Best beaches in South Wales
South Wales is the most populated part of the country, so you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a place with more substance than style. The reality is, it has both.
Big cities and industrial heartlands give way to pretty fishing villages and untouched coastline the further west you go. The area has a rich shipping history, with the remnants of this being found in more than one coastal town along the way. There are ample opportunities for water sports, with surfers and sailors coming from far and wide to navigate the Bristol Channel. You’ll also see the former heartlands of smuggler’s operations and site or two that you may have seen on the big and small screen. Discover our list of the best beaches in South Wales.
Barafundle Bay, near Stackpole, Pembrokeshire
Barafundle Bay has risen to prominence in recent years, and not just in the conversation about the best beaches in Wales either. It’s gone from an underrated unknown to being thrust into the spotlight by a series of awards. Increasingly cropping up at a national level, the beach has also beaten the likes of Sydney’s Bondi and Rio’s Copacabana in global terms.
The stunning entrance to the beach sets you up nicely for a day out at the seaside. Marked by limestone headlands, it retains a hidden aura, despite its new-found fame. Gentle dunes slope ever so slightly downwards to a serene sea that rarely whistles up a storm. It won’t take you long to realise why this beach is widely considered amongst the cream of the crop. It makes the relatively long walk from the nearest car park an absolute pleasure.
Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, South Wales
A journey out to the far South West of Wales brings you to Freshwater West, a stretch of sand overlooking the Irish Sea and a sure-fire inclusion on this list of best beaches. This unspoilt beauty is backed by a generous set of dunes, with a grassy backdrop to the north arching round to give visitors a great view of the rocky bays. This beach is a real rural paradise, and closer to the island of Ireland than any major UK city. The beach’s generous size is great for relaxation with the waves it attracts growing on more and more surfers as each year passes.
Picture-perfect, the beach has also played host to famous films. It became a site of pilgrimage for Harry Potter fanatics because of its role in one of the most iconic scenes in the ‘Deathly Hallows’. Freshwater Beach acts as a house-elf cemetery after the famous Dobby’s life ended in Harry’s arms. If you’ve ever watched a film about the 1940 Dunkirk evacuations, Freshwater is likely to have featured. The spectacular scenery is simply too good to not bring to a bigger audience. Get yourself down to Freshwater West and find out why it’s one of the best beaches in the UK.
Llangrannog Beach, Llangrannog, Ceredigion
Not so long ago, Llangrannog was a modest fishing village with industry at its heart. These days, its primary source of income comes from tourism, with the breathtaking beach at the centre of its appeal. Sitting beneath a series of craggy cliffs, the sand forms part of the superb South Wales Coastal Path.
Lifeguards give reassurance to swimmers over the summer months, which is sailing and surfing also reach their peak popularity. You’ll be connected by land to Cilborth Beach in the north when the tide recedes, with a coastal path providing alternative means to get there. Ynys Lochtyn- a nearby peninsula with a seal colony is also accessible to walkers.
Rhossili Bay Beach, Swansea, South Wales
The beach at Rhossili Bay was one of the first to spring to mind when we were considering our list. This Welsh wonder sits right at the top of the tree. It set the pace in 1956 as part of the country’s inaugural Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Given the fantastic features of some of the other names on this list, that’s quite the achievement. Fast forward decades and it’s being talked about as one of the best globally, not just one of the top beaches in the UK.
This three-mile stretch of sand has played host to several TV series, with Doctor Who one of the most famous to use its stunning shoreline. The beach reaches its pinnacle when the tide recedes to reveal a glistening golden terrain. You’ll see seals basking in the glory alongside the historical remains of the Helvetia, a Norwegian ship that's been wrecked on the sand since 1887. An island also reveals itself at low tide. The aptly named Worm’s Head Island is great for an adventure. When you’re done, food and drinks can be found just a short walk away in Rhossili village.
Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea
Yet another South Wales beach to bring your camera to, Three Cliffs Bay is one of the region’s most photographed locations. Golden sand is backed by gently sloping dunes around all three sides of land that form the bay, connecting harmoniously with the Bristol Channel. The three summits are iconic and named as Britain’s best view on more than one occasion.
Empty in the winter and sparse in the summer, Three Cliffs never gets too busy. Several small beaches form it, with each one offering something slightly different to your seaside experience. Access to some of these involves some rather rough terrain, with the Parkmill route being the best for a smooth journey to the sand. Low tide also connects several of the beaches, creating a route along the South Wales coast like no other.
Marloes Sands, Marloes, Pembrokeshire
Marloes Sands occupies a prestigious position on the very edge of Pembrokeshire. The long and windy journey here is more than worth it, with stunning scenery and a wealth of wildlife on hand to make a visit to this beach in South Wales one for the photo album. The beach is exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, creating intense gales and a spray or two from the sea.
Another beach that has featured in Hollywood, scenes from Snow White and the Huntsman were filmed here back in 2011. There are two utopian islands in the distance. Skomer and Skokholm host a mass of birds, seals and archaeological sites. Boats frequently sail to the former from Martin’s Haven on the mainland, a trip that is well worth the time and effort.
Pendine Sands, Pendine, Camarthenshire
Pendine Sands was the setting for an unbelievable record attempt by one of the most recognisable faces in the whole country. 2015 was the year that Idris Elba famously broke the UK’s land speed record at over 180 miles per hour in this quiet corner of South Wales. Being an extremely flat area, Pendine attracted weekly vehicle races back in the early 20th-century.
Today, it’s used partly by the Ministry of Defence for training purposes. Walkers will spot Carmathen Bay, Gower and Tenby from the shoreline, with the delights of Pendine village just a short hop away. Dogs are allowed all year round here, making this a great South Wales beach to bring your pooch along to.
Barry Island Beach, Barry, Glamorgan
Barry Island is one of the most famous seaside resorts in the whole UK, let alone Wales. Historically separated from the town by water, it was linked by land as Barry expanded from the 1880s onwards. When the tide goes out, a wide expanse of golden sand appears just a few steps from all the seaside favourites you could wish for. When the tide is higher, surfers and sea anglers flock to the shores to practice their favourite pastimes.
A tidal range of 15 metres actually makes Barry the second broadest of its kind in the world. This great fact aside, it's best known for featuring prominently in the hilarious BBC comedy Gavin and Stacey. Check it out and get to know Smithy and Nessa!
Whitesands Beach, near St Davids, Pembrokeshire
Another representative of Pembrokeshire, the aptly named Whitesands Beach sits on its north-western peninsula and is another that’s at the full mercy of the Atlantic Ocean. The white sand heads north towards St. David’s Head, a natural pier that waves crash against. A Blue Flag Award means lifeguards in the busy months and range of handy facilities.
You’ll spot the Bishop and Clerk Islands out at sea. These untouched outposts about 5km from the shore. The hospitable sight of these shouldn’t be underestimated. They marked a dangerous area for the ships of the past and were the site of many wreckages. In the immediate water, all sorts of water sports are practiced, from a simple bit of swimming to full-blown canoeing sessions.
Aberporth Beach, Aberporth, Ceredigion
Aberporth Beach is a wonderful place to head to with the family. In reality, two separate stretches of sand come together in one in Aberporth. These are kept separate by a natural headland, with the two sections commonly known as Dyffryn and Dolwen. There is no doubt that these come together to form one of the prettiest spectacles in the area, making this one of Ceredigion’s hotspots for tourists near and far.
After a few hours on the sand, stretch your legs along the clifftop walk eat to Tresaith. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to photos. You can also sample some special seafood in the area, a nod to Aberporth’s credentials as a centre of fishing.