From Porthminster and Porthmeor to Gwithian and Gwenver, St Ives and its surrounds flaunt some of the best beaches in Cornwall. With sheltered coves, sandy swathes and wave-lashed shores, there’s the perfect bay for every beach lover – whether you want to feel the sand between your toes or hit the surf. As well as half a dozen beaches within footsteps of St Ives’ town, it’s only a short hop over the headland to Carbis Bay and the dog-friendly Porthkidney Sands, and a scenic trip on the coastal railway takes you to Hayle and its three miles of golden sands stretching all the way to Godrevy Lighthouse.
Home to the UK’s surfing capital, Cornwall is a surfers paradise, serving up world-class waves that lure wave-riders of all ages and abilities. St Ives Porthmeor Beach is the perfect place for beginners to ride perfect little peelers that break on the sand. Godrevy – at the northern end of St Ives Bay – is one of the most popular surfing beaches in Cornwall, with consistent swell that wraps around the lighthouse and rolls into the bay.
This gob-smacking, Atlantic-hewn scenery has not only brought surfers to town; it lured many artists to Cornwall long before the dawn of wave riding. John Miller’s paintings of St Ives Bay have become famous worldwide, and the eminent Tate St Ives, standing tall over Porthmeor Beach, is testimony to the calibre of modern art that has been inspired by the coastal scenery.
Just beyond St Ives, the wild western toe of the county boasts some of the finest beaches in Cornwall. You can view the rugged coastal landscape and pearly coves in any of St Ives galleries, but nothing beats scrambling down the cliff paths and stepping foot on secret coves such as Nanjizal, Lamorna and Treen. Overlooked by the Minack Theatre, the white sands of Porthcurno mirror a scene from the Caribbean, and despite the cooler sea temperatures many swimmers brave a dip in the azure waters where basking sharks are often spotted during spring.
Whether you want a bucket-and-spade beach or a serene cove tucked away from the crowds, West Cornwall is a mecca for beach life. Spread out your picnic blanket and play beach games, peer into rock pools and tuck into pasties, or sit back and take in the scenery from a swanky restaurant nudging the sand.
While a few of St Ives main beaches ban dogs during the summer months, over 100 of Cornwall’s beaches welcome your four-legged friends year-round. Checkout our guide to dog-friendly beaches or pick up a map from the Tourist Information Centre.