Skip to content

Planning your holiday

Planning a holiday to the Isles of Scilly can seem daunting the first time but most logistical challenges can be easily overcome with a little planning. The guide provided below will help you along the way.

First choose your Island. Each of the Islands has its own distinct character and make sense to choose accordingly if you are looking for a particular holiday experience. If you want to visit all of the Islands then staying on St Mary’s is probably our best bet as the inter-island boats use the Quay at Hugh Town as their base. If you want white sands and seclusion then St Martin’s might be the Island for you.

Step 1

Reserving your accommodation

Reserve accommodation before you book anything else. Places to stay are usually in high demand so look to book many months in advance to get the location and type of accommodation you want. Alternatively, if you have flexibility with your travel dates it’s always worth looking out for accommodation which has become available due to a late notice cancellation.

Step 2

Booking your travel

The next thing is to book is travel. There are three options for getting to the Islands… by boat, by plane or by helicopter.

The travel providers do periodically run special offers, so it’s worth checking at the time of booking but generally speaking it makes sense to book your travel early where possible. The nature of special offers is that some people will pay less than others but it’s rare for prices to drop enough to significantly impact the cost of your holiday and don’t miss out on the dates you want to travel in the hope of a bargain.

Some tickets do offer the option to buy a more expensive ticket and avoid amendment fees if you subsequently change your travel dates. Whether it’s worth purchasing this sort of ticket is of course down to personal circumstances but whatever you choose make sure you are happy with the terms at the time of purchase. The nature of unexpected circumstances is they will be out of your control but this does not mean you will be automatically entitled to free of charge transfers or refunds.

The majority of visitors to the Isles of Scilly will have the pleasant, straightforward journeys they planned but it is worth remembering that you are visiting an Atlantic archipelago and the weather could certainly disrupt your travel plans. If you need to be back on the mainland for a particular event carefully consider whether you want to travel the day before. Contemplate travel insurance, keep a reserve fund in case you need to find accommodation unexpectedly and if the worst does happen remember to keep your receipts as you may need them should you be able to claim them back.

If you do take out travel insurance make sure that it covers offshore travel within the UK.

Step 3

Using your Car

You do not need a car when visiting the Islands. The only way to get a car to the Islands is currently to crane it aboard ship, which is expensive and inadvisable. Golf buggy and bike hire are available or you can do a minibus tour of St Mary’s if you fancy. There are taxis but most visitors will enjoy getting about on foot.

Assuming you travel to West Cornwall by car you will need some parking on the mainland – book this in advance. Trying to find a suitable parking space in an unfamiliar place, in time to make check-in, is not a good way to start your holiday. Especially if it means your party is separated and it starts to rain. There are a number of companies which provide parking or Park & Ride services but Scilly Parking, is currently the only one which takes you, your passengers and luggage.

Step 4

Packing for your holiday

Food and services are likely to be more expensive on the Isles of Scilly than on the mainland as there is an increased cost to shipping goods to the Islands. There are no large supermarkets and eateries do get very busy. That said, there are no records of any visitors starving recently and it takes something away from the experience to pack your own food. If you fancy visiting a particular restaurant book in advance and seek out food produced and prepared locally – it will be worth it.

Don’t pack more than you need. Although generally you will only need to carry your luggage over relatively short distances, trying to negotiate a crowded, uneven quayside with more baggage than you can sensibly carry is hard work, especially if it rains. That said, there are certain things which it might be harder to obtain on the Islands, so make sure you remember to carry about your person any medication you require (including motion-sickness tablets), suntan cream, sensible shoes and a waterproof jacket.

You don’t need a passport to visit Scilly… but it helps. Do take some form of official photo ID with you as it’s a requirement you have this if you need to fly home.

Step 5

Last minute checks

Check local traffic conditions as best you can before leaving home. Roadworks on the A30 and rail strikes seem to be perennial. If traveling from further afield consider staying locally overnight. Mount View Overnight Accommodation offer the opportunity to stay overnight near Penzance and park your vehicle for the duration of your trip, while Scilly Parking offers an evening Park & Ride service for visitors staying overnight in Penzance. Either way it’s a relaxed way to extend your break and make the most of an evening in West Cornwall.

Double check you haven’t received any last minute email, text or voicemail from your travel or accommodation provider before you leave home.