Our guide to holidays in St Ives
With award after award under its belt, the harbour town of St Ives is frankly gorgeous. Crowned (and quite rightly too we think) the best destination for a family holiday by that clever lot at Coast magazine, St Ives is home to golden sandy beaches, sleepy boats bobbing in the harbour and some of Cornwall’s prettiest scenery.
Famed for its brighter than bright natural light, the town’s always attracted artists keen to take advantage and capture the scenery, and that’s given St Ives a friendly character that makes it easy to slow down, relax and embrace Cornwall life for a few days. St Ives holidays are all about visiting some of the county’s best-loved attractions, long lazy days enjoying the beaches, and walking miles of dramatic coastal footpaths.
If you’re travelling to St Ives by train then prepare to be impressed even before you step onto the platform…the St Ives Bay line is one of the most scenic stretches of train line we’ve ever come across, and you can play “spot the fishing boats” on the way!
Things to do in St Ives
St Ives holidays may be perfect for those of you in need of some time out and relaxation, but there are plenty of ways to get out and about and enjoy the resort while you’re there. Firstly, there’s the chance to hop aboard a boat and head for the horizon and a slice of adventure, well a few miles off the coast to Seal Island at least. Home to (yep, you guessed it) a colony of Grey Atlantic seals, pleasure boats ferry lucky visitors across the bay for a spot of seal watching throughout the summer, and as the seals are used to visitors coming to say hello they’ll carry on just as they were while you watch.
And then there are the beaches. One of our favourite things to do in St Ives is absolutely nothing, and to do it on the beach. The four main stretches of sand to choose from during your St Ives holiday are Porthmeor, Porthgwidden, Harbour beach, Porthminster – and Porthminster’s the place to head if you’re hoping to catch some waves. With views right across the bay to Godrevy Lighthouse and a golden arc of sand to tempt you, Porthminster Beach has fluttering palms, a mild climate and safe swimming…what more do you need in life? One of Trip Advisors top 10 beach destinations in Europe, Si Ives is a haven for beach bums who love nothing more than to lie back on the sand and listen to the waves.
St Ives attractions
Now for the St Ives attractions…we’ve got to start with Tate St Ives. With a setting overlooking Porthmeor Beach, the Tate St Ives hosts some of the most influential exhibitions in the world of art, and we couldn’t think of a more fitting location for it. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is also managed by Tate St Ives, and if you’re going to be visiting both attractions you can buy a ticket that includes admission to them both.
Godrevy Lighthouse is another St Ives attraction, and pleasure boats ferry visitors across the bay to get a closer look. Made famous by Virginia’s Woolf’s novel ‘To the Lighthouse’, the lighthouse was built to safeguard ships from the perils of Stones Reef. If you hop aboard one of the boat trips to the lighthouse the skipper will make sure you don’t miss a thing. You’ll pass quiet coves once used by smugglers after nightfall, shipwreck sites and – if you’re really fortunate – even a dolphin or two.
Now, stand beside the harbour and you’ll see the Sloop Inn, a fourteenth century inn still popular with visitors and locals, and if you wander behind it you’ll find what we’d say is the ‘real St Ives’. Narrow cobbled streets wind their way between historic buildings, and one of them houses St Ives Museum, another of the town’s attractions. Right in the heart of the town’s historic fishing area (known as Downlong), the museum building started life as a pilchard curing cellar, but these days it’s packed with artefacts that tell the story of the region’s history.
Restaurants in St Ives
So, where to eat when you’ve had your day of discovery in and around St Ives? Well, our Laura and her husband Ben recommend The Red River Inn, which you’ll find in the village of Gwithian nearby. This is the kind of Cornwall pub where everyone’s welcome, so you’ll find surfers fresh from the waves, dog walkers relaxing after a good long walk, and families enjoying an al fresco meal in the beer garden.
The Lakeside Cabin Café’s the most popular spot for something to eat in St Ives according to those of you who’ve taken to Trip Advisor…and who are we to disagree? There’s a cosy feel to this little cabin café in Lelant that makes it a pleasure to sit for a while come rain or shine, and its biggest draw is that everything’s homemade from scratch.
The Hidden Kitchen & Dining may be tucked quietly in the older area of St Ives, but it’s still up there with the most popular eateries. If you’re after a meal with just a hint of luxury and a unique setting to boot, this is perfect. The menus reflect the restaurant’s setting, serving up the freshest seafood and the real tastes of the region in the form of meat dishes with the wow factor, and everything’s presented so beautifully we deft you not to snap your plate for Instagram before you tuck in!