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  • Writer's pictureAnna Browne

A stand up paddleboard tour of St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly.


St Martin’s is the perfect place to hire a stand up paddleboard on your visit to the Isles of Scilly. Calm, sheltered, crystal-clear water with beautiful scenery and interesting marine life to spot makes it an enjoyable experience. If it’s your first time on a paddleboard, simply have fun, messing around close to the shore.


If you’re a more experienced paddleboarder and want to explore along the front of the island I’ve created the perfect route for you. 


Your paddleboard tour starts by leaving the beach, where you collect your equipment. Simply head to your left, and paddle along the shoreline to the top end of Par Beach.




A map showing the route of a paddleboard tour off the shore of St Martin's

Flora beneath St Martin’s waters…

Here there are extensive beds of seagrass. These look like emerald green underwater meadows. Seagrass is an endangered species and requires clean shallow water to thrive. It plays a vital role in protecting against climate change. It can capture carbon an astonishing thirty-five times more effectively than a rainforest.


Underwater seagrass meadows on St Martins Isles of Scilly

Seagrass is the only flowering plant that lives in the sea. All the other seaweeds are algae. It provides shelter for seahorses and pipefish (I’ve seen pipefish off Par but sadly not a seahorse, yet!) It also forms a nursery habitat for small fish, cuttlefish, octopus and dogfish. Look carefully, and you can often see the rare stalked jellyfish Calvadosia campanulata growing on the blades of seagrass.


A rare stalk jelly attached to a blade of seagrass

There are also extensive areas of thongweed at this end of Par Beach. If you look down into the water you may see what looks like a flattened mushroom growing on rocks. This is the base, or holdfast, of thongweed. The fronds grow out of these in the Spring and can reach up to two meters in length. At low water, you can see the fronds lying on the surface. All seaweeds are edible (I’ve not tried that many) but thongweed supposedly tastes like mildly salted asparagus.


Having marvelled at the marine life you can see even in such shallow waters, turn around and continue your paddleboard tour by paddling back around the area where the local boats moor up.  Here, looking down into the water, you can see fish, crabs and anemones.


Paddle past Higher Town Quay and head off around the headland.  Make sure you give the quay a really wide berth, it’s a working quay with boats coming and going most of the time. The underwater scenery along this shoreline is beautiful with large rocky boulders scattered on the bright white sand.



Paddling past history and seabirds on a paddleboard tour

The hill you are paddling round is Cruthers Hill. It’s well worth walking up there when you get back to dry land. It has stunning views of the Eastern Isles and there are some fine examples of Neolithic entrance graves on the top of the hill. As you paddle along the coast keep an eye out for seabirds resting on the rocks along the shore. In the Autumn, it’s common to see herons here. 



The shoreline of St Martin's showing clear water and a rocky shore with Cruther's Hill in the background
Cruther's Hill

Keep paddling along the shoreline and you will reach Old Quay. This was St Martin’s original quay, before Higher Town quay was built. Being on a paddleboard, it’s lovely to see this popular landmark from a different perspective.  


Old Quay is one of my favourite places to swim. At high water on a sunny summer’s day, when the tide has come in over the warm sand it’s positively tropical. There is an old gig shed by the quay which houses the Dauntless gig.


From Old Quay head out towards Pig’s Ledge. Keep an eye out for boat traffic, especially around high water. Close to the ledge you can see shoals of fish darting among the seaweed Again you can see crabs and also in the summer prawns taking shelter among the boulders.


A rocky ledge in a calm sea with a paddleboard in the foreground
Pig's Ledge


From Pig’s Ledge bear right and head to the next ledge, Jack’s Ledge. This area will dry out around the low water on big spring tides. The beaches along the front of St Martin’s are great for finding cowries and other shells. Cowrie hunting is a favourite pastime of visitors and locals alike.


A low lying group of rocks in a calm blue sea
Jack's Ledge

From Jack’s Ledge paddle down toward the west end of St Martin’s. The large rocky outcrop you’ll be heading towards is Southard Carn. When you get close to it, you can see a large yellow diamond sign on the shore. This marks the route of the underwater electrical cable coming from St Mary’s. Make sure you don’t paddle past Southward Carn and into Tean Sound. This area is outside of our hire zone because it experiences very strong tidal currents. 


A sandy shoreline with a group of rocks on the left hand side
Southard Carn


Take a different perspective on your return leg

It’s time to turn around and head back towards Higher Town. On the return journey of your paddleboard tour, stay close to the shore and admire the stunning sandy beaches you’re paddling past. Being close to the shore, if you get tired you can easily stop for a break.


There is a large rock that separates Campsite and Lawrence’s Beach. This is called Yellow Rock, so named because of the encrusting lichen growing on it 


A rock which looks yellow due to lots of lichen on it with a calm sea in the foreground
Yellow Rock

Carry on close to the shore heading back towards Old Quay. There was a ringed plovers’ nest on Lawrence’s beach last summer. The local school children helped protect it by fencing off the area and warning visitors not to get to close. Three chicks successfully hatched.

When you get back to Old Quay, retrace your route around Cruthers Hill and arrive back at Par Beach. 


A woman is on a paddleboard with the shoreline of St Martin's on the right

The entire paddleboard tour will take around two hours, depending on how long you take stopping to admire the views or drifting on the sea gazing down into the water. If you don't have two hours, you can easily amend the tour to fit in with the time you have.


I hope you have a chance to try out this paddleboard tour. Please note, it’s not possible to do all of this route at low water as the sand flats will dry out. I’m always happy to provide advice about the state of the tides and the optimal time to book your paddleboard hire.  


If it’s your first time on a paddleboard, do check out my 9 tips for the first time paddlelboarder blog to make your experience more fun.


St Martin's Watersports hire kayaks and paddleboards from St Martin's on the Isles of Scilly. Please contact us if you have any questions about hiring. You can book your paddleboard


















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