St Ives Town Guide
Overview and History
A firm favourite with locals and visitors St Ives is a beautiful beach and harbour where tourists flock to enjoy the fabulous views and the harbour. The town sits directly above the harbour and is famous for not just the harbour but the gallery and museum too. St Ives is also well positioned on the north coast and is not too far from many other attractions such as Land’s End and the Minack Theatre. Historically St Ives was a fishing port and this was the main trade in the town. In 1877 the Great Western Railway reached St Ives making it a tourist destination for the Victorians. Over the years the fishing has declined and the main trade for the town is tourism. The harbour is still in use today albeit for more commercial reasons like tourist fishing.
In 1999 the town was the first landfall of the total solar eclipse on August 11th. There was a display by the Tate Gallery all around the Eclipse.
St Ives is also known for its Art culture and its branch of the Tate Gallery. In 2010, a BBC Four film, The Art of Cornwall, presented by James Fox said that the St Ives artists “went on to produce some of the most exhilarating art of the twentieth century…for a few dazzling years this place was as famous as Paris, as exciting as New York and infinitely more progressive than London.”
In more recent years St Ives has been awarded Best Seaside Town by the Guardian in 2007 and Best Seaside Town by The British Travel Awards both in 2010 and 2011. This absolute gem of a town is a must see when in Cornwall. The population of St Ives is around 11,000 but this rises dramatically in the summer months.
As you can imagine the actual town is a limited size down by the harbour so the best thing to do is to park in one of the designated car parks and then make your way into the town. There are some select spaces in the town but you would be very lucky to get one and most are for permit holders only. There is a car park and a park and ride train with gorgeous sea views as it makes it way down to the town centre. This is probably the best option particularly if you have bags for the beach or small children. There is a train station so you can arrive by rail, please check the availability but there are a lot more routes in the summer months. Then there are buses going from all other Cornish towns into St Ives which also bring people into the town from some of the car parks.
There are some simply stunning places to stay in St Ives, head over to our accommodation section to see what options we have, apartments, houses and bed and breakfast. St Ives is a firm favourite so my advice would be to book early to avoid disappointment.
Here are a selection of properties in the area, available now:
There are many beaches in the area, firstly the beach on St Ives Harbour which when the tide is out is a beautiful sandy beach and you can walk around to Porthminster beach from there. St Ives harbour has the bustle of the town and there is lots to do here and places to eat etc, but it will be busy. If you wander over to Porthminster Beach then you have a larger beach with inviting water to play in. The beach is manned by lifeguards in peak times making it a very safe beach for children. You will also find a cafe here and all amenities that you will need. Gwithian Beach is another favourite, the waves are ideal if you want to try surfing or body boarding, there are rock pools perfect for kids and sand great for relaxing on. The beach is dog friendly and has a cafe and toilets. Porthmeor beach, another great place for surfing with rock pools and stunning turquoise water, just idyllic. Carbis Bay beach is another beach within a town so lots to do around the beach and different places to eat and drink. There is a car park at the bottom so try and get in there if you can as the other car parks are quite a trek up a hill. You can take a tour of the beaches on a boat if you would like a relaxing way to explore the amazing coastline. Watersports are available as well depending on the beach and time of year, stand up boarding, kayaking, surfing, swimming etc.
Clearly one of the biggest attractions in St Ives is the harbour and the gorgeous beaches. Depending on where you go you can always find some fantastic activities going on. St Ives Watersports and Ocean Sports are 2 fine companies offering fully qualified coaches to assist you in whatever you want to have a go at. Some of the favourites are of course, surfing, kayaking and stand up boarding, windsurfing and coasteering. There are boat trips available from St Ives for scenic trips but you can also try your hand at fishing too. St Ives has a selection of fishing trips for you to sign up to. Of course Art is a massive part of the culture in St Ives and there are many galleries to peruse as well as museums. The Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden is a firm favourite here and if you purchase a special ticket you can get access to the Tate as well. The Tate is a clear favourite and is known for being one of the best positioned galleries in the country with its location. The Tate features fantastic modern art and also as exhibitions is you time your visit right. Leach Pottery is also in St Ives, this renowned master potter’s work is displayed here and there are guided tours as well. I simply can’t list all of the galleries here as it would take too long but if art is your thing then you will be in your element here in St Ives.
Although not in the town itself I need to mention the Minack Theatre, this truly amazing theatre is carved into a cliff and is a truly incredible experience if you visit. You can either visit and tour it during the day or you can see a procustion in the evening but you would need to purchase a ticket in advance for this so please check out their website, i highly recommend the Minack and it is only 18 miles away from St Ives.
Food, Drink and Entertainment
As you can imagine St Ives has a wide selection of restaurants throughout the town and will cater for just about anything you want. Fresh local fish are served in a number of restaurants. The harbour Seafood restaurant and One Fish Street are a really good start for some amazing seafood. If you want an awesome burger with a breathtaking view then Hub box right on the harbour is the place for you. There are countless amounts of cafes and smaller establishments that you can just grab a sandwich or of course a Cornish Pasty or a cream tea. You won’t have to walk fat to be able to explore the many food establishments in and around the harbour. If you have a self catering place then there are also some fantastic take away restaurants from Indian to Chinese, a perfect end to a lazy beach day without cooking or getting dressed up. As well as these restaurants St Ives as you can imagine also has a lot of bars and clubs for you to enjoy a pint during the day or a glass of wine or if you would rather party on into the evening. Try a fabulous selection of cider at the Pilchard Press Alehouse Micro Pub, soak in the view at the Balcony bar and restaurant or dance the night away at The Attic, there really is something for everyone. Check the towns events before you go because you could be lucky enough to b involved with some of the lively celebrations that the town has throughout the year such as, Feast Day in February, May Day celebrations, the food and drink festival and St Ives September festival which lasts 2 weeks and celebrates talent and artists from St Ives and other communities. There is alway something going on in this bustling Cornish Seaside town.