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The UK is, of course, an island, and one of the greatest things about the Welsh portion of it is that you are never too far away from the sea. With more than 150 miles of coastline to choose from, it’s easy to discover the crème de la crème. Some beaches in Wales are hidden gems and others are popular award-winning stretches of sand, but they all have one thing in common - you’ll want second helpings of this varied and beautiful coastline.
It isn’t a commonly known fact, but there are 50 islands and more than 100 beaches along the Welsh coast, including 41 Blue Flag award-winners. Overwhelmed and spoiled for choice it wasn't a piece of cake, but we have finally narrowed it down to our ten best recommendations, all chosen for very diverse reasons, some of which may surprise you.
Help yourself to a slice of island life and tell us what you think? After all, the proof is in the pudding as they say!
Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire
A wild and unspoiled beach with a long stretch of pale golden sand.
With a craggy backdrop of rocky ridges and glorious cliffs, it’s the sheer beauty of this beach that makes it so popular. The reputation of being one of the best surfing beaches in Wales, and the clear water that is awarded Blue Flag status year upon year adds to the mix, too. This beach is a favourite with dog walkers in the winter and swimmers in the warmer months, especially at the quieter south end where there are some beautiful, sheltered bays. Close to Wales’s westernmost tip, with only the bottom tip of Ireland between it and the Atlantic, it benefits from some of the best surf in Britain, all year round. There is a nearby car park for swift changing when the weather is on the chilly side!
There is an amazing panoramic view from the top of Carn Llidi at nearly 600-feet high at the summit while at the northern end of Whitesands sit the remains of a 6th-century sailors’ chapel. It is said to be one of the possible sites that St Patrick embarked on his final voyage to Ireland.
Find more great surfing beaches in Wales in our guide.
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
A whole lot of planning involved, but well worth the hassle.
This is one of the gems we mentioned, and ‘wow’ is often the word that first escapes from peoples’ lips as they see this bay for the first time. One of the best beaches in West Wales, it is a sight to behold and is also regularly voted to be one of Britain’s finest beaches. Surrounded by sand dunes and pine trees, the swathes of golden sand dip into the crystal-clear waters that lap gently on to the inclined beach.
The beach is only accessible via a pleasant half mile walk over the cliffs from Stackpole Quay, the nearest car park. There are no facilities at this beach, so you will need to bring everything with you for the day - but it’s well worth the walk. Also, be sure to check the tide times as it is possible to get cut off. When you do make it back to the car park, there is a welcoming pub nearby to help you celebrate your day’s achievements.
South Beach, Tenby
Glorious golden sand, backed by grassy dunes and one of the oldest golf courses in Wales founded in 1888.
Whether Tenby is two miles or one-and-a-half miles long is hotly contested, but it is agreed that this is one of the most family-friendly beaches in Pembrokeshire. South Beach has Blue Flag status and is gently shelved, making it great for sandcastles or warm paddles as the tide gently comes in. Ynys Catrin, or St Catherine’s Island, is a small tidal island linked to Tenby, upon which is a 19th Century fort. There is a small entrance fee but it’s a place of great historical interest - and many steps!
There are plenty of places to eat lining the seafront, lifeguards operate throughout the summer, you can hire deckchairs in the warmer months and parking is plentiful and very reasonable. Access is easy for buggies and wheelchairs, and if you have a dog, there are restrictions from the 1st of May until 30th September, but they are allowed on the area nearest to the town on a lead. In the winter, the beach is their oyster!
Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay
A colourful seaport with a variety of beach spots and nearby places to stay.
Aberaeron, although not officially just one beach, is an area that is perfect for dog lovers as it has some of the best dog-friendly beaches in Wales, allowing pets all year round. This is where you may come across some of those hidden gems we previously hinted at. The collection of beaches around the town of Aberaeron are mainly rock and shingle, although at low-tide some sand can be found. Fishing, sailing and windsurfing are popular pastimes and there are a good number of pubs and seafood restaurants.
This delightful Georgian seaport is lined with brightly-coloured Regency buildings and the town has a vibrant art and crafts scene. Be sure to try some of the delicious and locally-produced honey ice cream or the intriguing honey mustard!
Discover more pet-friendly places to take your dog in Wales with our guide.
Porth Dafarch, Anglesey
A beautiful sandy cove on the west coast of Anglesey.
If you are a fan of snorkelling or scuba-diving, the clear and shallow waters of pretty Porth Dafarch Cove should feature on your radar. It lies south of Holyhead and the well-preserved wreck of the steamship SS Missouri - which unfortunately sank here in 1886 on its way from Boston - is the main underwater attraction. Although one of the best beaches in North Wales, it manages to remain quiet and secluded, and a dog ban is in force here during the summer season. This beach is Blue-Flagged and one of the best sandy beaches in Wales, and the myriad of rock pools teeming with miniature life ensure hours of entertainment for children.
If you fancy a brisk stroll, stride out along the Anglesey Coast Path to South Stack where you will find puffins, kittiwakes and razorbill nests. If you are lucky, they may be filled with their inhabitants.
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
A seven-mile-long pristine stretch of sand which is worth the day trip.
So much so, that in 1924 Sir Malcolm Campbell set the world land speed record here. The legacy of this is that it is one of the few beaches in the country that you can legally drive on to, making it popular with camper van drivers, although cottages to stay nearby are plentiful and a day trip is worth it.
Make sure to take in the scenery from the top of the cliff on the Wales Coastal Path where you can see for miles and miles. It’s a beach that is perfect for extreme sports enthusiasts, but the expanse of sand also makes it safe for families. For the less adventurous, there is a pub and a café right on the beach.
Tresaith, Cardigan Bay
A waterfall on the beach and a legend.
‘Saith’ is the Welsh word for seven, and legend has it that an ancient Irish King set his troublesome daughters adrift in a boat from Ireland. They supposedly landed here and proceeded to marry seven local farmers. Nature, as well as legend, has moulded this landscape, and the waters of the little River Saith are so eager to re-join the ocean that they leap straight over the cliff at Tresaith to form a charming and magical waterfall.
Adventure, a pint-sized Niagara and a Blue-Flagged, sandy beach beckon with tempting shrimping pools filling the limpet-encrusted rocks. The water is good for both surfing and sailing, and New Quay, where you can go fishing and take dolphin-watching trips, is just 9 miles away.
Caswell Bay, The Gower Peninsula
A sought-after, family-friendly surf-spot with a fantastic view and accessible amenities.
The star attractions of this beach are the anemones, the fiddler crabs and, of course, the starfish. It is known as one of the UK’s top rock-pooling beaches and at low-tide, a magical sea cave is exposed. Caswell Bay is one of the best beaches in South Wales and holds both a Blue Flag and a Seaside Award, and the gentle swell makes it ideal for rookie surfers and water sports.
The car park is 100m from the beach and you’ll find toilets, outside showers, and refreshments within easy reach. The short clifftop path between the pretty bays is a great introduction to coastal walks for little legs.
Aberdyfi (Aberdovey), Cardigan Bay
Aberdyfi is a glorious sandy beach with rolling dunes that seem to go on forever.
With its own micro-climate, this beach is described as the jewel in the crown of Cardigan Bay in Mid Wales. The sweep of the Dyfi Estuary allows superb views toward the wetlands of Ynys Las Nature Reserve and the mountains beyond. Activities are bountiful, including canoeing, sailing, wind and kitesurfing, fishing or simply taking a relaxing mini-cruise along the coast.
After an eventful day, choose from the many pubs, restaurants, bars, and cafes nestled in the heart of the village, such as Sea Breeze which offers a feast of local fish, seafood and local produce.
If you love water sports, you can find even more active things to do in Wales in our guide.
Aberdaron, Llyn Peninsula
A south-facing, Blue-Flagged beach at the tip of the tranquil Llŷn Peninsula.
Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, we have perhaps saved the best until last. The sea breezes and the location of this beach make it popular with sailors and windsurfers, but the encircling headlands shelter the warm sands. Clear water, soft sand, and beautiful views entice families to this inspirational place year after year.
A walker’s paradise, saunter far along the headland and see the many islands just off the coast, including Ireland. There’s a fabulous and enchanting boat trip out to nearby Bardsey where you can visit the grey seals that swim and bask on its shores.
If one or two of these top beaches in Wales have caught your eye, then we’ve got a whole range of cosy cottages in Wales peppered along the coast, so you’ll never be far from the sea. Whether you’re thinking about treating someone special to a romantic getaway for two, or you’ve got a fun-filled family holiday with the kids in mind, you’re sure to find the perfect escape in our collection. And if it’s dog-friendly cottages you seek as well as a beautiful creek, have a look at this patisserie of places to stay. Or click the button below to browse our full range of Welsh holiday cottages.