St Ives is a hugely popular place to visit in Cornwall with kids. It’s enjoys a brilliant location to the West of the County. The town itself is full of delightful narrow streets, fishing cottages and plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes to keep the whole family fed and watered. Plus it’s easy to walk to the beach from anywhere in town. This really is one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, but don’t just take my word for it, nearby Carbis Bay was home to the recent G7 summit where world leaders had an absolutely marvellous time taking in the scenery. So if you’re planning a family visit, here’s an extensive list of all the best things to do in St Ives with kids.
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List of Contents
- 1 Hit the Beach
- 2 Tate St Ives
- 3 Take in a Theatre show
- 4 Walk the coast path to Carbis Bay
- 5 Seal spotting
- 6 Hop on the train
- 7 Try surfing
- 8 St Ives Museum
- 9 Hit the arcades
- 10 Have a go at chocolate making
- 11 Visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gallery
- 12 Wander the streets
- 13 Steeple Nature Reserve
- 14 Catch a movie
- 15 Take a ghost story walk of St Ives
- 16 Geevor Mine
- 17 St Ives School of painting
- 18 Where to stay in St Ives with kids
- 19 Where to eat in St Ives with kids
Hit the Beach
This is our number one activity when visiting Cornwall with kids. We spend hours on the sand, building sandcastles, chasing the dog and bodyboarding in the waves. St Ives is home to several fabulous beaches.
Located in the centre of town, harbour beach is super convenient and incredibly pretty. This one has absolutely everything you could need for a day at the beach. It’s surrounded by thick harbour walls which provide a decent level of shelter on a blustery day. Being right in town means it has plenty of facilities within just a couple of minutes walk. The sand is soft and almost white and stretches far during low tide.
Harbour beach is a lovely place to watch the colourful working fishing boats bring in their daily catch.
Being so central and close to facilities means this is probably the busiest beach in St Ives. Especially during the peak summer season. There is a seasonal dog ban on this beach in July and August.
Porthmeor beach is located on the other side of St Ives, just under the Tate Art Gallery. It’s a wilder stretch of sand surrounded by gorgeous cliffs. This one is popular with surfers and body boarders as there’s a bit more space than Harbour Beach. It’s also home to a fabulous surf school. Again it’s easily walkable from anywhere in St Ives so you’ve got plenty a facilities locally. Plus it has the gorgeous Porthmeor Beach cafe overlooking the waves for when you fancy a brew. This is also my favourite place to watch the sunset with a cocktail or two.
No dogs are allowed on Portmeor beach between mid May and the end of September.
Porthgwidden is yet another soft, white sand beach with a stunning sand side beach bar within walking distance of town. It’s super clean and slightly less busy than the other beaches being fairly small and on the other side of the harbour wall. Again this beach is lovely and sheltered.
There is a dog ban on Porthgwidden in July and August.
Located just a short drive away from St Ives, Carbis Bay beach is widely though to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall. Home to the famous Carbis Bay Hotel and Spa which as an amazing place to stay or enjoy dinner in the area. Carbis Bay Beach is a wide soft stretch of white sand reminiscent of a tropical island somewhere in the Caribbean. Waves here are gentle and the water is shallow so it’s ideal for swimming with little kids. At low tide you’ll find some interesting shipwrecks and small caves and rockpools to explore.
Dogs are not allowed on Carbis Bay Beach from mid May until the end of September.
Tate St Ives
St Ives is a haven for artist and is home to many galleries and art schools. You’ll often see painters sat in front of an easel capturing the cliffs, waves and pretty cottages. This makes it the perfect location for the Tate Modern art gallery, the first of the Tate family located outside of London. Kids will love the large scale, bright art installations and are free to visit. It’s a fabulous place to spend a couple of hours soaking up some culture. While you’re there make sure you visit the cafe on the top floor for stunning views across Porthmeor Beach.
Take in a Theatre show
Home to the wonderful production company Kidz Are Us, St Ives theatre puts on many fabulous shows. Yes, these are shows for kids but adults will absolutely love them too. This years schedule includes Robinson Crusoe, Matilda and Calendar Girls.
You could also visit the famous outdoor Minack Theatre, just 45 minutes from St Ives. This is an absolutely spectacular location to take in a show or just take in the scenery.
Walk the coast path to Carbis Bay
Nothing beats a hike along the Cornish coast path. One of my favourites stretches is from St Ives to Carbis Bay. It’s only 1.5 miles and should take less than an hour with kids in tow. You begin the walk at the Portminster Beach Cafe and keep going with the sea on your left. Make sure you look out for the Godrevy lighthouse and see if you can spot any seals on your way. You’ll be able to reward your hard work with an ice cream at Carbis Bay beach before heading back to St Ives.
Seal island is located just 3 miles from the coast of St Ives. On a boat tour from St Ives you’ll be able to spot the seals in their natural environment but at a safe distance so you don’t disturb these fascinating creatures. You’ll also see the site of shipwrecks Alba and the Bessemer City.
Hop on the train
The trainline from St Ives has to be one of the most picturesque in the UK. The route takes you from St Ives to Carbis Bay, finishing up in St Erth. It only takes ten minutes and costs £4 for a return ticket. The views are so good you may want to make a few journeys!
St Ives Surf school is known to be one of the best places to surf in Cornwall. Classes begin in March and last right through to the end of the season. Or you could book a private lesson for one on one tuition. You’ll find the school located on Porthmeor Beach, it’s the perfect place to learn with gently swells and a sheltered stretch of sand. Children under ten need to be accompanied by a non surfing adult.
St Ives Museum
Whilst the St Ives Museum maybe small, it’s still an interesting place to take the kids in St Ives. Located in an old building which was originally used as a pilchard curing cellar. You’ll see many model boats, and memorabilia from historical local boat builders. Kids are free to visit.
Hit the arcades
For many Brits, a visit to an arcade is a must do on a family holiday to a seaside town. If you’re in St Ives with kids then you wont be disappointed. Harbour amusements and pool hall is a fun place to pop into if the weather turns wet and you have some extra pennies to spend. Family run and right on the harbour front it’s a fun experience for all ages with the latest games and some traditional favourites.
Have a go at chocolate making
For a truly unique experience in St Ives, head to I should coco and take part in one of their chocolate making workshops. They have a purpose built kitchen where groups can moulding, designing and decorating chocolates of their choice. Children under seven must be accompanied by an adult.
Visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gallery
Another arm of the Tate Gallery in St Ives is the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Gallery. Located in her original home at Trewyn Studios it’s home to over 30 gorgeous, large outdoor sculptures made from wood, bronze, stone and plaster. Kids are free to visit.
Wander the streets
It may sound boring but St Ives is such a pretty town we can happily spend the day just wandering the narrow streets. You’ll pass many old pubs and cafes as you go, make sure you stop off somewhere for a cream tea or pasty before heading back to your accommodation. The town also has many independent shops selling beautiful locally crafted gifts or artwork. It’s the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs or gifts for family at home.
Steeple Nature Reserve
When the kids eventually get tired of the beach then head ever so slightly inland to the stunning Steeple Nature Reserve. It’s 40 acres of woods and heathland that overlooks St Ives. Make sure you hike up to the Knill’s Monument for breathtaking views of the area and check out the wildflower meadow for some glorious colours.
Catch a movie
If you’re looking for things to do in St Ives with kids in the rain then a trip to the cinema is sure to be a crowd pleaser. St Ives Royal cinema shows all the latest releases and some old family favourites in a gorgeous converted Art Deco building.
Back in 2019 there were plenty of films shown on a large outdoor screen on Porthminster beach. I’ll keep checking if this is returning for this season and will update as soon as possible.
Take a ghost story walk of St Ives
The fabulous storyteller Shanty Baba will take you on a tour of St Ives after dark. Particularly spooky spots in town will be pointed out accompanied by stories of lore and legend. These walks last for just over an hour and costs just £6 for under 16s. It’s a truly unique experience in St Ives.
Located just half an hour from St Ives the Geevor Tin Mine is a fascinating place for a day out with the kids. Cornwall has a rich history of tin and copper mining, Geevor Mine gives you the opportunity to learn all about it, exploring the buildings and even going into an 18th century mine.
St Ives School of painting
St Ives is famous for its art scene which has been embraced for years. It all adds to the very creative feel of this lovely town. Budding artists will love a visit to the St Ives school of painting Sunday club. Aimed at 7 to 12 year olds they cover a different style each month. 13 to 16 year olds can join the Porthmeor Art Collective workshops which are again held once a month on a Sunday.
Where to stay in St Ives with kids
St Ives is full of charming holiday cottages. From pretty much all parts of town it’s easy to walk to the beach and a plethora of pubs and restaurants. Sykes has a wonderful range of holiday homes in St Ives just make sure you book early as they fill up fast for peak periods.
St Ives Harbour Hotel and Spa
Located Directly above Porthminster Beach the St Ives Harbour Hotel has amazing views out to sea towards the Godrevy lighthouse. It has a gorgeous Spa area with an indoor pool, family sized rooms (some with bunk beds!) and direct access to the beach.
Carbis Bay Hotel
Just ten minutes drive from St Ives is the stunning Carbis Bay Hotel land Spa. It’s where the G7 leaders staying during their meetings in Cornwall last year. This is one of the best luxury hotels in Cornwall but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the kids. It’s located right on the beach with a gorgeous outdoor pool and has suites and beach houses to suit all family sizes.
Where to eat in St Ives with kids
St Ives is home to heaps of independent restaurants all serving fresh, seasonal and local dishes. Pretty much whatever you fancy, you’ll find. During busy periods I highly recommend booking your table well in advance other wise you’ll have to resort to fish and chips on the beach, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
Tretho Lounge St Ives
Belonging to a chain of “lounges” the Tretho Lounge is relaxed and slightly bohemian by nature. It’s a great place for soup and a sandwich. Make sure you grab a table upstairs for the best sea views. It’s also very dog and kid friendly.
Talay Restaurant St Ives
If you’re after something spicy then I highly recommend Talay Thai Restaurant. We tend to choose a range of Thai Tapas sized dishes to share amongst us but they also do all the usual Thai favourites along with some delicious cocktails.
The Rum and Crab
The Rum and Crab Shack above the harbour wall is a really fun place to enjoy a crabby dinner. Yes they serve a wide variety of rum and plenty of crab but there’s also heaps else on the menu and the atmosphere is uplifting even when you’ve spent all day on the beach.
For something a little fancier, head to the Searoom which is a cocktail and tapas bar, home to St Ives Gin. They have a small but perfectly formed kids menu which includes my daughters favourite, a tomato pasta dish.
My favourite spot for a takeout coffee to warm me up on the beach is the Yallah coffee kiosk. The coffee is hot and strong and the freshly made donuts provide the perfect sugar hit.
Harbour fish and Chips
Take out fish and chips is an absolute must while on holiday in Cornwall. The fish is fresh, chips are hot and covered in vinegar. Its the ideal spot for enjoying at harbour beach.
Just watch out for the seagulls, they’re guaranteed to try to steal your chips!