Go scuba diving around wrecks, learn Welsh on the coast, go kayak surfing, or sleep hanging off the side of a cliff. Though if you just want to ‘bucket and spade’ it (in that time-honoured tradition of the British seaside), we won’t judge!
Surfing is big news in Wales and the country has, in recent years, established its very own Welsh Surfing Federation. So come the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, Wales could be entering its very own team to compete when surfing makes its debut as an Olympic sport! It’s no wonder surfing is so popular here – Welsh beaches provide ideal conditions for practising, and there’s even the world-first inland surf lagoon at Adventure Parc Snowdonia in North Wales. Porthcawl in South Wales has a vibrant surfing community - Quest Expeditions offers everything from board and equipment hire to beginners’ and improvers' lessons.
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Harness the power of the wind at coastal locations around Wales and feel the unparalleled thrill of kitesurfing. Those who already have equipment and know-how can head straight to some of the country’s best beaches for the sport, including Newgale in Pembrokeshire, Llangennith on the Gower Peninsula, Porth Neigwl on the Llŷn Peninsula and Rhosneigr on Anglesey – not to mention surf hub Porthcawl. Beginner? The Big Blue Experience, based in Newgale, runs one and two-day courses for kitesurf starters suitable for ages 13 and up.
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In addition to its regular canoeing and kayaking expeditions on the beautiful estuaries of Wales, you can also try the unusual kayak experience of ‘surf-kayaking’. This involves taking the kayaks down to the beach and paddling out to ride the waves! It’s exhilarating and fun, suitable for those with prior paddling experience. For a gentler time – and if you’re a beginner – you can head on a relaxing canoe or kayak river safari, spotting wildlife and stopping on the riverbanks for a swim. Idyllic!
Throwing yourself with wild abandon into Wales’ coastline is surely the best way to experience the seaside – at least, that’s what coasteering pioneers obviously thought when they invented the sport in Pembrokeshire. Coasteering involves cliff-jumping, scrambling and even swimming with Atlantic seals, if you’re lucky, as you navigate your way around the coastline. You can coasteer in many places along the coast, with providers such as Preseli Venture offering half-day or even full weekend coasteering adventures for those aged eight and up.
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Cardiff might be a buzzing capital city with all the urban delights you could wish for, but did you know it also caters to thrill-seeking, outdoorsy types too? Cardiff International White Water is based in Cardiff Bay and offers the chance to raft in the city, within a stone’s throw of the open water, on a fun-filled water course with up to five friends! They also offer family rafting, canoeing and kayaking courses, and ‘hot-dogging’, a fun two-person activity involving an inflatable kayak and lots of thrilling white water!
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Stand up paddleboarding
A sport that’s been making waves (!) among water-babies in recent years is stand up paddleboarding, which offers the opportunity to rise above sea level astride your very own ‘SUP’ board, navigating the waters like an intrepid explorer. Cardiff International White Water offers SUP sessions round Cardiff Bay, or if you prefer to explore our coastline, Cardigan Bay Watersports in New Quay, Mid Wales, offer taster sessions, coastal tours and even paddleboard fitness classes!
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Experience the coastline from a whole new perspective – perched on the side of a cliff, looking down on the waves. And it doesn’t stop at looking – as well as their ‘Afternoon on the Edge’, Gaia Adventures organise cliff-camping for those who want to sleep cliff-side! Taking place on Anglesey, the experience includes abseiling practice prior to your descent to a ‘portaledge’, which can support up to four people, on which you enjoy a hot meal as the sun sets, followed by a night in the open air, with the waves lapping beneath you.
Not all challenges are physical. The beautiful Llŷn Peninsula is one of the best places to go if you’d like to hear the lyrical language of Welsh in full flow, where it is spoken by the majority of residents. Want to go a step further than hearing it and actually learn to converse in Cymraeg? Head to Nant Gwrtheyrn, home to the National Welsh Language and Heritage Centre, where you can learn the language on special weekend or week-long courses, staying at the charming 5* accommodation on-site and enjoying the stunning coastal scenery surrounding ‘the Nant’.
History-loving scuba divers will be delighted with the Welsh coast, which offers ample opportunities to explore shipwrecks as well as beautiful marine flora and fauna. Rhoscolyn Beacon off Anglesey is one of the best drift-diving spots in the UK, with wrecks to explore and fish, lobsters and anemones when the current is right. Haven’t dived to the depths before? Quest Adventures in South Wales offer courses through the PADI system, starting off in a local pool to get the hang of it.
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Art and culture
You’ll notice that the Welsh coastline is stunning to look at, so it makes sense that it would inspire those who live along it and visit. Each autumn, the Helfa Gelf Art Trail takes place in North Wales, with many of the studios open to the public for the month located by the sea. Head on a hunt and enter the workshops of painters, jewellers, textile artists, ceramicists and more.
For theatre, music and dance, the Aberystwyth Arts Centre is the answer – the ‘national flagship for the arts’ has a rich programme of events and fabulous views over Cardigan Bay. Feeling inspired yourself? Get hands on at Cardiff’s Craft in the Bay, with a range of workshops. And for a journey through the story of industry and innovation in Wales, head to Swansea and the National Waterfront Museum, then enjoy coffee and cake in the outdoor café with views over the bobbing boats in the marina.