The perfect arc of golden sands of Porthminster beach marks the true gateway to St Ives just below the railway station and a short stroll from the bustling harbour.
As a popular beach, the soft sands of Porthminster have a charming back drop of manicured sub tropical gardens that in turn give way to the wooded slopes that artfully concealing the little railway that ferries visitors along the edge of the bay from Lelant Saltings to St Ives.
Porthminster beach is a smaller, more intimate beach than the Carbis Bay Beach that we visited just before Christmas but with same stunning views across St Ives Bay to the famous Godrevy lighthouse immortalised in Virginia Wolfe’s book “To the Lighthouse”
Our winter visit to Porthminster Beach
We edged into St Ives to park, passing the old villas I remember so well, now with smart new signage and trendy looking doorways and we finally took a steep u turn to the left that magically sports a “Car Park” sign once you are around the corner. This car park beside St Ives railway station has the sea tantalising visible though the screen of trees and it is beautifully organised but probably impossible to access in the summer months – beware the numbered spaces at the far end when choosing a spot! Two workmen were hard at work below us, strimming the footpath and the faintest scent of wild garlic drifted up to us as we sorted out coins for the ever hungry ticket machines before taking the steps down towards the beach.
The winter storms had thrown a bank of downy soft sands up between us and the tide line as we strolled down to walk along the waters edge for a nostalgic visit to the celebrated art deco Porthminster Beach Café at the far end of the beach.
The cafe looked so much bigger than we remembered, from visits on long passed summer days and half forgotten birthday when we’d sat in the windows looking down on to the beach to watch the families of sandcastle builders give way to young lovers strolling the waters edge as dusk fell. Today though it stood empty and locked and we turned again to pass the last beach huts to find a spot for lunch.
Eventually we settled on an empty picnic table outside of a closed café, with a stunning view to the lighthouse across the bay watching the big waves of the open sea break with a crash of white water over the tower and the more intimate view to the houses of St Ives below the island to our left.
So with hands wrapped around warming mugs of thermos tea and only occasional glances at the blackboards that promised every variety of wine by the glass, we settled to watch the gentle entertainment of hand liners working from a fishing boat slowly drifting on the tide across the bay and the frisson of excitement as the Lifeboat roaring out of the harbour to head for the horizon leaving a trail of white water in its wake.
Occasionally a smart lady would walk along the tarmac footpath behind us with a toy dog bustling along in tow, until eventually a quiet rumple alerted us to fumble for the camera as the train slid away under the arch high above at the end of the beach. With picnic eaten it was time for us to leave too and right on cue the workmen started their strimmers again – back to work to manicure St Ives ready for the season to come.
Porthminster Beach is a perfect little beach for a short sheltered beach walk, with elegant facilities, blue seas and soft golden sands. There is some parking (but in summer probably impossible to get) but a lovely little rail journey almost to its edge would be a great way to arrive.
Ours was winter visit before the bustle of the summer season and perfect for short visit for us – if we had had a little more time we would have ventured into the town where many of the cafes and restaurants would have still been open and I’ve already earmarked a lunchtime venue without the Thermos for our next visit!