Don’t let the size of St Ives in west Cornwall fool you. It offers a whopping six beaches to discover, all with fine, soft yellow sand and tropical coloured water.
All you have to do is decide which one to spend the day on.
I assume people know where St Ives is, but I know that’s not necessarily the case. This well known Cornish town sits on the North West Cornish coast with a heavily embedded fishing history. It now holds considerable commercial clout as one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations. It’s been crowned twice the Best UK Seaside Town from the British Travel Awards, and was named the best family holiday destination by Coast magazine.
Getting to St Ives couldn’t be easier. You can drive but parking can be tricky in the summer. My top tip would be to get the train from St Erth. Whether you’re on a day trip or coming from further afield for a longer stay, the St Ives Bay Line is incredibly pretty. There are regular trains from London too, the journey takes about 5 hours.
St Ives Beaches
St Ives boasts 6 beaches, and they all effortlessly sell themselves. I can’t think of anything more perfect that lounging on one of St Ives beaches in the summer, or spending time walking along at low tide, exploring rocks and soaking up the scenery, with a coffee in hand.
Each beach has their own charm but all have a Mediterranean feel. The bright, tropical-esque water licks the soft, powdery sand. This is crowned by the famous St Ives light working it’s magic, making the landscape appear somewhat luminescent.
One of the main things to do before you visit is check the tide times. The smaller beaches disappear or become the size of a postage stamp at high tide!
Let me walk you around St Ives beaches and you can decide which one to go for.
On one side of St Ives you have Porthminster Beach; it’s next to the Railway station. This award winning, crescent shaped beach offers what seems like infinite views across to Godrevy Lighthouse. It has great facilities, including the highly regarded Porthminster Beach cafe, making it a perfect place to laze away in the Cornish sun.
If you fancy doing a bit more than lazing on Porthminster beach, there’s an 18 hole mini golf course just alongside it. There’s also a beach team in peak season, offering activities, like Volleyball. St Ives Watersports are situated on the beach if you fancy hiring a SUP or want a surf lesson.
Porthminster Beach is a Blue Flag beach meaning it reaches the highest standards in terms of safety, environmental, accessibility and education. It also has a reputation as being safe for swimming. With the sea being such a tempting colour, it would be hard to resist a little swim.
Porthminster beach summary
The nearest car park to Porthminster beach is the Railway Station Car Park, just a few minutes away. It’s a long stay car park. In peak season, all car parks full up quickly.
Yes, the RNLI lifeguard Porthminster beach from mid-May to the last Sunday in September, 10am – 6pm.
As a Blue Flag beach, there are lengthier dog restrictions for Porthminster compared to other beaches. From mid-May to the end of September, dogs aren’t permitted on Porthminster beach between 10am and 6pm.
Seasonal public toilets can be found above Porthminster beach. There are public toilets open all year round in St Ives town, next to the RNLI station. These are about a 5-10 minute walk from Porthminster beach.
Porthminster beach has disabled access. Beach buggies and wheelchairs can be hired from Porthminster Beach Cafe.
Often overlooked I feel, Lambeth Walk is the beach along the seafront after Porthminster and before the RNLI station. With small rocks and pebbles at the back of the beach, this beach becomes a vast stretch of golden sand at low tide.
This beach disappears completely at high tide but when the tide is out, it connects to Smeatons Pier and Harbour beach.
Look out for rock sculptures and cairns which seem to be here every time I visit.
Lambeth Walk summary
Aside from the Railway Station Car Park, Barnoon Car Park is in the centre of St Ives (TR26 1JF). The same applies for Park Avenue Car Park (TR26 1QE) and Tiny Car Park (TR26 1SN).
There is no lifeguard at Lambeth Walk.
Lambeth Walk is a dog friendly beach, welcoming man’s best friend all year round.
Public toilets can be found at the end of Lambeth Walk, next to the RNLI station. Lambeth Walk is on the edge of the town centre and is close to many coffee shops and places to eat.
Access to Lambeth Walk can be difficult. It sits below a wall and there is a rocky strip along the back of the beach.
I’d say Harbour Beach is probably St Ives most synonymous beach. I think it’s because it’s the home of Smeaton’s Pier which clogs up my camera roll with every visit.
Walking along the footpath into the town, Harbour beach starts along the walled area, after the RNLI station, and continues along to the harbour. I must admit, it’s a wonderful view and I could stand here for ages with my camera (in fact that’s probably what I do most when I visit St Ives). Harbour beach has the shops as its backdrop. With this comes the vibrancy and energy that’s found in a busy, popular Cornish town.
St Ives is a busy working port. Harbour beach is the resting and launch place for local fishing boats, rib rides and excursions. Here you can wander on the beach, amongst the boats. It’s something I’m quite happy doing.
As Harbour Beach graces the sea front, there’s plenty of local Cornish businesses on hand where you can buy beach essentials. You know the sort, ice cream, a Cornish pasty or fish and chips.
Harbour Beach Summary
Car parks for Harbour beach apply as above. You can also try your luck at the short stay Sloop Inn Car Park (TR26 1LS) or The Island car park which is long stay (TR26 1SY).
There is no lifeguard at Harbour beach.
While Harbour beach is dog friendly there are restrictions throughout July and August from 10am – 6pm.
Much like Lambeth Walk, Harbour beach is surrounded by retailers, coffee shops and ice cream sellers as well as waterfront eateries.
It’s possible to access Harbour beach via the slip opposite the turning for Back Lane on Wharf Road.
Considered by some to be a secret beach, although it’s hard to think of anything being a secret in St Ives, Bamaluz beach is only accessible at low tide. It’s tucked behind the harbour wall on the edge of the town centre. Interestingly, it’s the home of Wheal Dream tin mine remains. As one of Cornwall’s lesser known beaches, it’s usually quieter compared to others in St Ives.
Aside from the car parks already mentioned, there’s Porthmeor car park (TR26 1JU). This is on the other side of St Ives, near the beach of the same name (see below).
Bamaluz beach is small; there is no lifeguard here.
Good news! You can bring your dog to Bamaluz beach all year round. There are no restrictions.
Bamaluz beach isn’t far from the centre of St Ives. You can access facilities, such as places to buy food and drink and the public toilets by taking a short stroll into the town. Alternatively, head over to Porthgwidden Beach Cafe.
Bamaluz beach can only be reached by narrow steps leading from the footpath. As far as I’m aware, disabled access isn’t possible.
It’s crazy to say, but I only stumbled upon Porthgwidden beach after numerous visits to St Ives. It was purely by chance too. Taking a random turn meant I was greeted with heavenly coastal vibrancy and a beach that felt tucked away. An escape from the throngs of people in the town centre. Don’t be fooled though, Porthgwidden is a popular beach; it gets busy.
Porthgwidden is popular with families. It’s sheltered by The Island on the left and Bamaluz Point on the right. What I like about Porthgwidden is the 1930s beach huts, I love beach huts. They’re a nod to the years gone by; the nostalgic beach days my grandparents would’ve enjoyed.
Porthgwidden beach summary
The nearest car parks to Porthgwidden are The Island Car Park and The Sloop Inn Car Park.
There is no lifeguard at Porthgwidden beach
Like the other main beaches in St Ives, Porthgwidden operates a seasonal dog ban. This starts on 1 July until 31 August, between 10am – 6pm.
At the opening to Porthgwidden, you’ll find Porthgwidden Beach Cafe. It’s a very popular place and serves delicious food. Booking is advised if you want to eat in.
While there are steps to Porthgwidden beach, it can also be accessed from the road via a slipway.
On the other side of The Island is Porthmeor Beach. With the Tate Gallery elevated above Porthmeor, this expansive beach is popular in winter with local surfers and is also good for swimming. St Ives Surf School operate here, making it ideal if you want to indulge in some water sports.
Like the other beaches here, Porthmeor is blessed with rich golden sand. Also, it’s quite a big beach so there’s plenty of room for everyone. Porthmeor is a Blue Flag beach. It’s recognised for its environmental, safety, marine and educational qualities.
Porthmeor Car Park is short stay car park. The nearest alternative is the Island Car Park.
There are RNLI lifeguards at Porthmeor beach from mid-May until the last weekend in September, between 10am and 6pm.
As a blue flag beach, longer dog restrictions are in place here. Dogs are not permitted on Porthmeor beach from mid-May until the end of September, between 10am and 6pm.
Most amenities are in the town. Here you have the Porthmeor Beach Cafe – a fabulous place to eat. There are public toilets near Porthmeor beach. These are open seasonally from 8am until dusk.
There’s a slipway on the east side of the beach, near The Island, making it accessible.
If you walk from Porthmeor beach on the south west coast path you’ll find Clodgy Point. This is a shalee looking beach but likely to be quieter than the hustle and bustle of those surrounding the town. Don’t forget in the other direction from Porthminster beach there’s Carbis Bay. It’s not in St Ives but is only just over a mile away on the coast path. Or you could hop on the train and be there in minutes!
St Ives has so much going for it. It’s no wonder it remains Cornwall’s most popular destination. You can find out more about exploring St Ives in this post.
Do you have a favourite beach in St Ives?