Once a powerhouse of the industrial revolution, Hayle is now a glorious mix of old and new with a sense of space, wild beauty and sheer romance quite unlike anywhere else in Cornwall.
You’ll discover three miles of glorious golden sands overlooking St Ives Bay. Expansive, rolling dunes. Nature rambles through the ruins of old factories. Top surf spots. Prized bird watching. Ancient hill forts…
There really is so much to do in a town that brings together a world-class beach with World Heritage-status history.
Here’s 10 things to do in Hayle and surrounding areas.
1. Experience a truly epic beach
Hayle Beach is The Big One. Three miles of achingly beautiful sand so fine and soft you can hardly feel it against your pampered toes. From the estuary (Hayle actually means estuary in Cornish) at the west end to Gwithian to the East, this one goes on and on, with many much-loved spots in between. The Black Cliff Beach, beneath The Bluff Inn, is a great bet for kids. It offers easy parking, ramp access to the beach, and nearby toilets and snack stops. Also, when the tide is out, you may discover lovely warm pools for little ‘uns.
2. Walk (or run) the Towans Nature Reserve
Like the beach, the Towans (from the Cornish ‘tewyn’, meaning ‘sand dune’) stretch from Hayle River in the West to Gwithian in the East. And what a stretch! Walk or run narrow sandy paths and old industrial tracks, which, in springtime, are scattered with wild flowers and darting rabbits. Meanwhile, on the higher spots, take in views of Godrevy Lighthouse and St Ives out in the bay.
The Towans played an important role in Hayle’s industrial heritage: in the 19th Century, they were the site of a dynamite factory supplying up to three tonnes of dynamite per day to the mines. You can still see the train tracks, stacks and ruins of old buildings on the dunes today.
3. Explore Hayle’s industrial heritage
Hayle was the world’s most important mining port in the 19th century and played a crucial part in the industrial revolution that swept the globe. The names of its districts, Foundry and Copperhouse, allude to industrial goings on and you’ll find remnants of its glorious past right across the town. One of the loveliest things to do in Hayle town is to take a circular stroll through the Rope Walk and around the Millpond. Starting from Millpond Gardens, you’ll stroll through a wooded trail with old industrial buildings on one side and the pond on the other. Don’t forget to feed the ducks and swans! Hayle’s industrial past has been awarded World Heritage Status and there is so much to discover. Find more information, and further walks, at the Hayle Heritage Centre website.
4. Get twitchy at the RSPB wildlife reserve
Around 18,000 migrant and wintering waterfowl flock to this area of estuary, tidal pools and marsh around Hayle – particularly during harsh weather, when it’s usually quite a bit milder than the rest of the UK. In spring and autumn, look out for migrant wading birds, gulls and terns. In winter, see huge flocks of teals and pigeons. In the summer, you may see an osprey (if you’re lucky). Star billing also goes to curlews (listen out for that beautiful haunting cry), little egrets, and oystercatchers. See the RSPB’s site for more information.
5. Go rock pooling at Godrevy
Of all the things to do in Hayle, this one has to be the most Instagrammable. Godrevy Beach, just east of Gwithian, is a gorgeous rocky and sandy spot just perfect for rock pooling, with famous Godrevy Lighthouse as a backdrop. Kit out the kids with fishing nets and snap them peering into one of the thousands of limpid pools. Get bonus Instagram likes for getting one of the many seals that bob up around here in the frame, too.
6. Visit the seals of Mutton Cove
From the cliffs at Godrevy’s Mutton Cove, opposite the famous lighthouse, you can sometimes look down at over 100 seals, playing and lolling on the shore. Gazing down at these whiskery beauties is one of the most magical wildlife experiences you’ll have in Cornwall – and the chances of spotting them are very high. Keep it down though: seals don’t like being disturbed. Read our post about Cornwall Wildlife.
7. Ride the waves at Gwithian
At the far eastern end of Hayle Beach, Gwithian is the perfect spot for surfers of all levels. In fact, the waves gradually get bigger the closer you get to Godrevy Beach, conveniently providing spots for all abilities. Access to the beach is excellent from the large roomy car park, and there are toilets and café facilities nearby. Why not have a surfing lesson from one of the nearby surf schools?
8. Tren Crom
It’s one of life’s little mysteries why more people don’t visit Tren Crom. This ancient hill fort is home to one of the most spectacular views in all of Cornwall and the 10-15 minute walk up is well worth the effort. From the peak, you’ll see the sweeping curve of sand at Hayle beach to the east; look south and you’ll gaze over Mount’s Bay and St Michael’s Mount. That’s correct: two coastal views for the price of one. Meanwhile, at the top you can explore the ruins of an ancient fort and enjoy a circular walk around the hill. Really, Tren Crom is the Iron Age gift that keeps on giving.
9. Get the kids’ wheels out at King George V Memorial Walk
Anyone with kids knows that tricky balancing act called getting-them-on-their-bikes-and-scooters-and steering-well-clear-of-traffic. Which is why one of the best things to do in Hayle with kids is to take a trip to King George V Memorial Walk. On Sundays, this 2.2 miles of flat road alongside the Copperhouse Tidal Pool can be car-free (apart from the odd resident), making it a joy for grown ups and little ones on wheels. Check out the beautifully maintained gardens that run the whole length and the several ponds along the way.
10. Visit Paradise Park
Cornwall is famous for its exotic planting, but did you know we have some surprisingly exotic avian friends too? Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary is home to over 1200 birds including parrots, vultures, hawks, penguins and shockingly pink flamingoes. There’s a miniature train, goats and donkeys and, if this isn’t sounding enough like kid-heaven already, a massive Jungle Barn soft play area.
Penzance: an ideal base for your Hayle visit
If you’re inspired by our 10 things to do in Hayle and are planning a visit, why not base yourself in nearby Penzance? Just eight miles away, this vibrant port town is famous for its nautical atmosphere, superb restaurants and vibrant local culture. It’s also well situated for day trips to Falmouth, Land’s End, St Ives and other top Cornish destinations. Visit the Love Penzance website to find out more.