Day Trip to Scilly

Make the most of a day on the islands

If you come on the Scillonian III, the usual boating times mean that you’ll leave Penzance at 09.15am and enjoy a wonderful 2 hour, 40 minute cruise to St Mary’s (the biggest of the Isles of Scilly), arriving just before 12 noon. On your way, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy a stunning seaside view of Cornwall’s quaint villages, the world-renowned open air Minack Theatre and the Land’s End peninsula. Quite often, the ship is joined and followed by pods of dolphins, a raft of seabirds and occasionally even basking sharks.

Of course, making a day trip by air will give you more time to enjoy and explore the islands.


On your arrival in Scilly you have a choice. Do you immediately head to one of the off-islands (Tresco, St. Martin’s, St. Agnes or Bryher) for lunch and a stroll, visit the Abbey Garden on Tresco, or do you soak up the Scillonian atmosphere of St. Mary’s? The choice is yours, but if you do choose an off island, be sure that you can get a boat back to St Mary’s Quay to arrive no later than 4pm to make the Scillonian III connection back to Penzance. (It usually leaves at 4.30pm.)

Some suggestions

If you opt to visit Tresco, it is easy to take in the exquisite Abbey Garden on a day trip. You can buy a combined ticket for just £13 that will enable you to take a St Mary's Boatmen's Association boat from St Mary's Quay across to Tresco as well as entry to the gardens. These are available from the St. Mary's Boatmen's Association and are only valid for those who are travelling on a day trip on the Scillonian III 

Should you choose to stick to St Mary’s, there’s much to be accomplished in your few hours on the island. From a stroll through Hugh Town, you’ll reach Porthcressa Beach and the Tourism Information Centre. From there you can head up to Buzza Tower with its Camera Obscura and Museum of Curiosities or walk around the headland to Peninnis Lighthouse and on to Old Town where there are a number of eateries and a stunningly peaceful church yard where Lord Harold Wilson is buried. 

Or from the Quay, you can head for The Garrison for a beautiful walk around the heavily fortified headland, steeped in history, surrounding the Star Castle. The Garrison offers terrific views of the entire archipelago to give you a sense of what Scilly has to offer, as well as of course the opportunity for a bite to eat at the historic hotel itself.

Alternatively if want to explore further afield, you can hire a bike or an electric golf buggy and head off. There’ll be plenty of time to check out the Iron Age and Bronze Age settlements at Halangy Village and Bant’s Carn, time to savour some Bavarian delights at Scilly's own German café, and time to discover the sublime beauty and peacefulness of Scilly’s stunning beaches.  Taxi firms will be very willing to provide a tour of St Mary’s but you will need to contact them in advance.

If you fancy being more active, you could enjoy a spectacular round of golf (don’t be distracted by the sensational views!), have a sea swim or go for a horse ride to discover hidden St Mary’s. 

Of course if you fly in and out of the Isles of Scilly for the day (or combine air and sea travel) you’ll have a few more hours to enjoy our outstandingly beautiful islands!

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Tresco Abbey Garden Agave

Tresco Abbey Garden

Tresco All year

The sub-tropical Abbey Garden is  a perennial Kew without the glass - shrugging off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host thousands of exotic plants.

Many of these would stand no chance on the Cornish mainland, less than 30 miles away. Yet even at the winter equinox more than 300 plants will be in flower. All in all, the garden is home to species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.Read more »