Discover all four idyllic Tenby beaches and more nearby as we show you this stunning seaside town in West Wales, one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Visiting the four Tenby beaches is one of the most blissful things you can do in Wales. This exquisite seaside town has everything you could wish for from a beach holiday, and we can’t think of a town or city in Europe with such varied and beautiful beaches.
Tenby’s beaches range from the long golden sweep of South Beach to the tiny beach below the picturesque pastel houses of the Harbour. Add in another beach below a dramatic rocky island fortress another that is as close as Wales gets to tropical, and some medieval houses and back streets, and you have one magical place to explore.
In this Tenby beach guide we describe the four beaches in the town and the two on Caldey Island. We also introduce you to the best beaches near Tenby, including Saundersfoot, Barafundle Bay and Freshwater West.
Tenby Beaches – An Introduction
Tenby is a small coastal town on the south coast of the county of Pembrokeshire, in south-west Wales
Most of the county’s coast is included in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the only coastal National Park in the UK and one of three National Parks in Wales
All four Tenby beaches can be seen on a 10-minute stroll around Tenby seafront
Three of the four beaches in Tenby were awarded Blue Flag accreditation in 2021 – this means that the seawater is of the highest standard, and there are excellent facilities and easy access to them all
Tenby North Beach and Tenby Harbour Beach run into each other at low tide
They are separated from the other two Tenby beaches by Castle Hill and the houses of the Harbour
Tenby Castle Beach and Tenby South Beach also run into each other at low tide
Tenby South Beach is the longest of the four beaches of Tenby, and in summer is usually the busiest of the four
The southern end of Tenby South Beach is also known as Penally Beach, after the nearby village of the same name
And don’t forget the two beaches just across the water on Caldey Island – Priory Bay and Sandtop Bay
Tenby Beaches – Harbour Beach Tenby
We begin at one of the most photographed beaches in Pembrokeshire, Tenby Harbour Beach.
We rate it and its neighbour, North Beach, among the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Its location is incomparable, in a cove below the harbour headland with the famous terrace of pastel-coloured houses as backdrop.
Harbour Beach is raised slightly so even at high tide there is still a strip of sand where you can sit and enjoy a freshly made crab sandwich from Tenby Market, just up the hill in the town.
The quay adjacent to Harbour Beach is the departure point for boat trips to nearby Caldey Island and fishing trips around Carmarthen Bay. Bear in mind (though the ticket offices will tell you this anyway) that at low tide the boats depart from Castle Beach, five minutes’ walk away, where you board the boats via a pontoon bridge.
Tenby Harbour is also a great place to explore medieval Tenby, which survives in its steep stepped street layout. It’s a short walk from there up the hill to the fascinating Tudor Merchant’s House, and a little further to St Mary’s Church, whose spire dominates the town skyline.
Tenby Beaches – North Beach Tenby
Tenby North Beach may just edge it as our nomination for best beach in Tenby. At low tide you can walk along the sands between it and Harbour Beach, 200 metres or so away. And all the while you’re there you can gaze at the Harbour, one of the most famous landmarks in Wales.
The beach is dominated by Goscar Rock, a tall outcrop with pools full of marine life below. The pristine water on the beach is a tropical aquamarine in summer, a joy to dip your toes in or swim in as my family love to do.
When the tide is out, you’ll often find an ice cream van parked on the sands, saving you the climb back up the hill for some cooling refreshment.
The view of Tenby from the street above North Beach is outstanding. Some of the cliff gardens have shady palm trees and plants, giving it that special, exotic feel.
As well as the beaches, you also get a great view of Castle Hill, named after the humble remains of one of the smallest Pembrokeshire castles, Tenby Castle, whose impact is rather diminished by the statue of Prince Albert next to it which is nearly as tall.
Tenby Beaches – Castle Beach Tenby
One of our favourite things to do in Tenby is to lay back in one of the giant deckchairs and gaze at the view of St Catherine’s Island and Caldey Island beyond.
Castle Beach is named after what’s left of the medieval Castle on the hill to the left, but St Catherine’s Island, with its Napoleonic-era fort, is much more prominent. It’s usually open between Easter and December.
Castle Beach is the small section of beach between Castle Hill and East Cliff, around 150-200 metres away. It adjoins South Beach at low tide, but the two beaches can become cut off from each other at high tide – so keep an eye on the tide times posted at the entrance to the beach.
Interested in more Welsh Beaches? Check out our Cardigan Bay Beaches guide.
Tenby Beaches – South Beach Tenby
In recent years South Beach has been the busiest of the Tenby beaches, along with Castle Beach ‘next door’.
It’s also the longest and most spacious of Tenby beaches, and the crowds tend to thin out within a few hundred metres of the main beach entrance.
If you’re bringing your pooch with you, head for South Beach. there are no other Tenby dog friendly beaches, partly because of the relative lack of space at the others. South Beach is by far the best beach in Tenby for dogs as there is so much space for them to run about.
It’s as picture-perfect as the other tenby beaches, with several colourful Tenby hotels perched along the Esplanade, which runs along the clifftop overlooking the sea.
There are also several food options close to the main beach entrance, and the ice cream van helps keep beach-goers cool through the summer months.
Looking for other places to visit in Pembrokeshire? Check out our guide to Things to do in St Davids.
Tenby Beaches – Caldey Island Beaches
Caldey Island – accessible between Easter and October – is home to two almost-forgotten Tenby beaches. Indeed one of them was inaccessible until just a few years ago.
Priory Bay Caldey Island
Boats from Tenby land at Priory Bay on the northern side of Caldey.
It’s a sloping soft sandy beach, with dunes behind and a great view back across the water to Tenby. You may be tempted to stop right there and wait for your return boat – do so for a while, but there are plenty more things to do on Caldey Island besides.
Sandtop Bay, Caldey Island
Apart from the famous Caldey Abbey and the churches around the island, it’s well worth following the coastal path around the island.
Turn right at the lighthouse and continue around the west of the island, where you will reach one of the least-known, but most beautiful Pembrokeshire beaches, Sandtop Bay.
This gorgeous beach and the western half of the island were off limits for many years – only the monks had access. The path runs to the sloping cliffs above the beach – it’s a scramble down from there, partly through dunes.
If you venture down, chances are you’ll have the beach to yourself. Just stick to the sand and don’t go into the water, where particularly dangerous currents pose a high risk.
See Also: 22 Amazing Welsh Islands
Tenby Beaches – South And West Of Tenby
The coastline west of Tenby is a mixture of sweeping sandy beaches close to holiday parks and something with a touch of the wild west (of Wales) about it.
After Tenby South and Penally beach, the first major beach is Lydstep Beach, which is connected to Lydstep Haven Holiday Park a few metres above the shore. It’s a pleasant beach, but like Freshwater East a few miles west along the coast, is rather spoiled and overshadowed by the preponderance of holiday accomnmodation so close to the shore.
Just around the headland, Skrinkle Haven and Presipe Bay are more our cup of tea. The former, close to an air defence range, consists of two small cliff-backed bays, one with a striking sea arch, the other a gorgeous little sandy beach. A little further on, Manorbier Beach, just below Manorbier Castle, is a popular surfing beach.
Barafundle Bay is one of the best beaches in Pembrokeshire, a secluded sandy cove with cliffs either side and dunes behind. Part of the appeal is that you can only reach it on foot, a 10-minute walk from the National Trust car park at Stackpole Quay.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path continues beyond Barafundle past superb cliff scenery to the vast Broad Haven South beach, with dunes on one side and a great view out to Church Rock, so named because it resembles a small church with a spire out to sea.
After the awesome cliffs and rock formations west of nearby St Govan’s Head, the next main beach is the wonderful Freshwater West beach. It’s popular with surfers and lovers of dramatic scenery watching waves from the Atlantic Ocean crash onto the shore. Although as in our image it can also look pretty serene.
Freshwater West is also known to Harry Potter fans as the location of the Shell Cottage and grave of Dobby the Free Elf. The cottage, built for scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2, was taken down after filming was completed, but fans maintain Dobby’s Grave – a memorial with a mound of painted pebbles – in the dunes.
Tenby Beaches – North And East Of Tenby
Tenby is in the south-eastern cornerof the county of Pembrokeshire, around ten miles before you cross into Carmarthenshire.
There are several great Pembrokeshire beaches packed into this stretch of coastline worth seeking out.
Saundersfoot is Tenby’s nearest neighbour, a few miles up the coast. It doesn’t really have the sprinkling of stardust that Tenby has, but if you’re staying in the area it’s worth a few hours’ stop, and there are smaller beaches either side at Monkstone and Coppet Hall.
The last/first beach in Pembrokeshire is at Amroth, a wide sand and shingle beach that’s a great taster for what’s to come further west. Beyond that, just in Carmarthenshire, Pendine Sands is one of the biggest beaches in Wales, and was famously used for several world land speed record attempts in the 1920s.
How to Get to Tenby
Getting to Tenby is straightforward if you’re driving, with the M4 and A40 – both fast dual carriageway roads – taking you within 17 miles of Tenby. Turn onto the A477 – which has been upgraded in recent years – which takes you to Kilgetty, where you take the A478 the last few miles to Tenby.
Travel to Tenby by train is also easy. Transport for Wales services from Cardiff Central take as little as 2 hours 48 minutes, taking you through some splendid coastal scenery along the way.
You have to change at Carmarthen on the way, then board the onward service to Pembroke Dock, rather than the one to Milford Haven. I have seen the occasional 4-carriage train leave Carmarthen, with the trains coupled together, then uncoupled further down the line. If this should happen, check with the conductor which carriages are heading to Tenby and Pembroke Dock.
Interested in more beaches in Wales? Check out these guides: