Isles of Scilly: How to spend 24 hours on St Marys
Ever wondered what it’s like to escape the ordinary and exchange it for deserted white sandy beaches, tropical gardens, and turquoise waters? You might think that I’m trying to sell you some sort of tropical island holiday on the other side of the world, but in fact, I’m talking about the Isles of Scilly, the archipelago that can be found just 28miles away from Cornwall’s mainland.
Last weekend Anna and I packed our bags for a girly night away (24 hours!) on St Marys, the largest and highest populated island within the Isles of Scilly. Last year I spent 3 days island hopping between Tresco, Bryher and St Marys which meant that time was very limited on each island, therefore, I was looking forward to dedicating some time to explore and take in the wonders of the largest Scilly island. Read the post about Bryher and Tresco here.
It's amazing how little people know about the Isles of Scilly! To be honest, last year was the first time that I visited the islands and I was completely blown away. Described as Cornwall’s Carribean, the Isles of Scilly boast a tropical landscape and an early spring due to its year-round mild climate and close proximity to the warm Gulf Stream.
How do I get to the Isles of Scilly?
Did you know that the Isles of Scilly are only 28miles away from Cornwall? That’s incredibly close! There are many options to reach the Isles of Scilly including the daily SkyBus from Newquay, Lands End or Exeter. A cheaper option is the Scillonian Ferry that departs daily from Penzance.
We started our trip by jumping on the Scillonian Ferry at Penzance at around 9.30 AM and waited for the 10.15 AM departure. The Scillonian takes approx 3 hours to reach the Isles of Scilly but the boat sails around the west coast of Cornwall, offering incredible views of the coastline from a different perspective. Sometimes, you might even be lucky enough to spot a dolphin! You can decide to sit inside or outside the ferry - the Scillonian is equipped with WIFI and a cafe. Prices start at £50 single.
Where to stay on the Isles of Scilly?
There are various accommodation options on the Isles of Scilly. Last year we camped on Bryher (one of the smaller islands) and it was incredible! This year we stayed at Longstone Lodge, St Marys’ brand new hostel. Anna and I were both completely blown away with the hostel's facilities and our room was gorgeous. We had a six-bed to ourselves but even with other people, it would have been fine as there was so much space. Longstone Lodge also offers communal space such as a kitchen, bathrooms and a cafe. Perfect for meeting other travellers!
Both camping and the Longstone Hostel are BRILLIANT options if you’re a solo/young/group traveller and want to explore the islands. The Isles of Scilly (mainly Tresco) has a slight stigma for being expensive, however, these two options do offer that lower price point.
What activities are there to do on St Marys?
The Isles of Scilly is an adventurer's playground! St Marys is two and a half miles by one and a half miles long so it’s relatively small! The island inhabits 1,800 people and is home to some of the UK’s most incredible scenery.
During our trip, we hired kayaks from The Sailing Centre so we could explore the island from the water. Seeing the islands from the water is so incredible, especially when the sun comes out and turns the water completely turquoise - the water is genuinely the clearest that I’ve ever seen and we could even see the fish swimming around us. We hired the kayaks for an hour and a half and managed to kayak to a couple of beaches, stopping off for photo opportunities, of course.
When you visit St Marys you’ll notice that everyone travels around the island by bike. Considering its small size, visitors and locals will hop on a bike and just ride to wherever they need to reach - it’s much easier than having a car! We hired a couple of bikes from St Marys Bike Store for 4 hours so we could go and explore the island at our own pace. We rode through the towns, ventured along the woodland, climbed the cliffs, explored hidden beaches and enjoyed a picnic on the headland. Hiring a bike is the way to go if you want to explore the whole island!
There is, of course, the option to explore the other islands. We decided to stay on St Marys on this occasion but there are interlinking boats that you can hop on/off to reach the other islands.
TIP: The Isles of Scilly sunsets are always incredibly special. Last year we watched the sunset from Bryher and this year we caught the sunset during our dinner at The Beach. They aren’t to be missed!
Where is there to eat on St Marys?
There are several amazing places to grab a bite to eat from on St Marys! Wonder through Hugh Town and you’ll find many pubs, coffee shops, and eateries. The Old Town also offers some foodie spots, perfect to stop off during a bike ride or walk.
Breakfast: For breakfast, we decided to grab pastries and coffees from Strudel, a cute little (German!) cafe hidden down a back street in Hugh Town. This spot was super quaint with lovely window views over the harbour.
Lunch: Juliet’s Garden Restaurant is most definitely my favorite lunch spot on St Marys! I’ve been here a few times and it never fails to impress. With views over the ocean, Juliets offer light bites, lunch and evening meals. This trip I decided to tuck into the prawn sandwich and Anna opted for the open prawn and crab - the Isles of Scilly is great for seafood!
Lunch: Another option for lunch is to pick up some food from the Co-op in Hugh Town and find a coastal spot for a picnic. Anna and I found a lovely remote headland near the Old Town.
Afternoon drinks: The Atlantic located on the main street of Hugh Street is a great hotel, pub and restaurant. Popular with the locals, the pub is a perfect spot to sit back and relax whilst taking in the Scillonian atmosphere.
Dinner: The Beach is one of my favourite restaurants in the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall! The restaurant proudly sits on Porthmellon beach and specialises in BBQ and seafood. We also discovered that their cocktails are 100% worth splashing the cash on! To begin with, I delved into a huge bowl of mussels, and Anna chose the scallops. For our main course, we both went for half a lobster and chips. The best lobster I’ve ever tasted!
Where should I explore on St Marys?
Everywhere! As mentioned previously, the island is big enough to explore within a day or two. Anna and I decided to venture to the remote side of the island. Personally, Watermill Cove was my favourite beach due to its white sand, turquoise waters and views across to the other islands. If you decide to cycle then I suggest dropping your bikes near a coastal path (which is allowed) and walking down to the beaches.
Tip: Please note that some of the islands have very limited phone signal so do be careful when scrambling across rocks and woodland.
The Isles of Scilly really is the dreamiest place. Get the tropical island feel without having to travel the other side of the world!
*This trip was a gifted press trip however all opinions are my own - we had an incredible weekend exploring St Marys.