beach looking over st ives
beach looking over st ives

Newquay vs. St Ives: A Tale of Two Cornish Titans

Table of Contents

Nestled in the southwest corner of England, Cornwall unfurls like a dreamy tapestry woven with rugged cliffs, shimmering beaches, and tales as ancient as the winds that sweep its shores. It’s a place where legends come alive, where the sea sings lullabies, and where every sunset feels like a painter’s masterpiece.

Amidst this Cornish wonderland, two towns rise like luminous stars on a clear night, each with its own tale to tell and magic to weave. Enter Newquay, the vivacious coastal darling known for its pulsating energy and nightlife, and St Ives, the serene beauty that whispers tales of art and history.

In this article, we will take a closer look at all the amazing things you can do in both places, including the top things to do in Newquay vs St Ives, local restaurants and cuisine, nightlife, and more. We’ll also compare the most popular beaches in each town to help you decide which is best for surfing or family fun.

So, let’s answer that age old question: which is the better, St Ives or Newquay? By the end of this post, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision on your ultimate Cornish getaway!

The Beaches: Surf’s Up vs. Serenity

Newquay’s Fistral Beach

A place where the waves kiss the shores and surfers dance with the tides. Newquay’s pride and joy, Fistral Beach, is not just a beach; it’s an experience. The roar of the waves, the thrill of the surf, and the golden sands stretching as far as the eye can see make it a surfer’s paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie looking to ride your first wave, Fistral Beach welcomes you with open arms.

fistral beach in newquay on a busy sunday day
Fistral Beach, Newquay

St Ives’ Porthminster Beach

On the other side of the spectrum lies Porthminster Beach in St Ives. If Fistral Beach is the wild child of Cornwall, Porthminster is the elegant sibling. With its calm waters, soft sands, and a horizon painted with hues of orange and pink during sunset, it’s a haven for those seeking tranquillity. Families building sandcastles, artists capturing the beauty of the seascape, and couples lost in each other’s company – that’s Porthminster for you.

st ives porthmeor beach looking out to sea
Porthmeor Beach, St Ives

Which one is right for you?

The right beach for your stay is an important choice for the perfect coastal getaway, so if you haven’t already got the picture, let’s break things down a little further.

In Newquay, you’ll find sandy dunes and turquoise waters that offer a stunning backdrop for your beach adventures. The idyllic charm and golden sands of St Ives’ picturesque beaches are equally captivating. If you’re into surfing, then obviously Newquay’s beaches provide the better opportunities with their beginner-friendly waves. On the other hand, St Ives offers secluded coves and a peaceful atmosphere, perfect for relaxation.

So, you decide – which one is the perfect choice for you?

The Town Centres: Modernity Meets Tradition

newquay town centre

Newquay Town Centre

Newquay’s town centre is where the old world meets the new. As you stroll through its streets, you’ll find a blend of traditional Cornish shops selling pasties and modern boutiques offering the latest fashion. The town’s vibrant energy is palpable, with street performers adding to its charm and cafes spilling onto the pavements, inviting you to take a break and soak in the atmosphere.

st ives town centre

St Ives Town Centre

St Ives, with its cobbled streets and historic buildings, feels like a step back in time. The town’s rich history is evident in every nook and cranny. But what truly sets it apart is its artistic soul. Galleries dot the landscape, showcasing the works of local artists inspired by the town’s beauty. It’s no wonder that St Ives has earned a reputation as an artists’ haven.

When it comes to comparing the town centres of St Ives and Newquay, each offers its own unique charm and attractions. St Ives boasts a delightful town centre characterized by narrow streets and those famous art galleries, creating a charming and picturesque atmosphere.

On the other hand, Newquay’s town centre is known for its vibrant nightlife and bustling streets filled with shops and cafes, making it an ideal place for those seeking entertainment and excitement.

Additionally, St Ives is renowned for its quaint fishing harbour and breathtaking coastal views, while Newquay exudes a lively atmosphere that draws visitors from far and wide. Both towns have something special to offer, providing visitors with different experiences worth exploring.

bars and clubs in newquay

Restaurants and Nightlife: From Gourmet Delights to Moonlit Nights

Newquay Food & Drink

When the sun sets, Newquay comes alive. The town boasts a plethora of dining options, from cosy cafes serving traditional Cornish fare to upscale restaurants offering gourmet dishes. And as the night progresses, the town’s pubs and bars fill up with locals and tourists alike, all looking to let their hair down and dance the night away.

St Ives Food & Drink

St Ives offers a more intimate dining and nightlife experience. Imagine dining in a sea-facing restaurant, the candlelight reflecting off your wine glass, and the sound of waves providing the perfect background music. The town’s nightlife, while more laid-back than Newquay’s, has its own charm. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a quiet drink overlooking the harbour or listen to live music in a local pub, St Ives has got you covered.

st ives Porthmeor beach

The Verdict: Which is Better, St Ives or Newquay?

The answer to this age-old question is subjective. If you’re looking for adrenaline-pumping adventures and a lively atmosphere, Newquay is your go-to destination. But if you’re in the mood for art, history, and a serene seaside experience, St Ives is the place to be.

After exploring both Newquay and St Ives, it’s clear that both Cornish towns have their own unique charms and attractions. Whether you’re looking for lively nightlife and thrilling surf spots in Newquay or a more serene and artistic atmosphere in St Ives, both destinations offer something very special on the bill.

In Newquay, you can enjoy the exhilaration of catching waves at Fistral Beach and indulge in delicious seafood at local restaurants. The vibrant nightlife scene ensures that there’s never a dull moment after dark, too.

On the other hand, St Ives captivates with its picturesque beauty and art scene. From exploring the narrow streets and discovering hidden gems to visiting world-class galleries and dining at charming eateries, St Ives offers a truly enchanting experience.

Ultimately, the decision between Newquay and St Ives depends on your personal preferences. Whether you crave adventure or tranquillity, both destinations guarantee an unforgettable Cornish getaway.

However, why confine yourself to one when you can experience both? Each town, with its unique charm, offers a different slice of Cornwall.


How long does it take to drive from Newquay to St Ives?

The drive between Newquay and St Ives typically takes around 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on traffic conditions and the specific route taken.

How many miles from Newquay to St Ives?

The distance by road between Newquay and St Ives is approximately 40 miles.

Is there a bus from Newquay to St Ives?

Yes, there are bus services that connect Newquay and St Ives. One of the prominent bus service providers in Cornwall is First Kernow. You can check routes, schedules, and book tickets on their official website: First Kernow or grab a direct bus like National Express.

Can you get a train from Newquay to St Ives?

There isn’t a direct train service between Newquay and St Ives. However, you can take a train from Newquay to a major station like St Erth, and then transfer to the St Ives Bay branch line to reach St Ives. It’s advisable to check the National Rail website or other train service providers for specific routes and schedules.

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