Contained within medieval walls and featuring a colourful stretch of houses overlooking an idyllic beach, Tenby is something of an attention grabber. Here are our favourite things to do in Tenby.
Occupying a sheltered location in the west of the country, Tenby has been an attractive strategic location for everyone from Normans to Tudors; and more recently, fish and chip chasing tourists. With medieval defensive walls buffeting pedestrianised streets, and pastel-coloured townhouses forming an arc in front of sandy beaches, Tenby is undeniably attractive.
It’s not a hidden gem and it’s not fully escaped the trappings that go with a popular tourist destination. Nevertheless, there are plenty of fun things to do in Tenby and it makes an excellent base to explore the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast on a relaxing weekend getaway.
Laze on one of the beautiful beaches that surround the town or wander along the harbour buzzing with fishing village life. Visit a fort only reachable at low tide, or head out for adventures on the ocean.
Outside the town, discover the beauty of the area on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Visit quaint country pubs, explore stunning natural scenery, and try some of the best surf in the country.
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IN THIS GUIDE
BEST THINGS TO DO IN TENBY & AROUND
THINGS TO DO IN TENBY
You could easily spend a weekend in Tenby and be content with all the town has to offer. Relax on sandy beaches, wander narrow streets to explore independent shops or hit the water for an aquatic adventure in one of the best places to visit in the UK.
1 – NORTH OR SOUTH BEACH
Tenby is surrounded by a magnificent sweep of golden beaches. Except for St Ives, I can’t think of another UK town so blessed with glorious beaches right on its doorstep.
North Beach is one of the most photographed in the country. An arc of sand is broken by the jagged pinnacle of Goskar rock and overlooked by a row of pastel houses. Sheltered on three sides, it’s a tranquil beach which is perfect for families. There are toilets and cafes on the promenade above the beach, and deckchairs, canoes and boats can be hired for the day.
On the other side of town, Tenby South Beach has a different feel. A mile and a half long and backed by dunes, it is slightly wilder and more rugged. As the tide retreats, a large shelving beach is revealed.
Read Next — UK’s most beautiful beach
2 – CASTLE HEADLAND
Tenby Castle is perched on a promontory between the two beaches of the town. It was built in the 12th century by the Normans and was regularly attacked, sacked, and captured over the next 100 years. The town walls were added in the 13th century and the moat was widened in the 15thcentury.
Today the remains consist of a partial gateway, a small tower on the summit of the promontory and extensive walls on the eastern side. But the real joy of visiting Tenby Castle is walking around the promontory taking in the beautiful setting. The views along the coast and down to castle beach are lovely.
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3 – JOIN THE MONKS ON CALDEY ISLAND
One trip that’s definitely worth considering is the boat trip to Caldey Island. Not only is it home to seals and birdlife, but also to a group of Cistercian monks. For a thousand years the monks have been praying and living in tranquillity on these distant shores.
The island is packed with oddities making it a wonderful thing to do in Tenby. Explore the old priory, the lighthouse, the grand whitewashed abbey, and the nearby church. To unwind, the gardens and beaches are lovely.
The monks provide free tours, but if you want to support them then pick up their locally made Caldey perfume or Abbot’s Kitchen chocolate.
Boats run every twenty to thirty minutes every day (except Sunday) from May to September. Pick up your tickets at the Caldey Island Kiosk on Tenby Harbour. The crossing takes 20 minutes, but you could easily spend a good few hours on the island to see everything.
4 – HARBOURFRONT
Although popular for the colourful row of houses on the front, Tenby harbour retains a working fishing village feel. Old brick sea walls surround fishing boats delivering the day’s catch, and tourist boats waiting to take people out to sea. It’s not the prettiest part of Tenby, but it buzzes with action, especially in the morning.
Sea-bound tours leave from the Tenby harbour. Join a local fishing trip to catch mackerel, or head out on a sunset cruise to enjoy the coastal scenery. Wildlife tours provide the opportunity to spot puffins, razorbills, gannets, and the occasional seal.
Try Stowaway Coffee Co. under the arches of the harbour. They do a great coffee and a few morsels to eat as well. The star, however, is the delicious Mary’s Farmhouse ice cream.
Read Next — The best coastal walks in Pembrokeshire
5 – THE STREETS OF TENBY
Tenby is a maze of roads meandering past lovely pastel-coloured houses. It won’t take long to walk almost every street in the old Georgian town centre but make sure you see the highlights.
The Tudor Merchant’s House has been a fixture of Tenby for over 500 years. Now run by the National Trust, it has been lovingly restored and beautifully represents wealthy 15th-century living.
The town has been fortified since the 13th century and remnants of the walls can still be seen. There is a well-preserved section stretching from White Lion Street along South Parade to South Florence Parade. But the most dramatic sight is the Five Arches Gate, which was once the entrance to the town.
To get the best view of the town head north up The Croft and slowly ascend to the cliffs above the northern end of North Beach. The vista back over the beach to the pastel-coloured houses rising above the harbour is (just about) reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast.
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6 – ST CATHERINE’S ISLAND
Castle beach is another attractive beach nestled underneath the castle walls. At high tide it is all but covered, but as the tide retreats a golden sweep of sand appears creating a walking path across to St. Catherine’s Island.
Measuring a mere 200 metres long and 60 metres wide, the island is rich in birdlife and dotted with tidal caves. A fort was built on the island during the Napoleonic Wars to form part of an extensive fortification across the country. The fort has recently reopened to the public. Entry times vary based on weather conditions and tide times.
Despite its tiny size, it’s an interesting place to visit in Tenby and well worth the stroll across.
St Catherine’s Island & Fort / opening times vary | Cost: £5 | Details: their website.
7 – PADDLEBOARD OR KAYAK IN THE BAY
While Tenby has a worn natural charm that many find endearing, for us, the main appeal is the overall effect of the beautifully set town curving around the bay. One of the best things to do in Tenby is to see it from a different vantage point. The protected cove at North Beach and the accessibility of the harbour makes Tenby a perfect spot for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.
Outer Reef offers various excursions for all different levels of expertise, including solo or group lessons for both activities including all the kit you need. If you know what you’re doing you can just hire the equipment from them and go out on your own. They also offer surfing lessons.
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THINGS TO DO NEAR TENBY
While there are plenty of things to do in Tenby for a day or two, if you have longer, you’ll want to head off and explore some of the beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast. Here are some of our top suggestions for great things to do near Tenby; the furthest is around 30 minutes’ drive.
8 – BARAFUNDLE BEACH
Just west of Tenby, Barafundle Beach is often listed as one of the best in Britain. The golden sands and crystal-clear waters surrounded on two sides by high cliffs and backed by dunes and pine trees create a beautiful setting. The bay is well protected, so waves are usually small making it great for young families.
Parking is available at Stackpole Quay Car Park, a ten-minute walk over the headlands. The beach is big and spacious but the car park can get packed on hot summer days so come early. There are no facilities at the beach, but Stackpole Quay has a National Trust café, car park and toilets.
It’s a beautiful place to come and well worth the effort.
Read Next — Amazing things to do in Pembrokeshire
9 – PEMBROKESHIRE COAST AROUND STACKPOLE
It’s not always easy to find a great circular walk near the coast but this 3-hour hike is a cracker. It not only explores some of the finest coast in Pembrokeshire but also the idyllic Stackpole Estate grounds.
The coastal section roams over magnificent headlands with views stretching down past rugged cliffs to the surging ocean below. Along the way it visits a tiny harbour, a dramatic deep blue pool, and magnificent Barafundle beach. The vertiginous cliffs are dramatic and scary at the same time. Look carefully and you may see intrepid adventurers hanging from ropes attempting climbs like The Widowmaker, Heart of Darkness or Blowin’ in the Wind.
Inland, the trail meanders through the Stackpole Estate and its famous Lily Ponds. In June and July, beautiful white flowers float on the man-made lake and if you are extremely lucky you may see an otter darting in and out of the banks.
The whole walk takes about 3 hours and you can find all the details on our Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk guide.
10 – NARBERTH
If there is still a hidden gem to be discovered near Tenby, we’d call it Narberth. It doesn’t have a thing, like Hay-on-Wye, it’s not endorsed by celebrity chefs and it’s not even that pretty. But it has managed to earn a reputation as the understated purveyor of quality local stuff. Great food without the hype; quirky shops without the pretence.
Ultracomida is a small independent supplier specialising in food from Spain, Wales, and France. Select from a curated selection of cheeses, dried hams, Cantabrian gins and Jerez cava. There’s a traditional wood-panelled tapas bar at the back, churning out tasty Spanish-inspired morsels.
Wise Buys is a greengrocer whose shelves are bursting with a huge selection of fruit, old fashioned sweets, and craft booze. Fforc is a small deli that has the best Welsh cakes we sampled on our trip.
There are several antique stores crammed with a mish-mash of strange objects, but don’t miss Useful and Beautiful Things, a treasure trove of paraphernalia from a bygone age.
Read Next — A weekend in Hay-on-Wye
11 – PEMBROKE CASTLE
From Caernarfon and Conway in the north to Caerphilly in the south, Wales is blessed with stunningly preserved defensive fortifications. Pembroke Castle is no exception.
Originally built in the 11th century and rebuilt again a century later, it’s one of the finest Norman castles in Britain. As the birthplace of Henry VII, it towers above the River Pembroke and on a still day, ancient walls partially covered with the trees of the grounds, shimmer in the reflection.
It’s a great place for photography, particularly early in the morning as the soft light illumines the old castle walls. Just 20 minutes away, it’s a wonderful thing to do near Tenby.
It’s free to look at the castle from across the water but there’s a charge to explore inside.
Pembroke Castle / 9:30am – 4pm | Cost: £7 | Bookings: in advance online.
12 – FRESHWATER WEST
While it’s possible to hit the waves in Tenby, just 30 minutes west you’ll find one of the best surfing beaches in the UK. Freshwater West faces the Atlantic rollers head-on, and it’s considered one of the most consistent surfing locations, capable of holding waves over 2 metres high.
If you’re a surfing pro you don’t need our advice, but for beginners (like us) Freshwater West is an excellent place to start those surfing lessons.
Outer Reef runs surf school almost every day during the warmer months, and while we didn’t quite enter the Blue Room (inside the curl of the wave) they did at least get us standing for a few seconds. The wide shallow beach is ideal for beginners, but if the swell is too big, classes move east to Manorbier. All the equipment you need is provided and lessons last 3 hours.
After conquering the waves, grab lunch from Café Môr, the unassuming van in the car park at Freshwater West. Their lobster rolls are legendary.
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13 – MANORBIER & SHRINKLE HAVEN
If you don’t find yourself at Manorbier on a surfing lesson, it’s worth the visit anyway.
Occupying a prize position overlooking the beach, Manorbier Castle is a Norman defensive post with fairy tale turrets and beautiful landscaped gardens. Manicured lawns roll in picture-perfect contrast up to the decaying castle walls.
Just a short walk eastwards along the coast from Manorbier are some excellent examples of vertical ridged cliff erosion; the magnificent natural arch at Church Doors; a fine finger of rock at Shrinkle Haven; and the rather splendid dolmen of Kings Quoit. See them all in a 2-hour stroll, alternatively, each have parking nearby to allow you to pop in and out.
Manorbier Castle / 10am – 4pm | Cost: £5.50
14 – ST GOVAN’S CHAPEL
Just south of Bosherston, St Govan’s Chapel is a tiny building measuring only 20 by 12 feet. Wedged into a gap in the cliffs, it’s a great thing to do near Tenby.
Built in the 13th century, it is believed to date back to St Govan’s time in the 6th century. It’s free to enter the tiny chapel and inspect the small, cavernous space. The rocks just under the chapel are a great place for photography to capture the strange location. Alternatively, back up at the top, walk along the headline to capture it from above.
St. Govan’s is a 30-minute drive from Tenby. The entrance is owned by the Ministry of Defence who occasionally close the site for operational purposes, so check before you go.
15 – GREEN BRIDGE AND THE ELEGUG STACKS
About a 30-minute drive from Tenby, the Green Bridge of Wales is one of the finest natural arches in the UK. At a whopping 80 ft high as it stretches out into the sea, it’s a stunning scene and a popular photography spot near Tenby. Right next door is Stacks Rocks (Creigiau Elegig), two large pillars of rock. In late spring and early summer, they are covered in nesting guillemots.
Both are gradually being chipped away by erosion but for now, they’re still excellent photography. Like St. Govans the land is owned by the MoD so check opening times before you go.
MAP / THINGS TO DO IN TENBY & AROUND
We have included all our favourite things to do in Tenby and around on the map below to help you find all the main attractions dotted along this scenic part of Wales.
BEST TIME TO VISIT TENBY
The best time to visit Tenby is from May to early July when the days are long and dry, the headlands are dotted with wildflowers, and the school holidays have not yet begun. September and October are also good options.
From mid-July to the end of August the weather should be better and the beaches in their prime, however, this is also peak tourist season. The area will be busy so make sure to book your trip in advance. All our trip tools can be found on our BOOK page.
Winter months can be cold and wet, but if you can book late and wait for a window of good weather, then this could be a great time to explore Tenby.
WHERE TO STAY IN & AROUND TENBY
While a car isn’t necessary in Tenby, it allows you to stay outside the town centre which increases the options and decreases the costs.
Here are some of our suggestions for where to stay around Tenby. If you plan to explore the area in a little more detail, we have more options in our guide to the best places to stay in Pembrokeshire.
This classically decorated B&B with individually styled rooms and lovely gardens is a 20-minute walk into Tenby centre. The friendly hosts offer a great breakfast and a relaxing stay.
Lovely wood-panelled rooms are matched with grey linens and well-appointed bathrooms. Situated above a bar, it can be a little noisy in peak season, but if you like to be in the centre of things, it’s perfect.
Just outside Tenby, this lovely B&B is run by some of the friendliest hosts we have ever met. Charlie and Paul not only offer great breakfasts and clean comfortable rooms, but all the advice you could possibly need for an excellent stay.
Perched on a headland with views over Saundersfoot and the coast, this is Pembrokeshire’s premier Spa hotel. The rooms are decorated in blues and whites for that summer vacation feel and the views from the pool and restaurant are excellent.
HOW TO GET TO AND AROUND TENBY
If you intend to stay in Tenby, then a car is not required. The town is compact and can easily be explored on foot, furthermore, parking in peak season can be a hassle best avoided.
If you want to discover the area around Tenby, then a car is highly recommended. Almost all the places listed in our guide outside Tenby are difficult to get to by public transport which in Pembrokeshire, is neither extensive nor regular.
The National Trust owns a lot of the property along the Pembrokeshire Coast. Being a member allows you to park in their car parks for free (saving you roughly £4 per park). If you have ever thought of joining, then doing so before visiting Pembrokeshire makes a lot of sense.
If you are looking to hire a car for your Tenby trip, we recommend rentalcars.com who compare prices across all the major car rental companies.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Tenby has a small unstaffed railway station just a short walk from the town centre. The most frequent direct trains run to Camarthen in the east and Pembroke Dock in the west. However, there is the odd direct train from Cardiff Central.
Regular buses run from Tenby to Narberth, Saundersfoot, Manorbier & Pembroke Dock.
To explore the coastal area, the 387 Coastal Cruiser (summer months only) is your best bet. Unfortunately, this service doesn’t go to Tenby, so you need to get to Pembroke Dock to start your journey.
As London based travel bloggers, we’re often exploring exotic destinations far from home, but there’s a wealth of great experiences to be had within the UK. Here are some of our favourite guides to our home country. For more see our Britain page.
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