1. Rhossili Beach, Wales
Wales has plenty of incredible beaches, and Rhossili Beach is certainly one of them. As the westernmost beach along the Gower Peninsula, its brutish waves and powerful Atlantic swells are not for the faint-hearted – so it’s understandable you’ll find surfers rather than swimmers here. Be warned that the path down to the beach is very steep.
2. Cefn Sidan, Carmarthenshire
Backed by dunes and with Gower Peninsula on the horizon, Wales’ longest beach is an eight-mile-long dog walkers’ paradise. Roughly translated from Welsh as “silky back”, and at low tide the wet beach really does sparkle. Part of the Pembrey Country Park, there are nature trails and cycle paths to explore inland.
3. Rhosneigr Beach, Anglesey
This village beach in Anglesey is known to adrenaline seekers (who come out to play in all weathers) for its windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing – surfboards can be hired here too. For those seeking a less frenetic activity, at low tide there are lots of lovely rock pools to explore.
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4. Llanbedrog Beach, Gwynedd
This beach, run by the National Trust, is on the more bucolic south coast of Llyn Peninsula. Sheltered by the headland of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd, the calm waters are perfect for splashing about with the family. There are seventy colourfully-painted wooden beach huts which add to the laidback and friendly vibe. Well behaved dogs (and owners) are also welcome.
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5. Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
Certainly no stranger to the “Best Beach” awards, cute little Barafundle takes a small bay-shaped chunk out of the inimitable Pembrokeshire Coast. It’s a walk from the car park but its pristine sands and crystal clear waters really are worth the trip; ramp up the temperature gauge a bit and you might well mistake it for the Caribbean…
6. Porthor (Oer), Gwynedd
On the northern Lleyn coast, the white sands here are famous for the squeaking sound that is made as you trample the dry sand underfoot, giving them the nickname “Whistling Sands”. The crescent shaped picturesque beach has rugged headland at either end and the water here is popular with swimmers and surfers.
7. Aberdyfi (Aberdovey), Gwynedd
There’s four miles of coastline from Tywyn all the way to Aberdyfi, an idyllic coastal village at the mouth of the River Dyfi. The beautiful estuary beach has the foothills of Snowdonia as a backdrop and is a well known spot for stunning sunsets. You can follow the old “Roman Road” (actually built in the 1800s) for a lovely walk beside the water and stop at one of the village pubs for a bite to eat and a pint of ale.
8. Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire
Wide and wild, with a pretty mix of sand and rocks, Whitesands Bay curves round close to St David’s head. It’s a top spot for surfing, and makes up a portion of the famous Pembrokeshire Coast Path. On a sunny day, the sea turns a deep and mesmerizing sapphire blue.
9. Broad Haven (St Brides Bay), Pembrokeshire
This family-friendly beach has safe swimming and spectacular views out across St Brides Bay. When the tide is right out, the beach is huge, with cliffs at either end. Compared to some Welsh beaches, Broad Haven is positively brash; come here for typical, wonderful, British seaside fun.
10. Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Between Amroth and Laugharne on Carmarthen Bay, this vast seven-mile stretch of beach is famous for the car racing of yesteryear. The “sands of speed” are still as smooth and straight as they were when Sir Malcolm Campbell set the world land speed record here in the 1920s. Cars are still allowed on the beach, but today it’s the kite buggies that race up and down.
11. Rest Bay, Bridgend
Few people know exactly what’s on offer in this friendly little county sandwiched between Cardiff and Swansea. Rest Bay itself is a quiet, sandy beach located a little distance from the centre of Porthcawl. It’s fast becoming a popular surfing and kitesurfing destination (boasting waves to rival Newquay and Swansea) and is also overlooked by the world class Royal Porthcawl golf club.
12. Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire
The craggy, rock-strewn coastline here is known for its stunning cliffs of grey, gold and purple folds of rock, alternate layers of grey shale and old red sandstone. There are rock pools to explore at the western end of the bay and you should keep an eye out for seabirds and seals.
13. Tywyn Beach, Gwynedd
This five-mile sandy stretch of beach with shingle and breakers is perfect for walking. In the low season there’s hardly another soul around and, even on sunny summer days, the beach is too large to get really busy. Lots of life gets washed up at hightide, so it’s perfect for inquisitive dogs and children (though watch out for jellyfish).
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14. Mwnt Beach, Ceredigion
Another beautiful, sheltered and sandy cove, steep steps lead down to this unspoiled bay, which is owned and run by the National Trust. The Wales Coast Path winds its way along the cliffs above, and from here there are extraordinary views as well as the possibility of spotting dolphins, porpoises and seals.
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15. Porthdinllaen, Gwynedd
This long stretch of sandy beach is on the north coast of the Lleyn Peninsula. The waters are protected by a natural harbour and when the tide is in the little boats bobbing on the calm water are a gorgeous sight. Ty Coch Inn was opened here on the beach in 1842, and is today one of the most famous pubs in Wales, with one of the loveliest settings.
16. Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea
This beautiful little bay is surrounded by three prominent crags and is best approached from the car park at Southgate, from where you hike for a mile or so west along the clifftops before you can descend – in the spring patches of brightly coloured flowers pop up along the route. Depending on the tide, and your level of fitness, you can clamber up from the bay to the atmospheric ruins of fourteenth-century Pennard Castle.
17. Tenby North, Pembrokeshire
The harbour and lifeboat station at the eastern end of Tenby‘s sweeping north beach are incredibly picturesque, as is the pinnacle of Goskar Rock rising up in the middle of the sands. Rows of pastel hued Georgian and Victorian houses and and brightly coloured hotels spread out from the harbour and along the clifftops and fishing boats huddle behind the harbour wall.
18. Llangrannog Beach, Ceredigion
Sebastien Boyesen’s statue of St Caranog overlooks the beaches at Llangrannog, partway along the Ceredigion coast path from Cardigan to Ynys-las. Fishing boats and fishermens’ cottages back the main cove, which gets crowded on sunny days – the hidden cove of Cilborth just north (accessible from the main sands at low tide) is a lovely alternative when it’s too busy.
19. Aberffraw Bay, Anglesey
The name means “estuary of the River Ffraw” and you reach the beach by walking along the sandy riverbank from the village half a mile away. A wide arc of sand backed by dunes, pretty Aberffraw beach is rural and uncrowded.
20. Llanddwyn Beach, Anglesey
Sometimes called Niwbwrch (Newborough) Beach, scenic Llanddwyn is backed by Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve and its extensive dunes. From the beach there are views across to Snowdonia National Park and the Llyn Peninsula, as well as a path that leads to the rocky promontory of Ynys Llanddyn (Llanddwyn Island) and its old lighthouse, which marks the western entrance to the Menai strait.
21. Dale, Pembrokeshire
The beach at the the tiny village of Dale, 14 miles west of Haverfordwest, is mainly pebble and shingle. Surprisingly sunny, its sheltered east facing beach makes it a popular yachting and watersports centre. The quaint shoreline houses add to the general charm of the place and are evocative of a time when Dale was a smugglers’ village. There’s also a lovely pub overlooking the sands, The Griffin Inn, which specialises in locally sourced seafood.