Are you ready to check out all of the best things to do in Hayle? Here’s my list of the Cornish town’s highlights, tried and tested on my frequent trips to the town!
The small yet overwhelmingly historic town of Hayle isn’t one that’s on many tourists’ horizons; most forfeit it to visit neighboring St Ives instead.
However, Hayle is a fantastic alternative if you want fewer crowds, lower accommodation prices and a much more local vibe than the lovely, but hectic, St Ives.
It’s easy to access (it’s on the main train line from London), it’s in a fantastic location to check out the rest of West Cornwall’s highlights and there are numerous interesting attractions and activities in the town itself.
Being a West Country local, I’m always trying to spend time in places that are a little off the tourist trail, and Hayle is one of my favourites for its charming coastal scenery and fascinating history.
So, if you want to explore somewhere different on your trip to Cornwall, take a look at the best things to do in Hayle that I’ve listed below!
Best things to do in Hayle
The best things to do in Hayle include walking the Hayle Estuary Trail, birdwatching, visiting Paradise Park and Jungle Barn Cornwall, exploring the Hayle Heritage Centre, and enjoying watersports at the beach.
Walk along the Hayle estuary
Hayle’s crowning jewel, the Hayle Estuary offers stunning views of the water towards the coastline, with opportunities to spot a variety of bird species along the way.
The trail is well-maintained and suitable for all levels of walkers, with several points of interest along the way, including the historic Griggs Quay and views of Porthkidney Sands.
Hayle Estuary is accessible from several points in town, and visitors can walk a shorter or longer section depending on their preferences.
Check out Hayle’s Beaches
Hayle has three miles of golden sand spanning along the coastline close to the town centre.
Encompassing Hayle Towans, Gwithian Beach and Godrevy Beach, this is a stunning stretch of powdery sand connects the Hayle Estuary to Godrevy Lighthouse.
With bright and clear blue waters and sweeping sand dunes, Gwithian Beach is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike; it’s one of my favourite beaches in Cornwall.
The beach is renowned for its excellent surf, making it a favorite among water sports enthusiasts.
The waves at Gwithian Beach are consistent and varied, catering to surfers of all levels of experience.
Aside from surfing, Gwithian Beach is also a great place for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking; it’s so long that there are a few different spots along the beach!
The sandy beach is family-friendly, with plenty of space to build sand castles and paddle in the sea!
The South West Coast Path extends along Gwithian Beach, with breathtaking views of the coastline and the chance to spot local wildlife such as seals and seabirds.
Go bird watching
The Hayle Estuary is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and is home to over 300 species of birds, including the rare and endangered osprey.
Visitors can spot a variety of birds, including waders, ducks, geese, and swans, throughout the year. You can also look out for seabirds at Gwithian Towans, which are accessible as you walk eastwards along the South West Coast Path.
The nearby RSPB reserve at Marazion Marsh, sitting just a 12-minute drive from Hayle, is also a popular spot for birdwatching, with opportunities to see grey herons, bitterns and it’s a stopover place for the lesser-spotted aquatic warbler.
Walk to Portreath
Like all seaside towns in Cornwall, Hayle sits on the South West Coast Path; an often undulating path with epic coastal walks that leads from Minehead in Somerset, wraps around Cornwall and crosses South Devon and Dorset before terminating in Studland Bay.
The Hayle to Portreath walk follows a particularly stunning area of the coastal path, traversing across the rugged ex-mining coastline and looking down into beaches (like Mutton Cove) that seals have made their home.
Eventually, you’ll make it to the National Trust-run Godrevy Lighthouse, which dates back to 1859.
The entire walk is 12 miles (part of which leads along Gwithian Sands!), and it’s a moderately-challenging walk, with a little up and down and some rugged paths, but it’s nowhere near as strenuous as other parts of the Cornish Coast Path.
Walk to St. Ives
If you fancy a shorter, easier walk, try the gentle stroll from Hayle to St Ives.
You can combine a walk along Hayle Estuary with a stroll along the South West Coast Path, or you can take the L5 or T2 bus to Lelant Saltings and walk from there.
Highlights of the walk include the sweeping sands of Porthkidney Beach (one of the lesser-visited beaches in St Ives!) and the towering palm trees and white sand of Carbis Bay Beach o which is often thought of as the most “tropical” part of the UK.
The final stretch of the walk will take you past St Ives’ picturesque harbour, where you can enjoy the independent shops and world-class art galleries!
The route is approximately six miles long and takes around two and a half hours to complete. It is a relatively easy walk, with some gentle climbs and descents along the way.
Godrevy point and Mutton Cove
Godrevy Point and Mutton Cove sit at the end of Gwithian and Godrevy Beach, and are just a short drive from Hayle.
A stunning headland that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, Godrevy Point provides incredible panoramic vistas of the beach and its surroundings.
Godrevy Point sits opposite a lighthouse that was thought to be the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s novel “To the Lighthouse” (although the actual novel was set on the Isle of Skye).
From Godrevy Point, you can walk to a viewpoint looking over Mutton Cove, which is one of the best places to see seals in Cornwall.
As Hayle boasts three miles of sandy beaches and consistent surf, you can bet that it’s an exceptional watersports destination!
At Hayle, visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities, including surfing, kiteboarding, paddleboarding, and kayaking.
There are several surf schools in Hayle, such as the Beach Shack Surf School which offers two hour surf lessons for beginners and improvers.
Experienced surfers can head to the popular surf breaks at Gwithian Beach or Godrevy, while kiteboarders can take advantage of the consistent wind at Hayle’s estuary.
For other watersports, like kayaking, paddle boarding and coasteering, get in touch with the Hayle branch of Lizard Adventure.
Watersports is one of the best things to do in Cornwall, so definitely take to the waters while you’re in the area!
King George V Memorial Walk
The picturesque King George V Memorial Walk winds past the town with subtropical plants on one side and a Copperhouse Pool on the other.
It’s 2.2 miles in total and should take you less than an hour to complete. If you want to enjoy the scenic lakeside views and exotic plants, there are benches to take a rest en-route.
Cycle trails around the town
There are a few cycle trails spanning around Hayle centre and along the Hayle estuary; if you don’t have your own bike, you can rent from Xpress Bike which is close to the town centre.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little lengthier, check out the Mineral Tramway Coast to Coast Trail, which runs from Portreath to Devoran. This is part of National Cycle Route 3, which starts in Land’s End and terminates in Bristol.
The 11-mile Mineral Tramway Coast to Coast Trail offers stunning views of the coast and countryside. It’s a fairly easy route, and is suitable for most cyclists.
Also close to Hayle is the Tehidy Country Park trail, which consists of cycling routes spanning around the estate.
See the historic viaduct
There’s an impressive viaduct spanning through Hayle town centre, dating back to 1888 when it was first built for Great Western Railway.
The original version of the viaduct was made from timber and designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
There’s a small garden behind the viaduct with subtropical plants; it’s not a touristy spot, but it’s one of my favourite places to kick back and relax in close to Hayle Station and the rest of the town’s amenities.
Check out Millponds Gardens
Nowadays, Millponds Gardens is a small park with a kid’s play area and plenty of grass to picnic or relax on.
However, if you walk a little further, you’ll find the ruins of Harvey’s Foundry Ropeworks, an 18th century building situated amidst the woodland.
This became the Hayle Foundry, which built items like beam engines, mining equipment, Cornish boilers and the road and rail steam engines which were designed by Richard Trevithick.
Walk through history as you check out Millponds Gardens, where the ruins of the foundry sit for anyone to explore (completely free of charge!).
It’s one of my favourite hidden gems in Cornwall and a lovely place for a stroll if you want to get away from the tourists!
Hayle heritage centre
One thing that always fascinates me about Hayle is its rich history. It was a centre of industry throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, largely thanks to mines in the area and the fact that it provided access to the sea.
While you’re in town, you can learn about historical events and places like:
- the Copperhouse Foundry where many of the chains and links for Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge were made
- Richard Trevithick’s Puffing Devil which was the first passenger-carrying vehicle that was created in the town
- the Harvey and Company Foundry which was the world’s first industrial iron foundry, was established in 1779, in the town
If you want to learn more about this fascinating history, pay a visit to the Hayle Heritage Centre.
This museum showcases the rich history and heritage of the town – it’s housed in the Grade II* listed John Harvey House and features a collection of exhibits that tell the story of the town’s industrial past, including its important role in the mining and engineering industries.
Visitors can learn about the history of the Cornish beam engine, see a variety of mining artifacts, and explore the social history of the town through photographs and displays.
Take the scenic train to St Ives
If you’re a fan of scenic train rides, I recommend hopping on the main Cornwall link from Hayle to St Erth (just one stop) and then connecting to the scenic branch to St Ives.
This train journey takes just 10 minutes, but the stunning views of the Cornish countryside and coastline that it offers will leave you talking for the rest of your holiday!
The branch line travels along a single-track railway line that hugs the coast, passing through Lelant, Carbis Bay and offering glimpses of the turquoise waters and swaying palm trees of St Ives Bay.
It’s a passenger train line, so you can take in the majestic beach views for a budget fare (you can book your ticket on the GWR app) while getting a slice of local life!
See St Ives
Whether you walk or take the train to St Ives (I recommend walking one way and taking the scenic train back!), you can spend a whole day seeing the town’s highlights.
A picturesque coastal town located in the westernmost part of Cornwall, St Ives is known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and artistic heritage.
The town is home to several galleries, including the renowned Tate St Ives, which showcases works by local and international artists, and the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden.
You’ll also find a vibrant dining scene here; I love The Loft Restaurant and Sun Terrace and Blas Burgerworks.
While there are plenty of attractions in St Ives, you’ll also find gorgeous narrow, winding streets and an array of independent shops.
Don’t miss St Ives’ beaches – Carbis Bay and Porthminster Beach are wonderful family-friendly beaches, whereas Porthmeor Beach is best for surfing.
You can also soak in the vibe of St Ives by sitting on the harbour, enjoying a cornish pasty, fish and chips or ice cream – just watch out for the seagulls, as they’re particularly chip-happy here!
Paradise Park and JungleBarn Cornwall
Are you looking for things to do in Hayle with kids?
Paradise Park and Jungle Barn in Cornwall is a family-friendly attraction featuring a wildlife park and a tropical indoor play area.
The wildlife park is home to over 1,000 birds and animals, including red pandas, penguins, and flamingos. Visitors can get up close to the birds during the daily feeding sessions.
The Jungle Barn is an indoor play area that features giant slides, rope bridges, and soft play areas, providing hours of entertainment for children!
There’s also a train ride, a dinosaur quiz trail and a walk-through aviary – there’s so much to enjoy at Paradise Park!
As a lot of the attraction is based outside, it’s one of the best things to do in Hayle in the rain.
Places to visit near Hayle
There’s a range of places to visit near Hayle, as it sits in the gorgeous West Penwith region of Cornwall. Nearby towns include the historic Penzance, the dramatic nature of Land’s End and the Lizard Peninsula and the mining towns of Camborne and Redruth.
Located in the far west of Cornwall, Penzance is one of the larger towns in the area. It has a more local feel than other towns on Cornwall’s coast, but there are still plenty of things to see and do in the town.
Go for a walk along the promenade, enjoying breathtaking views of Mount’s Bay and St Michael’s Mount (you can visit nearby Marazion to see the town!), go back in time to see the fascinating historical landmarks, such as the 17th century Market House and the imposing St Michael’s Church.
While you’re in Penzance, you should also visit Newlyn for its seafood and fish restaurants and the adorable village of Mousehole which is famous for its fisherman’s cottages and picturesque cobbled harbour.
Camborne and Redruth
Camborne and Redruth are two neighboring towns located just a 15 – 20 minute drive from Hayle.
Historically, both towns were important centres of mining, and most of the tourist attractions in both towns revolve around learning more about this heritage.
Visit Heartlands which is home to the mining museum and Cornish Diaspora Gardens or head into a real-life mine at King Edward Mine Museum.
There’s also Carn Brea Castle, where you can take in beautiful views over West Cornwall.
Both towns have their own distinct charm, with 18th-century mining cottages and remnants from their past, including a statue of Richard Trevithick, who came from this town.
If you want to head to what feels like the ends of the earth, visit Land’s End.
It’s not quite the end of the world, but it is the southwesterly point of the UK. This makes it, without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Cornwall!
Here, the crashing waves of the Atlantic have created a rugged and dramatic landscape, with towering cliffs and crashing waves.
Enjoy the scenery by taking an easy walk to Sennen Cove, or hike to Porthcurno, seeing deserted beaches like Nanjizal on the way.
If you’re visiting with a family, there are a number of tourist attractions at Land’s End, including the “first and last” postbox, a shopping village and a 4D cinema experience.
A picturesque coastal village close to Land’s End, Porthcurno is famous for its stunning beach, which is surrounded by jagged cliffs and crystal-clear waters.
While this beach can be quite popular in the summer months (particularly in the school holidays), its remote location means that it’s never as busy as places like Fistral Beach and Kynance Cove on the Lizard.
Porthcurno is home to the Minack Theatre, an open-air theatre built by Rowena Cade into the cliffs overlooking the sea. You can either take a self-guided tour around the Minack Theatre or visit for a play – I once saw 39 steps here, which was excellent!
Once you’ve seen the beach and the Minack Theatre, head to the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum to learn about the village’s important role in the history of global telecommunications.
If you’re looking for local Cornwall, this is it!
Helston is an ancient market town located close to the Lizard Peninsula with historic smuggling pubs and the Museum of Cornish Life, which is one of the best museums in the region.
Helston is known for its rich history and unique culture, with a number of traditional festivals and celebrations throughout the year.
The most famous of these is the Flora Day celebration, which takes place on 8th May and features dancing, music, and colourful parades through the streets.
The Lizard Peninsula
Wild and beautiful beaches? Check. Brooding cliffs? Check. Hospitable locals? Check.
The Lizard Peninsula is the southernmost tip of mainland UK; and a must stop on any Cornwall road trip or day trip from Hayle.
The area is a haven for walkers and hikers, with miles of coastal paths and countryside trails to explore.
The Lizard is also a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts, with coasteering, kayaking and paddleboarding opportunities among the best things to do.
Explore the charming villages of Coverack and Cadgwith, or take a trip to the famous Lizard Point to see “the bottom of England”.
Where to stay in Hayle
Hayle has a range of accommodation options for all budgets, including family-run guesthouses, charismatic pubs with rooms and campsites with space for tents and campervans. There are also a few self-catering properties in town, including holiday cottages and apartments.
The Cornubia Inn is a historic pub and hotel located in the heart of Hayle.
Renowned for its warm and friendly atmosphere, the pub serves delicious meals – from Sunday carveries to all-you-can-eat buffet breakfasts – and a selection of local beers and ciders.
The Cornubia Inn also provides comfortable and stylish accommodation, with a range of rooms available to suit different needs and budgets.
The White Hart Hotel is a historic hotel located in the town centre.
The hotel dates back to the 1830s and has been a popular destination for travellers ever since.
It’s known for its comfortable and well-appointed rooms, friendly service, and convenient location in the heart of Hayle, just a short walk from Hayle Estuary, the station and the large ASDA supermarket.
The White Hart Hotel is home to a charming pub, serving up delicious local cuisine and a wide selection of drinks.
How to get to Hayle
One of the best reasons to visit Hayle is that it sits right on the main train line that connects London with Cornwall!
The train journey takes approximately 5-6 hours, with services throughout the day from London Paddington station.
Hayle train station is conveniently located in the town centre, within walking distance of many of the town’s attractions.
Alternatively, the drive from London to Hayle takes around 5-6 hours, depending on traffic and where exactly in London you’re beginning your journey.
There are also several bus services that connect London to Hayle, although these can take considerably longer than the train or car.
Visiting Hayle FAQs
Is Hayle in Cornwall worth visiting?
Yes, Hayle in Cornwall is worth visiting. It is a charming town with a rich history, stunning beaches, beautiful coastal walks, and plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy. The town offers a range of accommodation, dining, and shopping options, making it a great base for exploring Cornwall’s many attractions.
What is Hayle famous for?
Hayle is famous for its beautiful beaches and coastal scenery, making it a popular tourist destination. The town also has a rich industrial history, particularly in copper and tin mining, and is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Cornish Mining Landscape.
What shops are there in Hayle Cornwall?
Hayle in Cornwall has a variety of shops to suit all needs. There are several supermarkets including a large ASDA, independent grocery stores, and a range of local artisan shops selling handmade crafts and gifts. The town also has a selection of fashion stores, Blewetts of Hayle toy shop, and several cafes and restaurants.
Can you walk from Hayle to St Ives?
Yes, it is possible to walk from Hayle to St Ives along the South West Coast Path, a 6.5-mile (10.5 km) trail that offers stunning views of the coastline and beaches. It is a fairly easy walk that’s suitable for all the family, and you can take the train back.
Can you swim at Hayle beach?
Yes, swimming is possible at Hayle beach, but visitors should be aware that the water can have strong currents. Only swim where there are flags and signs indicating that the particular area is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer months.
What are the best things to do in Hayle in the rain?
Some of the best things to do in Hayle in the rain include visiting the Paradise Park wildlife sanctuary, learning about Hayle’s past at the heritage centre, exploring mining museums in Camborne and Redruth and discovering the art galleries in St Ives.
Are you ready to visit Hayle?
Hayle is a fascinating town with plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy. From its coastal walks along the cornish coastline to its rich history and cultural offerings, there’s something for everyone in Hayle.
Whether you’re interested in magnificent views over some of Cornwall’s best beaches, exploring museums, or indulging in local cuisine, you won’t be disappointed by this wonderful Cornish destination. So why not spend your summer holidays in Hayle and discover all it has to offer for yourself?