Spotting Marine Life in St Ives

Larissa Ellis-Jones

Here in St Ives, we sit comfortably on the coast of the Celtic Sea, and as such, we are fortunate to often see an abundance of sea life making our coastline their homes.

Recently, with more awareness on conservation and the environment, mixed with the current BBC program ‘Wild Isles’ from Sir David Attenborough, visitors and locals alike are becoming more vigilant in spotting and understanding the many animals that surround our shores.

Catching a glimpse of them is always an exciting and sometimes once in a life time opportunity, so we have put together a list of the marine life that have been known to wonder around our coast over the years, to give you a chance to share in the experience of seeing them for yourselves.



Seals are a popular favourite around our shorelines here in St Ives as we are a stone’s throw from the famous sheltered coves around Godrevy, in particular, Mutton Cove, where the seals like to make their home due to the cove’s protective qualities. As such you will be sure to spot a little head pop up in the waters around Godrevy and St Ives Harbour when they are having a swim about, checking out the visitors or seeing what fishy treats they can catch for their lunch.

If you want more of a guaranteed glimpse of the wild seals relaxing and taking stock of their catches, then you can not go wrong with a trip over to the National Trust’s owned beaches of Godrevy and Gwithian, where you will also get to see the Godrevy Lighthouse, (which you can see from the Island just by our complex here at Sail Lofts) and then take a short walk over to Mutton Cove to see them all basking on the beach.

Cornwall is also home to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, a charity set up to help rehabilitate and care for seals with the aims of releasing them successfully back into the wild. A few of the residents that make their home there are ready and waiting to meet you all. You can learn all about the seals and meet the team of people making it their lives missions to care for and protect our lovable sea dogs.



Dolphins are always a gorgeous sight to see, they are majestic and fun to watch as they make their way through the waves, swooping and diving over one another in their family pods.

It is a common sight to see dolphins playing and fishing around St Ives, as they love to chow down on shoals of small fish just off the coast. The most likely dolphins you will see in St Ives are Common and Bottlenose, however, sightings of Risso’s and Harbour porpoises have been known to make an appearance.

It is never guaranteed as to when the dolphins will make their adventures over to the shores of St Ives, but there are a few areas around St Ives that can give you the best viewing platform for when they do decide to say hello. The Island in St Ives, just a 2-minute walk from our apartments here at Sail Lofts, will give you an incredible panoramic view of the harbour, bay and over to Godrevy, giving you a great vantage point for a bit of dolphin spotting.



It is extremely rare to see these large predators in the shorelines of our coast, but in recent years there has been an increase in them being spotted further out off of our Cornish coastline.

The most popular whales to spot around Cornwall waters are Minke, Sei, Fin and the notorious Humpbacks. Each species has their own unique characteristics that make seeing them a mesmerising and memorable experience.

If you would like the opportunity to sail out and see some whales for yourselves, then there are dedicated professional tour companies dotted around Cornwall who will take you out on boats for the chance to glimpse at the amazing creatures and learn lots about them.

Marine Discovery, based in Penzance, will take keen marine wildlife spotters out on their Shearwater II catamaran with a team of experts who in 2013, won the Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watch Operator of the year. Join the team and discover all there is to know about our coastal waters and the animals that make their homes in them.

St Ives Boats, will take nautical explorers out past the shores of St Ives for adventure around the deeper parts of our coast to spot the wildlife around us. On a number of their outings they have been known to spot whales and even sharks!



Yes, sharks! But fear not, unlike our friends in Australia, the sharks around our waters are a lot more friendly and gentle. It is not uncommon to be treated to a sighting of Basking sharks, Blue sharks, Porbeagles, Mako sharks and Threshers around our waters.

They often make their way into the harbours to indulge on the selection of small fish found and prefer the warmer, shallow waters further in land to relax around in the summer months. Spotting them gently floating about looking for a snack is an amazing experience and one to definitely not be missed should the opportunity arise.

Basking sharks are the most popular of sharks that are found around our shores with the largest Basking shark ever recorded in Cornish waters measuring at 12.27 metres, which is over 40 feet!

Boat tours and trips around St Ives


There is every chance you will spot these lovely animals around our waters when you are wondering round St Ives throughout the year, but for a chance of seeing them up close and personal and learning lots about them from a team of experts, there are some great boat tour companies around St Ives that have put together trips dedicated to helping you spot, learn and discover all you need to know about our animals and the coastline they thrive in.

For the thrill seekers amongst you, the Blue Thunder rib rides will take you on an adventurous high-speed ride around our waters, with Sea Safari tours taking you inland to coves and hideaways that can only be accessed by sea, giving you the chance to spot some of our wildlife.

St Ives Sea Trips have regular explorations out from the harbour in St Ives. Choose to go out on one of their Sea Safari’s for your chance to catch a glimpse of the animals and birds around and capture some great photographs for long lasting memories.

St Ives Boat Services offer a more relaxed and tranquil look into the marine world around us. Get on board one of their dedicated boat tour trips to be taken on a safari of the sea or a relaxed ride around on the waves past some iconic sites and spots.

For a unique glance into life under the sea, the Nemo glass bottom boat tours will take you on an impressive trip out to sea and around our shores to get a crystal clear glimpse into the world beneath the waves.

Staying with us at Sail Lofts: 

If you are a keen enthusiast of the sea and the marine life that surround our island, or just after a nice relaxing holiday with the chance to spot some of our friendly residents, then here at Sail Lofts we have the perfect apartments for you to make the most of all your adventures around St Ives.

With a dedicated parking spot in our car park, you can make the most of exploring around St Ives and further afield with the knowledge that you will always have somewhere to safely park up at the end of the day. Perhaps you've had a day out exploring the waves on one of St Ives many boat tours, taking a short walk down to St Ives Harbour where the boats start their voyages, then coming back to your luxury self-catering apartment that is fully kitted out ready for you to come back and reminisce over what you saw on your adventures out at sea.

Staying with us at Sail Lofts make it easier for you and travelling party to soak up the Cornish culture and nautical lifestyle.

If you'd like to look over the apartments we have available for your next adventure to St Ives, then click here.

We look forward to welcoming you soon and hearing about your sea-life spotting excursions!