South Wales is one big adventure playground, with activities for families, individuals, couples or groups of friends.
Get on your bike
Whatever the size of your clan, or cycling ability, there are dozens of glorious cycle routes. Cycle or walk along the famous Taff Trail, which links the Valleys to Cardiff. The Valleys offer fantastic rugged terrain ideal for mountain biking. Cwmcarn Forest and the Garw Valley both give impressive views across the Severn Estuary, while many of the crazy routes at BikePark Wales give views into the Brecon Beacons.
The Three Parks Trail is a largely traffic-free family ride on the Celtic Trail, taking in three of Wales’ picturesque parks. Look out for the eight-metre high 'Wheel o Drams' artwork in Maesycwmmer or catch a glimpse of Sultan the Pit Pony, the UK’s largest figurative earth sculpture. Afan Forest Park is revered. The best biking in Britain, said the Guardian. World-class, reckoned the Daily Telegraph. At the head of a beautiful valley, its 60 miles of world-class biking span from kiddie-friendly circuits to a 44km epic to make your fillings rattle. You can hire a bike too.
The 14km coastline between Ogmore and West Aberthaw might be the best-kept walkers’ secret in Wales. Its fossil-studded Jurassic cliffs swoop to beautiful beaches like Dunraven Bay at Southerndown. One minute you’re gazing out to Exmoor, the next you’re in intimate bluebell woods. There are also the ancient sites of Ogmore Castle and St Donats Castle.
Get outside with all the family and enjoy a buggy friendly walk in Cardiff and the Vale. There are a number of pleasant walks, including in Cardiff Bay and Hamadryad Park.
Less than an hour from the Severn Bridge, Cwmcarn is a must for serious mountain bikers. There are a number of walks in the park too, including a 9 mile walk, 0.9 miles/1.5km Nant Carn Walk or the 1.2 miles/1.8 km Bluebell Walk. Do note that there are some uneven surfaces, and kissing gates might make these walks difficult for families with pushchairs. An extensive events programme runs throughout the year for children, including themed woodland walks.
Have a wonderful day out in Parc Cwm Darran. There are loads of scenic adventures to have on bike and foot across former colliery grounds. The restored lake is part of a major wildlife wetland, with plenty of creatures to spot along the special trail. There’s an obstacle course for older children and playground for the little ones.
Parc Bryn Bach is a 340 acres lakeside countryside park. Explore a nature trail around the lake or jump on bikes to enjoy the extensive cycling facilities. Children will enjoy the adventure playground, while adult adrenalin junkies can sample soaring through the sky, crawling through caves, coasteering, archery, orienteering and a range of watersports.
Dare Valley Country Park offers a full list of family events and fun days throughout the year. The Bwllfa Trail is a good choice for those with younger children. The circular walk is about two miles/3.5km and offers stunning views of the lake and the chance to see a wealth of wildlife. The route splits into two at the lake with a shorter accessible route for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
Cosmeston Lakes and Country Park near Penarth, is a great place for getting some exercise and spotting wildlife. Explore some of the 100 acres of parkland at Bryngarw Country Park near Bridgend or take a ride on the cycle track. Stroll around Porthkerry Country Park, with woods, spectacular cliffs and nature trails.
Head to Parkwood Outdoors Activity Centre for a range of activities including abseiling, hiking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding. Prove your sporting prowess at the Summit Centre, Bargoed. There are 180 different ways to get to the top of the climbing walls. Other activities on offer include caving, biking, canoeing and kayaking. Younger children will enjoy the outdoor play area. The centre runs a programme of weekend and holiday activities for families and there’s accommodation for group residential trips.
Go quad biking at Taff Valley Activity Centre. There’s a dedicated 150m children's circuit for juniors aged from seven to 11 years. Other activities include an assault course, archery, laser shooting and clay pigeon shooting, plus gorge walking in the stunning Brecon Beacons.
Head to Porthcawl and enjoy an activity break at the Adventure Outdoors Activity Centre. Have a family adventure for children aged seven or older, or take time away with friends, including hen and stag parties. Try your hand at a range of activities such as rock climbing, gorge scrambling, watersports, paintballing or completing the assault course.
Swimming and watersports
With ample space and decent waves, Rest Bay Porthcawl is great for intermediate surfers, while beginners can guarantee a lesson because surrounding beaches can handle most wind directions. Search for surfing in Porthcawl.
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is another fun activity to try. Island SUP Ltd is based in Barry Island and offer lessons for all levels. Lido Ponty, the National Lido of Wales, is a great place for a family adventure with hand boats, stand up paddle boarding and zorbing wheels, as well as lots of opportunities for swimming, playing in the sunshine. Smaller kids will love the splash pad at Cyfarthfa Park. Cwmbran Boating Lake offers boating, watersports and abundant opportunities for wildlife spotting.
Cardiff International White Water brings a mountain of adventure to Cardiff Bay and cranks up the fun-factor to 11. Kids and first-timers love it, yet pro paddlers rate it too because it condenses the rough-and-tumble of river rafting into an intense 254m run.
There are 100 miles of navigable water to explore by canoe in the Wye Valley. Family-friendly trips are available from various canoe operators and last from half a day to five nights. Snug under canvas or stay in a B&B.