Wales has some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe around its 870 miles of coastline. We’ve compiled a selection of the best beaches in Wales for kids to help you choose where to take your little one – or brood – whether it’s on a day trip to the coast, or a holiday by the seaside somewhere in Wales.
Our selection is from all around the coast of Wales, including some of the best-known resorts, and also some of the lesser-known beaches we think you should know about along the way. Our criteria for choosing these beaches is that they are easily accessible, have facilities (toilets and baby changing) and refreshments very close by, have excellent water quality and that they are beautiful beaches with enough points of interest for your children. All bar three on our list hold the coveted Blue Flag award, which includes these criteria, and also requires maps, notice boards and lifeguard patrols.
Barry Island was the beach I used to visit as a child, normally two or three times every summer. It has changed a lot since then, but it’s still one of the best beaches for kids in Wales, and our little fellow loves it too. It’s a traditional, old-fashioned British seaside resort with all the traditional trappings – fish and chips shops, amusement arcades, a funfair and more rides on the lovely promenade, which is ideal for pushing buggies along if you don’t want to venture down onto the sand. The beach is a great sweep of sand, and this being the Bristol Channel, there’s a very big tidal range, so at low tide the sea retreats a long way out.
DUNRAVEN BAY, SOUTHERNDOWN
Dunraven Bay is the most accessible beach on the Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Coast, a short stretch of spectacular coastline around 20 miles west of Cardiff. It’s an explorer’s paradise, with wave-cut rock platforms to climb, rockpools galore, a wide expanse of glorious sand at low tide, framed either side by distinctive layered limestone cliffs. When you set up on the beach, be sure to do so away from the cliffs, as rock falls do happen. A kiosk and facilities are next to the car park, and behind that, there’s a small exhibition on the Heritage Coast. Head south from the beach and you’ll come across a walled garden, a remnant of the long-lost Dunraven Castle.
REST BAY, PORTHCAWL
Porthcawl was always the South Wales coal miners’ favourite seaside resort, and many used to stay next to Trecco Bay, another beach ideal for kids to explore. But our favourite along this stretch of coast is Rest Bay, on the outskirts of the town next to the Golf Club. At low tide it’s a vast expanse of gorgeous golden sand, where the kids can find some great rock pools. It faces south-west so also gets good surf, something to remember if the tide is coming in. Older kids can also have beginner surfing lessons here.
Port Eynon is a magical beach on the Gower Peninsula, reached by the main road that takes you across Gower before winding down to the coast. This beach has a bit of everything – great sand, rockpools, ice cream, fish and chips and, for when they’re older, the starting point for one of the best coastal walks in Wales that leads to Rhossili. You can also reach it via the village of Horton, at its quieter eastern end. It was the first Gower beach I visited when I was seven years old, and I was hooked straight away.
TENBY – NORTH, CASTLE AND SOUTH BEACHES
Tenby is the most beautiful seaside resort in Wales, and a terrific place to take the kids. For starters, you have a choice of three beaches, all Blue Flag award winners. North Beach has the pick of the views, to the sublime Harbour. Castle Beach is just below the headland with the remains of Tenby Castle and a stone’s throw from St Catherine’s Island and its abandoned fort, and South Beach is its continuation to the west. All have excellent facilities right next to the beach, and the town, which has plenty of traces of its medieval past, is only a few minutes’ walk away from any of the beaches. The ice cream vans park down on the sand to save you the walk. A place where you can make many a special memory.
Llangrannog beach is a bit special. You reach the tiny village huddled against the steep valley sides, and just past the pub, there’s the small beach, one of the most beautiful on the whole Cardigan Bay coast, with its distinctive rocky outcrop, Carreg y Bica. The beach gets much bigger at low tide, and you can walk around the base of the cliffs to tiny, spectacular Cilborth beach, which is otherwise inaccessible. Everything you could want is here, with cafes, and the pub steps from the beach. There’s also an overflow car park (served by a shuttle bus) at the top of the village. Llangrannog beach is on one of the most scenic stretches of coast in the country, and the hike along the clifftops to Ynys Lochtyn is one of the most memorable in Wales. This is also prime dolphin watching country, and the path has some great elevated vantage points.
Barmouth has one of the most scenic beaches in Wales. It’s a very traditional British seaside town, with a massive, easily accessible beach with ice cream parlours, bucket and spade shops, chippies and restaurants very close by. We recommend a walk towards the southern end of the beach to the dunes for sublime views of the boat-filled harbour, the Mawddach estuary, Barmouth Bridge and the mountains of southern Snowdonia, dominated by Cadair Idris.
They don’t come more spectacular than Harlech beach. There’s a small field above the southern end of the beach which gives you the spectacular view of the whole beach and the peaks of Snowdonia behind – one of the best views in Wales. For families, the best way to the beach is via the road that leads left off the main A496 coast road – the large car park has good toilets, and in summer there’s an ice cream and coffee van. After this, you walk through the dunes and you’ll have much of this enormous swathe of sand to yourself – a place to run wild, breathe in that sea air and mountain views, and fly kites on the north-westerly breeze that usually brings the sunshine. You have to pass close to famous Harlech Castle to get to the beach, and you can also glimpse it peeking above the dunes as you walk along the sands.
CRICCIETH EAST BEACH
Criccieth is one of a select few beaches in Wales to have a castle overlooking it, and this adds to its appeal with kids, as you can take them up the hill to visit it later in the day. Check the tides with this one, as high tide means no beach, with the water coming right up to the sea wall. At low tide, the beach is a good mix of sand and pebbles, and you have that view of the castle, and in the opposite direction the mountains of Snowdonia. It’s a great place to experiment with sandcastle building or a paddle as the tide is going out. Everything you need is on the promenade, but when you leave for your trip to the castle, expect a delay at Cadwalader’s Ice Cream, which is just before it on the way up the hill. Criccieth West Beach, immediately beyond the castle, is another great beach for families.
Llanbedrog is an old personal favourite from childhood, a stunning beach sheltered from the wind and weather by a steep, wooded headland. Since then I’ve been back a number of times, and every time it seems to get better. Now there’s a long row of colourful beach huts, and a great café and bistro right next to the beach. It’s owned by the National Trust, so members park free and non-members pay – from there it’s a short walk down the hill to the beach.
This beach is so named because of the sound the sand makes as you walk on it. It’s known as Porth Oer in Welsh, and gets our vote because of the magnificent scenery and setting. There’s a slightly incongruous concrete café and gift shop tucked away in the south corner of the beach, and parking is a short but rather steep walk up the hill. There are also some low rocks to climb for the intrepid little ones, and even a small cave to explore. It’s hidden away on the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula and down minor roads near Aberdaron, but seek it out, they’ll thank you for it years down the line.
Newborough beach is a few miles from the village of the same name, in the south-west of Anglesey, with a drive through a forest to the paid car park (keep four pound coins handy for the machine) next to the beach. It’s in quite a remote spot, but the beauty of this place means it’s popular, so you have full facilities and vans selling ice cream, snacks and coffee. New viewing platforms have been added in the last five years or so, a great place to savour the astounding views, to the wondrous Llanddwyn Island on the right, the jagged outline of the peaks of the Llŷn Peninsula, and the mountains of Snowdonia to the left. Confusingly, some refer to it as ‘Llanddwyn Beach’, but Newborough it is.
With kids, a walk to Llanddwyn Island (half hour each way at a brisk pace) may not happen, but there’s so much for kids to do within reach of the car park – running free, playing beach cricket or football, building sandcastles, walking in the extensive dunes, or searching for rare red squirrels in the pine forest behind the beach.
Church Bay is tucked away in the north-western corner of Anglesey, an island blessed with an abundance of brilliant beaches for kids. Some, like Rhosneigr and Trearddur Bay are established popular resorts and well worth the visit, but we’ve chosen to highlight Church Bay because it is such a wonderful hidden gem. The village is tiny, but still has a great seafood restaurant, The Lobster Pot, a café near the beach and the last thatched cottage on Anglesey, Swtan, which is now a tiny museum.
This is one of the best scenic beaches on Anglesey, picture-perfect with cliffs behind, a lovely crescent of sand and lots of rock pools to explore (the last day we were there would have been so good for crabbing) and small outcrops of rock to climb.
TRAETH LLIGWY, ANGLESEY
Lligwy Beach is one of several fantastic beaches on the north-east coast of Anglesey, and gets the nod from us because of its beauty, accessibility and interest to kids. It has a bit of everything – fantastic dunes, rocks, rockpools, miles of room to roam, views across the water to Snowdonia and the Great Orme headland next to Llandudno, and a quirky café at weekends, with a blackboard outside with a list of birds and sea creatures – you tick next to the name if you spot one. One of my favourite caravan parks in Wales is a few minutes’ walk away, and in the other direction, the fishing village of Moelfre makes a pleasant stop for a few hours.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times. His images are frequently used throughout the world by tourism bodies such as Visit Britain and Visit Wales.