St Ives is a bustling Cornish town that sits way out west on the peninsula. Set right in the path of prevailing weather systems, St Ives is a haven for artists, bohemian types, watersports enthusiasts, outdoor fans, tourists, surfers and those looking to escape to a beautiful part of the UK’s coast.

St Ives Bay has a number of different beaches to choose from that all face different directions and as such offer various on water conditions depending on the weather. From Porthmeor to Gwithian and Godrevy to the north, St Ives Bay offers kayaking conditions for every type of paddler – beginner to experienced.

Carbis Bay is one of the more sheltered spots in the area and boasts much calmer conditions than its more full on neighbours. The spot does get a wave, particularly if it’s blowing a hooley from the south. Carbis Bay offers respite from the wind to local surfers in the know. It’s also a haven for those less experienced when big Atlantic swells hit offering a mellower surfing experience than Gwithian or Godrevy.

Towards the east end of the beach, at the bottom of some steep and slippery steps (that make getting your gear down the cliff a bit of a ‘mare) you’ll find a sandbar that kicks up a dumpy lump to play on at low tide. The beach at this state in the cycle links up with neighbouring stretches of sand and it’s possible to paddle (and walk) between spots. As the water pushes, you’ll find yourself unable to walk back to your drop in, if things go awry, but paddling back should be no bother.

It’s worth noting the backwash and current you get around the cliffs to the right as you look out to sea from mid tide. Steer clear of this and you’ll be fine. As the water fills up the beach, any wave activity quickly turns to fairly hard shore break – worth watching out for when landing back on the beach.
After your session you’ll find refreshments at the local beach bar which is an annexe of the Carbis Bay Hotel. There’s also a little outlet for ice creams which will help you cool off during warmer spells.

For those who fancy taking an extended break in the area then there are some amazing seafront properties overlooking the water perched on the cliff side. Most are exclusive and you’ll need a fat wallet to cope with the hefty tariffs of some places.

It’s also worth noting that access to the beach can be tricky. The road down to Carbis Bay is steep and narrow with only a few car parking spaces available at the bottom. You can chuck your vehicle in at the train station, half way down, although during high season this is frowned upon and you may face parking penalties.

If you own a larger vehicle, such as a van, then you could find manoeuvring your vehicle a bit of a stress, particularly in summer. Out of season shouldn’t be a bother, although be aware, St Ives and its surrounds stay busy right the way through the year.

How to get there:

Getting to Carbis Bay and St Ives couldn’t be easier. Follow the A30 south all the way along the Cornish peninsula to Redruth, once here you’ll see sign posts guiding you towards St Ives. Head for town and Carbis Bay is located just off the A3074.


The Carbis Bay Hotel operates a beach front café that sells all manner of refreshments, food and drinks. A shop selling generalist beach toys, paraphernalia and ice creams is open in high season and a lifeguard service operates through the summer months.

Toilets and parking are available but the car park gets full quickly.


A hefty high tide shore break can catch out the unwary during the launching and landing process and currents, backwash and tides around headlands need to be taken note of.

During the main holiday season, the beach can get quite busy, with a variety of water craft coming and going. Paddlers need to watch out for other boats and water users during busy times.

Ins and Outs:

After dropping your boat off in the car park you have to carry it a short distance down the steps and onto the sand. Once on the beach you can then drag you boat to the water’s edge.

If lifeguards are on duty then observe the flags designating swimming and surfing areas –launch in the appropriate place. If you’re unsure then speak to one of the guys on duty and they’ll point you in the right direction.


St Ives has a number of fabulous eating and drinking establishments including the famous Sloop Inn – a famous smugglers pub thought to date back to 1312. If you’re wanting a spot of after dark action then the nightlife is abundant with a variety of late licence bars and a couple of nightclubs.

For those visiting the area then heading to the Tate St Ives is worth a look and features regular exhibitions.


Carbis Bay nestles in a secluded little nook of St Ives Bay, just around the headland from the famous Cornish town itself. On its day you could be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere more exotic. The pristine white sand, amazing azure colour of the water and tranquil atmosphere all roll into to making Carbis Bay an irresistible place to put in and head off for a paddle.

With steep and cliffy access, limited parking – particularly on busy summer days – and other more frequented beaches in the area, Carbis Bay never gets that overcrowded. Busy, but not as much as St Ives Harbour or Porthmeor to the west.

If you’ve ever wanted to paddle in stunning clear water, with breath taking coastline as scenery, have a plethora of options for alternative put in points, indulge in some fantastic après activities and enjoy some peaceful ambience then Carbis Bay could be the spot for you.


Carbis Bay, St Ives


Fi Plavenieks
Robert Pittman