Sea kayaking holidays in Wales

Some say Wales is a great place to practice paddling – Pembrokeshire, especially. Seals, sand and sea stacks, even sunshine, sometimes, all make sea kayaking along the Welsh coast, wonderfully wild. But purely for the purposes of ‘practising’, of course.

Isolation, in a good way, can be found literally a few seconds from the shore with all manner of mysterious caves and sheer cliff faces sparking the imagination, as seabirds take flight. Porpoises, grey seals and even dolphins – summers can see pods of 500+ – may also pop up at some point, as may the occasional surfer, coasteering crew or precariously placed fisherman. A wave or a nod will suffice. Remember you'll just be practising. No need to get carried away.

Instructors will know the secret, barely accessible, spots; where the waterfalls tumble into the sea and where the naturally eroded rock arches create the best frames at sunset. Sea kayaking guides will help you get lots of practice, especially beginners. You'll learn gradually, at your own pace. Families, too, can join in – with double kayaks for extra security. Mum or dad can sit at the back as eager kids paddle, paddle, paddle, pause. “Can you paddle for a bit?”

Anyway, I think you get the picture. Wales is the perfect place to practise paddling. Practise for where? I don't know. People who paddle in Pembrokeshire often prefer to stay put.

Where to go sea kayaking in Wales

Pembrokeshire National Park is the sea kayaking epicentre of Wales. You've got beautiful Blue Flag beaches like Newgale and Aberporth as well as out of the way locations like Abermawr. Some beaches are all pebbles until the tide recedes to reveal swathes of golden sand. Cardigan Bay – the largest bay in Wales – is awash with sublime spots to go sea kayaking with plenty of puffins and porpoises providing ample excuses to sit and stare from ludicrously unique perspectives.

While much of the Pembrokeshire coastline promises sheltered shores for beginners to get to grips with the basic, islands like Ramsay, Skomer and South Bishop allow advanced kayakers to gain access to extra special locations – strict rules apply, though. Grassholm Island is great for gannets. On land you’ll find bluebell woods, just a short walk from shingle and pebbles, while seaside towns send out a siren’s call from steamed kitchen windows. A bubbling bowl of cawl will warm you up nicely at lunchtime. In Fishguard harbour, Pembroke Castle or the Pentre Ifan burial chamber, tales of smugglers, sailors and pirates, plant a tad more puff in your pipe as you take to the water and suck in the sea spray.

When to go sea kayaking in Wales

With the right amount of Neoprene, even April and September are ideal for sea kayaking.
In general, May to October is when most of our sea kayaking holidays in Wales take place. Headlands and hillsides cast in wildflowers make spring a spectacular season for sea kayaking with colours continuing into the summer as sea campion and rock samphire turn coastal slopes into works of art. May and June aren't just a riot of colour; they’re a cavalcade of noise, too, as auks, razorbills and guillemots jostle for nesting and fishing space on rocky edifices and cliff ledges.
Atlantic grey seals have their pups in August and September which is great news for sea kayakers as this is when the water temperature is reaching optimum levels. Seals, as well as porpoises and dolphins, can often be seen in Wales as late as October and November. The sea is still relatively warm in the autumn, but you’ll need to start kayaking early to make the most of the diminishing daylight.

Don't discount the winter, though. Yes, it's somewhat ‘fresh’ but the surf's up and the pubs are practically empty of holidaymakers. This is the time of year for tatws pum munud (five minute stew) and trollies (dumplings) by the fire.

Staying safe while sea
kayaking in Wales

While the sea can be an unpredictable beast, your instructor will know all there is to know about localised swells and tides so all you have to do is pay attention. Equipment is always of the highest quality including helmets and buoyancy aids. You’ll be given full safety instructions before you enter the water, plus advice and tips as you develop and grow in confidence. Beginners will take to the water in sheltered bays with little or no currents, to provide that extra bit of reassurance that’s needed to explore further along the coast.

Respecting the water and guide advice is key to a safe and successful sea kayaking adventure. Guides might well have lived in the region all their life, and will know every underflow and swirling eddy. They’ll be able to point out where rivers exit and what you should look out for around waterfalls. What should you do if you're swept out to sea? How do you prevent hypothermia? Sea kayaking guides know the answers, and will pre-empt situations well in advance. All you have to do is follow instructions and paddle with people who understand Pembrokeshire; people who understand the sea.

Our top Sea kayaking Holiday

Sea kayaking holiday in Wales

Sea kayaking holiday in Wales

Sea kayaking explorations Pembrokeshire National Park coast

From £439 2 days ex flights
Small group travel:
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Sea kayaking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

How to go sea kayaking in Wales

All our sea kayaking in Wales holidays are small group tours with instructors on hand. Solo travellers and couples love this type of tour as they can explore on the water with people of all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities. Departure dates are fixed throughout the spring to autumn kayaking season.

Sea kayaking for beginners

Best advice for beginners is to sign up for an introductory weekend course. You’ll take to the water with seals and seabirds as well as paddling around some of Pembrokeshire’s secret coves and sheltered bays and harbours. Learning how to turn your craft and paddle as efficiently as possible will all be covered in an introductory course and allows everyone from river and lake canoeists to stand up paddle boarders to develop techniques and grow in confidence, ready for an open water expedition.

Intermediate sea kayakers

For intermediates, longer tours during the week will teach you about currents, swells and tidal rivers as well as how best to ride clean green waves. From Eskimo rolls and support strokes to towing a fellow kayaker and how to negotiate moving water, there’s plenty you can achieve within a four day trip. If the weather’s favourable, there may well be the option to extend a tour for a couple of days to include a night of camping.

Family breaks

Families also love learning to sea kayak together. Parents can let someone else instruct their kids while they developing their own skills over two days on the water. This sort of shared experience is just great for team bonding and using a two person craft allows everyone to take turns with the paddles – although adults often will do the majority of the work. We recommend short trips for families that take place on set dates. Two days of kayaking is just about right and holidays can be extended to include other activities, such as coasteering. The minimum age for family sea kayaking trips is 12. Adult small group holidays are for anyone aged over 17.

A marine education

Alongside learning how to paddle and develop new techniques and skills, you'll learn more about marine life as you traverse the tide line. Although porpoises, dolphins and seals tend to stick to deeper water, some of the finds closer to the shore are equally as exciting. You might find out how to forage for seaweed; you could learn about limpits and urchins; and have you ever wanted to know how to handle a jellyfish without getting stung?

Accommodation

Accommodation will be at a clean and comfy ecolodge that has hot showers as well as a warm welcome at the bar and restaurant. Group transportation will take travellers from the local train station with minimum impact to the environment. After all, sea kayaking is one of the world's least disruptive modes of transport; it would be a shame to ruin things by arriving in a cavalcade of cars.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Aaron Burden] [Intro: Preseli Venture] [Where to go: Preseli Venture] [When to go: Preseli Venture] [How to go : Preseli Venture] [A marine education: jayhem]
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