Did someone mention donkey rides? Barmouth has the full menu of traditional seaside attractions: amusements, swing boats, land train, light railway, a safe beach, and so on. But it’s also in a beautiful spot: the view back up the Mawddach estuary towards Cader Idris and Snowdonia mountains is utterly spectacular.
Benllech is a lovely Blue Flag beach on the sheltered east coast of Anglesey, and is deservedly popular with families. Its big golden sands shelve gently into the sea, making it safe for swimming and paddling, and it’s easy to access with a pushchair.
Porth Dafarch, Anglesey
The sheltered Porth Dafarch bay on Holy Island has got the lot: Blue Flag status, soft sand, rock pools to play in, parking close by, and decent toilets. All this, and it’s very pretty indeed, as you’d expect from a National Trust-owned beach. Porth Dafarch is also handily situated between the little resort of Trearddur Bay and the RSPB South Stack reserve.
Mwnt is an extraordinarily pretty little cove, with a sheltered beach that’s protected by a thumping great headland. But there’s also a decent car park, ice-cream kiosk and toilets, making it easy to enjoy for everyone. A restored 13th century church on the hilltop and regular appearances by dolphins offshore add to the charm.
Generations of Welsh-speakers spent happy childhood hols at the Urdd centre in Llangrannog, and many return with their own children to the lovely hidden beach, which is dominated by a huge rock known as Carreg Bica (a giant’s tooth, according to local legend). The Urdd also opens its excellent facilities, which include a dry ski-slope, horse riding and climbing, to day-trippers.
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Pendine Sands has rocks pools and cliffs to the right, a seven-mile stretch of golden sand to the left, plenty of shops, and a public toilet, right on the seafront. These pancake-flat sands were once used for land speed records: a new Sands of Speed museum opens in 2020, as part of a major sprucing-up of the resort. Cars are allowed onto the beach at certain times – just don’t get caught by the tide.
Whitesands is deservedly popular with families, thanks to great facilities that include a snack bar, plenty of parking, toilets, and some of the country’s best bodyboarding, all on a big beautiful beach supervised by lifeguards. The attractions of St Davids are only a short drive away, and if the kids fancy a spot of gentle mountaineering then Carn Llidi, the crag overlooking the beach, is a bracing 90-minute round-trip.
Newport Sands, Pembrokeshire
You can drive onto Newport Sands or Traeth Mawr (‘Big Beach’), which means you can take all your kids’ necessities right onto the sand (apart from a toilet, perhaps, but they have those here, too). At low tide you can wade across the River Nevern to Parrog, where Newport Boat Club is a popular venue for crabbing competitions. One note of caution: the river is a knee-deep joy for small children at low tide, but it’s a no-go zone for a couple of hours either side of high tide.
There are four magnificent beaches to choose from at this perfect harbour town. Harbour Beach is the safest for very small children, while Castle Beach has easy access via the slipway. North Beach has its own beachfront snack-bar and Goscar Rock to clamber on, while South Beach has the most space to run around (and part of it is open to dogs all year round). Tenby town itself is a delight for families, too.
Caswell Bay, Gower
The first two beaches you hit on the drive out of Swansea – Langland and Caswell – are also the two most family-friendly on Gower, with all the facilities you need. For older children, the short clifftop path between these pretty bays is a good introduction to coastal walks, and Caswell’s gentle swell makes it ideal for first attempts at surfing.
Dunraven Bay, Southerndown
The Glamorgan Heritage Coast’s best beach has its own car park and snack shop, together with everything a small person could want: huge pebbles, wide sands, and lots of rock pools. Dunraven Bay is popular with surfers, and it’s just a short walk up to the clifftop ruins of Dunraven Castle, whose walled gardens have been restored.
Whitmore Bay, Barry Island
Barry Island is a rollicking good-time resort in the great British tradition, complete with funfair and amusements. But if you stripped all that away (not that you’d want to) you’re still left with a beautiful Blue Flag beach, flanked by green headlands. It’s just as good in winter, especially if you take the family dog to make new friends.