, the undercurrent of makers and creatives has resulted in the popular Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden and The Tate Gallery. When you’re planning things to do in St Ives, make sure you carve some time out in your day for a mooch around these spots.
4. Enjoy lunch with a view
Let’s slow down the pace. After all, you are on holiday! Why not treat yourself to a long lazy lunch? You may not be dining while overlooking the French Riviera, but Porthminster Café, with its panoramic coastal views and fresh seafood, will offer the next best thing.
If you fancy going further afield, continue past Porthminster Café and onto the coastal walk to Carbis Bay. After a 25-minute stroll overlooking the sea, you’ll drop into the grand Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate nestled in Carbis Bay beach. Don’t fancy the walk back? Hop on the train at the top of the bay and enjoy a scenic trip back to St Ives town.
Or maybe you fancy something a little more Cornish? Grab yourself a pasty, a slice of fudge and dangle your legs over the harbour for a classic St Ives lunch – but watch out for the seagulls pinching your food!
5. Take a dip in the big blue
To say how small St Ives is, it’s blessed with four main and exceptionally stunning beaches. Whether you fancy yourself a surfer, swimmer, paddleboarder or just want to stroll along the front, you’ll be spoilt for choice:
- Porthmeor: Possibly the best known, Porthmeor beach backs onto the Tate Gallery and is great for surfers and swimmers. If you’ve not had much experience with surfing, St Ives Surf School offer all the facilities you need to get started while staying safe.
- Porthminster: Lined with palm trees and translucent waters, Porthminster is a sight for sore eyes. Ideal for a walk along the water’s edge or even a sunbathe if the weather is up to scratch. It’s also located just a short walk from the bus and train station.
- Harbour beach: St Ives harbour offers its own little beach to sit back and relax on. Rest your feet and watch the boats bobbing around while enjoying an ice cream in the sun.
- Porthgwidden: Often the quietest of them all, Porthgwidden is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of a busy seaside day. Here you will find beach huts and a seafront restaurant too.
6. Don’t miss the sunset
St Ives sure knows how to put on a show at sunset. One of the best spots to watch the sun disappear is the headland with the little chapel, also known as the Island.
Or to really end your day in the Cornish way, head to Porthmeor beach which is still buzzing with life in the summer evenings. Grab yourself a drink and a bite to eat before plonking down on the sand to watch the sun go down behind the waves.
7. A restful night’s kip
To end a very busy day exploring St Ives, it’s time to find a cosy place to rest your head. The town has countless holiday cottages, apartments, B&Bs and hotels to take your pick from.
Whether you fancy a traditional stay in the harbourside Lifeboat Inn, a luxurious night at Blue Hayes Private Hotel overlooking the town or a beachside evening at Pedn Olva, there’s something for everyone. Or get yourself over to Airbnb to browse the many quaint cottages in the heart of the town.
If you prefer to stay somewhere a little quieter than St Ives, head further out towards Carbis Bay, Lelant, Penzance, St Michael’s Mount or Hayle.
Be aware, 24 hours might not be enough…
If I could give you just one piece of advice for enjoying your St Ives holiday it would be give yourself more than 24 hours!
This list of things to do in St Ives is by no means exhaustive. In fact, if you’re anything like me, it’s just the start. I could quite happily spend a full week or more exploring the quieter corners of St Ives and all it has to offer.
If there’s one thing a global pandemic has taught me, it’s to appreciate the goods the UK has to offer. While I’m sure many of you are missing your jaunts to sunnier climates (I feel you), Cornwall really does provide the scenery, activities and sunshine that can only be described as magic.
Amba is a content writer and manager with a passion for storytelling. Based in Yorkshire, when she’s not writing blogs and web copy, you’ll find her with camera in hand exploring places near and far.