Take to the water on one of these brilliant boat trips. Just pick your speed, from stately to supercharged, then sit back and enjoy the wonderful scenery along our coasts, canals and rivers.

See dolphins in Cardigan Bay

You’ve got a decent chance of spotting Britain’s biggest resident pod of dolphins almost anywhere along Ceredigion’s southern coast, and there are plenty of boat trips for hire. But to help support conservation work, head for the Wildlife Trust’s centre in New Quay. They run survey trips out into the bay, complete with underwater microphone, so you can eavesdrop on dolphin gossip. Back at base, there’s plenty of information about dolphins, porpoises, seals, whales, sharks, sunfish, turtles, and all the other residents of Cardigan Bay.

Boat passenger taking a photo of the scenery
Cardigan Bay Dolphins
Dolphin spotting in Cardigan Bay

Visit the islands of Pembrokeshire

The cluster of islands in St Bride’s Bay, on the westernmost tip of Wales, are some of the world’s most important places for seabirds. A boat trip from Martin’s Haven to Skomer and Skokholm islands is especially popular in puffin season (May to July), but there are also seals, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks to spot. A little further out to sea, Grassholm is home to one of the world’s largest gannet colonies, with 40,000 breeding pairs. On the other side of the bay near St Davids, the lifeboat station at St Justinians makes a gorgeous embarkation point for a trip to the RSPB reserve on Ramsay Island, crossing a treacherous reef called The Bitches.

People arriving at Skomer Island
Passengers on a boat trip looking towards Skomer Island
Waves in the water around a rock
Boat trip to Skomer Island

Drift down the River Wye

There’s plenty of white-water action in Wales, but here we’re thinking of something rather more leisurely. The River Wye is a famously pretty river, and the stretch either side of Hay-on-Wye is perfect for gently drifting downstream in an open canoe. The stretch from Glasbury to Hay is a good half-day introduction, although you can spend four or five days doing the whole 100 miles (160km) down to Chepstow: there’s are plenty of operators to choose from.

Two canoes on the River Wye.
Canoeing down the River Wye

Explore the Menai Strait

The Menai Strait is a fascinating place. It’s a geological fault line, filled with weird tides and whirlpools, which separates the mainland from our largest island, Anglesey. There are plenty of boat operators who run trips along the Strait, taking in Thomas Telford’s magnificent suspension bridge, the various nooks and islets, and the wildlife sanctuary of Puffin Island. The world’s fastest RIB ride also runs out of Menai Bridge: launched in 2018, this hi-tech marvel promises to propel passengers at ‘the speed of scream’, whatever that is. Very, very fast, we’d imagine.

People on a boat with Menai Suspension Bridge in the distance
RIB ride on the Menai Strait 

A trip to Bardsey Island

Off the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, Bardsey is the resting place of 20,000 saints, who share this beautiful island with an abundance of wildlife. It’s a great place for day-trips, or you can stay for the ultimate getaway. The boat trip over is an adventure in itself: skipper Colin Evans’ family have fished and farmed on the island for centuries, and he turns the trip into a magical history tour and wildlife safari.

Outside of a craft shop on Bardsey Island
Sea lion enjoying the waters surrounding Bardsey Island, Gwynedd
Bardsey Island

Tour the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal

Known locally as the Brec and Mon, the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal follows the Usk valley through the ravishing scenery of the Brecon Beacons. It has 35 navigable miles (56km), and several options to enjoy them. From March to October, Dragonfly Cruises run friendly, wheelchair-accessible narrowboat trips from Brecon. You can also hire narrow boats at various locations along the way, for day-trips or longer breaks.

Narrowboat on canal in front of Theatr Brycheiniog
Dragonfly Cruises narrowboat in front of Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

A tour of Cardiff Bay

This was once Tiger Bay, the world’s greatest coal port. In the 1990s a barrage was built across the rivers Taff and Ely, creating a vast freshwater lagoon that’s become a playground for water sports. Several boat operators ply their trade here: Cardiff Boat Tours and Aquabus offer water taxi services up to Bute Park in the city centre, and also sightseeing trips, which are also provided by Cardiff Cruises and The Open Boat. For high-speed thrills, both Cardiff Sea Safaris and Bay Island Voyages run RIB-ride blasts around the Bay, and longer trips out into the open sea and to Flat Holm Island.

Water taxi on the river in front of parkland
Water taxi on the River Taff

Horse-drawn cruise on Llangollen Canal

In Llangollen, you can cruise back in time to an era when a towpath really was a path for towing, rather than for strolling, jogging or haring along on bikes. A horse-drawn narrowboat trip is a supremely romantic way to relax. After that, switch to a motorised boat – there are plenty of operators - to cross the spectacular Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which has World Heritage status.

Narrowboat
Image of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from below with trees and the river
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Llangollen

Explore the Gower coast

You haven’t really seen the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty if you’ve only explored it on land. Set out to sea in a RIB with an expert guide from Gower Coast Adventures and a whole new dimension is revealed, from grassy banks to towering cliffs of textured rock with mysterious, hidden caves. They run trips from Oxwich Bay to the spectacular headland of Worm’s Head, where there’s a fair chance of seeing dolphins and porpoises, and guaranteed close encounters with seals and sea birds.

Worm's Head, Halbinsel Gower, Südwales
Worm's Head

Take a trip from Tenby

If there’s one Welsh resort that never, ever fails to deliver a great time, it’s Tenby. The town is achingly beautiful, and fringed with perfect beaches. Its ancient town walls enclose plenty of history, and a lot of fun. To enjoy the views from offshore, head for the harbour, where local operators have their ticket booths. Take your pick from short mackerel fishing trips, to jet ski safaris, to day-trips over to Caldey Island.

Houses reflected in the sea in the harbour
Boat in the sea with Tenby in the background
The sea breaking behind a boat with Tenby in the distance
Tenby harbour and a boat trip to Caldey Island