The sight of foamy waves crashing onto the shore. The salty scent of the breeze. The rhythmical sound of the tide. The feel of sand between the toes. Whilst there are plenty of things people disagree on nowadays, one thing we can probably all agree on is that going to the beach makes us feel good. Our Celtic ancestors believed that this was where the realms of the sea, land and sky met, bringing great healing and cleansing.
Whatever your reason for heading to the beach, Carmarthenshire will probably have one to match the occasion. A weekend of watersports with friends? Pendine Sands. Some time alone to clear the mental clutter? Try Morfa Bychan. Teaching your toddler the art of the perfect sandcastle? Give Llansteffan a whirl. A screen-free family day out? Cefn Sidan, followed by Pembrey Country Park.
The diversity of Carmarthenshire’s coastal landscapes give our beaches their unique characteristics. Beaches like Telpyn Point are characterised by their striking clifftops, Ferryside by its river estuary and settlement and Cefn Sidan by its system of sand dunes. Each landscape supports its own ecosystem, so you’ll see many rare species of flora and fauna, with some that are unique to the region. You’ll also see plenty of evidence of how humans have interacted with the coastline through history.
Here's a selection of some of our favourite beaches, to suit various occasions and moods.
Burry Port is notable for its lighthouse, which has stood on the harbour since 1842 and is one of the few reminders that this was once an important coal exporting dock. The harbourside is also a pleasant walk.
Technically, there are 2 beaches as there are stretches of sand on either side of the harbour.
Dogs are permitted on them all year round, making them popular with locals and visitors alike. Once the humans have worked up an appetite and the furry ones are totally zoomied out, the Harbour Light Tea Room on the harbour and Caffi Lolfa and The Pemberton Arms in the town will all welcome you.
One of the finest expanses of shoreline in West Wales, the dunes and beach of Cefn Sidan (Silky Ridge, Pembrey) stretches for 8 miles from Burry Port to Tywyn Point, near Kidwelly. Its golden sands have earned it more prestigious Blue Flag awards for cleanliness and safety than any other beach in Wales. On a clear day, you can see across Carmarthen Bay westwards to Caldey, over to Lundy, then eastwards to the Gower Peninsula.
A favourite spot of sun worshippers and explorers alike, the sandy flats lends itself to a wide range of activities including swimming, kayaking and fishing, which take place in zoned areas (patrolled by lifeguards in summer). The beach also plays host to sandcastle building competitions and kite buggy and sand yacht racing events. One thing you won’t find yourself doing here is fighting for elbow room – there’s more than enough space to mark out an area for family games and find the perfect spot for a picnic in the dunes.
But the soft sands hide a dark past that the power of the wind and the tides is slowly revealing. At the northern end of the beach, the carcasses of many ships protrude at low tide – the victims of either the treacherous sandbanks of the Bristol Channel or the gangs of looters that lured them onto the banks in order to rob their cargoes. It would take a walk of about 10 miles for you to see them all. There are thought to be around 300 shipwrecks in the area, so it should come as no surprise that the sands occasionally give up more plunder from beneath. Two anchors at the main beach entrance are a monument to Cefn Sidan’s maritime history.
About 10 miles south of Carmarthen, at the mouth of the River Tywi, Ferryside was historically a fishing village at the heart of the Carmarthen Bay cockle picking industry. As the name suggests, it was also a medieval crossing point, linking Kidwelly to Llansteffan. In 2018, the new Glansteffan ferry service resurrected the 1,000-year-old crossing after a 70-year absence.
Although the bulk of the industry in Ferryside has died out, some cockling and fishing by traditional ‘seine’ nets continues. The combination of wide, shallow beaches and an abundance of seafood in Carmarthen Bay provides the perfect environment to forage for your own lunch. A side note of caution here: You should always go foraging with a local expert. Not only because they’ll know what is and isn’t safe to eat, but they’ll also have knowledge of the local tides and currents.
Explore the shoreline of Ferryside with your guide and you’ll learn how to find fare such as cockles, clams, oysters and sea vegetables, including marsh samphire. At extreme low tides, you may find prawns, crabs and even lobster. If all goes to plan, you’ll get to cook your very own zero-waste, organic lunch on a handmade Solva Stone and eat it amongst the embryonic dunes of the beach.
For many years the beach at Llanelli was a well-kept secret known only to locals, but the creation of the Millennium Coastal Park has now made it popular with visitors from further afield too.
At the heart of the park, the beach stretches for about a mile along the shore of the estuary.
There’s easy access for buggies and wheelchairs from the promenade via a ramp. St Elli’s Bay Bistro, Brasserie and Gelateria overlooks the beach and is a great place to grab a coffee or ice cream and savour the views over the Gower Peninsula. It too provides wheelchair access.
Nestled between the shores of the Tywi Estuary and the rolling Carmarthenshire hills is the pretty village of Llansteffan. A 12th-century Norman castle sits on the hill, which controlled an important ancient river crossing. The last ferry service between Llansteffan and Ferryside ceased in the 1940s, but in 2018, the new Glansteffan ferry resurrected the 1,000-year-old crossing.
It became a fashionable holiday destination in the mid-19th century, when well-heeled Victorian townsfolk started to arrive on the newly-opened Great Western Railway. In the early part of the 20th century, miners in the South Wales valleys would head west with their families for ‘Miners’ Fortnight’ – traditionally the last week of July and the first week of August. Nowadays, Llansteffan is the perfect seaside village for those looking for a day of pure, unadulterated seaside fun.
Its beach has golden sand that’s soft to sit on but firm enough to build decent sand castles. On the southern edge of the beach near the headland, there are rock pools teeming with sealife to explore. The Beach Shop proves invaluable for the frequent runs for cold drinks, lollies and ice creams – you can even have a cream tea. But possibly, Llansteffan’s biggest hit is Florries, the fish and chip cabin right on the edge of the beach. We can’t think of a better way to end a day at the seaside than with a tray of freshly-battered cod and chips drizzled with salt and vinegar, can you?
Millennium Coastal Park
A century ago, it was tin, coal and copper that made its way to this part of Carmarthenshire. These days, it’s visitors – in their thousands. The Millennium Coastal Park stretches for 13 miles alongside the Loughor Estuary, offering magnificent views of the Gower Peninsula. The park is a visionary project, funded by the Millennium Commission, to transform around 1,000 hectares of industrial wasteland into green parkland – returning the coast to the people.
One of the main features of the park is the Millennium Coastal Path, a mostly flat, easily accessible and traffic-free walkway and cycleway that runs the length of the park. This path forms a section of both the Wales Coast Path and the Celtic Trail cycle route and has been described as ‘one of the finest stretches of the National Cycle Network’. There are also a number of visitor attractions along the way, including the Llanelli Wetland Centre, North Dock Discovery Centre and Sandy Water Park.
There are several stretches of golden shoreline within the park.
Between the headlands of Gilman Point to the east and Ragwen Point to the west is Morfa Bychan, a small, sheltered, sandy beach backed by a large pebble bank, with some rock pools to explore. In 1944, the Allied Forces preparing for the Normandy landings practised on this beach - you can still see the remains of the replica Atlantic Wall.
Commanding views over Carmarthen Bay to Tenby and the Gower Peninsula, the beach is part of a more rugged and remote section of the Carmarthenshire coastline, meaning that it’s not uncommon to have the beach to yourself. Access by road is via a rough track and there’s limited parking, so you’d be wiser walking the mile or so from Pendine, either by walking along the shore at low tide, or by following the Wales Coast Path over the headland.
Visitors descend on the village of Pendine for its 7-mile stretch of glorious beach. At its western end are rock pools, overlooked by dramatic cliffs and scenic footpaths that make up part of the Wales Coast Path. To the east are the flat, golden sands that have been the scene of many a land speed world record attempt over the last century and on which weekend daredevils still seek out ‘the buzz’.
Land yachting offers the rush of travelling at speeds in excess of 30mph just inches above the sand. Or you can take to the water on a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Morfa Bay Adventure offers all 3 activities, plus a number of others on site at its centre in the village. Chad ‘n’ Olly’s Beach Hut, located in the seafront commercial centre, is your go-to place to hire paddleboards, surfboards, bodyboards, wetsuits and buoyancy aids.
If your idea of horsepower involves four legs rather than wheels, head to Marros Riding Centre where experienced riders have the opportunity to take a horse onto the sands and experience an invigorating ride along the surf line.
The eastern end of the beach is owned by the Ministry of Defence, so may be cordoned off during weekdays and on the occasional weekend.
Tucked away behind the headland at Llansteffan, Scott’s Bay is an idyllic cove for a romantic picnic.
There’s no direct access – you get to it either by walking round from Llansteffan beach at low tide or by going over the headland on a section of the Wales Coast Path.
This means you’re quite likely to have the beach all to yourselves. Low tide reveals a huge stretch of shoreline for you to walk along, drink in the views over the Tâf Estuary and maybe even draw a declaration of love in the sand.
Return to the village via Castle Hill to explore the spectacular ruins of 12th-century Llansteffan Castle – if the date hasn’t already taken their breath away, the views from there certainly will!
Telpyn Point and its beach mark the county boundary between Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. It’s a wide sandy beach, backed by pebble banks and dramatic sandstone cliffs.
A smooth, wave-cut rock platform makes it a great place to catch some rays (Sunscreen responsibly), although its relative remoteness means it’s never crowded.
At low tide, you can walk round the point east to Marros or westwards to Amroth, in neighbouring Pembrokeshire.