Where is Wales, you ask? It’s that protrusion of a country that juts from the western edge of England. It might not be on the radar of many a traveler, but it should be.
From soaring mountains soaked in dew and shrouded in mist to surf-bashed coastlines where puffins meet porpoises, it’s a real haven for adventure seekers. Then you throw in the towns. They can be quaint fishing villages or charming country hamlets or come in the form of cutting-edge cities like Cardiff. In addition, the beaches in Wales are simply irresistible. They’ve been magnetizing families and surfers and couples on beach holidays for decades…
This guide to the best beaches in Wales can help you pinpoint the cream of the crop. There are more than 1,300 miles of coastline to get through. The upshot? Get ready for all sorts. Starting with the famous resort towns of Pembrokeshire and finishing with swell-smashed inlets in the Gower.
There’s bound to be something to tickle your wanderlust…
Tenby North Beach
The view of Tenby North Beach from the tops of the green hills that surround it is a sight to behold. If you’re a veteran of beach holidays in Wales, then it’s likely you’ve seen it on postcards aplenty. The components: A scythe of golden sand; rows of ice cream-colored cottages; the crumbling remains of Tenby Castle perched on a clifftop to the south. It really is quintessential Welsh scenery.
One of the things that make Tenby North one of the top beaches in Wales is its proximity to town. Just a hop, skip and jump from where the waves roll in and you can be sat in a café. Better yet, consider wandering the magnificent walled center. It was fortified by the Normans back in the 12th century, who hoped to defend their important port from the Welsh armies.
The beach itself can get busy during the summertime. But the buzz is all part of the charm. You’ll find yourself sunning yourself next to lollypop shops. You can lunch in coastal diners, devouring Welsh rarebit and soups. A boat trip to Caldey Island is also easy to organize from the nearby harbor. Head there for green hills, an old Cistercian monastery, and another of the stunning beaches in Wales.
Three Cliffs Bay
Simply…wow. A beach to take the breath away if there ever was one, Three Cliffs Bay carves out a huge inlet in the Gower coastline. That’s the region that juts into the Bristol Channel from Swansea in the south. And this is the point at which it’s at its most dramatic…
A trio of cone-shaped rock formations that rises straight from the shore is what gives it the name. They can either be found surrounded by beige sand and a babbling river. Or, when the tide is fully in, engulfed in a wild ocean that splashed and froths in all directions. For the best views, you might want to stick to the blustery clifftop walkways that hop over the dunes. They start in nearby Pennard or go from Penmaen to the north-west.
If you do catch this iconic piece of Wales scenery when the tide is up, you can drop down to find a small sliver of sand. During the summer, that’s where families on beach holidays gather to light up their BBQs, catch a tan, and throw sticks for the pooch. On the headland nearby, there’s also the ruin of Pennard Castle – a pitstop for the history buffs.
Beach holidays and beaches in Wales hardly make a better match than up in Llandudno. This is the original Welsh beach town. As a resort, it cut its teeth during the Victorian era. Way back in the 1840s it was converted into a purpose-built center for R&R on the shore. Grand vacation homes and handsome retreats started filling the promenade. The city was added to the North Wales Coast Line railway. And viola – the rest is history.
Llandudno really has two beaches. There’s the North Shore Beach, which is the liveliest of the town. Head there and you can strut the vintage walking paths of the South Parade. It’s the place to munch fish and chips and get stuck into family-friendly fun during the summer. Alternatively, quieter West Shore opens into the estuary of the Conwy River. It’s more serene and secluded.
High above the town is another iconic North Wales landmark: The Great Orme. Forged from high dolomite and limestone cliffs, it’s have become a focal point of the town. On the top, you can discover the fun-filled Happy Valley and its botanical gardens. There are also lookout points, vintage tram rides, and even Bronze Age copper quarries to see!
Wedged into a tiny inlet on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, Porthdinllaen ticks all the boxes. As Welsh scenery goes, it’s positively postcard-worthy. As beaches in Wales go, it’s small, compact and secluded like you won’t believe.
All that is achieved by the unique geography of the place. The spot sits north of Morfa Nefyn where a finger of thin land pokes into the Irish Sea. That means it’s protected by strong headlands of stone, and only has narrow wisps of sand before its age-old fishing cottages. Just behind the beach, a quaint lifeboat station and an inn bring some Welsh charm to proceedings. On the peninsular above are romantic lookouts with benches.
Have the camera at the ready for the moment you swing around the Pembroke Coast Path on into view of Barafundle Bay. This is a jewel among beaches in Wales. Enfolded by two craggy cliffs and dashes of wild gorse, it spreads out with ochre-tinted sand under the gaze of grass-green hills. The result? This could – on a rare Welsh sunny day – just as well fit into the Caribbean!
Managed by the National Trust, Barafundle is in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. That’s the only solely coastal reserve of its kind in the United Kingdom. The whole region is linked up by a 186-mile long walking route. What’s more, there are charming towns to bed down in nearby – think ancient St Davids or the sand-side village of Newgale.
As Wales scenery goes, Barafundle has plenty. However, it’s not just the looks. This is a Blue Flag beach, which ensures high water quality. There are rare falcons and gulls whizzing through the skies for birdwatchers. Moreover, there are gorgeous hiking paths weaving through nearby coastal forests to break up that beach holiday.
Over a headland and at the tail end of Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich is another stunner of the Gower Peninsula. Wild dunes topped by a hair of sea oats fringe it’s back. To the front, beige-tinted sand slopes softly into the Bristol Channel. A whitewashed hotel and bar join a chic fine-dining restaurant near the main carpark. But they are the only evidence of human habitation under the high walls of wooded rock that rise all around.
Given its length, Oxwich is uber-popular with dogwalkers and beachcombers. It looks amazing whatever the weather, too. When the sun’s out, it’s peppered with parasols and SUP boarders drift out to discover rock pools along the head. When it’s winter, the wind can lash against the seagrasses and bring brooding mists across the whole bay. Stirring stuff.
Behind Oxwich is a vast area of wetland and swamp. That’s become a habitat for wild ponies and rare seabirds. In addition, it’s a great place to explore with the family. There are birding lookouts and muddy boardwalk trails in abundance. Just be sure to take the wellies with you!
Another of the beaches in Wales known for its surf, Rest Bay is the jewel of Porthcawl. Straddling the south coast between Swansea and Cardiff (the two largest cities in Wales), it’s easy to access. The bay has been awarded coveted Blue Flag status for its water quality. And what’s more, local golf courses and coastal walking paths ensure there’s always a varied crowd around.
As far as surfing goes, this is a shapely beach break with plenty of peaks. The popularity and proximity of the capital ensure there’s usually a crowd to share with in the line-up. However, if you manage to get in early or are willing to brave the icy winter water, this could be the place to head. In addition to all that, there’s an on-site coastal car park where you can pull up and leave the wheels.
Llangennith Beach has been a poster boy for beaches in Wales since it was first snapped by a wandering Instagrammer. And what a poster boy it is! This majestic arc of golden sand caps off the whole Gower Peninsula. It’s a primeval vista to behold, especially if you do so from the jagged clifftops next to small Rhossili town at its southern end. Standing there, as the gulls whirr around your head and the waves beat the limestone below, it’s possible to see a lonely cottage crammed under high coastal hills, dunes rolling northwards, swaying sunflower fields, and the spectacular outline of tidal pools.
Llangennith Beach is a top pick for beach holidays of all sorts. Surfers and surfing families love it. That’s because the waves tend to be consistent, even during the summer. (Just beware of a challenging paddle out and a hefty closeout when the swells get big.) In addition, walking paths can take you onto the big peaks behind the beach. And there’s Worm’s Head – a tidal island that beckons intrepid hikers by the bucket load. (Be sure to check it’s safe to travel out there with the coastguard before you go).
Mwnt is a pick for anyone who’s pining for more secluded and off-the-beaten-track beaches in Wales. You’ll need to venture up through the bald, green hills of Ceredigion to find it. Considered one of the wildest and most untouched parts of the whole country, the Wales scenery there is simply fantastic. Before even reaching the beach itself, you’ll gaze at visions of sweeping valleys, babbling rivers, and rolling farms.
Then you hit the coast and things continue to wow. Mwnt is crammed into a tight inlet off the shores north of Cardigan town. There’s a grass-clad clifftop on both sides. Its sand shimmers with a distinct golden hue. Moreover, dolphin pods have been known to frequent the whole area. (Some people even come to spot them from the surrounding headlands.)
Last but certainly not least on this list of the most fantastic beaches in Wales is Caswell Bay. It’s another that lies in the coastal treasure trove of the southern Gower Peninsula. Super-close to Swansea’s center, it can get bustling when the sun is out. However, many argue that Caswell really comes into its own during the stormier months of the year.
Then, you can hop onto the coastal path that connects it with nearby Mumbles (a charming little coast village). It brings you around headlands that often get swum by seals. Eventually, you find Caswell itself, flanked by high rocks and dotted with cave pools.
For Swansea locals, this is a top place to bring the surfboard. When the tide pokes into the bay, the swells compress nicely, and you can get some good rides both left and right. There’s a paid carpark just behind the beach, along with some cozy cafes where you can go to escape the rain.
So, you’re planning a trip to Wales but no idea where else to go rather than the beaches? Check out our guide to the best castles in Wales. We ensure your time here is going to be a blast! If you’ve been to any of these beaches, let us know your thoughts. Share with us some of your unique adventures and don’t forget to drop our readers some tips & tricks to travel to Wales too.