The beautiful, dramatic coastline of Wales conceals a wealth golden beaches, towering cliffs, elegant promenades and atmospheric ruins. Families will love paddling in the turquoise seas or exploring rock pools, while wakeboarding and coasteering opportunities will be a magnet for adventurous travellers. And no matter which beach you choose, you'll have access to sensational walks in the form of the Wales Coast Path, which runs the full length of the country.

    While the weather might not compare to the Mediterranean, there's plenty of entertainment even on damp days, from energetic kitesurfing to sedate train rides. With more than 1,500 miles of coastline, choosing our favourites wasn't easy, but here are the Welsh beaches we consider a must-see.


    Porth Wen

    A remote beach with scenic ruins

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    Porth Wen might occupy the northern tip of Anglesey, but this sheltered cove of white quartz catches a lot of sunshine. One end of the beach is occupied by the eye-catching remains of an overgrown former brickworks, which provides a mysterious atmosphere and some incredibly photogenic scenery.

    Explore the tangle of beehive-shaped kilns and old chimneys, or paddle around the walls of the old harbour. Further out, there's a soaring rock arch where you can swim or snorkel, and when the tide goes out it uncovers a multitude of rock pools on the shoreline. The views from the path that runs along the top of the cliffs are worth the climb.


    Abersoch Beach

    Family-friendly beach with plenty to keep kids amused

    On a sunny day in Abersoch, you could easily mistake it for the French Riviera. White mansions line the coast, while sailboats glide around the St Tudwal's islands in the bay. The beach's sheltered position on the south-facing side of the peninsula means the seas here are calm and there are lots of great sun traps.

    The row of colourful huts backing the beach can be rented by the week, or just used as the backdrop to your holiday snaps. And speaking of photographs, the views of the mountains of Snowdonia National Park across the bay will be a hit on Instagram. The town hosts several music festivals and a regatta in August with raft races and sandcastle-building contests.


    Barmouth Beach

    A classic Victorian seaside resort

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    There's a charming, old-school feel to Barmouth's ice cream parlours, amusement arcades and donkey rides on the beach. The stylish 19th-century promenade runs along a huge expanse of sand with masses of space, with grassy sand dunes that are only uncovered at low tide. Boat trips leave from the pretty little harbour to take you dolphin spotting or fishing for bass and sea bream.

    If you want to go further afield, the vintage steam railway on the far side of the estuary will shuttle you back and forth to Fairbourne. Snowdonia National Park adds a spectacular backdrop of rugged mountains that beg to be explored, and the traffic-free cycle route from Barmouth to Dolgellau has excellent views.


    Mwnt Beach

    A peaceful day out in a quiet, secluded bay

    Mwnt Beach is bordered by steep sandstone cliffs on three sides, making the sheltered bay really great for swimming and snorkelling. Access is down a single-track road and there's very little development, allowing you to enjoy the unspoilt scenery and turquoise waters in peace. The car park has toilets and a small stall selling snacks and ice cream.

    Above the beach is the pretty whitewashed Church of the Holy Cross, built in the 14th century to shelter pilgrims and passing sailors. You can climb the hill of Foel y Mwnt for awe-inspiring views of Cardigan Bay and a chance to spot dolphins, seals and basking sharks.


    Abereiddy Beach

    One for fossil hunters and adrenaline junkies

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    Thrill-seekers flock to Abereiddy for the Blue Lagoon, a flooded former quarry where you can leap from rocky ledges into the bright turquoise waters. Coasteering is very popular along this stretch of shoreline and there are several companies ready to take you climbing, jumping and swimming. There's also a row of old ruined miners' cottages to explore along the coastal path.

    The beach itself is equally attractive, a wide arc of fine dark sand made from crushed slate. The sand is filled with tiny fossils, and fossil hunting is a popular activity along with swimming, snorkelling and diving. Beware of strong currents in the bay and check the tide times before you go swimming.


    Broad Haven South Beach

    Wide beach backed by National Trust lakes

    Broad Haven's spacious sandy stretch is flanked by a rocky coastline and limestone sea caves. The water is shallow and safe for swimming, and it's fun to swim out to Church Rock in the middle of the bay. Alternatively, the dramatic blue crater that's flooded by the incoming tide is accessible via sea caves for experienced swimmers and divers.

    Acres of fine white sand leaves plenty of space for playing cricket or football, and there are lots of little rock pools to probe. There are many attractive nature walks, including one that pasts ponds carpeted in lilies. Above the beach is the remains of St Govan's Chapel, a tiny medieval hermit's cell built on the cliffs.


    Barafundle Bay

    A natural, unspoilt beauty spot

    Remote Barafundle Bay is backed by sand dunes and pine trees and reached via a half-mile walk down a fairly steep path. There are no facilities so there's a genuine feeling of wilderness to this beach, enhanced by a huge crescent of sand and crystal-clear seas. The location is so cinematic that it was chosen as the setting for the film Third Star.

    Sea caves and rock pools pepper the cliffs, and you can swim around the rock arches that jut out into the sea. Stackpole Estate, adjacent to the beach, is a haven for otters, dragonflies and native birds. After you've hiked back up to Stackpool Quay, reward yourself with tea and scones at The Boathouse.


    Tenby North Beach

    Rocky cove with an interesting maritime history

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    Of Tenby's 3 beaches, North Beach is the most photogenic, soft white sand punctuated in the middle by the hump of Goskar Rock. The beach is lined with rows of pastel-coloured Victorian homes, while Tenby Castle presides over the south end. The soft sand is dotted with rock pools where you might spot starfish and crabs.

    Hire a deck chair and spread out on the sand to sunbathe, or try water activities like canoeing, sea angling and water-skiing in the harbour. It's worth tearing yourself away from the beach long enough to learn about the area's history of piracy at Tenby Museum and Art Gallery. Trips to the tranquil holy island of Caldey are just 20 minutes by boat.


    Pendine Sands

    Racing fans will love this record-breaking beach

    Pendine Sands is an enormous 7-mile stretch of sand so smooth and flat that the land speed record was set here in the 1920s. The Pendine Museum of Speed displays several of the record-breaking vehicles along with some interesting racing memorabilia. Hot rod races are still held here, but most visitors will have more fun windsurfing, kitesurfing or trying out a sand buggy.

    The steady breezes make excellent conditions for flying kites, the broad swell is great for kayaking, and the views over Carmarthen Bay and across to Gower are unsurpassed. The beach is owned by the Ministry of Defence, so certain areas may be restricted on weekdays.


    Rhossili Bay Beach

    An unmissable beach that regularly makes Britain's top 10 lists

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    Perched at the tip of the Gower Peninsula is the award-winning panoramic scenery of Rhossili Bay Beach. The strong winds and powerful waves may not suit everyone, but it makes the beach ideal for surfing, sailing and wakeboarding. The 3-mile stretch of soft sand is wide even at high tide and there's lots of space for sandcastles or sunbathing.

    Explore the remains of the shipwreck Helvetica which washed up in 1887, or walk along the clifftop paths to spot wild birds like choughs. At low tide, you can walk across the bay to Worm's Head, an island nature reserve shaped like a dragon that's an iconic Gower landmark.

    Victoria Hughes | Schrijver

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