22 March 2018

5 Welsh harbour towns and modern marinas you need to visit this year

2018 is our ‘Year of the Sea’, so spending time at our epic shores is a must for anyone looking to escape the humdrum of city life. And here in Wales, we are pretty lucky (okay, totally spoilt) with the number of Instagram worthy harbour towns and bustling marinas made for much than the 'likes'. Happiness IRL (in real life) awaits.

Aberaeron, Ceredigion

The view across Aberaeron harbour to the Harbourmaster Hotel.
The view across Aberaeron harbour to the Harbourmaster Hotel
This is the picture-perfect view of Aberaeron, the charming port town on the Ceredigion coastline, where you’ll discover colourful fishing cottages along the harbourside and the hills above it. Head to the harbour and while away a few hours with a spot of crabbing. Buckets and nets are available from neighbouring pubs and shops and you will undoubtedly see other crabbers sitting on the harbour wall casting their lines with a pint or an ice-cream in hand. The smart move is to spoil yourself with a stay in the Harbourmaster, the blue-fronted boutique hotel set on the quayside which has a cracking view and a bar and restaurant serving the best in local produce. 

Porthmadog, Snowdonia

The harbour of Porthmadog with the Moelwyn mountain range in the background.
Porthmadog harbour looking towards the Moelwyn mountains
The busy harbour town of Porthmadog has a lot of things going for it. For starters, its location just a skip, yomp and jump from the Snowdonia National Park is a big win. But it also acts as a hub for those sailing in to the coastal haven, with a wealth of boating facilities, including sheltered mooring, boat cleaning amenities and sales (in case you wanted to upgrade your current ride).

Originally created in the 19th Century, to export slate to neighbouring England and internationally, when the slate trade declined, the town became a tourist destination for explorers touring the diverse landscape of North Wales. Do as they did and fuel up in one of the town’s cafes, restaurants or inns, perfect for a pitstop, or boots off relax. 

Swansea Marina

Marina view of Meridian Tower
Meridian Tower, Swansea Marina by City and County of Swansea
Swansea Marina is located at the mouth of the River Tawe in the award-winning Maritime Quarter area of the city. Key features include berthing for 600 vessels and a number of essential boating facilities including a boat yard, travel hoist and crane for engines and masts. And its prime location on the edge of the Gower Peninsula means that local cruising grounds include ’the supermodel of British beaches’ Rhossili Bay, not to mention beautiful Oxwich Bay, Port Eynon and Llangennith. 

The marina benefits from some satisfying eating and drinking spots. You don’t need a head for heights but it might help to drink in the views from the Grape and Olive, 28 floors up in the Meridian Tower, Wales’ tallest building. Other foodie highlights around the marina include The Swigg and Pump House, but the city at large has a huge selection of eateries to choose from to suit a variety of tastes and budgets.

Tenby, Pembrokeshire

Tenby Harbour with houses reflected in still water.

Tenby Harbour, Pembrokeshire
Tenby has been a well-loved holiday spot for over 200 years and for good reason. The harbour itself is built between the old medieval walled town and the ruins of Tenby Castle which has stood proud on Castle Hill since the 13th century.

Visitors can spend time on one of the town’s beautiful sandy beaches, rent sail boats, or leave the sailing to the professionals and catch a gentle cruise, or thrilling ride, in an inflatable raft over to the idyllic Caldey Island, which is known as one of the Holy Islands of Britain. There you’ll find ancient bluebell woods and secluded beaches, making it a wonderful spot for a day trip away from the mainland. 

Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

Reflected images of boats and houses in Penarth Marina.

Penarth Marina by Penarth Marina
The most sheltered location to harbour boats in Cardiff Bay, Penarth Marina is definitely a place to add to your boating bucket list. Formerly the town’s docks, the marina is now a hotspot for water-front living and restaurant hopping. Facilities wise, the marina offers accommodation for vessels of up to 25m L.O.A, a full boatyard service, boat sales, servicing and engine repair. 

The picturesque town of Penarth sits just up the hill, so take a walk and spend some happy hours pottering around the stylish local boutiques, enjoying the area’s burgeoning food and drink scene (check out The Pilot, Bar 44 and Foxy’s Deli) and taking in the Victorian promenade and spectacular pier, winner of a National Trust-led public vote for Wales’ most special place back in 2014.