When picturing beautiful sandy beaches and blue waters, Wales might not be the first place you think of. The sad thing is, we’re all willing to spend hundreds if not thousands to hop on a plane to somewhere exotic, without even realising how beautiful our own UK beaches are. In particular, our south west wales beaches!
The UK is full of places perfect for a staycation, and South West Wales in particular is a fantastic place to holiday. Especially if you’re a bit short on time and are in desperate need of a long, relaxing weekend away.
What to Expect from a Pembrokeshire Holiday
Alongside beautiful beaches, you’ll find incredible rock formations, open caves to explore, miles and miles of rolling hills to walk, seals and dolphins to spot, and much more.
But we all love a sandy beach to sit back and relax on.
In my opinion, these 10 beaches are the best in south Wales. And if you get bored of one, just head up or down the coast to explore the others.
You can visit all of them in just a couple of days if you’re really committed!
Here’s the most highly rated Pembrokeshire beaches with a couple of accommodation reccomendations!
Llangranog isn’t just a beautiful beach for the summer, but it’s actually a great place to go all year round.
The beach itself is surrounded by incredible rock formations, caves, and a coastal pathway which offers one of the most fantastic views.
I recommend visiting this beach in the evening in particular for a gorgeous sunset.
The sandy beach is very popular in the spring and summer periods. You’ll find sea kayakers, swimmers and boats out on the water all day long. It’s the perfect place to kick back and relax.
Dogs are also welcome here all year round.
When the tide is out, you can walk round to the second beach which tends to be a lot quieter. You can also access the coastal path from both sides of the beaches.
Spend a day at Llangranog
Llangranog is a particular favourite of mine, especially when it’s sunny. I really recommend spending the day here and taking a picnic for lunch. Then pack up, watch the sun go down, and head to one of the two pubs for dinner. Both have delicious food and a great atmosphere.
Or better yet, get fish and chips from the take-away and sit on the beach! Don’t forget to take your litter home.
Penbryn is a beautiful sandy cove owned by the National Trust. You can walk here from Llangranog along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal path in Cardigan Bay.
At the end of the beach, you can explore the large cave during low tide. Otherwise, walk the almost mile-long stretch of golden sandy beach, until you reach the large rocks at the opposite side. Perfect for perching on whilst you enjoy a picnic or coffee.
How to Access the Beach
The beach itself is 400 metres away from the car park, but there is a turning circle and drop-off point right next to the beach.
The walk from the car-park is lovely and will take you through a woodland trail which opens up into a woodland valley right before leading to the beach.
The shallow waters also make it a perfect beach for families with young children in the summer months!
Sometimes seal pups can be found resting on the beach, don’t approach them. It will severely distress them! Also make sure to control your dogs. At dusk, you can spot the seals bobbing their heads above the water.
Tresaith is a magical beach in a lot of ways. In the summer months, you’ll find a beautiful sandy beach popular amongst the locals. Families particularly love Tresaith because of the shallow waters and rock pools for children to play in and crab watch.
In the winter months on the other hand, all the sand washes away and leaves a pebbled beach surrounded by harsh landscapes of magnificent cliff faces and waterfalls.
It’s truly amazing.
If Iceland is on your bucket list for a winter getaway but you don’t quite have the budget for it yet, Tresaith is your next best bet.
To the right of the beach you can climb on the rocks and creep around the coast slightly to see the hidden waterfall on the second beach. Make sure you check the tide times though as there is no way back to the main beach during high tide.
If you’re travelling from Penbryn to Tresiath or vice versa, you can easily drive here in 5 minutes. Or, take a leisurely stroll across the coastal paths instead for a half an hour walk.
In a way, Mwnt is again, a beach for all weathers. In the summer, the sheltered, sandy cove is great for sunbathing and swimming. You can also grab an ice-cream at the beach kiosk.
In the winter, although not the best weather for sunbathing, you’ll capture some great raw landscape photos in this beautiful National Trust area.
It’s a much smaller beach than the others listed so is fantastic if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.
To the right of the beach lies Foel y Mwnt, a large hill which you can climb up to and watch dolphins and whales from the top! It’s an extremely popular area for dolphins to feed and play, so if you’re going to spot dolphins anywhere in Wales, it’s likely to be Mwnt.
It’s also a beautiful spot to watch the sun go down!
5. Poppet sands
At Poppet Sands you’ll find a large, flat, sandy beach surrounded by sand dunes. Poppet is an extremely popular beach during the summer months. Keep this in mind if you prefer to avoid the tourists.
Lifeguards patrol the beach between July and August, making it a safe place to swim and great for families.
Outside of the blue flags, big waves make it an ideal place for sailing and surfing.
The ½ a mile-long beach provides plenty of flat, hard sand for testing out kite surfing, buggying, land boarding, and power boarding.
Or, if you would prefer to walk or cycle, the Pembrokeshire coastal path starts here, leading to shorter and more challenging well-marked public footpaths.
If you want to spend the day at the beach and do more than just sunbathe and swim, then this is definitely the place to consider.
6. Newport Sands
This wide, sandy beach is backed by sand dunes and cliffs.
At one end of the beach, you will find a golf course which welcomes golfers of all standards.
At the other, you’ll find beautiful views of the Preseli mountains.
Swimming is popular at Poppet Sands and you will find cordoned off sections of the beach especially for swimmers (near the sand dunes). If swimming outside this area it is advisable to check tide times, as it can be dangerous especially near the estuary due to rapidly incoming tides.
The estuary however, does make Newport Sands a popular spot for bird watchers and fishermen.
Water sports fanatics can often be found here too, enjoying kayaking, surfing, sailing, and other water sports.
There truly is something for everyone here!
7. Elegug Stacks and the Green Bridge of Wales, Castlemartin
For all the photography lovers out there, the Elegug Stacks and Green Bridge of Wales are a natural beauty even in the most extreme weathers.
The pillars of rock rise from the sea in the Castlemartin army tank region, so it’s important to check opening times before visiting as you can’t always access the viewpoint.
How to Access the Beach
Start off from the Stack Rocks car park at the end of military road and take the short walk (West) to the viewing platform. Here you will find the largest natural bridge formation in the country.
By walking further, you can get a better view of the bridge, or even walk on top of the bridge itself. Be careful though as there is no fencing to stop you from falling if you lose your footing.
Back at the viewpoint, you can take a short walk (East) to the Elegug Stacks. These beautiful natural limestone rock formations house an array of birds such as Guillemots and Razorbills. The name ‘Elelug’ actually comes from the Welsh term for Guillemot.
Castlemartin is well-known for its varied landscape, rugged cliffs, and untouched woodlands, so take advantage of the beautiful scenery whilst you’re here and definitely don’t forget your camera!
8. Flimston Bay
This beach is particularly appealing to adventure lover’s due to the unusual access point to the beach!
Flimston is roughly 500 yards away from the Elegug Stacks car park, and can only be accessed via an awkward scramble up a steep slot in the limestone cliffs.
Don’t worry though, there’s a rope to help up! But it’s probably best to avoid this one if you’re traveling with children or the elderly.
The beach is only open during the weekends so keep this in mind, it’s also probably best to avoid it completely during wet weather.
But, the beautiful sandy beach surrounded by clear waters and incredible rugged rock formations is well worth the tricky trip.
Again, check the tide times as the beach is completely submerged during high-tide.
9. Barafundle Bay, Stackpole
Barafundle beach…. Named one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the UK and even the world, for good reason!
The small bay is surrounded by pine trees and sand dunes, and the pristine golden sand and crystal-clear waters form a piece of paradise.
The beach is a tad tricky to get to, as you will have to scramble over the cliffs to reach the beach itself. But, this makes it the perfect place to sit back, relax, and enjoy a paddle, sunbathe and picnic of course!
Harbour beach in particular is definitely one of the best south wales beaches. In fact, it’s even been compared to popular Portuguese and Croatian beaches due to its turquoise, crystal-clear waters.
The medieval town full of pastel-painted houses lies next to the picturesque Tenby harbour.
Tucked away behind the medieval walls and fishing boats is the famous Harbour beach.
From here, sailing boats can be hired or you can take a boat trip to the scenic Caldey Islands.
Pembrokeshire Coast Cottages
Holiday cottages are definitely the best accommodation choice for a beach-holiday to South Wales.
Since the best beaches in South Wales are in Pembrokeshire it definitely makes sense to stay here!
But which area of Pembrokeshire is the best area?
Wales is a popular holiday destination for good reason, the remote towns make it the perfect place for down-time. But this also means that you could be stuck in the middle of no-where if you don’t do your research.
Cottages Near Cardigan Bay
Cardigan is perhaps the most popular area in Pembrokeshire to stay, and beaches 1-5 on the list above can be found on this stretch of coast.
Staying by the coast itself can be a bit pricy though, so it’s best to stay further in-land.
I’d really recommend Newcastle Emlyn in particular. It’s not too far away from my top 10 south west Wales beaches and is an extremely beautiful area.
We’ve stayed in 2 cottages in Newcastle Emlyn and we can’t recommend them enough.
You really need a car to stay here as Emlyn town is around a 10-minute drive away but this is pretty standard for Pembrokeshire coast cottages.
But trust me when I say that you’ll struggle to find a more beautiful area to stay in within Wales.
Betty and Troedyrhiw cottage are next door to each other at the bottom of a beautiful Welsh Valley in Cwm-Morgan.
The stream, beautiful flowers, and bird song form a piece of paradise.
This is the perfect place to stay all year round. We honestly love it and will continue to go back for as long as we can. They’re both also dog friendly!
Betty cottage is the perfect place for couples.
The upstairs open plan layout offers a stylish lounge area filled with cosy cushions and pillows and plenty of DVD’s and board games to keep you entertained in the evenings. The wood burning fire creates a cosy and romantic atmosphere that anyone would love.
The modern kitchen is kitted out with everything you could possibly need to cook delicious meals if you decide to cater for yourselves. Or during the spring and summer months, the garden makes for a perfect dining location and a BBQ is provided.
Downstairs is a luxury bathroom and bedroom with an extremely comfortable king-sized bed.
Betty is small but cosy and is definitely worth booking for a romantic weekend away, or longer!
We stayed in Troedyrhiw in the winter, and it was the perfect cosy cottage to head back to after a day of exploring the many beaches on offer in South West Wales!
The hosts provide fire-wood for the wood-burner and keep the stash topped up throughout your stay.
This is an ideal cottage for small families, due to the two bedrooms including a master bedroom and adult sized bunk-beds. There’s also a sofa bed in the lounge downstairs for some extra space or just for those wanting to fall asleep next to the crackling fire!
The kitchen and dining area is slightly larger in Troedyrhiw so it’s more than suitable for a longer stay in Wales.
Newcastle Emlyn is a 10-minute drive away from both cottages and it has more than enough shops, restaurants and pubs to keep everyone happy. There’s also a castle where the last dragon in Wales was slayed!
Poppet Sands is around 10 miles away from Emlyn and from here you can easily travel to the other beaches listed above.
Here’s some places we would highly recommend in Emlyn:
- Cwtch Café – serves the best cakes
- T Y Croeso Deli – a fantastic place to go for lunch for great value.
- The Pelican Pub – a very small but lively pub where you can always find someone to chat to.
- Yasmin’s Curry House
- The Riverside Café – Vegetarian and Vegan food that’s to die for!
- The Nag’s Head – slightly further away but delicious traditional pub grub with a sophisticated edge to it.
Carmarthen is slightly further away but is great if you want to go shopping, to the cinema, or out for a meal. We highly recommend Florentino’s in particular for a traditional family run Italian restaurant. The food is insanely good.
Some Other Areas to Consider
If Newcastle Emlyn is a bit too far away for you though, you might want to consider staying closer to the beaches. Bear in mind though that regardless of where you are, you’re more than likely going to have to drive (or walk/cycle if you’re feeling particularly active) to the nearest beach.
Cardigan is a great place to stay if you would prefer to be closer to the river and shops.
The town itself is really pretty especially near the river. If you’re a bit of a coffee snob you can also get a great coffee here in the numerous Café’s within the town.
During Easter and the summer months the Pizza Teepee is a must-visit for delicious wood-fired pizzas served next to the river. The Teepee stays open until late and you can even sit round the fire later on in the evenings.
Although Tenby is only around an hour away from Newcastle Emlyn, if it’s the Castlemartin, Tenby, and Barfungle Bay beaches that really appeal to you, Tenby is also a great area to stay.
If you enjoyed reading this article and are looking for some other UK holiday ideas, check out these 5 Dorset wild spots.