South Wales is the busier and more densely populated part of the country, home to around three quarters of the population and the biggest towns and cities.
An area of contrasts, the bigger centres to the east have an immense industrialised past, beginning to become centres of tourism with an array of things to do and places to visit. The further west you go, the lusher the greenery and the quieter the atmosphere. When you hit Pembrokeshire and its western coastline, you’re more than rewarded for the journey. Some of the most stunning scenery in the British Isles is here, and with four Haven parks for you to choose from, you won’t be far away from this fantastic list of our favourite things to do in South Wales.
Blue Lagoon Water Park
There’s nothing better than heading away on holiday and riding down a water slide. It’s what childhood memories are made of, and as adults we love them too! This wonderful water park is full of fun for the whole family. An indoor aqua arena, Blue Lagoon is guaranteed to give you a good time, whether the weather outside is incredible or frightful.
There are flumes, rides and river rapids in addition to the classic serving of swimming pools. The wave pool is the star of the show here, with six different patterns leading riders to a relaxing artificial beach. Whether you’re coming for a serious swim, a heavenly bit of relaxation or just a splash, Blue Lagoon’s wide range of spaces has something to suit you.
Sitting off Pembrokeshire’s south coast, Caldey Island is visible from the towns of Penally and Tenby on the Welsh mainland. You can get across to the island from the latter, and with three Haven parks in the vicinity, this is the perfect place for a day off park. There are just a handful of permanent residents here, making the archipelago as unspoilt an oasis as it gets. Settlement isn’t a recent phenomenon though, with evidence of inhabitation harking back to the Ice Age through a series of archaeological finds.
A home of monks, the monastery that plays host to them is still there to this day, alongside The Abbey Church and separate church at St. David’s. Before you head back, pay a visit to the island’s chocolate factory. It’s been churning out treats for years.
Carew Castle sits on a site that has been known to host various kinds of military installations for over 2,000 years. Relatively recent excavations have found evidence of its use for defence in the Iron Age. The castle fortification has existed since at least 1100, taking advantage of the strategic location along Milford Haven Waterway. The castle has survived turbulent times like the Black Death and English Civil War and was eventually purchased by the Carew family in the early 1600s.
Their descendants continue to own it today, leasing it to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for its upkeep. It’s an integral part of the park, giving you a stellar view of the stunning surroundings and getting you as close as you can get to the deep-rooted history of the area. Look out for the only restored Tidal Mill in Wales and an 11th-century Celtic Cross. Both are set within the grounds of this prestigious piece of heritage.
Freshwater West Beach
Freshwater West Beach is simply stunning. Set on Wales’ Irish Sea coast, the sand sits at the western extremity of the mainland. Closer to Ireland than to Britain’s largest urban areas, this stunning backdrop was once a haven for smugglers looking to profit from its seclusion and easily accessible waters. Today, it basks in glory as part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Wide and expansive, you’ll love relaxing on the sand with a picnic, and you may spot a surfer or two taking advantage of the brilliant conditions here.
If you’re a fan of the big screen, you may recognise the dunes as the setting of several different film scenes. Dobby, Harry Potter’s house elf was buried here in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The beach has been used several times as a double for Dunkirk. Head here from one of our parks and see for yourself why we think this is the best beach in South Wales.
Tenby charms you from the moment you set foot in it. One of South Wales’ best seaside towns, its borders are marked by medieval walls that are thought to be some of the most important strategic structures from this period nationwide. Most were demolished at the beginning of the 18th-century, but one impressive structure stands today, and it’s a must-see sight in the town. While you’re here, take a walk through the five arches gate.
Tenby’s beaches are beautiful, with Castle Beach the pick of the bunch. It affords fantastic views of the Pembrokeshire coast with the historic Tenby Castle imposing itself over the sand. Grab some food from the coastal cafés or the sumptuous seafood stands along the promenade. A walk around this terrific town is one our favourite things to do in South Wales.
Vale of Rheidol Railway
This cute railway had the curious title of the only steam line still within the British Rail network when it was nationalised after the Second World War. It quickly became privatised, but unlike other heritage railways, spent no time closed in between. As a result, a service has been in continuous existence since 1902.
Running from Aberystwyth east to Devil’s Green, the line takes passengers through some stunning countryside. There are chances to hop off at seven stops in between. You’ll love the steam locomotives that ferry you and the family along the line, with comfortable carriages playing host to you throughout. The line hosts several special events throughout the year, with the Halloween Ghost Trains a particularly scary favourite of ours!