It’s undeniable that the beaches in St Ives are among the best – if not the best – in the country.
In fact, they boast the perfect selection of dramatic cliffs that are signature to this part of the country and white-sand shores with palm trees.
From the sandy beach of Porthminster to the gorgeous Carbis Bay, there are so many incredible beaches to love in St Ives.
However, if it’s your first time here, finding the best beaches in St Ives can be tricky. Sometimes you want to surf, other times you’re looking for somewhere just to swim – so which are the best?
I’ve been to St Ives hundreds of times, and have spent many a summer’s day sitting, swimming and attempting to surf on these many beaches!
Best Beaches in St Ives
Porthmeor is the best beach for surfing in St Ives, with huge crashing waves. Many of the surf schools at St Ives offer lessons here.
It’s also one of the only prestigious Blue Flag Beaches in Cornwall; this is an accreditation given to beaches for their cleanliness, safety and great facilities.
Although it’s a surfing beach, Porthmeor is a popular choice for families, largely due to its accessibility to a range of facilities and the comprehensive lifeguard cover.
If the weather turns, you’re only a short walk from St Ives’ restaurants, cafes and bars – plus the TATE St Ives is right here too!
Another Blue Flag Beach in Cornwall, the gorgeous Porthminster arches around St Ives Bay, a bright golden stretch of sand curling up to the coastline.
From Porthminster Beach, take in vistas of St Ives Bay and over to Godrevy Lighthouse.
Thanks to its position in the bay and the seasonal lifeguard cover, it’s a safe swimming beach.
Nearby, find an 18-hole golf course and it’s also only a short walk to St Ives’s best attractions.
If you want a more “off the beaten track” beach, head to Porthkidney Sands.
This sits in the middle of St Ives Bay, close to Lelant, but due to its distance from St Ives and Hayle, the beach is probably the least-visited in the area.
Travelling from River Hayle in Lelant to Hawk’s Point in Carbis Bay, Porthkidney Beach is a lovely hidden gem.
The white sand stretches out and the crashing Atlantic Ocean laps at its shores. Technically, you can walk from here to Carbis Bay on a very low tide – but it moves very quickly, so you really need to know your tide times.
There is a surfing spot here called Hawkes Point, but it can be quite fickle. It’s not advisable to swim, as there are rips and currents here, and no lifeguard cover.
Carbis Bay Beach
Carbis Bay Beach is immensely family-friendly, with gentle waves (and hardly ever any surf).
The turquoise waters have been loved by tourists and locals for centuries – in fact, it was my Cornish grandma’s favourite beach in the entirety of Cornwall!
The sweep of sand is lined by palm trees and other subtropical plants, and it has lifeguard cover in the summer months.
While this is one of the most popular beaches in Cornwall, it does get very busy – especially in the height of summer – so if you’re visiting during July or August then I’d recommend heading down early to secure your spot on the sand!
Porthgwidden Beach is a tiny spot of sand close to the town centre, just by St Ives “island”, this beach is perfect if you want somewhere accessible and sheltered (it’s situated between rocky outcrops).
It’s generally safe for swimming, and there are even some snorkelling opportunities, with rockpools exposed at low tide.
The Porthgwidden Beach Cafe sits just behind the beach and serves up breakfasts, lunches and delicious coffee, with beach pods that you can reserve.
If you want something a bit quieter, head to Gwithian, which is one of the best places to visit near Hayle.
This large expanse of beach is one of my favourite Cornwall hidden gems – as, even though it’s so close to St Ives centre, it manages to be very minimally touristy!
This beach is on the coastal path, so be sure to take some time walking along the golden sand, venturing to Godrevy Point right at the end.
You’ll walk past the towans (Mexico Towans, Gwithian Towans and Hayle Towans), which are dune areas behind the sea.
Keep walking to Mutton Cove if you want to find one of the best places to see seals in Cornwall!
Clodgy Point Beach
Just past Porthmeor, on the St Ives to Zennor walking route, Clodgy Point Beach is a much smaller, rugged and wild patch of sand.
This beach is for the adventurers; it’s very small and only accessible at low tide (you can get to it from the coast path, but it’s very rocky and challenging).
However, if you want to find somewhere without the hoardes of St Ives tourists, I’d recommend making the small trip to see Clodgy Point, even if you only admire it from the coast path!
St Ives Harbour Beach
Boats gently bob on the harbour beach, with the cry of seagulls in the air. This stretches along the main promenade right by the town centre.
While it’s not a popular beach for swimming and definitely not for surfing, it’s the ideal place to sit and admire the boatmanship, or walk around and take in views of the town.
Dog-friendly beaches in St Ives
Below are the rules for dogs at St Ives’ beaches:
- Porthminster Beach, Porthmeor Beach, Carbis Bay Beach, Gwithian Beach (by Godrevy, until RNLI Lifeboat Station): dogs not allowed from 15th May to 30th September between 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
- St Ives Harbour Beach: dogs not allowed in July and August from 10:00 am to 6:00pm
- Porthkidney Beach, Clodgy Point Beach, Gwithian Beach (between the RNLI Lifeboat Station and Hayle): Dogs allowed all year (no restrictions).
Things to do at St Ives’ Beaches
There are countless amazing things to do in St Ives, but quite a few of them are right by the beach! Here are some of my favourite activities in town:
Cornwall and surfing go hand in hand, and Porthmeor Beach is one of the best destinations for the sport in the country. If you’ve never surfed before and want to try it out, get in touch with the St Ives Surf School.
Take a boat to Seal Island
From St Ives Harbour, you can take a boat out onto the sea – catching in views of the beaches on the way – and end up at Seal Island, a small island sitting out to sea, named after its population of the aquatic creatures.
Walk the South West Coastal Path
St Ives has some of the best beach walks in West Cornwall.
Either start in the town and head east towards Hayle, taking in Porthminster, Carbis Bay and Porthkidney Beach (easy), or venture all the way to Zennor (much more challenging, but beautiful!).
Take the scenic train
This town is also home to one of the most scenic train journeys in the country!
The St Erth to St Ives line takes a mere 10 minutes, but the views are completely unmatchable. It’s ideal if you want to take in views but don’t want to walk, or if you’re visiting St Ives in winter and the weather’s a bit chilly!
You’ll take in the glorious Atlantic Ocean views, white sand and palm trees – it’s a fantastic introduction to St Ives Bay (often thought to be among the most beautiful bays in the world) and an easy, cheap activity that rivals many scenic railways around the world.
Tate St Ives
St Ives Tate enjoys a beautiful seaside location; it’s right by Porthmeor Beach.
The exhibit boasts both historic and modern art, and once you’ve finished, head up to the rooftop cafe for a view over the coast.
Enjoy a pasty by the harbour
There are countless pasty shops in St Ives; my favourite is St Ives Bakery.
You can get a pasty from any of these and take it to the harbour to enjoy.
BUT (and it’s a very big but), the seagulls in St Ives are SAVAGE.
If you take your eyes away from your pasty for a second, they will swoop in and steal it. You have been warned.
However, if you keep it close to you and have your eyes on it at all times, they won’t fight you for it.
Tips for visiting the beaches in St Ives
Here are some of my best pro tips for visiting St Ives beaches!
- Get there early: St Ives is incredible, but it’s one of the most popular destinations in Cornwall for very good reason. It’s rammed in the summer months. Get there early to secure parking.
- Park at the Rugby Club: There’s usually plenty of parking at the Rugby Club (and it’s cheaper!).
- Watch out for gulls: Seriously, seagulls in St Ives are no joke. They WILL steal your food if you let them. My dad (who is Cornish and has a lot of experience avoiding Cornish seagulls) swears by wearing red to deter seagulls – and National Geographic kind of agrees with him!
- Apply suncream!: Although St Ives isn’t actually tropical, despite its appearance, the sun can be strong here – so apply cream as much as possible and don’t forget a hat!
- Use a chilly’s bottle: I’d be lost without my chilly’s bottle – it keeps water cool all day long! I’d definitely recommend taking one for the summer months in St Ives.
Whether you’re looking for a fun beach for a family day or somewhere to try out the best of Cornish surfing, I hope this St Ives beach guide has helped you to start planning your trip!
Make sure that you check out the rest of my Cornwall posts for more inspiration, or follow me on Instagram for posts about South West England!