As parents of three young kids, we are always looking out for local places to visit for days out with our children. Here are our tips and suggestions for kid-friendly activities in St Ives and West Cornwall…
Top 10 family days out in Cornwall
St Austell (46 miles from St Ives)
Eden Project is one of our favourites; they always have such fantastic events on during the school holidays. Eden has so much to offer all the family… from soft-play areas and craft activities for young children through to zip-wire, base jump and other adventurous activities for older kids (or parents wanting to impress their teenage kids!). If you dare to give it a go, the SkyWire is England’s longest and fastest zip wire soaring at speeds up to 60mph above Eden’s biomes (recommend pre-booking for this, especially during busy periods).
Adults and kids alike can’t help but be impressed by the scale and beautiful unique architecture of the biomes, housing stunning plants and the largest rainforest in captivity.
Eating at Eden is always a treat with a great range of kid-friendly restaurants both indoors and out, our favourite being the Med Kitchen located in the warm and sunny (even in the winter) Mediterranean Biome.
Our tip is to walk from the entrance down the windy path with the biomes in full view and get the land train back up the hill following a tiring day of activities!
Our children have so much fun every time we go there, whatever the season.
Check out the ‘Visiting with kids’ page on the Eden Project website…
St Michael’s Mount
Marazion, Penzance (8 miles from St Ives)
National Trust owned St Michael’s Mount is a unique ‘island’ situated 500 metres from the mainland of Marazion.
Having parked in Marazion, walk along the top of the beach towards the causeway and you will find a great park along the way, perfect for those ‘are we there yet?’ younger kids!
Check tide times before-hand for the best time to visit as the causeway is impassible at high tide. It’s not all bad news though as you (and the kids) might prefer to hop on the amphibious boat instead to cross from the mainland to the mount.
There are rocks for older kids to climb on or rock pools for young kids to explore when the tide is out. Once on the mount you can explore the medieval castle, walk-ways and sub-tropical gardens where you will also find a restaurant and cafe serving good tasty food and drinks.
The walk up to the castle is steep but worth it as the view from the top is breath taking. In the school holidays the National Trust organise treasure hunts and quizzes for the children to keep them occupied while you take a tour around the house.
A truly unique place to visit for all ages.
Check out what’s on this week at St Michael Mount.
Cornish Seal Sanctuary
Gweek (21 miles from St Ives)
Our kids get so excited about going to the Seal Sanctuary. They love watching the antics of the seals, penguins and otters, but especially the huge sea lions!
The work being done to help care for injured seals in convalescent care is amazing and inspiring, we would recommend it to anyone. The Sanctuary has a seal hospital for recently recued pups needing specialist care to aid in their recuperation.
From the entrance to the seal hospital is a steady uphill walk alongside the beautiful Helford estuary, so you would be wise to bring a pram or carrier for babies or toddlers. Saying that, if you time it right there is a shuttle bus that takes you up the hill and down to the seals if the walk is too much.
The cafe is beautifully located but food is very basic (pasties, chips etc). We always take a pack-lunch and treat the kids to an ice-cream afterwards so they are always happy (eventually!). Additionally there is a small park with climbing boat near to the cafe to help keep the kids entertained.
Seal Sanctuary website
Hayle (6 miles from St Ives)
Our kids would quite happily spend a full day at Paradise Park come rain or shine!
The wildlife sanctuary has over 130 species of beautiful birds and animals to observe and interact with, as well as a great combination of indoor and outdoor play areas. If your kids are lucky they might have the chance to feed the penguins with a photo opportunity afterwards.
There is an impressive array of tropical birds, parrots, owls and eagles here, and an enclosure of Lorikeets where you can entice them into your hands with some nectar in a small cup that is so sweet! Seeing our kid’s faces as the birds land on them to feed is such a joy.
The Red Pandas are very playful and really cute to see, whilst the fun farm have sheep, goats, donkeys, guinea pigs and rabbits (buy the feed on the way in and the little ones can feed the animals by hand).
The Jungle Barn indoor play area is lots of fun and perfect for kids to blow off some steam – soft play for the under 5s and drop sides for older kids. A word of warning, it does get really busy some Saturday mornings so might be worth checking if they have kids parties booked before you go.
The cost of admission is fairly expensive, but with the option of a cheap return ticket (£3.99) makes it reasonable if you love it enough for a quick return!
Paradise Park website
Flambards Theme Park
Helston (15 miles from St Ives)
We were not going to add Flambards to our list as, on first impression, it feels a tad rundown and can’t compare to larger parks such as Thorpe Park or Alton Towers. However, our kids absolutely love it, and for their age group (4-7 years) it’s absolutely perfect. In fact it’s also perfect for kids up to their teenage years as the park is small enough for parents to feel sure that their kids are safe and fairly close by.
Thetheme park rides themselves are nowhere near the level of the larger parks, but you hardly ever have to queue even in the height of summer. With little ones this is such a bonus, so no stress queuing an hour for a two-minute ride!
In August Flambards have firework shows twice a week, a great way to round off the day for all the family. When it comes to ticket prices it is a bit expensive but you do get a seven day free return after paying once, plus you can always use your Tesco vouchers!
One thing that is a must see is the Victorian Village. The attention to detail here is unexpected and surprisingly amazing!
With lots of indoor and outdoor seating and dining areas for you to sit at, our tip is to take your own pack-lunch as the food there is fairly basic.
Leach Pottery St Ives
Our eldest daughter (aged seven) is very creative and loves nothing more than getting her hands dirty (and the rest of herself for that matter!). In the school holidays the Leach Pottery do one-hour clay sessions with different themes each time, maybe one time making a tropical fish, the next time an animal sculpture.
Afterwards your child’s masterpiece will have to dry out, then be fired and glazed taking approximately 4-6 weeks. The Leach Pottery post the finished piece back to you afterwards, unless you happen to be on a very long holiday in which case you can pick up yourself!
Clay for kids at the Leach Pottery
The Tate St Ives Family Sessions
Throughout the year Tate St Ives hold Super Sunday Workshops, creative sessions for all the family. It’s gallery takeover time for families and, being suitable for all ages, the events allow the whole family to play and get creative together.
Our favourite session was working with fresh fish bought at Newlyn market that morning, covering the fish in squid ink and creating beautiful prints. These prints looked genuinely amazing and are now hanging on our walls, and not just in the kid’s rooms either!
You leave the gallery feeling inspired with a selection of artwork created by your very own kids.
Tate St Ives has it’s own Parent and Baby room and changing facilities for babies. The top floor cafe has a special menu for children, and the views over Porthmeor beach and old St Ives are well worth the visit alone.
Visit The Tate St Ives
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens
Near Penzance (6 miles from St Ives)
We all love Tremenheere Gardens, even our four year old twins love exploring the gardens and seeking out the sculptures (particularly the bull sculpture which they believe is Ferdinand!).
The gardens are beautiful and mostly informal, set in a sheltered valley overlooking St Michael’s Mount. The woods, stream and dramatic views provide the perfect setting for exotic and sub-tropical plants, and the whole family will enjoy and appreciate the selection of contemporary artwork scattered through the gardens.
For kids there are plenty of grassy areas to run around on, and perfect spots to place your rug for a picnic. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of the children’s adventure map from the ticket desk. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on a lead throughout the gardens.
As if that wasn’t enough, the fantastic café/restaurant Tremenheere Kitchen is situated at the entrance to the gardens, the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch or, best of all in our opinion, an amazing Sunday roast!
Also try nearby Trengwainton Gardens or Godolphin House, both National Trust owned.
Visit Tremenheere Gardens
Sennen (16 miles from St Ives)
It is absolutely true that Land’s End has become a mini theme park over recent years, somewhat diluting the natural beauty of what is Cornwall’s most westerly point. However, the beautiful scenery of the rugged coastline is still here, as are the spectacular coastal walks including the short (ish) walk to Sennen where there is always a chance of spotting basking sharks along the way.
There is still plenty for the kids here too, including a small farm that offers kids the chance to be hands on with a variety of small animals and, rather randomly, an Aardman Animations Experience with various exhibits from Wallace & Grommit, Morph and Shaun the Sheep, including some original sets and clay models.
On Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer months Land’s End hold Family Fun Days culminating in their evening fireworks display in the most spectacular of settings.
Also, nearby is the Minack Theatre, an open-air theatre carved into the granite cliff over-looking the Atlantic Ocean offering spectacular views and family-friendly shows throughout the summer.
Visit Lands End
Beaches in St Ives
Perhaps best of all is the natural beauty of our local beaches scattered in and around St Ives. All offer something different but Porthminster beach is our absolute favourite… soft sand, calm seas, beach facilities and shop and, here’s the Brucey bonus, a fantastic restaurant Porthminster Café offering great food on a terrace overlooking the beach.
Sometimes the simple things in life really are the best!
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