Cornwall’s beaches always have something for everyone. Families can enjoy a day out on the county’s coast, in the...
One of the best things about going on holiday is, without a doubt, the opportunity to see flora and fauna that we simply can’t elsewhere in our lives. On holiday, we not only get the opportunity to chance across new wildlife. We have the time and mental space to appreciate it.
It’s no different on our fantastic self-catered St Ives and Carbis Bay holidays. Our cottages, apartments and homes offer unparalleled access to some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife anywhere in the UK, though, with so much to see, you might be wondering where to begin.
In this guide, we’re going to share with you some of our favourite wildlife and nature hotspots around St Ives.
With the incredible amount of walks and diversity in Cornwall, it is easy to find stunning locations to explore what the land offers. The number of wildlife scattered across the county is vast, but some creatures are hard to find.
There are many beautiful woodlands walks that you can experience in Cornwall. If you want to take a break from the sometimes adverse windy weather that the coast can offer, why not head inland and take a sheltered walk into one of the stunning protected woodland areas in the county.
Tehidy Woods offers a great range of walking routes covering up to nine miles and within a two hundred and fifty-acre area. The woods are all dog friendly and boast the friendliest squirrels and birds in the county, so grab a bag of nuts or seeds. The woods are also close to Godrevy beach if you fancy doing both an inland and coastal walk on the same day.
There is a cafe and toilets available but do check their opening times.
Kennall Vale is one of the lesser-known walking sites in Cornwall. It is, however, a bird and bat life hotspot. The terrain can be a bit more challenging and can be very muddy after heavy rainfalls, but if you make the trip, you will be rewarded with stunning picturesque woodland and the old gun powder factory.
There are no cafes or toilets there, and parking can be limited.
Cardinham Woods offers both walks and cycle trails, depending on the type of adventure you seek. With its four walking routes and three cycling routes, you can spend the entire day exploring this wonderful woodland and still not see it all. It also has a scattering of various picnic areas and suntraps which are perfect for a refuelling stop for the family.
There are a cafe and toilets available, plus bike hire to explore the cycle trails.
Golitha Falls is a little further afield in Liskeard, but it’s definitely worth the trip. In the spring, the falls are covered in Bluebells, creating a dream-like majesty when you walk the paths. Its ancient oak woodland boasts an incredible amount of wildlife and are homes to the likes of otters and no less than eighty-three species of moths. Be careful on rainy days as the River Fowey has been known to burst its banks.
There is a restaurant close by which offers hot food, and there is parking nearby.
Lizard Point to Kenneck Sands is a stunning five-mile coastal walk away from the beaches. Covering some outstanding trails, this route showcases some of the best of what the Lizard peninsula has to offer. Teeming with wildlife, you can often see beautiful butterflies and moths fluttering about and occasionally, a buzzard stalking for prey above you. The summer is blooming with wildflowers and shrubs, but the winter months can be a bit more challenging as parts of the trail get very muddy.
There are cafes on both ends of the walk which offer food, coffee and bathroom facilities. Parking is plentiful but can still fill up rapidly in the summer and holiday months.
St Ives to Zennor is a challenging 6-mile walk covering some of the more hardy South West coast paths. With its extensive hills and advanced trail routes, this walk is not for the faint-hearted. There will be clambering over boulders and steep ascents and descents, but if you are one of those that crave a challenge, then this could be for you. You can also skip the loop at Zennor and cut off some of the route. There is a tremendous amount of birdlife on this route, and they can often be seen lurking on the rocky islands just offshore.
There is limited parking in Zennor, but plenty in St Ives. The summer still tends to get very busy, so it’s best to set off early.
Cafes and restaurants are situated on both ends of the walk and offer a selection of food, coffee and bathroom facilities.
Portreath to Porthtowan. Although this entire coastline is exceptional, this particular section is sensational. With lots of climbs and coves, this coastal walk will leave you in awe of the fantastic, almost tropical views en route. The path often homes to hundreds of sea birds and birds of prey, and if you leave early enough, you may even spot the occasional fox.
Cafes, restaurants and car parks can be found on both ends of the walk.
Godrevy to Hayle gives you the option for both a beach walk or a sand dunes walk. Both are full to the brim with surfers and walkers almost all year round, giving it a vibrant atmosphere. This beach walk is one of the best places to go seal spotting, and if you are lucky, you may even cross paths with a pod of dolphins. Godrevy head offers a great viewpoint of the famous Mutton Cove, which is the home for many of our seal friends. The cove is protected, and you can only view it from above, so bring your binoculars.
There are cafes and parking facilities scattered throughout this route.
Lands End to Gwynver Beach via Sennen Cove gives you the opportunity to experience the famous Lands End, the stunning little village at Sennen and then walk the long stretch of beach to Gwynver. This three-mile walk is teeming with various wildlife. Whether it’s dolphins, birds, or land-based critters, this route can have it all. There has even been the occasional whale spotted on these rugged shores.
There is loads of parking options around Lands End and Sennen, with cafes and restaurants all over, so you won’t ever have to travel far for your fish, chips or coffee.
Porthleven to Gunwallow It’s a lush beach walk which also features the stunning Loe Pool. Once again, as you would expect from coastal walks, the area homes a vast array of sea birds, but in the Loe, you can expect to find rare species of Grebe and Ducks too. It also has a birdwatching hideout if you wish to take your camera or binoculars for a closer look. The beach is not a swimming beach, but there are still plenty of areas to pop down a blanket for a picnic.
Porthleven has a vast array of cafes and restaurants, and we recommend you park there to start your walk.
If you want to discover more walks to do in Cornwall, here is an extensive article on fifteen go-to routes which can give you some more adventure ideas.
Foxes – commonplace in Cornwall, but you will need to be out at either dusk or dawn to stand a chance of seeing these shy creatures.
Snakes – often found in the quieter sections of trail basking. Snakes can be found in hotter months, but be careful, some can be aggressive, and although their bites are generally not fatal for humans, they are still very painful and can kill dogs.
Rabbits – these furry creatures can be found all over the trails in Cornwall. Areas like Lizard point seem to be overrun by bunnies during the evenings, and you can often spot them by their white tails as they scatter from more well-trodden paths.
Mice – are far more difficult to spot but can be found all over the coast path. If you are quiet and patient, you can be rewarded with a sighting of one of these adorable little creatures. Early morning or as the sun starts to go down are the best time to catch sight of them.
Stoat – Do not be fooled by the cuteness of these adorable creatures. They are, in fact, ferocious predators. Stoats can be found roaming the grasslands or grassy dunes. Once again, you will have to be quiet and patient to catch even a glance of these beauties.
Deer – With the deer population growing tenfold in the last few years, these majestic animals are becoming more commonplace around Cornwall. Early morning walks on the Lizard towards Mullion are an excellent place to spot them, but other woodlands such as Cardinham have plenty you can stumble across too. It is better to go during quieter periods as they are shy animals.
From scuba diving to boat trips, it wouldn’t be a holiday to Cornwall if you didn’t spend some time either in or on the beautiful seas we have on offer here.
Boat trips – There is a huge offering of fantastic boat trips all over Cornwall. These boat trips can be anything from a long haul trip over to the Isles of Scilly to a St Ives on your doorstep seal searching adventure. Check out our full boat trip blog post for a more in-depth article on the trips that Cornwall has to offer.
Stand up Paddle Boarding – Whether in Falmouth, New Quay, St Ives or one of Cornwall’s lesser-known beaches, most places have stand-up paddleboarding or Kayaking on offer. Both types of craft offer a fantastic way to experience the nature you can find in coves and caves that would be otherwise unreachable. Seals can be quite friendly and curious, but do not go out of your way to enter their habitat.
Snorkelling – Snorkelling can be a fantastic way to experience the underwater world and the more unseen marine life that Cornwall has to offer. Falmouth’s corals have an abundance of fish to swim with, and the jellyfish can be an incredible sight to see. Keep an eye out for the barrel Jelly. They are huge and so can be scary, but they are very safe.
Diving – If you want to get a little deeper, scuba diving is a common find on the Cornish shores. With a tremendous amount of diving schools on offer around the coast, these schools can teach you from lesson one in a pool to diving one of the many shipwrecks on offer under the Cornwall Seas. Diving is one of the best ways to experience an entirely new world.
Rockpooling – A fun activity that’s easy to do and can help your little ones have a real insight into marine life, rock pooling is a fantastic option for young adventurers. You can usually stumble across small crabs, fish and many more creatures of the sea. Godrevy and Sennan are great places for rock pooling, as is Falmouth to Castle beach when the tide is out.
Seals – Seals are in abundance in Cornwall, so they are easy to find. Godrevy is the most commonplace for seals, but you can spot them all over the coastline, including our very own St Ives and the other side of the bay at Lizard Point.
Dolphins – Although not as common, you can sometimes see the occasional pod of dolphins playing in the surf or just swimming by. If you want to increase your chances of seeing them, it is best to get yourself on a dolphin adventure boat trip.
Sharks – Cornwall often has visiting basking sharks to the area. As previously mentioned, the best way to experience them is on one of the many boat trips on offer. Do your research first and keep an eye out on local news for any spottings.
Jellyfish – There can be quite an influx of jellyfish to Cornish shores. While most of them can only give a gentle sting, we have had reports of the more deadly Portuguese man o war, which isn’t actually a jellyfish but acts the same way. The scariest Jellys we commonly get, as mentioned before, are the barrel jellies. These are massive and often float close to the surface, making your stand up paddleboard adventure that little bit more interesting. These Jellyfish are harmless but intimidating to see.
Some of the offerings that Cornwall has will take you into the skies above. So if you fancy seeing a birds-eye view of the Cornish coastline, or want to take to the trees for a different view of the woods, then you can.
Skytrekking – This family activity is a perfect way to get a different view of the woods and forests. Although more of an adventure related activity, there are many activities on offer that will enable you to be outside and have a wonderful time among the treetops.
Helicopter tours – There are various helicopter trips on offer in Cornwall. Put together for those adrenaline junkies or those who simply thrive on heights and stunning alternative views of Cornwall. Take to the skies and see the Cornish coast from a birds-eye perspective.
Butterflies and moths – With a wide variety of butterflies and moths in Cornwall, you can spot something new every day if you know where to look. The coast often offers sightings of the Small Copper and Large White butterflies, but some rarer sightings can be found in the various woodlands. For an extensive list of what you can discover, browse the Cornwall Wildlife Trust website and get your camera, pad and pencil ready.
Dragonflies – Cornwalls wilder areas offer some incredible dragonfly sightings. The common darter is often found on coastal walks, but so can the truly stunning Emperor Dragonfly. Once again, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust can help you to name your sightings and educate you on the rarity of what you have seen.
Seabirds – Apart from your usual hungry Gulls, another common resident of the St Ives coastline is called a Turnstone. These cute looking seabirds are often found running around the harbourside scavenging for dropped chips or icecreams. Hayle Estuary has some great bird sightings and is often being viewed by bird watchers who travel from all over the country hoping for a rare sighting.
Finches and Tits – The famous Blue tit is common in Cornwall, and some of them who are homed in Tehidy, will eat straight from your hands. Other common finds are the Great tit, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. Most are found a little further inland among the woodlands and bushes. Lizard point to Kenneck Sands has many berry bushes on its route, which means that these smaller birds are always hanging around.
Birds of Prey – Buzzards are often seen stalking prey in the skies above the coastal pathways. In the early evening, barn owls can be found flying around the open fields of inland farms and plains. There are a surprising amount of birds of prey in the county. If you wish to do more research into what birds, you can have a look at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust page.
As you take to the wilds and experience the sights that our beautiful county offers those who gaze upon it, we urge you to have a quick read of our wildlife charter. We want to keep nature thriving, and as outstanding as it is to see, let’s make sure it goes untouched. We urge you to enjoy it, experience it and protect it.