Should you find yourself wondering what to do in South Wales, one of the first things on your bucket and spade list should be ’visit South Wales beaches’.
With spellbinding sands taking up position along the Bristol Channel, around to Swansea Bay and throughout the Gower Peninsula, you needn’t wonder what to do any longer. From beaches with vast promenades, piers and amusement arcades to remote spots seemingly untouched by humankind, you’ll be spoilt for choice when reading our guide.
And if you need somewhere to stay whilst exploring all the beaches South Wales has to offer, check out our collection of cottages in the area.
Regularly finding itself at the top of Wales’ best beaches list (let alone the best beaches in South Wales) and described as ‘The supermodel of British beaches’ by a leading tabloid, Rhossili Bay is an award-winning, dog-friendly beach that is very deserving of being the first on our list.
With 3 miles of arcing sands that sweep around to meet Worm’s Head, a prominent landmark on Gower’s coastline, this bay is a favourable spot for walkers, sandcastle builders and surfers. Join the Gower Coast Path and keep your eyes peeled for seals and dolphins, or just pitch up your blanket and have a picnic as the tide ebbs away.
Three Cliffs Bay
Named after the three famous limestone cliffs that dip in and out of the sea depending on the tides, Three Cliffs Bay is one of Gower’s most picturesque and most photographed beaches. There’s a lot of natural beauty to take in, with the valley leading down to the beach encompassing castle ruins, salt marshes and sand dunes. When you time it right, you can even walk through a natural archway under the cliffs.
It's distinctly wilder at Three Cliffs than at some of the other South Wales beaches with the foliage-covered hills and dunes bisected by a mass of golden sand that features a stream running through it. It’s so wild, in fact, that you ought to stay out of the water at high tide as the rips can be dangerous. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly scenic, dog-friendly spot and one that must be visited if you’re on the peninsula.
Barry Island Beach
Whitmore Bay Beach, which is sometimes referred to as Barry Island Beach, has obvious connections to Gavin and Stacey – let’s get that out of the way early. However, it’s so much more than that. It’s the embodiment of the British seaside resort culture with a curving crescent of soft sand that gives way to gently lapping waves on one side and a wide, level promenade on the other.
Cardiff locals and holidaymakers alike frequent the island (which is now connected to the mainland by the Victorian-era docks) to hire one of the 24 coloured beach huts, scramble up the climbing wall or attend any of the year-round events taking place. Barry Island Pleasure Park offers visitors a thrill, but if you’re looking for something a little more natural, check out the landscaped gardens or grab your surfboard and hit the waves.
Oxwich Bay Beach
Yet another beach on the Gower Peninsula, Oxwich Bay Beach proves undoubtedly that this area of South Wales is blessed when it comes to coastline. Occupying the same bay as Three Cliffs, you can even walk to this neighbouring beach from Oxwich Bay. In fact, at low tide, you can make it as far as Pobbles Bay, so why not pack up some brunch and make a morning of it?
Back at Oxwich, the bay boasts 2.5 miles of sand dune-backed beach which turns into salt marshes and subsequently woodland as you get further away from the ocean. It’s an extremely popular beach, meaning that on a warm summer’s day, you can expect crowds. You shouldn’t let this deter you, however, as there is plenty of space on the sands and the sea is safe for swimming (just be mindful of boats and jet skis near the slipway).
Also known as Ogmore-by-Sea Beach, this pretty expanse of sand sits in the Vale of Glamorgan where the River Ogmore meets the sea. One of the most well-loved beaches on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, this section of coastline is superb if you have little ones in tow looking for some engaging rock pooling. Fossils have often been found here too and there’s a plethora of flora and fauna on offer if you decide to walk upriver. If you still have the energy, there’s also Ogmore Castle to discover.
Look out to sea from the beach and you may spot Tusker Rock, a small island just 500 metres across that has become known as the graveyard of ships. Just 2 miles from the coast, this mass of sharp rocks is strewn with ship parts from vessels that ran aground on the tiny stretch of land and could sail no longer.
Returning to Gower once again, we stop off at Caswell Bay, just west of Swansea Bay and only 2 miles from Mumbles. With a beach that seems whittled out of the South Wales terrain, as opposed to the wide sweeping bays of Oxwich and Rhossili, Caswell Bay is offered a certain amount of protection by the headlands on either side; one of which is the historical landmark, Redley Cliff.
This protection helps to keep the waves clean, which is great news for surfers and swimmers alike (Gower Surf Academy is based here if you need equipment or want to book some lessons). This is also a great beach for families as the sand is perfect for castle building and the shops nearby have all the essentials needed for a nice, long beach day. If you need a bit of variety, stroll along to Bishop's Wood Nature Reserve or take a walk along the cliff-top path to Langland Bay, passing spectacular viewpoints along the way.
Also known as Porthcawl Rest Bay Beach, this Blue Flag shoreline stretches north for miles until it reaches Pink Bay Beach (a quiet and unspoilt beach which is worth a separate visit), all the while accompanying the adjacent Royal Porthcawl Golf Club. If you’re worried about having enough space on the beach to spread out, fear not as Rest Bay has the second-largest tidal range in the world; at low tide, the beach stretches for 1.5 miles from the low cliffs to the sea!
Come off the beach and meander down Porthcawl’s promenade to find numerous bars, restaurants and cafes, along with shops and ice cream parlours. If you’re seeking a more adventurous activity, a state-of-the-art water sports centre overlooks the beach, where you can book lessons and hire gear to use under the watchful eye of summer lifeguards.
Dunraven Bay (Southerndown Beach)
Move down the coast, past Ogmore-by-Sea, so that you almost touch the tip of the North Devon coast, and you’ll find Dunraven Bay which is also referred to as Southerndown Beach due to the nearby village. This Vale of Glamorgan beach proves popular with visitors thanks to its wild, off-the-beaten-track feel and lack of commercialisation.
Looking like a pebble beach when the waters are at their zenith, the bay at low tide provides a vast area of sand for children to run along. The ebbing waves also uncover some of the best rock pools along this stretch of coastline and it’s not uncommon for budding palaeontologists to find fossils here. Continue to revel in natural beauty with a visit to Dunraven Gardens or marvel at some history by exploring Dunraven Castle ruins, which are set just back from the beach.
Moving further into the Bristol Channel, we come to Penarth Beach, just south of Cardiff. It’s the first beach on our list that mostly comprises pebbles – but it becomes gradually sandier the further out the tide goes. Like many of the beaches on Wales’ south coast, there is a good chance of finding fossils in the rock formations if you look hard enough. Swimming is also popular here but be aware that there are strong currents.
Take a walk along the beach and see if you can spot the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm, the latter housing an abandoned isolation hospital in surprisingly scenic surroundings. Behind Penarth Beach is a welcoming esplanade with a selection of restaurants and WCs. There’s also a recently restored pier where you can grab a bite to eat in the café or watch a show at the cinema/theatre.
Sandy Bay (Coney Beach)
Another beautiful beach in and around Porthcawl, Sandy Bay (which is sometimes referred to as Coney Beach) has gently sloping sands down to the sea, making it an ideal spot to bring the little ones for a day of paddling and splashingly good fun. The beach is wide, and, at low tide, there is a good distance between the promenade and the ocean, meaning you should have plenty of room to frolic even on busy days.
If the kids get a sun, sea and sand overload, take them to Coney Beach Pleasure Park, an amusement park full of family-friendly rides and arcades. If this isn’t your scene, head west to the harbour and lighthouse where you’ll be rewarded with views out to the bay. From here, you’ll be proximal to Porthcawl’s centre where you’ll find shops, eateries and a museum.
South Wales beaches map
Self-catering cottages in South Wales
Need somewhere to wash the salt and sand out of your hair and swap out your beach towels? We have hundreds of South Wales cottages for you to choose from including dog-friendly properties with enclosed gardens and hot tub houses fit for a large group. Click the button below to get searching for these and more.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.