Isles of Scilly family holiday: Island hopping, seal spotting & white sandy beaches!

Isles of Scilly family holiday Karma St Martin'sWe’ve just returned home from a fabulous family holiday in the Isles of Scilly.  Five idyllic days spent island hopping, seal spotting, exploring deserted white sandy beaches and eating delicious locally grown/caught food.  I wanted to share my initial and lasting impressions whilst they are still fresh in my mind, plus it’s a great excuse to put off doing our holiday laundry!  So here you go, my Isles of Scilly family holiday first impressions…

Isles of Scilly holidays what to expect

Our first sight of the Isles of Scilly  was from onboard the Scillonian III.  After a scenic 2 hours 45 minute sail from Penzance, along the Cornish coastline and across the 28 miles that separates the Scillies with the mainland we arrived into St Mary’s harbour.  We were welcomed by powder blue skies and colourful boats of all descriptions bobbing around in the water.

My boys were so excited, especially as they had an audience of fishermen and boaters waving at them…

As we stepped onto St Mary’s quayside I enviously watched a group of local teens, suntanned, beach swept and relaxed, sharing tales of their day.  I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to grow up living in the Scillies, the very edge of England with a population of just 2,200 spread over 5 inhabited islands and surrounded by over 140 uninhabited islands.

Isles of Scilly family holiday - St Marys

The colourful quayside in St Mary’s

From the minute we arrived in St Mary’s to five days later when we left, (having extended by one night as we didn’t want to leave!) I had to resist taking photos every two minutes.  The scenery is absolutely spectacular, it took me a while to get used to the fact that we were still in England, as it is so tropical.

Isles of Scilly holidays St Martins

An incredible hillside view during a walk from our hotel, Karma St Martin’s to the beach… spectacular!

It felt strange to hear British accents and use pounds and pence when it felt like we were on the other side of the world.  It was also a refreshing change not to see any multi chain stores, bars or coffee shops.  Instead we enjoyed eating at restaurants where the waiting on staff could literally point out the fisherman in the bar who had caught the fish we were eating!

I’ve visited some stunning parts of England but nowhere in my opinion compares to the Isles of Scilly.  It reminded me very much of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean…  turquoise blue sea, white sandy beaches with shimmery grains of silver which dazzle in the sunshine and a lush green landscape.

Scilly isles holidays Karma St Martin's

Love at first sight for our hotel, Karma St Martin’s… my review is coming soon. Expect a very gushy one, it was truly amazing!

Isles of Scilly family holiday: Lasting impressions

Over our five day stay we found everyone we met to be very friendly, welcoming and helpful. One day the tide went out quicker than we had planned for and my husband was struggling to moor the boat we’d hired for the day.  Two guys came running down the beach offering their help.  Before I’d even had time to roll up my jeans they had waded into the sea carrying my boys to the boat. What heroes!  Literally nothing seemed to be too much of a hassle for anyone.

Scilly isles holidays Tresco

We struggled to convince our boys to leave this beach on Tresco Island… They have good taste!

The locals are quite rightly proud of their islands and seemed genuinely delighted to welcome visitors to share the magic and beauty.  To be honest, normally on holiday my hubby and I are quite reserved, keeping ourselves to ourselves and just exchanging pleasantries. We were completely different people whilst in the Isles of Scilly!  We had lengthy chats with most people, fellow visitors whilst out exploring, staff at our hotel, anybody we sat next to in bars/on the ferry.  The conversation always started the same… ‘Have you been here before?’ someone would ask and then a lengthy discussion would follow about the beauty of the isles, the deserted beaches, the incredible sunsets and plans for a return trip.

My boys often took over our conversations with their stories of building rafts on the beach, the cute baby seals they had spotted in the sea and the goodies they had bought from other children at their honesty stalls.

Scilly isles holidays

Buying goodies from an honesty stall on Tresco island run by the local school kids. This has inspired my boys to set up their own honesty stall this summer!

We noticed that visitors seemed to fall into two categories… families with young kids (it was school term) and older couples.   The parents we met had all returned to share the experience of the Scillies with their kids as they had fond childhood memories of visiting the area.  The older couples we spoke to had brought their kids to the islands for years and made a huge fuss of my boys whilst they reminisced about their days with little one’s island hopping.  We barely met any first time visitors and we didn’t meet a single person who didn’t rave about the islands and plan to return.

Scilly isles holidays island hopping

Isles of Scilly family holidays: Warning – They will make you question your hectic life!

Being in the Scillies made my hubby and I seriously question our life on the mainland. Compared to the simpler life the locals seem to thrive on our life just seems so materialistic and self sustaining… a fancy car to get to work, fancy clothes to impress at work… a house full of toys which our kids don’t seem to play with and yet they played for HOURS with bits of rope and shells on the Scilly beaches.

Scilly isles holidays

It also felt very safe, everywhere you walk there are bikes left unlocked, apparently locals leave their house doors open and there are only a few cars on the islands with many locals choosing to get around on golf carts.  It was lovely to see local kids biking, scooting and running freely.

We knew from our arrival into St Mary’s that three nights was not going to be enough and started making plans for a return visit.  By day two we had extended our holiday by an extra night and by day three we were checking out Right Move and considering what we could do for a living if we moved to the islands.

I’ve never visited anywhere that has affected me quite so much.  I love the idea of a simple and happy life centred around family, living by the sea, being on a timetable set by the tides, eating fresh delicious locally sourced food and being part of a supportive community that I feel we have lost on the mainland.

Scilly isles holidays Karma St Martin's

Usually on holiday I avoid buying souvenirs, in the Scillies I actively went looking for souvenirs.  I wanted to have a couple of items to always remind me of our first family holiday to the area so I bought an IOS jumper and beautiful starfish necklace from a local jewellery maker that I will treasure forever.

My only regret is that we only stayed for four nights.  Next time we will definitely stay for longer, a week on one island and at least a week on another… unless I can convince my husband to move out there!

Further reading

Check out our comprehensive family holiday guide for the Isles of Scilly featuring the three different ways to travel to the islands, family friendly accommodation advice and some of the best family days out!

Disclosure – We were very fortunate to be guests of Karma St Martins and Isles of Scilly Travel during our time in Scilly.  The gushy words and opinions are 100% my own.  All images copyright Travel Loving Family. 

Pin for later 

What to expect from Scilly Isles holidays, just 28 miles from Cornwall. This article features my first impressions written shortly after our first family holiday in the Isles of Scilly. We had a fabulous time island hopping, seal spotting, exploring desserted white sandy beaches and eating locally grown food.





  1. 8th August 2018 / 9:09 am

    The Scilly Isles have been on my ‘really must visit’ list for an awfully long time. I once read that the experience was like stepping into the pages of an Enid Blyton novel; anyway, they look and sound idyllic!

    • Lisa
      9th August 2018 / 12:36 am

      They truly are Mike! Absolutely loved our time in the Isles of Scilly and cannot wait to return;)

  2. 29th June 2018 / 10:23 am

    Looks wonderful Lisa, and now I want to go to Scilly even more so! I bet you felt 5 days wasn’t enough?!

  3. 24th June 2018 / 12:47 pm

    Wonderful post! Scilly seems a perfect destination for family travels!

  4. 22nd June 2018 / 2:44 pm

    Oh my gosh this all sounds so lovely and I’m definitely looking into planning a trip here just from this post! Everything looks so beautiful. I love that you mention imagining growing up there – I often think the same way when traveling to a place that’s very different than where I’m from. It’s so interesting to think about how different peoples’ lives are – and growing up on quiet, beautiful islands that aren’t completely overpopulated sounds pretty great!

  5. 21st June 2018 / 12:23 pm

    This place does look lovely and relaxing, I better not go – I might not come back lol! #MondayEscapes

  6. 19th June 2018 / 9:04 pm

    Lisa it looks just idyllic I could do with this just to chill and explore it sounds wonderful x

  7. 19th June 2018 / 5:43 pm

    I only hear good things about the Scilly Isles and your photos make it look stunning. Pinned for later #mondayescapes

  8. 19th June 2018 / 12:04 pm

    This sounds absolutely idyllic! the Scilly Isles have long been on my list of interesting places to visit, but your blog has definitely put them very near the top as a future holiday destination. Sounds perfect with young kids. #mondayescapes

  9. 19th June 2018 / 6:22 am

    Oh you’ve totally sold Scilly on me now.. had only seen it on TV once, am sure there was a series on Scilly life not that long ago, mostly focussing on the vicar? The purple shots of the sea/sunset dusk are stunning! #mondayescapes

  10. 18th June 2018 / 9:32 pm

    Well you’ve totally sold Scilly to me!! Sounds heavenly! I don’t think i’d ever want to leave. #MondayEscapes

  11. 18th June 2018 / 9:30 pm

    I love this post! I completely agree about the feeling of yearning for a simple life connected to the things that are most important and that make us most happy. Isn’t it true that children thrive in outdoor environments where they are free to explore?! Your photos are gorgeous, and I’ll have to admit, I’m from Australia and I had never even heard of the Scilly islands before reading this post. I’m glad that I did, I would love to come and visit one day. I know that my kids would be just as happy and content as yours have been there, it looks wonderful! #MondayEscapes

  12. 18th June 2018 / 5:45 pm

    It really does look like the most utterly beautiful place. I really do want to visit as soon as i can!

  13. 18th June 2018 / 5:07 pm

    We’re heading to the Scillies in a few weeks so this is great to read! I just hope we have the amazing weather that you had! #Mondayescapes

  14. 18th June 2018 / 4:08 pm

    It really does look like it could be an overseas holiday, this makes me want to explore the UK even more!

  15. 18th June 2018 / 3:06 pm

    Your passion for the Scilly Isles shines through in this post. I’ve never been and yet I’ve got friends who go every year and rave about it too. It really does sound and look idyllic. No wonder you wanted to stay.

  16. 18th June 2018 / 1:09 pm

    The Scilly Isles have been on my radar for a few years now as I know friends who often go for their hols (yes, more returnees). Your post could be a repeat of their descriptions. It’s going to have to go on my (very long) list of places to take my boys. #MondayEscapes

  17. 18th June 2018 / 12:23 pm

    This really looks & sounds like the perfect island getaway!

  18. 18th June 2018 / 11:31 am

    Lisa, those flowers are absolutely beautiful. Never considered going to the Scilly Isles before but it really looks like a most relaxing place. I especially love that people leave their bikes unlocked. It’s a testimony to the laid-back attitude they have.

  19. 18th June 2018 / 10:59 am

    What a stunning looking place to visit! I’d love to take my own kids there one day. One of my Twitter followers is from there, we joke we’re at opposite ends of the country!

  20. 18th June 2018 / 10:03 am

    Lisa, something is happening in your comments. The person’s details who commented before me were still visible to me…and it appears mine are still visible to the next person!

    • Lisa
      18th June 2018 / 10:26 am

      Oh nooo! Will look into, thanks for letting me know Nicky;)

  21. 18th June 2018 / 10:01 am

    Loved following your time on the Scilly Isles. Its somewhere we really want to return to, after visiting years ago pre-kids. It looks beautiful

  22. 18th June 2018 / 8:46 am

    I’m ashamed to say I had to google the location of Scilly Isles 🙁 . It looks so idyllic and landed on my bucket list immediately .

  23. 18th June 2018 / 8:35 am

    I find myself more and more pulled towards the southern coast of England. I visited many, many years ago, but, yes, I am going back some day! #mondayescapes

  24. 18th June 2018 / 7:10 am

    We’ve never visited the Scilly Isles but that beach at Tresco looks amazing! It’s so picturesque and we’d love to visit someday x #MondayEscapes

  25. 17th June 2018 / 3:28 pm

    It sounds like such an inspiring place. Cornwall is one of our favourite places to have a staycation but so far we’ve not ventured off the mainland. We really must!

  26. 12th June 2018 / 11:37 am

    Oh I have always wanted to visit here you have now convinced me!!! It looks so beautiful and I love the sound of the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It’s added to the list!!

  27. 10th June 2018 / 9:46 pm

    Lisa what amazing photos! You are so right – a stay on the Scilly Isles and you start to question the chaotic and busy life you have at home. I loved the slow pace, the beautful views and friendly people- oh and the honesty stalls too ! Loved this post and your photos are gorgeous xx

    • Lisa
      10th June 2018 / 9:56 pm

      Aw thanks my lovely. It’s easy to take good photos in a beautiful place!

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