ST.IVES...THE DAZZLING JEWEL IN CORNWALL'S CROWN.
MEETING POINT: OPPOSITE MOR BEACH CAFE AND THE SLOOP PUB. TR26 1LP
Wildlife trips running April to November.
2 Hour, 4 Hour, 8 Hour, BIG 3 and GIANT BLUEFIN TUNA Trips.
Departure point for Scillies Trips (coming 2023).
St Ives may be small, but it’s spectacularly beautiful, and you’ll be amazed by how much there is to do.
Whilst surrounded by four stunning sandy beaches, St Ives also boasts a diverse arts scene and is the perfect base to explore the rest of Cornwall. Read on for more things to do in the area.
The dazzling jewel in Cornwall’s crown - St Ives. A picturesque fishing harbour and seaside town. Voted best family holiday destination by Coast magazine and one of TripAdvisor’s top 10 European beaches. Wander through the maze of narrow cobbled streets, independent shops and fisherman’s cottages in the heart of St Ives. With accommodation ranging from top hotels, bed and breakfast, self-catering cottages or apartments, come and sample some of the tastiest award-winning restaurants, cafés and bars in the Southwest.
Surf or swim at the blue flag-rated Porthmeor beach and feel the soft sand between your toes, or set off on an inspiring walk along the coastal path towards Land’s End. It's all waiting for you!
Wild about Sea Life
Passionate about Dolphins
With its irregular-shaped coastline, St Ives beaches jut out in all directions ensuring dazzling sunlight all day, with majestic sunrises and sunsets. The Blue Flag beaches are the best for surfing and windsurfing anywhere in the country. Find a quiet sheltered inlet perfect for bathing. Experience the traditional feel of an English seaside town that invites you to throw a towel down and embrace the holiday spirit. Beneath wet black cliffs go crabbing in rock pools and for the more intrepid, head to the famous Godrevy lighthouse. For wild walking with dramatic uninterrupted views, throw a pasty in your backpack and head out on the Southwest coastal path towards Zennor for a chance to see basking sharks and seals.
Perhaps St Ives' greatest natural asset is the array of beautiful sandy beaches that surround the town. Set in the eastern lee of the Island is Porthgwidden Beach, an ideal place for swimming. Round the corner and overlooked by the Tate Gallery is the large and sandy Porthmeor beach, one of the major surfing beaches in the area. Directly in front of the town is the Harbour Beach and nearby, Porthminster Beach with its highly rated cafe. The latter beach was a popular place for tourists during the WW2 when so many other beaches were out of bounds to the public. Ideal for families is the long sandy beach at Carbis Bay, a short way along the coast.
Originally a fishing village, St Ives grew up into a seaside resort, and has long attracted artists. Explore the picturesque bustle of whitewashed fisherman’s cottages, art galleries, independent shops, bars and restaurants. Along narrow cobbled streets that maze out from the Digey and Fore Street towards the harbour, or up Bedford Road, enjoy the atmosphere that is uniquely St Ives.
St Ives is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty with a multitude of nature trails to explore. Choose the landscape; from mesmerising coastal geology to inland shaded woods. Walk beside towering clifftops with breathtaking sea views. Discover rugged moorland heaths where vivid pink and yellow wildflowers sway in the breeze. Stop off at a still lake, an old china clay works, or the ruins of an old tin mine. There are a great variety of bird species to observe; amongst the guillemots and shags, the harder to spot curlews and kestrels may appear in Summer or Autumn. In the water, dolphins, porpoises, minke whales and basking sharks can be seen.
Kids can enjoy a nearby animal park with an incredible array of exotic birds including toucans, macaws and flamingoes. Other animals also include otters, penguins and red pandas. There are two geological nature reserves of national importance within easy reach of St Ives. St Erth Pits has been designated as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest providing evidence of the climate and geography of this part of west Cornwall going back two million years to the Pliocene age.
Here are some beautiful walks, local to St.Ives that are great for watching wildlife.
This seven-mile walk features some steep climbs and rough paths, so it’s one for the more experienced hiker. We normally start at Hell’s Mouth, a craggy Cornish cove just along the coast, to the north of Three Mile Beach. From there, you head inland through the Red River Valley and Tehidy estate, finally rejoining the coast path at North Cliffs and Reskjeage, where you’ll hear the noisy seabird colonies in the cliffs. A highlight for me is the Red River Local Nature Reserve. It’s hard to imagine that this peaceful area of woodland and waterways used to be a noisy mining industrial landscape. Look out for foxes, badgers and, if you’re lucky, otters. I also love the ancient Estate of Tehidy that was owned by the Bassetts, a wealthy, local mining family. It’s a superb area of woodlands full of winding paths to explore.
Lelant To St. Ives Walk
This stunning coastal walk follows the route of the railway line that connects Lelant to St Ives. I think this is one of the most beautiful parts of Cornwall with its three white-sand beaches all in a row. The first is Porthkidney, which is dog-friendly all year round and backed by dunes. Next is stunning Carbis Bay, where you might be tempted to drop in for refreshments at the hotel. Next up is Porthminster Beach – where the lovely café is another good place to rest your feet. The walk ends in St Ives, where you can enjoy a pleasant hour or two pottering around the town. To get home, just catch the train for a scenic ride back to Lelant.
A Stroll To Godrevy Head.
This is a easy, must-do, 2 mile walk from Three Mile Beach, taking in views of both the beach and the coastline over St. Ives Bay and the lighthouse on Godrevy Island. When you reach Mutton Cove, you may well see seals pulled up on the rocks, particularly in the autumn. In fact, this whole stretch of coast is good for seal spotting, and there’s also a chance you might spy dolphin pods in St Ives Bay. Please note that stopping off at the Godrevy Café for ice creams is a compulsory part of this walk.
Upton Towans And Gwithian Towans Circular Walk.
This is another short walk, chosen to help you get acquainted with the unique, wild landscape of the dunes around Three Mile Beach. You’ll enjoy exploring the little sandy paths. You’ll pass the quaint Jam Pot café. You’ll discover the tiny village of Gwithian, with its pretty church. And you’ll see across to St Gothians Sands Nature Reserve with its pools that attract big flocks of migratory wildfowl and waders.
This walk follows the Coast Path all the way through the dunes to Hayle, returning along the beach. It’s a longer one, but it’s mostly flat. The walk takes you through the beautiful Towans (the Cornish word for sand dunes), designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their geology and wildlife. A fifth of all Cornwall’s plant species can be found in this one relatively small area and the plants support abundant birdlife and many species of butterflies and moth. On the way, you pass through Upton Towans, also known as Dynamite Towans, which was home to one of Britain’s largest explosive factories during the war. You’ll also pass alongside the Copperhouse Pool RPSB reserve within Hayle estuary, an excellent spot for birdwatching.
BUT... what we are here for is the wildlife...And its plentiful!!
Birdwatching around St Ives, Carbis Bay and the adjacent coast can be a very rewarding experience and add another dimension to your visit.
St Ives is famous for Sabine's Gull', these along with the Little, Glaucous and Icelandic Gull's frequent the area in the winter months.
Starting from the harbour and walking westwards to the Island you can see Turnstones running along the quay and beach along with Herring gulls, Lesser Black-backed gulls, Greater Black-backed gulls, Yellow-legged gulls, Black-headed gulls and Mediterranean gulls. depending on the season.
From the Island, you can “sea watch” for Manx Shearwaters, in fact our guide Dr Peter Nason has seen every species of British shearwater from here, also, Gannets, Razorbills, Puffins, Guillemots and more. While on the rocks will be small Robin sized Rock Pipits, with similar sized white rumped Wheatears in spring or summer on the grass of the Island itself, while Snow Bunting, Black Redstart, Purple Sandpiper in winter. We've even had a flock of Dunlin winter off Bamaluz.
Very often Buzzards will be soaring in the sky. If you are lucky as you proceed along the coast towards Land’s End, you should encounter a large Peregrine falcon, these are by no means uncommon now, and the hovering smaller falcon, the Kestrel. Other birds along the route to Land’s End are Linnets, Goldfinches, Stonechats.
In the evening summer sun, by Carn Galver you can hear the Nightjars “churring”, and during the winter mostly here you could see a Hen Harrier or Short Eared Owl, all year round Ravens are about. At Land’s End itself, there is a RSPB hide and optical equipment for viewing the Kittiwake colony and nesting Shags.
Setting off from St Ives in the opposite direction around Carbis Bay may yield small delicate seabirds such as Sandwich, Common and Arctic terns, with occasional Little terns, Storm Petrels and Leaches Storm Petrel these are fairly common. The wooded hillsides of Carbis Bay are home to Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, various warblers such as the Dartford and Grasshopper in Spring and Summer, and perhaps a Redbacked or Woodchat Shrike.
Finally from Hayle estuary itself. Here you can see a large variety of wading birds, ducks and the now regular Little Egrets. Grey Phalarope have also been noted by Peter. Crossing the road between the estuary and the Hayle by-pass brings you to the RSPB reserve of Ryan’s Field. This is a series of lagoons and islands with a very good free car park and observation centre. This is a good place for seeing Kingfishers as well as wading birds.
Other notable regular observations are the Cuckoo, Adder, Common Lizard and Butterflies... OH MY! SO MANY BUTTERFLIES, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Holly Blue, Large White, Brimstone, Green Hairstreak, Red Admiral and many more!
Then we have the our Marine Life, from May to the end of September large amounts of Common dolphins move from the warm waters of Bay of Biscay along the south coast of the U.K many heading and stopping in the the rich feeding grounds of the bay. Some of these pod are truly massive with sightings of over 200 animals at a time and it being nothing to encounter several hundred animals in a day. Cornwall also has several resident pods of inshore Bottlenose Dolphins that if we are lucky, can be found 12 month of the year.
The area around St.Ives also has a consistent population of Risso Dolphins these can be found frequently at certain times of the year when they follow firstly the cuttlefish and then the squid inshore to feed. Making the quite a rarity and unique along the south coast, we usually manage to find some of these pods numerous times a year and run special whole days trips looking for them (and GIANT ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA) further offshore where they are often found in large maternal pods. These large but normally shy animals certainly earn their place as one of my favourites.
White Beaked have been encountered and although these are normally in offshore encounters, as in the case of the Humpback and Fin Whales that were spotted less than 100 yards from the shore during late 2020 and early 2021, all have been found within a few hundred yards from the shore in the St.Ives area.
The St.Ives Grey Seal population is always a highlight of our trips. "Seal Island" a small rocky island 6km west of St Ives and this is the largest island in The Carracks, a group of small rocky inshore islands 200m offshore. It does not take a wildlife expert to understand why the island gets its name as it’s the home to a colony of Grey Atlantic seals. It holds a resident population of around 50 animals now which has steadily increased over the last 30 years or so. Grey Seals can be seen throughout the year, often close in to the rocks.
Their numbers begin increasing in the autumn and by January over 100 may be hauled out in Mutton Cove, located on the northern side of the headland. Good views of seals can be had looking down on Mutton Cove from the cliff edge close to the South West Coast Path.
If time allows and the the timing is right there are several places we can head to to observe these animals hauled out and resting, this is done at distance so binoculars definitely help with this. If we are lucky we might even find a couple of the much smaller Common seals, Don't believe the name though, these seals along the south coast are far from common although our trips from Dartmouth and Brixham frequently find them. The river Dart holds the south wests largest ( Now Breeding) group. Its great to be able to see the 2 species side by side so you can truly appreciate the differences.
Some of our other Large animals seen are, Minke Whales, Basking and Thresher Sharks, GIANT Bluefin Tuna, Sunfish, Harbour Porpoise and as in this year (2021) a Leatherback Turtle. Humpback, Fin and Pilot Whales have also been recorded numerous times in recent years.
Check out the photo gallery below on just some of the animals we hope to find...
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