St Mary’s is the main island in terms of population and the seat of local authority. At 629 hectares, it is over twice the size of Tresco, the next largest island. With a population of more than fifteen hundred, St Mary’s accounts for approximately seventy five percent of Scilly’s residents. St Mary’s is dominated by Hugh Town, its capital and the only town on the islands. Hugh Town provides the islands with its main harbour, through which almost all goods coming in to the islands or going out pass. A supermarket, post office, butchers, delicatessen, museum, chemist, newsagents, galleries, photographers, clothes shops, restaurants and pubs are ranged along Hugh Town’s central, narrow streets.
Above the town and the quay is the Garrison, St Mary’s most westerly extension, on top of which stands Star Castle, a handsome fortification of Elizabethan origin. The retail heart of Hugh Town runs from the harbour out to a low neck of land which separates the sea at Porthcressa on one side and the harbour, St Mary’s Pool on the other. Across this narrow corridor lies the rest of the island. Beyond Hugh Town, St Mary’s unfolds as an island of rugged coastline and gentle farmland. Like all the islands, it is scattered with historic remains dating back thousands of years to the Bronze Age. St Mary’s is the hub of the Isles of Scilly. The other smaller islands are known collectively as the off-islands.
For the visitor, St Mary's offers a range of activities, including horse riding, bicycle hire, golf, sea safaris and even guided coach tours.