Wales' Pembrokeshire Coast is a picturesque destination that can be often overlooked by travelers coming to the U.K. The area—home to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and several charming small towns—is popular with walkers, but it's also known for its historic sites, sweeping beaches, and water sports, especially surfing. Accessing the coast, which is located on the far west side of Wales, is best done with a car (it's a reasonable drive from Swansea or Cardiff) and requires at least a few days to fully experience. It's a great destination to pair with a trip to Brecon Beacons National Park, particularly if you're a hiker or interested in outdoor activities.
The Top Destinations the Pembrokeshire Coast
Newport is one of the Pembrokeshire Coast's most popular towns. Located at the mouth of the River Nevern, the town, which dates back to Norman times, welcomes travelers throughout the year. Visit Carningli Centre, an antique shop, to hunt for vintage finds and old books, and walk down to the port of Parrog, where the Newport Boat Club is a favorite spot for a pint. There are a lot of holiday cottages and B&Bs in the area, which makes Newport a good starting point for your Pembrokeshire Coast journey.
Solva, which can be found on the west coast of Wales, is known for its beautiful scenery. The town, divided into two parts, is located in a harbor with fishing boats, green cliffs, and hilly vistas creating a charming destination. It's very welcoming to tourists, with lots of shops and restaurants, with an emphasis on seafood, throughout the streets. Embark on a fishing trip or take a boat journey (sailboats can be rented at the harbor for those with some experience). To try the local seafood, head to Mrs. Will the Fish, which serves up delicious crab and lobster.
The quaint village of Dale, found on the Milford Haven Waterway adjacent to Marloes, has only a few hundred inhabitants, most of whom can be found on the town's beach during the summertime. Dale is best known for its water sports, where locals and visitors can go kayaking and sailing. Nearby, Martin's Haven is the gateway to Skomer Island, an island that is home to thousands of puffins and can be visited by boat. Don't miss Marloes Sands, a National Trust beach with amazing scenery.
The inland city of Pembroke doesn't get you to the coast, but it does give visitors an opportunity to see historical sites like Pembroke Castle, a medieval castle that was the birthplace of Henry Tudor. The castle is a must-do for history lovers and daily guided tours are included with admission. The Bosherston Lily Ponds, part of the National Trust and a short drive south of Pembroke, are also worth a stroll.
Located on St. Bride's Bay, Little Haven is a cute (and tiny) town with a vast beach and sprawling green cliffs. The beach is the main attraction and is best visited during the warmer months if you want to take full advantage of the sand and sparkling water. There are only a few restaurants and pubs, so look for The Castle with its sea views and The Swan Inn for a meal by the seaside. The town also has a few campsites and caravan sites for those who are roughing it in the great outdoors.
The charming seaside town of Tenby is one of the most photographed on the Welsh coast. The town's colorful buildings and scenic harbor make it a great stop on your Pembrokeshire Coast itinerary. Visitors can go fishing, take a boating trip to Caldey Island, or explore Castle Beach. Don't miss the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, the oldest art museum in Wales, and St. Mary’s Church, which dates back to the 15th century. For dinner, head to The Salt Cellar, a contemporary restaurant with a terrace.
St. Davids is known for its 12th-century stone cathedral and its proximity to the coast. Named for the patron saint of Wales, the town is very charming and friendly, with lots of visitors arriving during the spring and summer. It has numerous hotels, as well as local campsites and holiday cottages, and the town's restaurants are plentiful, especially if you're after some fish and chips. Be sure to take a whale and dolphin watching cruise while you're in the area.
Things to Do on the Pembrokeshire Coast
The National Park boasts over 600 miles of public footpaths and walkways, so it's no surprise that the most popular activity on the Welsh coast is walking. The Pembrokeshire Coast path is 186 miles long, so you can always find a scenic stretch of the coastline to explore. It's a great way to see the various beaches, towns, and spots of countryside. The path is also fairly easy to navigate, even for families with younger children.
Other outdoor activities—like boating, kayaking, cycling, and fishing—are also popular, particularly during the summer. Many people come during the warmer months to surf, kayak, or swim, and Freshwater West and West Dale are two of the best surfing beaches in the area.
History buffs should include Carew Castle, Castell Henllys, and Preseli Hills (a collection of ancient stone circles with a connection to Stonehenge) in their itinerary. Those with an affinity for animals should head to Skomer island to view puffins, Ramsey Island for bird watching, and pay a visit to the family-friendly Folly Farm, which has a zoo and fairground. For even more family fun, head to Oakwood Theme Park, the biggest amusement park in Wales.
When to Visit
Most people flock to the Pembrokeshire Coast during the summer when it's warm and sunny, but the area welcomes visitors year-round and it can be nice to cozy up in the local pubs during the fall and winter. Fall can be particularly nice as the crowds are smaller, but the weather is still nice enough for long walks and beach visits. June through September marks the primary tourist season, which is something to consider when booking hotels or renting a caravan.
During the winter, the Pembrokeshire Coast can be rainy or even snowy, which will limit outdoor activities and inhibit driving. Be sure to pack a raincoat and waterproof shoes, especially during the winter and spring. Those who are trying to see the puffins on Skomer Island should plan their visit for July.
There are also several annual events that take place around the Pembrokeshire Coast, including the Really Wild Food & Countryside Festival in May, Pembrokeshire Fish Week in June or July, and the Pembrokeshire County Show in August.
How to Get There
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is best accessed by car as it's relatively remote. International travelers can fly into London and take a train to Cardiff or Swansea to rent a car, or look for a short connecting flight into Bristol or Cardiff. Be sure to bring along a good map and opt for the rental car GPS add-on as some areas of the coast may not have strong cell phone service.
Visitors can also get to the Pembrokeshire Coast by train and then use the network of local buses to explore the nearby towns and beaches. Use the Traveline Cymru website to find the best train times and routes when planning your trip. Once you arrive, look for the Pembrokeshire Coastal Buses, which operate seven days a week during the summer and operate on a hail-and-ride basis (which means you can flag one down anywhere along the road).
Tips for Visiting
- While it can be costly to get to the Pembrokeshire Coast, your vacation doesn't need to break the bank. Save money by visiting local art galleries, like Oriel Y Parc in St. Davids, and by taking advantage of the local attractions like beaches and walking trails. Many of the towns feature nice campgrounds and caravan parks, which can be cheap, especially during the off-season.
- Use caution when driving around Pembrokeshire as many of the roads are narrow and winding. It's best to have a good map and to research the best parking lots in advance. Don't worry if there's traffic—your patience will be rewarded with beautiful views of the sea.
- The best hotels on the Pembrokeshire Coast are the quirky boutique properties. Look for Penally Abbey in Tenby, Slebech Park in Haverfordwest, and Twr Y Felin in St. Davids.