Pembrokeshire has some of the most beautiful beaches in Britain, but it tends to be whisper quiet about them. The coasts are as glamorous as Cornwall’s, but with precious few crowds outside the high season, and the national park and 186-mile coastal path (which takes in the full extent of the coast) keeps things beautifully unspoilt.
Follow that country lane or gorse-lined path and you’ll come across everything from wide sandy beaches with pounding waves to pebbled coves with rock pools for dropping a net, and craggy hidden coves where the seals hang out. Yes, the water can be crisp (wetsuits are recommended), but if you like wild beaches and invigorating walks, Croesus – Welcome!
For further inspiration, check out our guide to Pembrokeshire and the best hotels, restaurants, nightlife and things to do in the area.
Perhaps it’s the thrill of reaching this hidden cove on foot over pine-studded cliffs and dunes, but Barafundle is something else entirely. Often topping polls of Britain’s best beaches, this perfect golden crescent, fringed by jagged cliffs, juts out into a startlingly turquoise sea. The half hour walk from the nearest car park puts off many, and thank goodness! If you’re here in the summer, combine beach time with a visit to the nearby Bosherston Lily Ponds.
Something to eat: Head to the Stackpole Inn for lunch, with seafood specialties on the menu and a charming beer garden to soak up the warm day.
Getting there: Park at Stackpole Quay National Trust car park (postcode SA71 5LS) and follow signs. All day parking costs £5 (cash only).
There are two Freshwaters (East and West), but this is the surfing favorite. Surfers come for the constant Atlantic swells, but there’s a lot to love about this vast stretch of sand, fringed by brittle dunes. It gets rockier at the southern end, where seaweed-covered rock pools are exposed at low tide (indeed, the edible variety of Welsh seaweed is dried in a shack nearby). Freshwater West has also featured frequently in films including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where it served as the backdrop to Dobby’s Shell Cottage. Dogs are allowed all year round.
Something to eat: Head to Cafe Môr, an extravagantly converted fishing boat serving the freshest seafood and laverbread, just a few minutes’ drive west of Freshwater West at The Old Point House on the Angle Peninsula.
Getting there: The beach is on the B4319 just north-west of Castlemartin. There are two free parking lots which fill up fast on sunny weekends and public holidays.
Jagged sandstone cliffs and rock formations divide this broadly curving, mile-long beach into smaller, more secluded bays when the tide is out. Reached via a half-mile walk up a sandy track from the nearest car park, it’s a beauty, with views across the wild Celtic Sea to outlying islands such as Skokholm. Children can enjoy splashing around in rock pools and looking for fossils. On Wednesdays and Saturdays in September and October, the National Trust organizes guided walks with a ranger to see the seal pups.
Something to eat: Pack a picnic as there are no facilities on the beach itself, or head for lunch or tea and cake in the sea-facing courtyard at the elegant converted farmhouse, the Runwayskiln.
Getting there: Park at the National Trust car park (£5 all day) just south of Marloes.
On the southern reaches of St Brides Bay are the Havens – a quartet of pretty coves and bays, each with its own personality. First, driving south to north is Little Haven of sand and rock, with fishing village charm, starfish-studded rock pools, and breathtaking vistas from The Point. Carefully you can stroll around the headland to Settlands wider beach and Broad Haven (larger and sandier at low tide). Next is the more secluded Druidston Haven, with some impressive cliffs, natural arches and caves to explore, followed by the well secluded Nolton Haven.
Something to eat: Saint Brides Inn in Little Haven is a great choice for a pub lunch or dinner. Or grab a lobster brioche, crab sandwich, great coffee, and seaweed beers to go at LOBSTER AND MôR.
Getting there: The havens are linked via the coastal B4341. Parking is available but it’s a squeeze at peak times.
With three miles of wide pebbled sand and sizzling waves and tapering cliffs on either side, Newgale is a Blue Flag stunner. It’s a breezy beach for being active, whether hiking at low tide looking for caves , rock pools and foraged finds, whether at sea surfing, kite-surfing or bodyboarding. It’s ideal for children and dog walkers too, with so much space it rarely feels crowded. The more you venture out, the more you will have it all to yourself.
Something to eat: Drive a couple of miles north to Solva for creative welshcakes and daily specials at retro-flavored MamGu, or a takeaway seafood platter from Mrs. Will the Fish.
Getting there: Newgale is just off the A487. There are paid parking spaces along the front.
Abermawr & Aberbach
Slightly north of Abercastle marina (popular with coasteerers and sea kayakers) is Abermawr and her mate, Aberbach, which still looks like a well-kept secret. A lush wooded valley, dotted with bluebells in spring, gives way to these peaceful coves flanked by low cliffs and smooth pebbles. They are best when they spread out at low tide, and at very low tide you might get a glimpse of the stumps of a forest that was flooded 8,000 years ago.
Something to eat: The nearby Melin Tregwynt woolen mill has a charming tea room serving light lunches, cakes and decent coffee.
Getting there: There is limited roadside parking above the bays, which are right on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Sands of Newport
Tucked between headlands and backed by dunes, this broad, mile-long stretch of sand on the Nevern Estuary attracts a mix of families, dog walkers, canoeists, kayakers and, in summer, swimmers (safe areas are flagged and are lifeguards are present from June to September). Called Traeth Mawr (Big Beach) in Welsh, it’s a good stepping stone to a hike around Dinas Island or a visit to nearby Carreg Coetan Arthur, a Neolithic burial chamber dating back to 3000BC
Something to eat: The artsy and pretty town of Newport has plenty of choices – try cafes like Blas at Fronlas and Tides Kitchen, both on Market Street.
Getting there: The beachside car park is two and a half miles off the A487 which runs through Newport.
Commanding spectacular views from its spectacular warped and twisted cliffs, remote Ceibwr Bay in North Pembrokeshire is invigorating and wild and reminiscent of a smuggling past. The cove of rocks and sand is totally untouched, so much so that you may find yourself all alone with Atlantic gray seals and seabirds such as fulmars and choughs. There are some tempting walks along the clifftops, including a 40-minute one to the geological oddity of Pwll y Wrach (Witches’ Cauldron), a striking collapsed cave.
Something to eat: Bring your packed lunch and enjoy the crumbs and the silence.
Getting there: There is parking in nearby Moylegrove or more limited roadside parking closer to the bay.