Things To Do In Tenby
Discover 32 things to do in Tenby, the gorgeous seaside town in West Wales that is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
There are enough things to do in Tenby – the gorgeous West Wales seaside town – to have kept us returning year after year. It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Wales, an extraordinarily pretty historic town with one of the most picturesque harbours you’ll ever see, and some of the best beaches in Pembrokeshire right there in the town.
The four beaches in Tenby are the main draw, but it’s the whole package that makes Tenby unique. The town has a rich medieval history, retaining the same street layout as 600 years ago, with its stepped laneways down to the Harbour with its terrace of pastel-painted Georgian townhouses.
As well as exploring the main Tenby things to do, we’ll also seek out things to do around Tenby, venturing along the spectacular Pembrokeshire coast, and the numerous family attractions near Tenby including the largest theme park in Wales.
Things To Do In Tenby – An Introduction
The first stop for many is one of the four Tenby beaches, which are all fantastic
Tenby is called Dinbych-y-Pysgod in Welsh – this translates as ‘Fortress Of The Fish’
It’s one of the most beautiful towns in Wales, perhaps best known for its gorgeous harbour
Some of its medieval town walls – including the Five Arches gate – survive, as do some remnants of Tenby Castle, on the summit of Castle Hill
One of the most popular things to do in Tenby is to take a boat trip to Caldey Island, a few miles offshore, which is home to a Cistercian monastery and some superb coastal walks
Tenby is ideally placed for reaching many of the best places to visit in Pembrokeshire, so there are plenty of options for day trips from Tenby
Things To Do In Tenby
Tenby North Beach
In 2021 Tenby North Beach was named the seventh most beautiful beach in the world and, well, it’s up there somewhere, for sure.
It’s a long golden sweep of sand, with the view culminating in the splendid colourfully painted Georgian houses above the Harbour.
Take a walk down the hill from The Norton, where you’ll find terraced gardens with small palm trees, the nearest you’ll ever get to the tropics in Wales.
As for the six beaches above North Beach in the list, Railay Beach in Thailand is rather special, but Bondi Beach at number two? North Beach Tenby wins hands down for us.
Take a look at these beautiful Welsh seaside resorts:
Ice Cream on a Tenby Beach
In the summer months the beaches in Tenby can get pretty hot. Fortunately you don’t have to walk all the way off the beach to cool off – there is usually a 4-wheel drive ice cream van on each of the beaches ready to help you cool down with a selection of ice creams, lollies and cold drinks.
Take In The Stunning Views On Castle Beach
Castle Beach is a fantastic Tenby beach, occupying a narrow but deep area of sand below Castle Hill, with views of the clifftop hotels above, the north coast of Caldey Island across the water and near-neighbour St Catherine’s Island and its stout 19th century fort.
This is usually one of the busier beaches in Tenby, and has held a Blue Flag award for decades on end. Access is easy via a gentle slope, making it the ideal place to head if you’re visiting Tenby with toddlers. It’s a little like the ‘organised’ beaches in Greece and Italy where you can pay for sun loungers and sun umbrellas and relax on one of the most beautiful beaches in Wales.
Check Out More Welsh Beaches Here:
Follow In The Footsteps Of Henry Tudor Around Tenby Harbour
Tenby Harbour is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, and it also has plenty of tales to tell. The most pivotal is that of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII of England, who passed hid out in the town during the Wars of the Roses. A plaque above the Harbour marks the place where Henry escaped via a tunnel, making his way from Tenby to France before returning later to contest the English throne.
Beneath the stately Georgian townhouses, the smells of the sea and seafood reel you in. There’s a great little kiosk, Simply Seafoods, selling the morning catch. We’ve also found a couple of stalls in Tenby Indoor Market selling fresh crab, and they’ll happily make a fresh sandwich for you. And there’s no better place to enjoy it than the Harbour – or overlooking it.
South Beach Tenby
No days out in Tenby are complete without a stroll along South Beach, the largest of the four Tenby beaches. It enjoys a superb setting, beneath the cliffs and hotels along the Esplanade and just along from Castle Beach and St Catherine’s Island.
Wherever you set up, you enjoy wonderful views across to Caldey Island, and the busiest area tends to be close to the car park just beyond the Esplanade. Beyond this point, the crowds quickly thin out, and the beach runs alongside Tenby Golf Club towards Giltar Point, close to the village of Penally, two miles (3 km) from Tenby.
Fish and Chips
No trip to the Welsh seaside is complete without at least one bag of fish and chips. We have had fish and chips from Fecci’s chippy on Lower Frog Street and Tenby’s on Trafalgar Road many times, often taking it down to the Harbour or one of the other beaches in Tenby.
The fish is caught locally and the potatoes are also from Pembrokeshire, so both make a very short journey from field to fork. AIt’s a clasic Welsh food staple and an essential part of the seaside in Wales experience, as is protecting your food from the greedy local gulls.
St Mary’s Church
The medieval spire of St Mary’s Church has risen high above the town of Tenby for over 600 years. It is one of the grandest churches in Pembrokeshire, well worth a visit to see the superb stained glass and memorials within.
One of the most unusual things to see in Tenby is the memorial to mathematician Robert Recorde, who was originally from the town and is credited with giving the world the equals (=) sign.
Eat at the Plantagenet House Restaurant
The Plantagenet House has been one of the best restaurants in Tenby for a great many years. It’s housed in a beautiful medieval house next door to the Tudor Merchant’s House.
The building‘s origins are centuries older than its next-door neighbour.with parts believed to date back as early as the 10th century – as much as a century before the Norman Conquest. It is also graced with a Flemish chimney, of which there are only a few in Wales, and these are concentrated in the area around Tenby.
And the food? I’ve eaten food from all corners of the world there, and many dishes made with local Welsh produce, and it’s always been top-notch.
Tudor Merchant’s House
The Tudor Merchant’s House was probably built when Harri Tudur – also known as Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII of England – narrowly escaped capture in the town in 1471.
The three-storey house is the oldest intact building in the town, and would have served as a shop with living quarters on the upper two floors.
The House is decorated and furnished to appear as it would have around the year 1500, and the painted cloths hanging on the walls depict scenes of the town as it may have looked at the time.
Explore The Back Streets Of Tenby
We’ve always loved exploring the narrow side streets of Tenby. Some reveal wonderful scenic corners you wouldn’t otherwise find, or a hidden café with a view of the Harbour.
We’ve sought out others simply because of their evocative and unusual names. As a kid, I loved finding places called Lower Frog Street and Penniless Cove Hill, and I still do now, over forty years on. It’s all part of the quirky character and magic of Tenby.
Tenby Museum & Art Gallery
One of the best things to do in Tenby in the rain is to pay a visit to Tenby Museum and Art Gallery. It’s on Castle Hill, a gentle walk up from Castle Beach and the most substantial remains of Tenby Castle.
It’s the oldest independent Museum in Wales, and has a strong homespun, labour of love feel about it. The main. exhibition is the Tenby Story, taking you back to the time of Henry Tudor’s fortuitous escape from the town, to its growth as a tourist destination from the 19th century onwards.
There isn’t a great deal left of Tenby Castle, other than the humble remains of a tower on the Hill overlooking the Harbour. It’s one of the smallest Pembrokeshire castles, and the large statue of Prince Albert (Consort to Queen Victoria in the 19th century) completely undermines Tenby’s castle credentials.
Tenby Town Walls
The town walls of Tenby have survived the depredations of time far better than Tenby Castle. Although most of the towers and gates have been lost, they are still one of the most impressive sets of town walls in Wales and indeed the UK.
The western section of the walls – along South Parade and St Florence Parade down to the Esplanade overlooking South Beach. This section also includes the sole surviving gate, the landmark Five Arches.
Check out another amazing walled town in Wales: The 11 Best Things To Do In Conwy
St Catherine’s Island
St Catherine’s Island is a late 18th century fortress built to counter the threat of invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte that never quite happened. It sits just off Castle Beach and South Beach, but it accessible at low tide, when you can walk across the sand to reach it.
St Catherine’s Island has opened to visitors in the last few years, and it’s well worth taking a trip across to this Tenby landmark, and take in the superb views over the beaches and town.
Wildlife Watching Boat Trips From Tenby
Some Tenby boat trips do a circuit of Caldey Island but don’t land on the island, returning directly to Tenby afterwards. These boat trips have a different emphasis altogether – seeing the local wildlife. They run around the island in an anti-clockwise direction, starting with its uninhabited neighbour St Margaret’s Island, which is home to one of the largest cormorant colonies in the UK.
Atlantic grey seals also bask in the waters around St Margaret’s and Caldey throughout the year, and puffins and razorbills also regularly return there to nest between May and July.
Last time we went on one of these trips, we were the only ones out of fifteen to wear lifejackets. This turned out to be a wise move as the wind whipped up some big waves which gave most of us a good soaking. Several passengers had a sudden change of heart at this point – we strongly advise that you wear lifejackets throughout the trip. Better safe than sorry.
Tenby Fishing Trips
The waters of Carmarthen Bay around Tenby are abundant in mackerel, and several boats offer short trips out to sea to fish for them. The standard trip length is an hour and a half, catering to anglers of all abilities, including the likes of me who don’t have the faintest idea what they’re doing.
Some boats also run longer fishing trips – check the boards like the one above in the harbour, which frequently change through the spring and summer season.
Take A Boat Trip To Caldey Island
Caldey (Ynys Byr) is one of the most beguiling Welsh islands, and the return crossing (between April and October) is one of the most popular Tenby boat trips.
Caldey is one of several Welsh holy islands, and a monastery was founded there in the 6th century. St David’s Church dates back to the 12th century, while the present Cistercian monastery was rebuilt in the early 20th century.
It’s well worth taking time to explore Caldey’s outstanding coastline. It would be tempting to disembark the boat at Priory Bay and stay there all day, enjoying a swim and gazing at the view back to the ice-cream-coloured clifftop hotels in Tenby.
But that would mean missing out on a walk up the hill to the lighthouse, or a stroll to the shop for Caldey Abbey chocolate, which tastes just as good now as the first time I tried it over 40 years ago.
Things To Do in Tenby With Kids
Folly Farm is a great family day out, one of several perennially popular Tenby attractions for kids. It started out based around a farm, great for kids to meet and pet some of the animals.
However, it has expanded a lot in recent years, and now includes a zoo – with the only giraffes in Wales – and o=ver 100 other species of animal, from red pandas to rhinos and macaques to monkeys, with the eternally cute meerkats as well.
They also have a vintage fairground, with all the classic British seaside rides including a carousel and dodgems, and indoor and outdoor play areas.
Dinosaur Park Tenby
Tenby Dinosaur Park is an ideal place to go on family holidays in Tenby. Like several other Tenby tourist attractions for kids, it’s a few miles outside Tenby in Gumfreston.
For dinosaur lovers there’s a brilliant woodland walk taking you past around 30 dinosaurs, including popular favourites like the tallest dinosaur, the brachiosaurus, to the scariest, the tyrannosaurus rex.
It’s set up as a full day out, with a whole host of rides suiting kids of all ages, including several different car rides for kids, and an indoor playground as a back-up plan in the event of the Tenby weather turning wet.
Manor Wildlife Park
Manor Wildlife Park – formerly Manor House Wildlife Park – is another small zoo just outside Tenby,
It has some amazing animals, including two rare Sumatran tigers and three white rhinos, and you can get close to several of the species, including patting them – and feeding the giant rabbits and goats.
Another of the highlights is the Wallaby Safari – these gorgeous creatures, similar to but smaller than kangaroos, often hop up to people and you can feed and pat them. I’ve been lucky to have similar encounters with semi-wild kangaroos in Australia, and it’s an amazing experience.
Oakwood Theme Park
Oakwood Theme Park is one of the most popular things to do in Pembrokeshire, and the only theme park in Wales. It’s ten miles (16 km) north of Tenby, near the town of Narberth.
Rides include the wooden Megafobia rollercoaster, a sky-swing, a scary maze and a splash through a 45-foot (14 metre) tidal wave.
There are also more sedate, less adrenaline-filled options for younger kids, including the Treetops rollercoaster. My son tells me that the most he thinks I‘ll manage is the revolving teacup ride.
Things To Do Near Tenby
Barafundle is one of the best beaches in Wales, and one of the best Tenby day trips, fifteen miles (25 km) to the west of Tenby town.
In summer, when the seawater appears turquoise, it looks like somewhere in the Caribbean or Australia, with trees on one side, dunes behind it and cliffs on the other side of the fantastic soft golden sands.
Barafundle beach, along with Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsula, has been voted the best beach in the UK. One of its many advantages is that it is sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds as it faces east, so the water is much calmer than at the likes of Newgale and Freshwater West, both of which are some distance to the west.
You have to walk around half a mile (800 metres) from the National Trust car park at Stackpole Quay to reach Barafundle Bay beach, then down some steep steps, so access is sadly impossible for wheelchair users.
Saundersfoot, five miles up the coast, is one of the most popular places to go near Tenby. It has a great sandy beach, ideal for families with plenty of sand and shallow water for paddling.
It also has some great places to eat and stay – St Brides Spa Hotel is one of the best hotels in Pembrokeshire, enjoying great vIews over the Harbour and beach.
And Coast restaurant, next to nearby Coppet Hall Beach, has quickly become one of the best restaurants in Pembrokeshire, with a highly inventive menu based on locally sourced ingredients.
St Govan’s Chapel
St Govan’s Chapel is one of the most remarkable places to visit around Tenby. It’s a simple, tiny stone chapel built into part of a limestone cliff, and is believed to have been founded by the hermit St Govan who lived in the 6th century AD, who may well have known St David (see below).
According to traditional stories, he lived in a small cave or gap in the cliffs, which he found trying to hide from pirates. The Chapel was built in the 13th or 14th century, over the site of Govan’s original monastic cell.
It can only be accessed by a flight of 52 stone steps, and according to another local legend if you descend then ascend you won’t count the same figure twice.
Before visiting, always check the Castlemartin Firing Range website for closure times, as it’s often closed on weekdays, especially out of season, and it’s a long way to travel and miss out on seeing it.
Birdwatching at Stack Rocks
Stack Rocks – also called Elegug Stacks – is one of the best places to visit near Tenby, and one of the most dramatic places on the entire Pembrokeshire coas
t. It is south of the village of Bosherston, on a stretch of coast usually only open on weekends as it’s on the fringe of the Castlemartin firing range.
The two sea stacks are a favoured nesting site of thousands of seabirds, mainly guillemots and kittiwakes, which make the rocks home for around two months – usually May to mid-July – each year. The Stacks are close to the cliffs, well within range of a good pair of binoculars, but images don’t really tell the tale. The raucous cacophony of thousands of birds is amazing to experience.
It’s less than five minutes’ walk west around the corner to one of the most iconic landmarks in Wales, the Green Bridge of Wales sea arch.
Picton Castle is one of the most intriguing castles near Tenby – it’s over 700 years old, started out as a medieval castle and was converted into a sumptuous stately home in the 18th century.
It remained in the hands of the Philipps family for almost 500 years, from 1491 to 1987, before being given to the Picton Castle Trust.
As well as the unique Castle, there is also a beautiful Walled Garden, an Owl Garden and a collection of antique and vintage lawnmowers.
It’s located in lovely countryside 3 miles to the east of the county town of Haverfordwest, close to the river Cleddau.
Manorbier is a wonderful village six miles west of Tenby, and it’s somewhere with which we’ve been enchanted since I was eight years old. In the village, there is a fine 12th century Castle that was once home to Gerald of Wales, author of The Journey Through Wales, documenting his travels around the country recruiting manpower for the Crusade in 1188.
It’s one of the few castles in South Wales to be visible from the sea , and sits across the valley from 12th century St James’ Church (sadly not always open).
Manorbier beach is a wonderful spot, but try to time your visit to coincide with low tide as most of the sand is submerged at high tide. It’s very popular with surfers, and the nearest beach to Tenby with suitable conditions.
There are also great walks in either direction along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Freshwater West Beach
Freshwater West beach – 20 miles west of tenby at the far end of the Castlemartin Peninsula – is one of the best surfing beaches in Pembrokeshire, and is also well-known to Harry Potter fans.
The beach is naturally divided into two sections, and both are accessible via a narrow road that winds through the sand dunes behind the beach. Both parts have vast areas of sand, and there are also several rocky areas.
The famous Shell Cottage – which featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – was built on the edge of the northern section of the beach. It was built – and promptly taken down – in 2010, and nothing remains of it.
However, one of the film’s main characters, Dobby the Elf, died outside the cottage and Harry Potter fans still regularly visit to see his ‘grave’ close by in the dunes, and they often leave memorials of their own.
Solva (Solfach) is a picture-perfect village on the St Daviid’s Peninsula, 22 miles from tenby and 4 miles east of St David’s. The pastel-painted houses of the main street are full of cafes, craft shops and art galleries, and the harbour is the only example in Wales of a ria, a glacially submerged valley.
The Harbour is often full of boats, with people swimming or enjoying an ice cream on the quayside in the summer.There are also two pubs next to the Harbour, and great walks leading to the main Coast Path along St Bride’s Bay.
St David’s Cathedral and Beaches
St David’s Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe, and one of our favourite things to do near Tenby is to drive west to the remote peninsula, with its rugged rocky hills and wide sandy beaches of the St David’s Peninsula, the westernmost part of Wales.
It’s not the most obvious place to find the grandest church in Wales, but it’s there because it’s the site of a remote monastery founded by Dewi Sant, more widely known as St David, the patron saint of Wales.
St David’s (Tyddewi) is the smallest city in the UK, and second smallest in Europe after the Vatican City. The beaches around the peninsula are breathtaking, as is the coastal walking. I always tell friends that , if you’re pushed for time, the two absolutely essential things to do in Pembrokeshire are to see Tenby and St David’s. Not to be missed.
See Also: 15 Wonderful Things To Do In St Davids
See The Puffins On Skomer Island
Skomer is 20 miles west of Tenby, and one of the best places to see puffins in the UK, and it’s also home to the likes of gannets, razorbills and kittiwakes – and a special mention goes to the Skomer vole.
Visits to Skomer – via boat to Martin’s Haven, near the village of Marloes – have been oversubscribed, especially in peak season – for many years.. Tickets are finally available online – after many years of having to turn up before 0700 and hope you’re one of the first 250 there.
The puffins nest between May and July, and this is when the island is at its most beautiful, with parts of the island carpeted in bluebells and red campion. You have to stick to the paths, but some of these run quite close to the puffins’ burrows, and they sometimes waddle right in front of you.