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St Ives, Cornwall
Photograph: Shutterstock

17 things to do in St Ives

Looking for the best things to do in St Ives? Expect golden beaches, epic sunsets and plenty of modern art

Written by
Katie Gregory
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Everyone loves St Ives. Cornwall’s most charming town is everything visitors want this gorgeous part of the world to be, featuring weather-beaten pubs, vanishing beaches, shimmering light and architectural magnificence at every turn. Tate St Ives is the town’s leading act, but its artistic streak extends far beyond that rightfully celebrated spot, although it is easy to comment that St Ives is art in town form.

Yeah, St Ives is lyrical, we can say that much. The best things to do in St Ives will stir the imagination and relax the heart all at once. Embrace everything this place has to offer, and you’re in for the trip of a lifetime. Also, seafood! Beaches! Come on, it is Cornwall; what else do you expect?

A perfect day in St Ives: the best things to do

First up
Adam Gibbard

First up

Head for the harbour – the beating heart of St Ives for centuries. Sheltered by a pier at both ends, the water is cross-hatched by colourful boats from the crack of dawn. Pick up a coffee from The Pier Coffee Bar by Smeaton’s Pier and watch the fishermen haul in their catch.

Soak up the vibes

Soak up the vibes

Porthmeor Beach is a haven for surfers and bodyboarders. Learn the ropes at St Ives Surf School, or just paddle in the shallows. Rather not get wet? The wide beach is as chilled as they come – as are the drinks served on the Beach Café’s terrace.

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Stop for lunch

Stop for lunch

Anchor yourself at Porthminster Café for net-fresh seafood and a side order of sea views. It’s right on the sand of Porthminster Beach. Seafood not your thing? Grab a burger from Blas Burgerworks tucked away in The Warren – you’ll struggle to find a bad review.

Drink like a local

Drink like a local

For a pint with a view, try The Sloop Inn on the harbourfront. Sit outside and drink every time an unsuspecting tourist loses their lunch to a seagull. For real ale, it’s got to be The Castle Inn on Fore Street. Wherever you’re drinking, get a view of the ocean – the sunsets here are legendary.

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Splash the cash

Splash the cash

Fore Street lines up shops and galleries like they’re going out of fashion. Try Porthminster Gallery for art, although individual artists’ studios are your best bet for original pieces at knock-down prices. The excellent Leach Pottery museum, gallery, studio and shop has been excelling in the pottery world since 1920, a must for pottery experts and amateurs alike. 

Explore history
Photograph: Geevor Tin Mine

Explore history

Geevor was a working mine for over 80 years, employing some 400 at its peak, before its closure in 1990 after the crash in tin prices had rendered the huge clifftop operation economically unfeasible. Following a multi-million-pound preservation programme, which included the addition of the interactive Hard Rock Museum, the mine was brought back to life as a visitor attraction. The site has been sensitively adapted, leaving the workings of the mine wonderfully intact – everything from the hulking machines of the compressor house and the ore processing mill down to the helmets and paperwork of the employees remains in place. Visits culminate with an underground tour of the tunnels, conducted by ex-miners – an experience that is as emotive as it is claustrophobic.

 

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Get active

St Ives is a haven of relaxation, but there are plenty of ways to take in the scenery while getting a bit of exercise. The Cornish Way cycle track is very manageable and very flat, making it a marvellous way to while away the day in this part of the world. The route runs from Penzance to Marazion (with access to St Michael’s Mount).

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When you’ve soaked up St Ives’s artistic vibes, find your own inspiration inland at Treehouse on the Lake. This rural high-rise – a treehouse 20 feet above the forest floor – is a lush place to call home for a day or two. Cleanse yourself of your London existence by wandering through woodland, stargazing or listening to the sounds of the forest from your timber terrace. The treetop hideaway might even inspire you to make your own art. But if your creative endeavours don’t go to plan, you can always feast at the on-site restaurant or laze in the heated pool and spa instead. Looking for something a little more modern? When it comes to modern high design, Salt House is unrivalled in these parts. Owned by graphic designers Alan and Sharon Spencer, this large rental occupies a modernist wood-clad cube of a house in Carbis Bay, with two pristine white rooms of very generous proportions and serious design credentials.

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