Far from offering just a bucket and spade for entertainment, Wales’ coast is packed with exciting activities, great for family days out: including coasteering, fossil-hunting, and plenty of home-made ice cream! Of course, for those who like nothing more than making sandcastles, there are award-winning, beautiful beaches, many of which are in the shadow of real-life castles, just in case you need inspiration for your creations.
1. Take the plunge: Coasteering, Pembrokeshire, South West Wales
Coasteering was pioneered in Pembrokeshire and ticks all the boxes for thrill-seekers. Celtic Quest Coasteering runs family days out suitable for children aged eight and up, where you might find yourselves exploring caves, cliff jumping from 10 metres, and playing in water features including the intriguingly-named ‘Toilet Flush’ and the ‘Washing Machine’!
2. Walk the Worm: Worm’s Head, Gower Peninsula, South Wales
The Gower Peninsula was the UK’s first ever designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and with good reason – it’s simply stunning. Take the family on the intrepid journey across to Worm’s Head, an island that can only be reached during the two-and-a-half hours either side of low tide, and admire sweeping views over Rhossili Bay. Kids will love scrambling over the rocks and bouncing over the super-spongy grass, listening out for seals singing in the waters below. Not low tide? Take the National Trust’s ‘serpents, seascapes and shipwrecks’ walk and admire the Worm from the mainland.
3. High speed thrills: RIB Ride, Anglesey, North Wales
Anyone over the age of four can bound along the waves on a RIB Ride around Anglesey, with an enticing array of adventures available: ‘Bridges and Swellies’ takes in shipwrecks and whirlpools, ‘Puffins and Seals’ is self-explanatory and is a must for wildlife lovers. ‘Castles and Islands’ shows off Caernarfon Castle and the ‘Around Anglesey Adventure’ lets you design your very own route.
4. Touch the past: Fossil hunting, Llantwit Major, South Wales
Llantwit Major is said to be the best place in Wales to find Jurassic fossils, so take mini explorers down there to spot gastropods, corals, and echinoids (or sea urchins), many of which are as large as tennis balls. The fossils can be found in abundance in the rocks along the foreshore. Penarth, just outside Cardiff, is another popular spot for those on a fossil-finding mission.
5. Don't look down! Morfa Bay Abseiling, Carmarthenshire, South West Wales
Morfa Bay Adventure offers an exciting range of coastal activities, like body boarding and sea kayaking. But how about seeing the coastline from a new angle? The company offers expert tuition in abseiling, with beginners starting on walls just 2 metres high and moving onto the 9 metre limestone tower when ready. Feeling really brave? Those who’ve mastered this can head out for the ultimate abseiling session, spending a day on a coastal crag in Pembrokeshire or the Gower Peninsula. Maybe one to leave the kids to enjoy by themselves..?!
6. Sounds in the sand: Porthor (the Whistling Sands), Llŷn Peninsula, North Wales
Porthor is one of the few places in the UK where you can both feel the sand between your toes – and hear the sand between your toes, too! It’s a remarkable beach, not just down to its spectacular beauty, but thanks to its ‘Whistling Sands’, caused by the squeaky whistle emitted by these particular sand particles when rubbed together in warm weather. The National Trust looks after this beach, which is a popular surfing spot and well-loved by families. Wildlife adventure packs are also available at the beach cabin in spring and summer.
7. A sunken forest: Cantre’r Gwaelod (the Welsh Atlantis), Cardigan Bay, Mid Wales
A story to captivate minds young and old, Cantre’r Gwaelod (also known as the ‘Welsh Atlantis’) is said to lie under the sands beyond Borth, a beach in Cardigan Bay. At low tide, you can spot the remains of a submerged forest and wonder at what lies beneath…Cardigan Bay is also fantastic for nature-loving families, with dolphins a regular sighting in its waters, best seen on a dedicated dolphin-spotting boat trip.
8. Take on ‘The blob’: Surf Snowdonia, Conwy, North Wales
What if we told you that some of the best surfing conditions are to be found… inland? You’d think we’d gone mad – but no. Surf Snowdonia is a world-first inland surfing lagoon that creates perfect waves – ideal for teaching your kids, or learning together at the Surf Snowdonia Surf Academy. There’s also a ‘Crash and Splash’ lagoon assault course that the young and young-at-heart will enjoy, which ends with you flying through the air from the ‘catapult blob’ into the water! Kids over 12 can have a go, or there’s a Family Crash and Splash for those aged five and up.
9. Coastal canters: Beach horse-riding, Pembrokeshire, South West Wales
Nolton Stables offers fantastic beach horse-riding opportunities for beginners, experts and everyone in between. Nolton is home to over 60 ponies and horses, with one to suit every rider, so it’s the ideal place to introduce your little ones to the joys of galloping on a trusty steed. And what better place to do it than Druidston Haven, a tranquil and majestic beach with over a mile of sand to ride along at low tide.
10. Hold on tight! White water rafting, Cardiff, South Wales & Bala, North Wales
Experience the adrenalin rush of bouncing over rapid upon rapid at Cardiff International White Water, where family rafting sessions open up the activity to children aged six and up. The centre is at Cardiff Bay and also offers family canoeing, kayaking, and Stand Up Paddleboarding (12 and up). Keen to take on a real rapid? Head to the National White Water Centre at Bala, North Wales, where families with children over 12 can take on the challenging and fast-flowing Afon Tryweryn; there’s also a Tryweryn Safari, for those aged ten and over.