Surf’n’Stay: Beach-Side Accommodation

When it comes to catching the best waves in Wales sometimes the best answer is to literally camp out as close to them as possible.

Some of my best childhood memories are of camping trips out to the windy cliffs of Wales, whilst Dad was never one for surfing he loved to take us out on camping trips.

He was truly in his element when he arrived on a campsite; he could erect a tent in less than five minutes and have the best bacon sarnies you’ve ever tasted whipped up in a jiffy so that you could get your feed and rush out to grab the best surf whilst the beach was at its quietest.

In the last few years I’ve been taking my boys out on more camping trips and whilst my bacon is yet to live up to my Dad’s, I think I’m slowly getting the hang of it!

Now, I understand that camping’s not for everyone, so I’ve collected together a handful of accommodation options that have worked for me in the past. The one thing they all have in common is a close proximity to some cracking surf:

Glamping at Surf Snowdonia

The consistent, artificial waves at Surf Snowdonia make it one of the best places in Wales to learn how to get upright – however it also makes for a great base for the rest of your trip in Wales. A stay in one of their glamping pods puts you in the heart of Snowdonia with further options for hiking and cycling. You can also make the most of their fantastic on-site café and bar whilst you’re there!

Ty Halen at Morfa Nefyn

Thinking of getting a big crew together for your next surfing staycation? This awesome beach house is just a 5 minute walk away from a beach with some cracking breaks and it also happens to be in one of the prettiest villages in Wales. Coming complete with a good sized hot tub and games room, this is a great place for a large family or group of surfers who are looking for a picturesque place to stay and surf.

The Oxwich Bay

Thanks to a recent trip to the Forest of Bowland my opinion on caravans has been swayed, so whilst you won’t find me jumping to buy a static home any time soon, you will find me recommending this excellent offering at Oxwich Bay. Whilst a little basic in terms of décor, these caravans are great value for surfers looking for a roof over their heads and a nearby beach to surf at, they also put you in driving distance of the rest of the Gower Peninsula – great for experienced surfers.

Whitesands Camping

This is the campsite that my Father used to take me to as a child. Perched on the westerly tip of South Wales, this small campsite is within spitting distance of the renowned Whitesands Beach and just a short drive away from the tiny city of St. David’s. Although the beach is super busy throughout summer, as the day winds down it empties out and becomes a peaceful BBQ and chill-out spot for the campers.

4 Extreme Welsh Waves You Need To Catch

Wales is a great place to visit if you’re looking to learn how to surf.

There are dozens of dedicated surf instructors who have the time and the patience to show you the ropes on beaches that are easy to get to grips with.

Still, it might be worth noting these spots down in case you feel like challenging yourself or in case you accidentally stray off the beaten track and find yourself facing down an 8-ft monster that you’re simply not ready for!

Hells Mouth, Gwynedd

Although many surfers down play the extreme nature of the spot, Hells Mouth was given this name for a reason! This spot is best saved for advanced intermediates or pros, not only does the 4-mile stretch get murderously busy at times, there can also be a lack of lifeguards, making the strong rips not suitable for beginners or weaker swimmers.

Llantwit Major, Glamorgan

When you catch a wave off Llantwit Major you’re greeted by a feeling of elation and an awe-inspiring set of cliffs – however, you’re just as likely to feel the tug of a rip and find yourself barrelling into a salty tunnel. Despite how beautiful this break is, it’s really best left to more experienced surfers. Ride it on a south-west swell with a north-east wind.

Manorbier, Pemrokeshire

Getting to understand how the mellow peaks of Manorbier morph into gnarly rippy reefs is part of learning how to surf – with that being said, tackling this unpredictable wave is best to left to those who’ve learnt the ropes first. By all means come and visit this lovely beach for the pleasant sandy cove and gorgeous castle, just keep away from the surf if you’re a newbie!

Oxwich Bay Beach, Gower Peninsula

Finally, despite the Gower Peninsula being littered with surf schools not every beach is suitable to visit for beginners – Oxwich Bay Beach being one of them. This is a great spot for intermediates, but beginners will inevitably struggle getting along with the unpredictable waves here. If you’re starting out and insist on going then make sure you have an instructor with you.

Note: All of my views on these beaches are my own, it’s important to remember that you might well hear differing opinions on them.

My best advice is to never paddle out unless you’re 100% confident that you can handle yourself. Surfing alone might have it’s own allure, but it’s inherently risky – take a friend to spot for you!

Practice Makes Perfect: Welsh Surf Schools

Having lived in Wales for pretty much all my life, it probably comes as no surprise that I highly recommend it as a place to holiday in.

In the thirty odd years (yes – I’m choosing to keep my age secret) that I’ve spent here it’s been a pleasure to see more and more tourists flock to the beaches, castles and towns that make Wales such a fantastic place to visit.

Whilst there’s a whole host of great outdoor and extreme adventure activities to get involved in, it will once more come as no surprise that I put surfing at the very top of my list of must-do activities for visitors. There’s no better way to see the Welsh coastline than from a surfboard, but getting on one can admittedly be a little intimidating at first.

Thankfully there are a tonne of great surf schools in Wales that specialise in getting newbies upright for the first time. Here are my top picks, don’t forget to say ‘Hi’ from me if you drop in at one of them!

Porthcawl Surf

I’ve mentioned before how much fun Porthcawl is to surf at, it’s a great little seaside town with so much to offer the visiting tourist but it’s also home to one of the most legit surf schools in the country. Hugh and his team at Porthcawl Surf School are so enthusiastic, they also offer a great range of classes from basic surf lessons to paddle board lessons and advanced manoeuvre classes.

Surf School Wales

Port Talbot is a cracking place to drop in at for a couple of days, in spitting distance of both Swansea Bay and Afan Forest Park; it’s ideal for families who want to make the most of the land and sea that Wales has to offer. Surf School Wales might only be a small outfit, but their 4-person private lessons are cheap and if you fancy simply going it alone then you can hire a board for just £10 a day!

Surf Snowdonia

You can probably guess that with my predisposition to the sea I don’t often work my way inland that often – however, I will make an exception for this spot. Surf Snowdonia is based in a former quarry in the heart of the stunning National Park and offers some of the most consistent waves you’re ever likely to learn on. It’s a little pricey at £20/30 for an off peak beginners lesson but if you’re planning to visit North Wales it’s definitely worth it.

Llangennith Surf School

The Gower Peninsula is a great place to learn how to surf – as long as you have capable trainers to take you through the basics first. Llangennith Surf School offer some great value packages that can take you from complete novice to capable surfer. A single lesson is only £25 during peak, but the best way to learn is over the course of an extra long weekend. For £135 you get three lessons over the course of four days with plenty of opportunity to practice in between.

Best Family Friendly Surfing Beaches

When I first started taking my boys out surfing, safety was obviously a paramount concern.

Although the surfing community in general is well known for it’s friendly, cooperative attitude accidents can still happen and it can be dangerous to introduce children into this environment – regardless how well meaning the fellow surfers might be.

Thankfully, my kids didn’t get into any scrapes when they were learning to surf as sprogs and they’re now old enough take care of themselves.

I’ve collected together a few stand-out family friendly beaches that are hot on their safety and also practical for parents who want to keep an eye out on their little learner surfers:

Coney Beach, Porthcawl

Anyone who’s read the blog before will know how big a fan I am of this charming resort town – there are a number of beaches to choose from here but Coney comes head and shoulders ahead of them in terms of easy-to-handle surf. Coney is nice and sheltered making the break nice and smooth, just make sure you head out there at high tide to make the most of it!

Aberdaron, Llyn Peninsula

You can find the sleepy village of Aberdaron tucked away in the heart of the Llyn Peninsula, thanks to its secluded location its much quieter than other beaches on this list and it’s small waves are ideal for beginners. The village itself is home to a quality pasty shop amongst a handful of other lunch options. Make sure you stay wrapped up on cloudy days, the wind can often whip up and make this tranquil spot a little chilly for spectators.

Caswell Bay, Gower

Gentle swell and clear views make Caswell Bay a great option for large families who want to get to grips with surfing in a relatively safe environment. Thanks to it’s close proximity to Swansea this beach does get busy during peak season, but because of the calm nature of the tides you won’t have to worry about pros cutting up your young learners. If you fancy a walk whilst you’re there you can take advantage of some great coastal tracks that are suitable for all ages.

Traeth Mawr Beach, Aberffraw

Many families looking to surf overlook Anglesey in favour of Wales’ more established beaches, but there are some great opportunities to hang ten at this secluded spot. You can park close to the golden sands here, making it a no-brainer for young families; there are also some lovely sand dunes that make for a cracking walk over to nearby Aberffraw. This Special Area of Conservation is a lot of fun for young kids and makes for a good distraction in the late afternoon sun.

Rhosneigr, Anglesey

Lastly, this beach has a special place in my heart and whilst it might be a little tricky to get to, I always find myself driving the boys down at least once a year to make the most of it’s consistently safe waves and gorgeous views.

In addition to the amenable surf the village itself is also home to a decent ice cream shop and a few other little attractions. This place stays blissfully quiet during the off-peak season which is usually when you’ll see me and my boys out cutting up the surf!

Whilst You’re Here: Coastal Attractions

Although you might not guess it from this blog there is a lot more to Wales than just surfing!

Wales has always been a great place to visit for families, many of its holiday resort’s histories can be traced all the way back to the Victorian times when towns like Llandudno and Colwyn Bay were magnets for holidaymakers seeking a dose of sun and seaside attractions.

Whilst many argue that Wales’ heyday as a holiday destination is firmly in the past, in the last few years a number of stellar attractions have opened drawing thousands of eager tourists to Wales all year round. Inland activity attractions like Zip World, Bounce Below and Surf Snowdonia have done wonders for the tourism here but, not surprisingly, I still prefer the sights and activities based on the coast.

If the surf isn’t quite working your way, or you just fancy a change of pace, these places make for a great alternative day out:

South Stack Lighthouse

This little islet off Anglesey holds a real place in my heart for rather sappy, sentimental reasons. Built in 1809, the lighthouse itself was reopened in 2017 after being closed for sometime, much to my delight. I’ve intermittently returned here throughout my life with the people who are most important to me: my Father, my wife and my boys. Every time I go back my mind drifts back to the other times that I’ve visited – it’s a real treat. There are always loads of birds to spot, making it a great half-day out for the whole family.

Where to Surf: Nearby Rhoseneigr is a good shout for a quick surf and there’s a great ice cream shop there too…

Where to Stay: Ynys Groes is a charming little cottage, you’ll want to book in advance!

Beaumaris Castle

Often described as the ‘greatest castle never built’, this Medieval ruin was intended to be a fortress that could stand tall next to Edward I’s other great Welsh castles, however a lack of funds followed by the Madog ap Llywelyn led to Beaumaris remaining unfinished. Ironically the ruins remain in very good nick and make for a fun day out! During the summer there are a number of great activities for kids and you can get some great views of Snowdonia too.

Where to Surf: Benllech beach is a nice little spot to catch some surf and just a short drive from the Castle.

Where to Stay: The Sea View Guest House is my top pick for the area – it’s cosy, clean and always welcoming.

Talyllyn Railway

This 19th century short-gauge railway was under threat from an invasive plant species, thankfully the preservation society acted quickly hiring a team of Japanese knotweed specialists to treat the problem before it got out of hand. A 55 minute journey takes you through fantastic scenery with the route terminating at Abergynolwyn. It’s worth checking their website before you make the trip as their packed programme of events can interrupt the schedule.

Where to Surf: The surf at Llangrannog Beach is great for beginners, perfect for a couple of hours of paddling.

Where to Stay: Trefeddian Hotel is a great example of a classically designed hotel that has been updated with class – a little pricey but definitely worth it.

Welsh Mountain Zoo

Who doesn’t love a zoo? Whilst you might not get the kind of range of animals that bigger establishments offer, this is by far the quirkiest zoo you’ll find in the UK. I’m a huge fan of Colwyn Bay, it’s a seaside resort that has retained it’s Victorian charm whilst not feeling dated and the Welsh Mountain Zoo is a great example of this. Don’t miss feeding time for the seals, who are by far the star attraction – the Sumatran Tigers are also a must see.

Where to Surf: Llandulas Breakwater can sometimes be a little rippy, but it’s worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Where to Stay: Bryn Woodlands House is a family-run 4-star guest house that is centrally located in the town – a real treat for those who appreciate good hospitality.

Most Iconic Surf Spots in Wales

The Quintessential Welsh Surf Spots

I thought I’d kick of my ‘Where To Surf’ series with a quick run down of what are, in my opinion, the most iconic places to surf in Wales.

These destinations might not be the places to catch the best or even most consistent swell, but it’s the whole package that makes them worth visiting.

All of these destinations are great places to visit in their own rights, regardless of if you’re taking your board or not. So grab a pen and paper at the ready because you’ll need to not these iconic surf spots down:

Llangennith, Gower

There’s a reason why this 3-mile stretch of coast is regularly crammed with tourists: the huge stretch of sandy beach here is perfect for tourists looking to get started on their surfing journey. This south westerly facing beach is, in addition to being a great starting point for beginners, also looks out on to some gorgeous scenery. So if you’ve got a few spectators with you they’ll have more than just surfers to look at!

Porthcawl, Bridgend

Not only is Porthcawl a great example of a Welsh tourist town, complete with fairground attractions and donkey rides, there’s also the opportunity to catch some truly awesome waves whilst you’re there. Many diehard surfers are easy to dismiss the decent swell over at Porthcawl, but to miss it out on your surf trip to Wales would be a real tragedy. This is hands down one of the best destinations for a no-frill surf weekender.

Freshwater West, Castlemartin

Most British surfers have heard of the legendarily consistent surf that you can catch at Freshwater but for beginners, the name will be probably be greeted with a shrug. Home of the Welsh nationals competition, this is a massive site to get stuck into with some seriously powerful peaks to pop out of. Whilst not perfect for beginners, those who are relatively new but looking for a challenge will enjoy themselves here.

Whitesand Bay, St. David’s

You can find this idyllic spot just a short drive away from the historical town of St. David’s – a great spot to stop off at, if you have the time. This is a great all-weather break to visit that can throw a few surprised when you least expect it. Whilst the average day might not produce anything that could be described as ‘world-class’ there’s a lot to love about the scenic paddle out.

Newgale, Pembrokeshire

With a huge wealth of vendors to hire equipment from this is an ideal place for families who are looking to try out surfing for the first time. The waves are mostly forgiving here, so the only safety concern you’ll have to worry about is other people. Try and visit off-season to make the most of the easy going swell and don’t forget to take a few snaps of the truly iconic, curving landscape that you can see for miles around.