St Ives Bay is a crescent-shaped expanse stretching for 6 miles from the Island, near the centre of town, around to to Godrevy Head and the world-famous Godrevy lighthouse, inspiration for the Virginia Woolf novel, To The Lighthouse. The River Hayle flows into St Ives Bay from the south via a broad tidal estuary, a popular place for birdwatching. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds run a nearby reserve. Across this stunning coastline the bay encompasses a substantial system of coastal dunes known to the east of the estuary as the Towans. This three mile stretch of golden sand contains Gwithian beach popular for surfing. To the west, the quieter more sheltered Porthkidney Sands adjacent to the village of Lelant is a tranquil and unique location.