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. To help support vital 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 watery residents of 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.
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 are plenty of operators to choose from.
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.
A trip to Ynys Enlli
Off the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, Ynys Enlli, or Bardsey Island, is apparently 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.
Tour the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
Known locally as the Mon and Brec, the Monmouthshire & Brecon 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.
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, Bay Island Voyages run RIB-ride blasts around the Bay, and longer trips out into the open sea and to Flat Holm Island.
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 trip with the Horse Drawn Boat Company 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.
Explore Gower's coast
You haven’t really seen 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.
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.