Kayaking in Pembrokeshire and South Wales: Cliffs, Harbours and SEALS!
Pembrokeshire and South Wales offer some of the most spectacular kayaking experiences in the UK, blending dramatic coastlines, serene rivers, and abundant wildlife. From the rugged cliffs of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to the tranquil waters of the River Wye in South Wales, there’s something for every paddler. Whether you’re a beginner seeking calm waters or an experienced kayaker looking for a challenge, these destinations will not disappoint.
1. Milford Haven Waterway
Conditions: This sheltered estuary provides calmer waters, making it suitable for beginners and those looking for a leisurely paddle. The waterway is influenced by tides, so planning your trip with the tide in mind is essential.
Sights: The estuary is lined with historic towns, marinas, and green landscapes. Paddling here offers a mix of natural and industrial scenery, with opportunities to explore offshoot creeks and inlets.
Parking and Starting Point: Neyland Marina provides convenient access with ample parking. From here, you can easily launch your kayak and head either up or down the estuary.
2. River Wye, South Wales
Conditions: The River Wye offers gentle flowing waters, ideal for beginners and family outings. Certain sections, like Symonds Yat, can offer mild rapids suitable for those looking to try a bit of whitewater kayaking.
Sights: Paddling the River Wye, you’ll be treated to stunning woodland scenery, wildlife, and historical sites such as Tintern Abbey. The river runs through picturesque valleys and past charming villages.
Parking and Starting Point: Symonds Yat East is a great place to start, with several car parks and easy river access. Here, you can also find kayak rentals and guided tours.
Conditions: Ideal for more experienced kayakers, this route along the coast offers stunning views and the chance to explore caves and arches. The sea conditions can vary, with potential for swells and choppy water.
Sights: Expect dramatic cliff views, secluded beaches, and crystal-clear waters. Barafundle Bay is often listed among the most beautiful beaches in the UK.
Parking and Starting Point: Park at Stackpole Quay and carry your kayak to the launching point. There’s a National Trust car park here, offering easy access to both the start and end points of your journey.
4. Gower Peninsula
Conditions: The Gower Peninsula offers a mix of conditions, from sheltered bays ideal for beginners to more exposed sections of coast for the adventurous. The area is known for its surf, so checking conditions beforehand is key.
Sights: Spectacular coastal scenery, including rugged cliffs, golden beaches, and the famous Rhossili Bay. The area is also rich in wildlife, with opportunities to see birds, seals, and even porpoises.
Parking and Starting Point: Oxwich Bay is a good starting point, offering parking and a sandy beach for easy launch. The bay is relatively sheltered, making it a safe choice for less experienced kayakers.
5. Fishguard Bay
Conditions: Fishguard Bay offers sheltered waters that are ideal for beginners and families. The bay’s natural geography protects it from the full force of the sea, providing a calm environment for paddling.
Sights: Paddle around the bay to enjoy views of the quaint Fishguard harbour, the lower town, and the surrounding cliffs. The area is rich in marine life and history, including tales of the last invasion of Britain.
Parking and Starting Point: Goodwick beach provides a convenient starting point, with parking available near the oceanfront. From here, you can easily access the water and start exploring the bay.
Conditions: The tidal harbour at Solva offers a mix of conditions depending on the tide. At high tide, the harbour is a perfect spot for beginners, with calm and sheltered waters. As the tide recedes, it exposes a different landscape to explore.
Sights: Kayaking here allows you to admire the picturesque village of Solva, with its colourful houses and boats. The harbour is also a gateway to the stunning coastal features nearby, including caves and inlets.
Parking and Starting Point: Parking is available in Solva village, from where you can walk your kayak down to the harbour. The slipway provides an easy launch point at higher tides.
7. Newport Bay
Conditions: Newport Bay offers a larger expanse of water with conditions varying from sheltered near the estuary to more exposed areas towards the sea. It’s suitable for paddlers with a bit of experience, especially those interested in coastal kayaking.
Sights: The bay offers stunning views of the Preseli Hills and Newport Sands, a wide, sandy beach. Keep an eye out for seals and dolphins, which are often spotted in the area.
Parking and Starting Point: There’s ample parking at Newport Sands car park. You can launch directly from the beach, making it an accessible spot for kayakers looking to explore the bay and beyond.
8. Martins Haven
Conditions: Martins Haven is the departure point for boats to Skomer Island and offers sheltered conditions for launching kayaks. The waters here are clear and calm, suitable for beginners and those interested in wildlife watching.
Sights: Paddling from Martins Haven allows you to explore the rugged coastlines and spot the rich marine and bird life that inhabit the area, including puffins and seals.
Parking and Starting Point: There’s a National Trust car park at Martins Haven. The beach is a short walk from the car park, providing an easy launch point for kayakers.
Conditions: Dale offers sheltered waters within the Milford Haven waterway, making it an ideal spot for beginners or those looking for a relaxed paddle. The area is popular for watersports, thanks to its consistent conditions.
Sights: Explore the scenic coastline around Dale, with opportunities to see local wildlife and visit secluded beaches. The village of Dale has a charming waterfront and is a great spot to relax after a day on the water.
Parking and Starting Point: There’s a car park in Dale close to the waterfront, offering convenient access to the water. The slipway here provides an easy spot for launching kayaks.
Things to book:
- Kayak Hire in Pembrokeshire
- Kayak Hire from Newgale Beach
- Kayak Tour from Stackpole to Barafundle Bay
- Kayak Tour from Saundersfoot to Monkstone
- Family Kayak Tour from Tenby North Beach
Tips for Kayaking in Pembrokeshire and South Wales
- Check the Weather and Tides: Always plan your trip according to the latest weather forecasts and tidal information, especially when kayaking along the coast.
- Safety Gear: Wear a buoyancy aid and helmet where appropriate, and carry safety equipment such as a whistle, mobile phone in a waterproof case, and flares for coastal journeys.
- Environmental Consideration: Respect wildlife and the natural environment by keeping a safe distance and minimizing your impact. Follow the Leave No Trace principles to preserve these beautiful locations for future generations.
Navigating the Waters: Rules and Regulations
Before setting off on your kayaking journey in Pembrokeshire National Park, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local regulations and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
- Permits: While most sea kayaking activities in Pembrokeshire do not require a permit, it’s essential to check specific guidelines for river kayaking, as certain areas may have restrictions or require permits.
- Wildlife Protection: The coast and waters around Pembrokeshire are home to a diverse array of marine life, including seals, dolphins, and seabirds. Kayakers are encouraged to observe wildlife from a distance to avoid disturbance, especially during breeding seasons.
- Safety Regulations: Safety should always be a top priority. Wearing a buoyancy aid is mandatory, and it’s recommended to carry a whistle, knife, and waterproof means of communication. For coastal kayaking, consider carrying flares and a VHF radio.
Understanding Tidal Considerations
Tides play a significant role in the kayaking experience in Pembrokeshire, affecting both the difficulty of paddling and the accessibility of certain areas:
- Tidal Planning: Before setting out, consult tidal charts and local knowledge to plan your route. Understanding the timing of high and low tides is crucial for accessing certain beaches and avoiding being caught out by rising waters or strong currents.
- Tidal Streams: Some areas around Pembrokeshire experience strong tidal streams that can significantly impact your ability to paddle against them. Plan your trip to take advantage of tidal flows where possible. Familiarize yourself with the specific tidal characteristics of the area you plan to explore. Some locations may have tidal races, overfalls, or eddies that require advanced skills to navigate safely.
- Plan Your Route: Consider both your launch and landing sites in relation to the tide. Plan escape routes and alternative landing sites in case conditions change.
Skill Levels and Suitable Locations
Pembrokeshire National Park caters to kayakers of all skill levels, with each type of location offering different challenges:
- Beginner: Sheltered bays and estuaries, such as Milford Haven Waterway and Solva Harbour, provide calm waters ideal for beginners. These areas allow for easy paddling and are great for building confidence and basic skills.
- Intermediate: For those with some experience, the coast offers more challenging conditions with opportunities to navigate around headlands, into caves, and through rock gardens. Locations like Fishguard Bay and Newport Bay offer a mix of sheltered conditions and open water challenges.
- Advanced: Experienced paddlers can explore the more exposed and dynamic environments of Pembrokeshire, such as the tidal rapids around Ramsey Island or the open crossings to offshore islands. These areas require advanced skills, including the ability to handle strong tidal currents, read sea conditions, and perform rescues.
Here are some other articles you may find helpful:
- Discover the Best River Kayaking Spots in the UK
- 10 Cornish Kayaking Spots for Beginners You Don’t Want to Miss
- The Best Places to Kayak in the Lake District
- Best Kayaking Spots in London: Paddle Your Way Through History and Scenery
- British Canoeing Paddle Awards Overview
- Kayaking Safety 101: The Do’s and Don’ts
- Is It Clean to Kayak or Paddleboard on the Thames?
- Canoeing and Kayaking Qualifications: What You Need to Know
- Is Kayaking A Good Workout?
- What Is The Difference Between A Kayak And A Canoe?
- Perfect Your Paddling Technique
I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.
For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.