Friday, 16 February 2018

What To Do In St Ives Cornwall For A First Time Visitor

St Ives in Cornwall is one of those postcard-perfect seaside towns that Cornwall does well, but it has a depth and appeal that goes beyond the traditional seaside resort, and it is a town that I would recommend a visit to all year round.






With a wealth of funky art galleries, amazing restaurants, cool independent boutiques and artsy gift shops, as well as the powder sand beaches, it caters for almost everyone, from young people to families and older couples alike.

Go for the food

a Cornish pasty shop

The smell of Cornish pasties and fish and chips permeates the air, and your stomach rumblings mean you will finally give in to a mouthwatering layered pasty.  The classic Cornish pasty is a thing of beauty, shaped like a D and crimped on one side. Traditionally made of beef, swede, potato and onion it's a filling snack and one which you should try when in St Ives.




Besides the Cornish pasties, this area is also known for its cream teas, the best comprise of warm scones from the oven, with fruity strawberry jam and clotted cream, thick with a crusty top and gooey centre. Serve with lashings of English breakfast tea, the Cornish cream tea is an iconic afternoon treat.

A cream tea

St Ives is also known for its amazing fresh fish and some of the best restaurants in St Ives feature fish heavily on its menu.  From the Seafood Cafe with fish so fresh it's almost swimming away, to the award-winning Porthminster Cafe, with amazing views, serving sustainable fish and featured in the Good Food Guide, you will be spoilt for choice in St Ives. 

Although it's not sophisticated, don't forget the fish and chips!  This classic seaside staple is something to be enjoyed out of a paper bag, with hot steamy chips reeking of vinegar and white flaky cod in a crisp light batter whilst watching the sun go down. Be careful though of the seagulls who are tremendously cheeky around these parts, or they may make away with a chip or two.

Stay for the art

Porthminster Gallery

Its magical light means it's a haven for artists. Even in the winter, you only have to take a stroll to the seafront to watch budding artists set up their easels by the harbour walls, their long brush strokes capturing the crashing waves. 

In the town there are a number of galleries, selling work by local artists. The Blue Bramble Gallery was a treasure trove of contemporary and traditional designs, from talented painters, sculptors and craftspeople, while the Porthminster Gallery was another exceptional gallery selling artwork and pottery by local artisans. 

Pablo Picasso painting at the Tate St Ives

A highlight of St Ives for us was the Tate St Ives. This modern art gallery, a sister to the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain, is smaller than it's London cousins but still perfectly formed. See amazing works of art from Piet Mondrian, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso to Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. Don't forget to stop off at the rooftop cafe for cappuccino and cake with views over St Ives.

The Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture gardens are also worth a visit. One of the few female British artists of her generation to achieve international prominence, she is particularly known for her modern sculptures.

Shop til you drop

Trelyon Gallery

The independent shops in St Ives have a wealth of gorgeous fashion, home, jewellery and gift shops. Trelyon Gallery sells contemporary jewellery at affordable price points, and I was very tempted by a beautiful silver bracelet, whilst Home and Gift St Ives had some cool retro maps and travel prints that we adored, and the Painted Bird sells a diverse collection of gifts and crafts perfect as a souvenir of your stay.

As well as independent shops there is also a range of well known high street brands, many with a beach/surf theme such as Weird Fish, Fat Face and Seasalt, as well as shops like Joules, Mountain Warehouse and Superdry. 


Seasalt St Ives

Enjoy the coastline



With an abundance of gorgeous blue flag beaches perfect for surfing and windsurfing and rocky outcrops that just invite adventure, St Ives and the surrounding area has just some of the best coastline anywhere in the world.

Why not go rock pooling near the Pedn Olva hotel, or take a boat tour from the harbour to go to Seal Island, where you can see, you guessed it - seals?! The Dolly P boat from St Ives Boats also offers trips to Godrevy Lighthouse and Hell’s Mouth, as well as fishing trips and private charter. 


If you are not lucky to catch the seals, a trip to the Gweek Seal Sanctuary, 40 minutes from St Ives is highly recommended. A sanctuary for marine animals and injured seal pups, you can even have 'breakfast with the seals', where you get a chance to feed the fish their breakfast, have a tour of the sanctuary and later have your own continental breakfast in their cafe in with the ticket price.

Experience the unexpected



When you think you know all that St Ives has to offer, the charm, the food, the scenery, the beaches, the art, the culture, it smacks you in the face with something unexpected. If you are brave one night I recommend going on a ghost walk of the town with Shanty Baba

In the eerie light of a lantern, let this local character tell you stories of fishermen lost, the plague, and ghosts galore. It's immersive, it's spooky, it's based in fact but above all it's entertaining. Definitely recommended.



To find out about the cultural events in Cornwall and what's happening in the area check out Cornwall 365. You can also send for an illustrated atlas of Cornwall's culture and heritage called Find & Seek. Packed with all the interesting events going on throughout the year in Cornwall. With hand-drawn maps and an overlay section that you can personalise this great guide is something you can make into your own personal adventure.


pin for later

So this is my guide on what to do in St Ives Cornwall for a first time visitor.


Check out the video below from the YouTube channel I create with Mr W, Fly Drive Explore, about our travels and laughs around the world as over 40's travel bloggers.




Let me know, have you been to this area of Cornwall? Do any of the activities appeal?




Wander Mum
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46 comments

  1. i remember visiting as a child it left great memories but i would love to visit again with my now children to . there's just so much to do and is so family friendly with a great tourist attraction or two x

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  2. I would love to visit Cornwall again. It sounds as if St. Ives would be a perfect place to go to with those glorious looking beaches, the amazing art scene,the great food and so much more besides. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Hands up I love going to see Seals while I'm in Cornwall, I'm sort I have a photo on Facebook somewhere of me and Sally down by the shore with seals in the background haha!

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    1. Aw that sounds like a lovely photo with Sally the dog. I think the faces of seals are very dog like.

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  4. I would absolutely LOVE to visit there one day! I've heard so many lovely things about Cornwall and it looks like a beautiful place.

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  5. Aww you're in St Ives! This is awesome - it's brilliant down here and most people don't know just HOW GOOD it is. I personally love the cream teas and artwork :)

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  6. You can't go to Cornwall without having a Cornish pasty! I have only been to Cornwall once, when I was very young on a family holiday - I'd love to go back now I'm an adult x

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  7. How have I missed the Tate every visit???? The jewellery shop looks good too next cost for certain both are in the list

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    1. The Tate is behind the main shopping streets. It overlooks the sea but is easy to miss.

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  8. omg, so I recently moved away from Devon and I MISS THE FISH AND CHIPS!!!! (and the scones!) Cornwall is such an amazing place to visit <3

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  9. These pasties and scones look so yummy! The seals look adorable too and they are of my favorite animals! St Ives seems a great choice for a break away from the city!

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  10. omg this makes me miss england so much. I miss the pasties, fish and chips, just everything british!

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    1. Aw! British food gets made fun of but we have some fantastic produce.

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  11. The pastry shop is the first place I would hit. It looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I haven't been since I was about 10, but I would love to go back. It looks like there is so much to do.

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  13. I really need to go back to Wales and explore more. The cream tea is a bit different from what we get in London as "Cream Tea". I am thinking to visit Cornwall around July, Do you think is a good time to be there?

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    1. In London you get afternoon tea which is a selection of sandwiches and cakes as well as scones, and a cream tea is traditionally scones, jam and cream with tea. Well that is my understanding of it, but I may be wrong.

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  14. I definitely want to go to Cornwall for the food! Cornish pasties and fish and chips is my IDEAL seaside holiday – with the ocean air OMG yum! Thanks for the tip on Porthminster Cafe, I can’t wait to try the seafood in St Ives. And as big wildlife fans, I would love to spend time around the coastline, and visit Seal Island. Probably a bit too chilly to swim with them right? Next British holiday, it’s on!

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    1. It's certainly too cold at the moment in the UK, but in the summer people do swim in the sea.

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  15. I have always wanted to go to Cornwall! Looks like an amazing place to visit, the food looks yummy

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  16. I would love to visit Cornwall. My mum visited and recommended both the Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture gardens too - these two things are definitely right up my alley. And the food - you had me at 'cornish pasty'. I've seen videos of the coastal seagulls stealing fish and chips - so funny (and kinda scary!). Will definitely visit one day.

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    1. I would love to see the Barbara Hepworth museum and the sculpture gardens. Yes you have to be aware of the seagulls!

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  17. I’m heading home to Sussex soon and all I would like to do now is eat Cornish pasties and scones! St.Ives is a beautiful place and you have given some great tips for first time visitors, but when I take a trip again there I think I will give the ghost walk a try! Spooky!

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    1. The ghost walk was amazing! He is such a brilliant storyteller.

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  18. I like this place for its quaint qualities. Breakfast with the seals would definitely be high on my list. However, the most intersting is Shanty Baba. I am curious now about what tales he has to share. I bet that was a thrilling experience.

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    1. Check out this video Mr W made https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruq_03SQtb0&t=45s

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  19. St Ives seems like a very charming place which I would love to explore on day, Mellissa. When would it be the best time of the year to explore Cornwall?

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    1. Its very busy in the Summer, so I would say the Spring or Autumn, when the weather is mild and there aren't too many tourists.

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  20. Yknow I've never been to Cornwall? It's on my bucketlist for the year though as I'd like to travel more in Britain!! Need to try some authentic Cornish pasties hehe

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    1. There are many lovely seaside towns to explore like St Ives. I know what you mean though, we go abroad more often than we visit the UK, and that shouldn't be.

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  21. So excited to get back to England next month and enjoy some afternoon teas and English cuisine!! Cornwall definitely appeals to me! #CityTripping (www.caliglobetrotter.com)

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    1. Cornwall is so lovely! It's a gorgeous area to visit.

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  22. I'd love to go to Cornwall for the art scene alone, so many good galleries! #citytripping

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  23. Cornwall is beautiful, St Ives in particular. There’s a real charm about this place. I could imagine myself living there.
    #citytripping

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  24. I didn't know St Ives had a mini Tate gallery - love that! I really need to get back to Cornwall. This looks a perfect break. #citytripping

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  25. That's a great write up - I've not been to Cornwall since I was a kid, so I'll add it to the list of laces in this country I must visit!

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  26. Lovely blog post, St Ives looks a lovely place to visit, with plenty of things to see and do.

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  27. We visited Fowey a couple of years ago and it was lovely but there are lots of other places in Cornwall on my to visit list!

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  28. So many nice eclectic shops and galleries in St Ives.

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  29. It's such a beautiful place,perfect to raise kids in

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  30. I won a trip there to stay at Carbis Bay, and it was magical. The weather was gorgeous, the walks were so scenic. This post has bought back a lot of gorgeous memories. xx

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