St. Ives really is a Cornish gem surrounded by crystal clear ocean and beautiful golden sandy beaches all within the town. There are 6 commonly named beaches some class a 7th at low tide. Each has its own character and attractions. Not everyone is aware of all them, some people even think St. Ives harbour and one cobbled road is all there is to offer! There is a LOT more to our wonderful town from hidden gardens, a wealth of community history, idyllic streets around most corners, amazing business, we’ll get to those another time but for now lets start with the beaches.
Coming into St. Ives from Carbis Bay the first beach you get;
A great family beach with almost half a mile of golden sand, shallow clear waters and great views of St. Ives Harbour and St. Ives Bay over to Hayle, Gwithian and Godrevy. By train you see it as you approach the station which overlooks the beach. It has a very nice cafe/restaurant which provides great views no matter the weather, we really like going to it, when its open, in the winter months and watching the weather and waves on the empty beach. During the warmer months it also has a beach shop, beach cafe and green space right behind to relax on. Toilets are nearby and you can get into town along some of the more level streets through the picturesque Warren area. If you come from Tregenna Castle it is nice and easy to find as just straight down from its bottom gate, it’s not so easy to get back up though as the hill is quite steep.
Because of its position tucked away from the Atlantic the sea is often calmer and wind not so brisk. It is easy to kayak or SUP from Porthminster over to the harbour or when the tide is low you can just walk.
Virginia Woolf’s family summer home use to look down onto Porthminster and the view over the bay to Godrevy Lighthouse from there inspired her book ‘To the Lighthouse’. The house that inspired such a great writer is still there but unfortunately is now obscured from being seen from the beach due to new buildings.
If you are up early the sun rises opposite Porthminster and is a great start to the day. At sunset you get a reverse sunset and often the colours over the bay and reflecting in the ocean can be as good if not better than a direct sunset from Porthmeor. The reflection of the sunset can often be seen in the holiday parks windows over the bay in Hayle.
Some events also use Porthminster throughout the year including bonfire night fireworks and St. Ives Food Festival.
Next beach along is;
Lambeth beach previously was known as Pendolva walk but after the song got popular it’s new nickname stuck. Lambeth beach is tidal and just before the harbour. When the tide is in it appears to just be a small amount of rocks and when stormy, waves do crash to great heights. When the sea is out it can be difficult to get to the sand as you need to navigate down steps and over rocks from the walkway. There are a couple of outlet pipes which come from the Stennack stream which runs past the Leach pottery and often produces some great beach treasure finds.
On the steps leading down by the St. Ives Art Club you can still see some groves in the steps which were made from large chains being used to save the shipwrecked boat HMS Wave which has a plaque on the wall. Thanks to the community coming together and emptying the boat then successfully getting it away from rocks the ship was saved and repaired then returned to service.
3 Harbour Beach
Harbour beach is situated, you guessed it, in the harbour! Often mistakenly thought of as St. Ives main beach and area. Much smaller than Porthminster or Porthmeor it does however have the bonus of being well sheltered from wind and can be very pleasant during dry days in the winter months. Great for watching swarms of people moving along the wharf and boats coming and going. Most of the harbour is tidal and during high tides only a small bit of sand is left dry – this is a great time to sit, relax and watch the moored boats bobbing about. It is a working harbour so please be aware of this if you are planning to go into the sea. During the summer months tour boats, self drive boats and other water based activities can be found at points around the harbour. Seal sightings are also very common and a pleasure to watch them in the water – remember they are wild animals and getting close or feeding them is not a good idea. Speaking of wild animals the harbour area also has a very high concentration of gulls with some waiting to try to share your delicious food and ice creams so please be aware. Don’t feed the gulls ether as this is what has lead them to bad habits of stealing food and even if you find it funny the person who gets attacked and loses a precious ice cream will not. Human food is also not great for them so if you like them don’t feed them and help them get back to living more naturally and healthy.
Our personal three favourite views of the harbour are from Moomaids ice cream parlour, the cosy window seats in The Rum and Crab Shack and inside The Hub (best view from their balcony when upstairs is open). There is some covered seating outside of Moomaids to keep your ice cream safe and the larger sundaes are amazing!
Food pinching seagulls are rife along the beach and wharf road, you can spot the sneaking ones waiting at certain points. Eat inside if you can and please don’t feed them as human food is bad for them and has now lead them to being aggressive. Hearing Gulls can live up to 30 years and teach their bad habits to their young so if you like them please respect them and help them get back to eating more natural foods for them.
There is a now infamous gull with its very own ‘ASBO’ tag after a study was done monitoring the gulls to see if there were certain ones that attacked more. The catchy named W195 was deemed the worse and still has its ankle tag from the study.
3½ Back Water Beach
Possibly controversial as this beach often is not counted as requires a low’ish tide to be reviled, just on the other side of the harbour wall/Smeatons pier. One of St. Ives only covered outdoor eating areas overlooks it as well as it having less seen views of the harbour wall. When the tide is low you can also explore the remains of the ‘New Pier’ which was constructed before the Smeatons extension. As New Pier was made from wood it didn’t last very long. More info can be found in this video – A Flawed Slice of St Ives – New Pier
4 Bamaluz Beach
Bamaluz beach is a year round dog friendly beach tucked away between a harbour wall and what is known as ‘New Pier’ or the doomed wooden pier. Accessed by quite steep steps near the St. Ives Museum. The beach is mainly tidal and has some good rocks to clamber over.
Porthgwidden is a beautiful little enclosed beach with views to Godrevy lighthouse snuggled on one side by the island. It is very family friendly with a great little cafe – Porthgwidden Cafe – public toilets and often slightly calmer waters up to the warning bouy’s due to it being walled by rocky outcrops. Some of the rocks are good to climb, great golden sand and good shelter from the wind it is very easy to spend a day relaxing here. It also has steps up to the island if you want to explore a bit more and walk up to the chapel with its stunning views back over the bay and the town. Also from the island you get views of and a path to our next beach Porthmeor.
Interesting fact about Porthgwidden, it use to be used as the town rubbish dump!!!
Porthmeor, St. Ives biggest beach, a little more wild and has views of the sunset. Often referred to as the surfing beach as due to its more exposed location it enjoys better surf than the others and is home to St. Ives Surf School. There are public toilet facilities, Porthmeor cafe and West beach bakery during the summer it is a great place to relax and enjoy some proper beach time. If you are lucky you may even spot dolphins playing with the surfers! It’s a long beach with rocks at ether end to (carefully) clamber on during low tide.
Overlooked by the Tate and St. Ives cemetery with foot paths from the left of the beach that quickly take you away from built up area of St. Ives and into coast lined Cornish countryside very quickly. The first rocky outcrop is Man’s Head which has Prehistoric artefacts found there, it is quite easy to see why our ancestors might of made a home there with exquisite views back towards the Island. If you keep going you get to Clodgy Point and can continue much further to Zennor and beyond.