The top 5 beaches to kayak to on the Isles of Scilly
Updated: May 25
Kayaking on the crystal-clear waters of the Isles of Scilly allows you to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of the islands from a totally different perspective. Being based on St Martin's, means our customers are able to visit several uninhabited islands to discover beautiful uncrowded sandy beaches. Many of these islands are protected and guidance about where you can land is included in your safety brief. I’m often asked where's the best place to go to on your kayaking experience? So, to help you decide, I've compiled a list of my top five beaches on the Isles of Scilly.
#1 - Ganilly Sandbar
Ganilly Sandbar is one of my favourite places to kayak to. It’s only a 15-minute paddle from Par Beach so you could easily visit it with an hour-long hire. There’s absolutely nothing there but sand and the occasional seagull (which is why the sand can sometimes be a little smelly). What makes it so magical is that it’s only exposed for a couple of hours each day around low water. But, the ephemeral nature of the sandbar just adds to its charm. You feel like you’re on your very own desert island and there’s great views across to Tresco. It’s a favourite place for proposals and a few years ago a couple actually got married there!
#2 - Little Arthur
I have to confess that given a choice of which Eastern Isle to visit Little Arthur would be top of the list. It’s a great place for a picnic or an evening BBQ. Watching the sunset over Tresco is just beautiful. The island is actually made up of three islands, Little, Middle and Great Arthur, which are separated at low tide. But generally, the locals just call the islands Little Arthur. It’s just a 25-minute paddle from St Martin’s. To get there you paddle past the island of Little Ganilly. This is one of the Eastern Isles that is closed to the public and there’s nowhere to land easily on it anyway. Approaching the beach on Little Arthur you paddle over beds of seagrass and kelp forests. You often see seals resting up among the seaweed. The beach here is idyllic with rocky outcrops at either end.
If you want to explore the rest of the islands there is a rocky causeway between Middle and Great Arthur. It’s great for beach combing but the boulders and rocks can be unsteady so take care walking across it. As with many high points on the islands there are cist graves and entrance graves on Great Arthur. The top of this island is closed to the public to protect sea birds. The cist grave on Middle Arthur is really unusual being boat shaped – you can only wonder who it was built for and what was their connection to the sea?
#3 - Great Ganilly
As with many of the islands, Great Ganilly has more than one beach. The one I’m recommending is on the far side of the island looking out towards the mainland. You can’t kayak directly to this beach as, for safety reasons, the route there isn’t within our hire zones. Great Ganilly is made up on two hills with a low-lying isthmus between them. The beach you’ll land on is a 30-minute kayak from St Martin’s. Walk up the path from that beach, across the isthmus and you’ll come to the other beach. You may see seals resting up in the water as you approach Great Ganilly.
As with all the Eastern Isles, Great Ganilly is important for wildlife. The south hill is closed to the public to protect nesting birds. In late summer Atlantic grey seals come over to Scilly from the mainland and haul out on the beach. So, in September and April we ask our customers not to visit this beach to avoid disturbing the seals.
#4 - Tean
Tean is an uninhabited island that lies to the west of St Martin’s. It’s a longer paddle, between 45 minutes to an hour depending on how often you stop to admire the views. It’s quite a large island and has several beaches on it. My favourite is the beach on the north side, again another one you can’t paddle directly to. This beach gives you fabulous views of Round Island Lighthouse and the island of St Helen’s. What I love most about this beach is that you can’t see any of the inhabited islands from here, so it feels even more remote.
To get to Tean, paddle along the front of St Martin’s taking in Old Quay and several rocky ledges. The channel of water between St Martin’s and Tean, Tean Sound, is a tide swept channel and is therefore out of bounds for our kayakers. Rather than following the coastline of St Martins around down towards Lower Town Quay just paddle directly across Tean Sound. This is a busy stretch of water, especially around low water, so keep a good look out for other boats. You’ll land on a wide sweeping beach which is very beautiful. To get to my favourite beach, walk up onto the grass and follow the track across to the other side of the island. As Tean is further away from where we are based, it’s best to allow a three-hour hire to get there and back. But, in my opinion, Tean is so lovely it’s well worth taking a whole day to properly explore the island.
#5 - Nornour
Nornour is one of the Eastern Isles which lie to the East of St Martin’s. There is a total of eight, but only three are open to the public. It’s just a 25-minute paddle from Par Beach and, as with Great Ganilly, you can often see seals resting up in the water off Nornour. Along with a beautiful beach, there are the remains of neolithic and Romano British settlements to explore. The discovery of these in the early 1960’s led to the creation of a Museum on St Mary’s.
Nornour is a Cornish name and means ‘facing the mainland’. From the top of the hill there are fabulous views not only of Cornwall but also the other islands of Scilly.
None of the uninhabited islands have any facilities on them, so it’s best to take water and a snack with you. If you want to take a picnic, there’s lots of storage space on the kayaks. You can hire 15L waterproof bags for anything you want to take out that you’d like to keep dry.
So, do you agree with my choice of the top 5 beaches? Where on St Martin’s do you like to go kayaking? Leave a comment below to let me know which is your favourite.