Our favourite St Ives beaches
20th March 2023
We’re so lucky to be close to St Ives, with its selection of beautiful beaches. It sometimes feels like we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding which beach to head down to on a sunny day. It’s not surprising that our guests often ask us to recommend local beaches. It’s like having children: you simply can’t choose a favourite!
So, here’s our guide to the sands of St Ives from west to east, with a brief run-down on what each beach does best. Every one has its own character and facilities, and we love them all. Which one is the best beach for you?
Porthmeor Beach – for surfing
Cornwall is a global surf centre, and many visitors to St Ives give this exhilarating sport a go while they’re down here. Beautiful Porthmeor Beach is home to St Ives Surf School, which runs a wide range of watersports including surfing classes for kids and beginners, as well as sessions for advanced surfers.
Of course, you don’t have to take to the surf. You can also enjoy a more laid-back day on Porthmeor with a take-away from West Beach, or a gentle poke around in the rockpools. It’s also a great place to catch the sunset, especially if you walk up to St Nicholas’ Chapel at the top of The Island (the headland at the east side of the bay). Tate St Ives also overlooks the beach (you’ll need to book in advance, as timed tickets remain in place for now). Art, surf and food: modern Cornwall at its finest.
Porthgwidden – a relaxing evening
This pretty little sandy cove is best-known for its distinctive row of bright beach huts. Nestled under the island, it can be overlooked as people automatically continue towards Porthmeor, but it’s a fabulous find, not least for its splendid café and take away. Head down to Porthgwidden in the evening when the sands are quieter, buy a beer from the café’s take-out, and simply sit and admire the sea.
Bamaluz – fun for four-footed friends
St Ives has restrictions on its beaches for dogs in the height of summer. The splendidly-named Bamaluz Beach can be scampered on all year. This hidden cove is between Harbour Beach and Porthgwidden, and is great for rock exploring as well as playing with your pet. There’s not much beach left at high tide, so pick your moment.
Harbour Beach – at the heart of town
Right in the centre of town, Harbour Beach has a cheerful, almost park-like feel, as locals and visitors enjoy its lively atmosphere. Because it’s so good for beachcombing, you’ll usually find kids having fun on the beach here all year round. Explore the arches, and walk along the harbor arm for a lovely view back across the town.
On a warm evening, the beach and parallel Wharf Road take on a Mediterranean ambiance, as people head out simply to stroll along and soak up the atmosphere. At low tide, you can walk around the east harbour arm across to Porthminster Beach, via rocky little Lambeth Walk beach.
Lambeth Walk Beach – small and quirky
We couldn’t leave it out just because it’s tiny! Lambeth Walk (apparently named for the 1930s musical song) vanishes at high water; but when it’s there, it forms part of a sweep of sand that joins the harbour to Porthminster Beach. Dogs are allowed on Lambeth Walk beach all year, which makes it a popular place at low water. It’s best known for its stone balancing (watch out for this!), and it has a lovely, scuttering population of turnstones.
Porthminster Beach – wonderful for families
Porthminster Beach, at the Carbis Bay end of town, has so many ingredients for a family day at the beach: a vast sweep of yellow sand, clear blue sea, rockpools, shops that sell buckets, cafes that sell take-away fish and chips… It also has lifeguard cover in the summer.
If you want to explore further, you can pick up a gentle stretch of the South West Coast Path at the east end of the beach, and follow it to beautiful Carbis Bay.
Carbis Bay – just beautiful
Not strictly in St Ives, but a just short walk away. This privately-owned beach has a real Balearic island feel, with an always-blue ocean. Again, it’s a top spot for watersports and home to the Ocean Sports Centre.
If you’re worn out by stand-up paddleboarding or too good a lunch, you can always get the branch line train from Carbis Bay to St Ives, which only takes a couple of minutes and brings you back to Porthminster Beach.
A bit about sea safety…
Always check the tide times before heading out, especially if you’re hoping to walk between any beaches or explore the rocks.
If you’re taking a dip in the ocean, Carbis Bay, Porthminster and Porthmeor have lifeguards at certain times of year: find out more on the RNLI’s website.
Aside from the beaches on our own doorstep in St Ives, you’ve got plenty more sandy shores to explore across the county. If you’re happy to drive a little way, why not think about planning a day trip to more of our top Cornish beaches.