Tourism in Penzance & West Cornwall
St Ives Bay
On approaching St Ives Bay, the visitor will be presented with one of the most beautiful sights that can be seen in Britain's West Country, with an open expanse of clear blue sea stretching miles along the coast towards the Godrevy Lighthouse in the north and fringed by a continuous series of spectacular beaches.
The Bay includes the town of St Ives itself - so well known as an artistic centre - with the neighbouring resorts of Carbis Bay and Lelant and then, beyond the Hayle River, the port of Hayle - which made major contributions to Cornwall's industrial past - and the long stretch of dune-backed beaches that make up the Hayle Towans.
St Ives is located about six miles to the north of Penzance and is set on the shores of St Ives Bay, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the most colourful, quaint and attractive towns in Cornwall with numerous granite cottages, small cobbled streets, and narrow alleyways all surrounding a sheltered harbour. Walking around the town - and walking is the only way to go as cars and other traffic are discouraged from entering the town at busy times - provides endless opportunity for amazement at the pretty sights to be seen around every corner. There are numerous small craft shops and galleries in the town to tempt the visitor.
The harbour itself has a sandy beach exposed at low tide while the town is surrounded by more beaches, some sheltered and backed by prolific flower gardens and some exposed to the ocean. While St Ives is undoubtedly a major tourist destination, it also remains a fishing port and the daily landing of fish on the quay and the movement of boats are popular sights for locals and visitors alike.
The town has been famous for over a century as an artists' paradise - there is something special about the quality of the light in St Ives which appeals to landscape (or seascape) artists and which is felt to be unique to West Cornwall. The St Ives Tate Gallery was built and opened in 1993 and has proved very popular both with art connoisseurs and with casual visitors - the building itself is a spectacular sight placed immediately above the western beach and the Atlantic Ocean, while the variety of exhibitions held provides a continuously varying source of interest.
Carbis Bay& Lelant
Stretching eastward from St Ives, beaches continue into Carbis Bay and beyond. Alongside the coast - past both beaches and wooded headlands - runs the St Ives railway branch line which presents the arriving traveller with the most beautiful views of St Ives and its harbour.
Carbis Bay beach is a save haven for families with a sheltered sandy beach, easily reached by road, train or a gentle walk around the wooded headland from St Ives.
Around yet another headland is Lelant where a sandy beach is backed by sand dunes rising towards the West Cornwall Golf Course - one of the major courses in the area. Behind the sand dunes lies the attractive Lelant Church and the small village.
Hayle, set at the head of the estuary and river bearing its name, was once the centre of the manufacturing and engineering industry that formed the basis of Cornwall's importance in the tin mining era of the 1800s and early 1900s.
Today, Hayle lies adjacent to the famous Hayle Towans - a long range of sand dunes bordering the northern side of St Ives Bay. Below the dunes are magnificent open beaches stretching for over 3 miles from the Hayle River to Godrevy Lighthouse at the northern end of the bay. Numerous self-catering complexes will be found nestling amongst the dunes, ideally located for beach holidays.
The Hayle Estuary partly dries out at low tide exposing sand and mud flats which provide a natural haven for waders and many other types of birds. This has consequently led to Hayle being known widely as a "Mecca" for bird-watchers, particularly at times of migration.