The Most Popular Spots to Go Sea Kayaking in Wales
From rugged bays framed by towering cliffs to tranquil inlets with glassy water, Wales is one of the best places in Europe to go kayaking. The scenery is incredible, and the wildlife encounters feel like something from a David Attenborough documentary. Of all the adventures and activities on offer in the Land of Castles, sea kayaking in Wales is one of the most rewarding.
To get you inspired we’ve curated a list of the absolute best places to go sea kayaking in Anglesey, Pembrokeshire, the Gower Peninsula and beyond.
Fishguard Harbour – Pembrokeshire
Looking for top-rated Pembrokeshire sea kayaking destinations? Make a beeline for Fishguard Harbour. The sheltered harbour is relatively calm which makes it a favourite with families. It’s also one of the top places in Pembrokeshire to spot seals.
Caves dot the harbour and invite you to paddle inside and explore. The acoustics are astounding so don’t forget to sing your favourite Tom Jones tunes! Rent kayaks and explore the harbour independently if you’re a confident paddler or join a guided tour.
Oxwich Bay – Gower
Oxwich Bay showcases the natural beauty of the Gower Peninsula and is one of our favourite sea kayaking South Wales destinations. From the water you’ll get beautiful views of the gold-sand beaches, rolling dunes and salt marshes that fringe the coast.
It’s one of the best beaches in Wales and isn’t just popular with kayakers. In the summer months holidaymakers flock to swim, sunbathe and build sandcastles on Oxwich Bay. Hire kayaks from the local water sports outfitter or bring your own.
When you’re done paddling, head into Oxwich town for a spot of lunch. A piping hot serving of fish and chips, complete with trimmings like mushy peas and pickled onions, should hit the spot.
Abersoch Harbour – Llyn Peninsula
The lively seaside resort of Abersoch is a great base for sea kayaking in Wales. The former fishing port is perched on the southeast side of the Llyn Peninsula and features a sheltered sandy beach dotted with colourful huts. There are no serious rip tides or currents to worry about which makes Abersoch Harbour a great pick for families and inexperienced paddlers. The village itself is adorable, with plenty of cafes, restaurants and pubs to relax in after your paddle.
Mathry – Pembrokeshire
Beautiful seascapes aren’t the only thing to discover when Pembrokeshire sea kayaking. We were excited to see this historical themed tour offered by the National Churches Trust. You’ll start near the charming village of Mathry and paddle along the north Pembrokeshire shoreline, where you’ll learn about the journeys of 6th-century pilgrims and saints. The tour includes stops at four off-the-beaten-track churches, each with a unique story to tell. First stop is of St Justinian’s, an evocative church covered with climbing ivy and surrounded by ash trees.
Next is St Gwyndaf’s, which commands a dramatic setting on the Pencaer Peninsula. The third stop is a centuries-old church dedicated to St Nicholas. As the patron saint of sailors, St Nicholas has a special place in the hearts of seafarers. You’ll end at the Church of the Holy Martyrs, a serene church in the village of Mathry. As well as enjoying the spectacular Pembrokeshire coastline, the tour is a great way to learn more about the spiritual heritage of Wales.
Colwyn Bay – North Wales
Colwyn Bay is more than just a windsurfing destination. It’s one of the best places for sea kayaking in North Wales. The Victorian resort was once favoured by well-heeled holidaymakers but is now popular with sunseekers on all budgets. Kayaks are a great way to explore the bay and enjoy the beautiful North Wales seascapes.
Of course, paddling isn’t the only activity on offer in Colwyn Bay. Porth Eirias Beach, a wide stretch of sand fringed by a breezy promenade, is a great place to swim and sunbathe. There’s even a Michelin award-winning bistro that will delight foodies. The town centre brims with Victorian charm and features beautifully restored shopfronts.
Penryn Bay – North Wales
Experienced paddlers love the challenge of Penryn Bay. It’s a little more exposed than some of the other sea kayaking in North Wales destinations in this roundup and requires a good knowledge of tides, currents and weather systems. For wildlife lovers, Penryn Bay is one of the best places in the country to see Atlantic grey seals in their natural habitat.
Porthclais Harbour – Pembrokeshire
Sheltered Porthclais Harbour is a stone’s throw from the cathedral city of St Davids. It’s a great destination for Pembrokeshire sea kayaking and an easy place to launch kayaks. A popular route is paddling along the coast to Newgale Beach. Unlike Porthclais Harbour which features a strip of shingles, Newgale Beach boasts a two-mile stretch of gold sand.
Back in Porthclais Harbour, you’ll find a small kiosk where you can purchase hot drinks, homemade cakes, small-batch ice cream and other treats. Even better, head into St Davids and explore the smallest city in Wales. St Davids Cathedral towers over the city and features a beautiful façade built from purple-tinged sandstone.
Ramsey Island – Pembrokeshire
As a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Nature Reserve, Ramsey Island is a nature lover’s dream. As well as being a sanctuary for breeding birds, this Pembrokeshire sea kayaking destination is fringed by some of the most impressive sea cliffs in the country. Some are up to 120 metres tall!
Kayaking is a great way to get up close to the cliffs and spot birds like peregrines and choughs nesting in the rock walls. Beyond birdlife, Ramsey Island is home to one of the biggest colonies of grey seals in the UK. It can get a little chilly towards the end of the year but visit from September to December and you’ll see pocket-sized seal pups on the beaches. The warmer months of May to September see the island blanketed with colourful bluebells, pink sea thrift flowers and purple heather.
Feeling peckish? Dock on the island and purchase coffee, snacks and light refreshments from the small shop. Ramsey Island is set one mile off the North Pembrokeshire coast, making it a great trip for experienced paddlers.
St Govan’s Head – Pembrokeshire
Another top pick for experienced paddlers, St Govan’s Head showcases the rugged beauty of the Pembrokeshire coast. Paddling around the headland, you’ll get fantastic views of the historic hermitage built into the sides of the limestone cliffs. This Pembrokeshire sea kayaking trip is best attempted in light winds and low swells. This gives you plenty of opportunity to explore the hidden coves and caves that stud the headland.
Skomer Island – Pembrokeshire
Home to around 6000 pairs of puffins, Skomer Island is a bucket list destination for birders. Launch from Martin’s Haven Beach and paddle across Jack Sound to reach the island. Approaching the island, you’ll see puffins perched on the rocky shoreline and flying overhead, often with sand eels dangling from their beaks.
The northern side of the island is relatively sheltered – great if there’s a south-westerly blowing. Tides can be strong, so this is a Pembrokeshire sea kayaking experience best reserved for strong paddlers.
Cardigan Bay – Mid Wales
Sea kayaking around Cardigan Bay showcases the raw and rugged natural beauty of Mid Wales. Paddle around the base of soaring cliffs and explore hidden caves, grottoes and islands you could never reach on foot. If you’re lucky you might encounter a pod of friendly bottlenose dolphins.
For a real sea kayaking in Wales adventure launch at Llangrannog Beach paddle north to Cwm Tydu. Look for seabirds launching themselves of the cliffs to scoop up fish as you paddle. There’s also a chance to spot wild ponies grazing on the clifftop pastures. Bring your wallet so you can refuel with a cup of tea and a slice of cake at one of the beach cafes in Cwm Tydu. If you visit in autumn, Cwm Tydu also happens to be one of the best places in Mid Wales to see seal pups.
Tour companies operate in the area and are a great option if you want to explore Cardigan Bay but aren’t confident hitting the water without a guide. Prefer something a little more sheltered? The calm waters of the Teifi Estuary are a stone’s throw from Cardigan Bay and ideal for beginners.
Menai Straits – Anglesey
If there’s one sea kayaking Anglesey destination that will get your heart racing, it’s the Menai Straits. This strip of water separates mainland Wales from Anglesey and features serious tidal action. We’re talking strong currents and whirlpools that will challenge even the strongest and most confident paddlers. Needless to say, this sea kayaking Anglesey experience is reserved for experienced kayakers only!
The Bitches – Pembrokeshire
These aptly named tidal rapids are another bucket list destination for experienced paddlers. Changing tides see the waters between Ramsey Island and the Pembrokeshire mainland hit speeds of up to 10mph. In a kayak that feels pretty darn fast! Like the Menai Straits, The Bitches can be dangerous for inexperienced paddlers so only attempt them if you have the right skillset.
Tips for sea kayaking in Wales
With the right knowledge and preparation, sea kayaking can be a safe and exciting activity for the whole family. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your sea kayaking in Wales experience.
Know your skills and limits when Sea Kayaking in Wales
Paddling within your limits is one of the best ways to stay safe on the water. Always take the time to research your sea kayaking in Wales destination to determine whether it’s suitable for your skill and confidence levels.
Check the weather and tides
It’s always a good idea to check the weather before hitting the water to avoid storms or especially windy conditions. Likewise, it’s important to check the tides before you set off. Unlike paddling on lakes, rivers and reservoirs, water levels can fluctuate when sea kayaking. This can affect the route and the difficulty level of your paddle.
Wear a buoyancy aid
We can’t stress this one enough. Wear a buoyancy aid when sea kayaking Anglesey and other destinations in Wales! Even if the water is mirror-smooth and there’s not a breath of wind, you should always strap on your life jacket. The ocean is unpredictable, and things can change in a flash. No matter how confident you are in the water, it’s important to always wear a life jacket. They can literally save lives!
Choose the right clothing
Remember, weather in Wales can change quickly so be it pays to be prepared. If you’re simply paddling around a bay or inlet, you can get away with a swimming costume or lightweight attire. But if you’re setting off on a longer trip, it’s best to pack waterproof gear like a rain jacket.
Protect your valuables
From splashes to capsizes, it pays to protect your valuables when sea kayaking in Wales. Leave what you can in the car, in a locker or safe and sound with your water sports rental outfitter. Essentials like your phone and personal ID can be stashed in a waterproofed bag, which should be worn around your neck or clipped to your kayak. In a pinch a Ziplock bag will do the trick.
Be sun smart when sea kayaking in Wales
UV rays can cut through clouds, even on cloudy days. When they bounce off the water, they can be even more harsh than on dry land. It’s best to wear sunscreen when sea kayaking in Wales and protective gear like a hat and sunglasses.
Nick, your trusted guide to Wales travel and exploration, shares a deep passion for this enchanting land. With years of exploration, Nick offers expert insights into the best of Wales. Join him on a journey through its captivating history, culture, and hidden gems, as he inspires you to create unforgettable Wales travel experiences.