The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales is unique. In the UK it’s the only National Park that’s completely coastal. And makes it a perfect holiday destination.
Situated on the west coast of Wales, it is one of the smaller National Parks established since 1952. At only 620 sq km in size, it is one of the smaller National Parks in the UK with a population of 22,800. However, each year it attracts over 4.2 million visitors! *Source
The Pembrokeshire coast is a perfect holiday destination for wildlife lovers, hikers, cyclists and anyone who wants to get away to relax for a few days or even weeks.
I spent 4 days in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. As a solo traveller, I felt completely comfortable exploring and hiking on my own. Everyone I met during my time was so friendly and helpful. I even hitched a lift with a couple of girls after I had gone on a detour and was worried about being late back to the car park! And managed to fit in a lot of different things to do. Of course, I didn’t have time to do everything so a great reason to go back again!
Here are my top 16 suggestions for things to do whilst you are staying at the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 1. Pembrokeshire Coast long distance walk
- 0.2 2. Visit Strumble lighthouse
- 0.3 3. Go to St Davids
- 0.4 4. Visit the Blue Lagoon
- 0.5 5. Try Coasteering along the Pembrokeshire coast
- 0.6 6. Go seal spotting
- 0.7 7. Take a boat trip to Ramsey island
- 0.8 8. Learn about the work at RNLI on the Pembrokeshire coast
- 0.9 9. Take a stroll along the Pembrokeshire Coast
- 0.10 10. Visit Oriel y Parc gallery and visitor centre
- 0.11 11. Go to Whitesands beach
- 0.12 12. Scramble up to St David’s Head
- 0.13 13. Learn about the geology of the Pembrokeshire coast
- 0.14 14. Visit Porthgain
- 0.15 15. Go swimming or paddling in the sea
- 0.16 16. And relax
- 1 Further information about the Pembrokeshire Coast
1. Pembrokeshire Coast long distance walk
I will start with the walk for hard-core walkers. This is a 186 mile/ 299 km walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast. After exploring a short section of this coast I can imagine what a wonderful walk this would be.
The walk starts in St Dogmaels and finishes in Amroth (or you could do it the other way round!) It takes on average between 10-15 days to complete. And don’t expect an easy walk. The path takes you on an undulating route along the coast.
stats about the Pembrokeshire coast walk:
- The vegetation has to be cut back 4 times a year
- There are 31 stiles
- Along the walk, you will go through 475 gates
- And across 149 footbridges
- To help you on your way there are 530 signposts
- And here’s the big one, there are 2,779 steps
- Which equals 30,000 ft/ 9,000 m of ascent/descent.
This is almost the same height gain as if you were climbing Mt Everest (35,000 ft!)
2. Visit Strumble lighthouse
Before you get too excited, you aren’t allowed to go up into the lighthouse. But it’s still pretty spectacular to see from the outside. For the best views walk south on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Here’s where I spotted a few grey seals playing around in the water. And lounging about on the rocks too!
Go seal spotting on the east coast of the UK at Donna Nook Nature Reserve
3. Go to St Davids
St Davids is the smallest city in the UK. Go visit its beautiful cathedral or simply wander around the city. It won’t take too long! If you’re driving, St Davids has a one-way system around the city so be ready to drive around twice if you miss your turning!
If you like history then you could visit Pembroke Castle. £6 Adults, £5 children 3-15 and seniors 65+. Opening times change through the year. Check here for opening times before your visit www.pembroke-castle.co.uk
4. Visit the Blue Lagoon
In June, I visited Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, which was an amazing experience. But to be honest I was more impressed with Pembrokeshire Coast’s Blue Lagoon in Wales. Located in Abereiddy, Haverfordwest, SA62 6DT.
The Blue Lagoon was a quarry where slate was transported by tram to the nearby harbour at Porthgain. It was formed when a channel connecting to the sea was blasted, allowing the sea water to flood in.
The area is popular with coasteering, whilst I was there I saw a group of children scrabble the rocks and jump into the Blue Lagoon. At least it was a warm sunny day but that water did look cold!
I was also lucky enough to spot a couple of seals playing around in the water. And there was even one sunbathing on the beach. Ignoring all the people around him.
Public toilets are available. Although they close between 1 November and middle of February (except Christmas holiday)
5. Try Coasteering along the Pembrokeshire coast
I have to admit before I visited Pembrokeshire Coast National Park I hadn’t heard of coasteering. After chatting with Caroline at Caerhafod Lodge, where I stayed, I found out all about it and it sounded amazing. The Pembrokeshire Coast was where Coasteering was invented! Organised tours take groups of adventure-seeking tourists along rocks and cliffs to then take amazing leaps into the sea. Wow, what an adrenalin buzz!
After watching a group of children scramble across the rocks at the Blue Lagoon, I was tempted. Although jumping into freezing water sounded like a challenge in itself! I chatted with them afterwards and they assured me they weren’t too cold. Would you try it?
6. Go seal spotting
During the time I visited (beginning of October) the seals were all coming in from the sea to have their pups. As you walk along the path keep an eye out for them in the little coves. I spotted them in several places, some in isolated coves, down below sheer cliffs. There were also a few at the Strumble Head lighthouse (picture above). And one even on the beach at the Blue Lagoon. Check out my Instagram @beckythetraveller for more seal pics!
If you miss the seals on the Pembrokeshire Coast, on the other coast of the UK they give birth to the pups slightly later. I visited Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony in November, where there are thousands of seals. You can read about my experience and top tips for a great day out here – Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony
For wildlife lovers, there’s also The Welsh Wildlife Centre, just north of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This is part of the Wildlife Trust near Cardigan. Free entry. For opening times visit their website The Welsh Wildlife Centre
7. Take a boat trip to Ramsey island
Ramsey Island is an RSPB Nature Reserve and home to hundreds of birds. You can take boat trips to the island (when the birds aren’t off in warmer climates!) Boat trips go from April to October. Although, the number of visitors to the island is limited so book early to avoid disappointment.
On the island, there is a nature trail that you can walk, 3.5 miles/ 5.6 km (shortcuts available). A wonderful way to be close to nature and the birds living on the island. All you need is a boat to get you there!
For more information about the boat trips to Ramsey Island visit Thousands Islands Expeditions
8. Learn about the work at RNLI on the Pembrokeshire coast
Did you know there are 237 RNLI lifeboats stations around the UK and Ireland? And in 2015, there were 7,975 people rescued and 348 lives saved!
At St Justinians Lifeboat station you can go inside and see their amazing rescue boat. Once a year they also do tours on the boat, unfortunately, I picked the wrong day!
The great thing about visiting the lifeboat station here is you can see the old one situated next door. Take a short walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast path and you have a great view of both buildings.
St Justinians’ Car Parking – £3 per day all day
9. Take a stroll along the Pembrokeshire Coast
Ok, so you might not want to do the full 186 miles/ 299 km route of the Pembrokeshire Coastal path. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some shorter routes.
There are plenty of places you can park (some free and some paid) along the coastal path. And you can spend as long as you want. The wonderful thing about walking along the Pembrokeshire Coast, on top of the stunning scenery, is that you can’t get lost! Pick a direction, start walking, keep the coast on one side the countryside on the other, perfect. And when your legs are tiring simply turn around and walk back.
10. Visit Oriel y Parc gallery and visitor centre
The Oriel y Parc visitor centre has loads of information. As you might expect from a visitor centre! But there’s also a café and a gallery that you can visit too.
There are also a few walks around the local area. It’s a great place to base yourself from for a few hours or the day.
30 minutes free parking. Great if you want to pop in for some information.
Up to 1 hour = £1
Up to 2 hours = £2
Up to 3 hours = £3
Daily = £5
11. Go to Whitesands beach
An idyllic beach to spend the day relaxing on in the warmer summer months. Or on a cooler day, it’s great for a walk. Surrounded by sand dunes and rocks it can be windy but it’s still a lovely place to relax
There’s a Beach Café, which is open every weekend and weekdays from 1 March to 31 October. Plus school holidays. If you are going out of these time I’d recommend taking a flask with a hot drink.
Car Parking and toilets
It costs £5 to park here all day for cars. And on top of that, you have to pay 20 pence to use the toilet. A right pain, in my opinion, probably because I never have cash on me! The machine accepts 5p to £2, although doesn’t give change!
I’d recommend plan your visit so you spend a decent amount of time here. I was planning on stopping for a couple of hours but ended up spending the whole day!
Please note dogs are banned from this beach between 1 May and 30 September.
12. Scramble up to St David’s Head
A short but windy walk from Whitesands Beach. The path takes you out on to a piece of land that juts out into the sea. And for those more adventurous you can scramble to the top.
It gives you stunning views of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. My favourite thing was sitting watching the waves crash against the rocks at the tip of the head. I can imagine this would be a great place to sit and look out for dolphins, porpoises and whales. Although I wasn’t lucky enough to see any on my trip.
13. Learn about the geology of the Pembrokeshire coast
I had no idea that the Pembrokeshire Coast is a haven for geology lovers. It wasn’t until I started chatting with the guests in my hostel (Geology students from The Netherlands) and another couple on one of my walks I discovered the amazing geology in the area.
St Davids Head is a great example of this, made from old volcanic rock dating back over 500 million years.
I’m no expert but it’s certainly interesting to see the layers of rock and learn more about how and when it formed. You can see the different vegetation growing in certain areas.
14. Visit Porthgain
A great place to explore as it used to be a Commercial harbour. And you can still see all the old industrial buildings. Also, it’s a wonderful place to stop and do some walks along the coastal path.
After your walk, you can relax at the Sloop Inn, Haverfordwest, SA62 5BN. They serve traditional pub food, including freshly caught fish specials.
15. Go swimming or paddling in the sea
Whilst you are walking along the Pembrokeshire Coast you will find little beaches and coves. Take your time to go explore.
There are some lovely beaches you can go swimming in the sea from. In October, it was a bit cold for my liking. So I settled for a paddle in the sea, with my boots on. As you can see, I got them very wet, maybe it was better if I had taken them off!
16. And relax
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is such a relaxing place to visit. Far away from the big cities on the southwest coast of Wales, you can truly escape everyday life. The wildlife and nature around you are instantly calming and the people are so friendly.
One of my favourite things to do was sit and watch the crashing of waves against the rocks. The power of the ocean is totally mesmerising. I could have sat and watched for hours.
I truly found the Pembrokeshire Coast a lovely place to stay and I can’t wait to visit again.
Further information about the Pembrokeshire Coast
When is the best time to visit?
It depends on your reason for visiting. Do you want to see the wildlife or go birdwatching? Would you like to hike the whole 186 miles of the coastal path? Do you want to relax on the beach?
Summer is great to visit as you’ll enjoy the warmest temperatures. But spring is wonderful for wildlife and birds returning to Ramsey Island. Autumn is wonderful, the seals have their pups and much less crowded. You can even visit in winter too but be sure to wrap up warm.
Average day temperatures
Spring – 9-15 C
Summer – 17-20 C
Autumn – 11-18 C
Winter – 8-10 C
Getting about on the Pembrokeshire coast
During the summer months, there are many local bus services that go along the coast. The services run from the beginning of May until end of September. However, there is a reduced service in low season. Please check before travelling.
You can find out more about here Pembrokeshire Greenways or pop into one of the Visitor Centres (at Oriel y Parc Visitor Centre they gave me a little booklet with all the times in). Or visit Traveline Cymru.
Some roads are narrow, so take care when driving. There are plenty of passing places but be prepared to reverse on smaller country lanes.
I stayed near St Davids and although this is a city it’s small. Plan ahead for filling up with fuel. These are the two options for St Davids
- Ocean Haze Filling Station, St Davids, Haverfordwest, SA62 6QN
- Letterson Filling Station, A487, Square and Compass, Haverfordwest, SA62 5JJ (locals said this was the cheaper one!)
For more information about where to park. Visit Pembrokeshire Council for details
Where to stay at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park?
I stayed in a lovely independent hostel called Caerhafod Lodge. It’s a 23-bed hostel, with 5 en-suite rooms. It’s completely set up for self-catering, with a well-organised large kitchen. There’s also a drying room, lounge area and picnic benches and BBQ area outside looking out to the sea. You can read my full review here Caerhafod Lodge.
Click here for more options Where to stay in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park?
If you love exploring the UK click here to read the 22 best day hikes in the UK
Have you visited the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales? Tell me about your experience or ask me any questions in the comments below.
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