Beaches 30 minutes from Cardiff

There are so many beaches only 30 minutes from Cardiff. I have taken some artistic licence, your travel time will depend on which side of the city you are travelling from, and of course the time of day you are driving. It may also take longer on public transport. If you are coming from North Cardiff it will be quicker to go west to areas such as Bridgend and Porthcawl. And from East of the city, it will be quicker to get to Penarth, Barry and Llantwit Major.

From the sandy beach at Rest Bay in Porthcawl, you can walk or cycle along the Coastal Path

I am ashamed to say, that I haven’t been to all of these beaches considering how close to home they all are. However, in making this directory has given me a bigger ‘must visit’ list. All are perfect for a couple of hours sunbathing, reading or relaxing, or an evening stroll or weekend walk.

Lavernock Point, Penarth

The mixture of rocks attract fossil hunters at Lavernock Point. There is also a coastal walk offering views across the Bristol Channel. The most popular point of Lavernock Point is the nature reserve, where butterflies have been observed and recorded by the reserve’s warden for over twenty years and more than twenty five species have been identified.

Penarth Beach, Penarth

Taken on Penarth Pier looking out to sea

The beach at Penarth is mostly pebbles. It is popular for walking and there is a chance of finding fossils along the way. You can enjoy views across the Bristol Channel towards Weston-super-Mare. The islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm are visible too. Along the esplanade you’ll find restaurants, shops and the pier where you can enjoy fish and chips or an ice-cream.

Barry Island, Barry

Walking along the cliffs at Barry Island with Whitmore Bay in the background

The beach everyone knows as Barry Island is actually called Whitmore Bay. It is a golden sandy beach sandwiched between two limestone headlands. You can find a space on the sand to sunbathe or enjoy a dip in the sea. Along the seafront you can spend some time in one of the many amusement arcades, play crazy golf, or enjoy the rides in the famous Pleasure Park. You can dine on fish and chips, warm doughnuts and other seaside treats.

Bendricks Beach, Barry

Bendricks Beach is one of the lesser-known beaches close to the main beach in Barry.  At high tide it is not much more than a rocky outcrop, but when the tide is out a small section of sand and shingle is exposed. You can expect to find fossilised dinosaur footprints in the rocks here. Some of the better prints found here have been excavated and can be seen in Cardiff Museum.

Cold Knap, Barry

Cold Knap beach is a long stretch of pebbles, although when the tide is out some sand is revealed. The beach at Cold Knap is located around a mile from the main beach at Barry. As a result it is always quieter, although it still gets busy in the summer.

Fontygary, Barry

The beach at Fontygary Bay holds a lot of memories for me. It is where we would head as a family during the summer holidays. My mother would sunbathe, dad would sort the BBQ, whilst my brother and I would play on the pebble beach, swim in the sea and explore the wildlife.

Jacksons Bay, Barry

Jackson’s Bay is a pleasant sandy cove backed by cliffs and plenty of greenery.  The long beach slopes gently into the sea. A harbour wall lies to the east of the beach, at the end of which is a small lighthouse, although there is no access onto the harbour wall. The soft, golden sand is just the right consistency for building sandcastles meaning the beach is popular with families. The beach is used by kayakers too. The Wales Coastal Path passes through this area.

Limpet Bay, Aberthaw, Barry

Limpert Bay is close to Cardiff Airport, and is overlooked by the Aberthaw Power Station, from which two large cooling water outlets enter the sea. The wide bay has a shingle and rock beach and when the tide is out sand and mud is exposed.  From the beach are views over the Bristol Channel towards Minehead and Exmoor. The beach is also considered to be a good spot for fishing.

St Mary’s Well Bay, Barry

Nestling between Sully Island and Lavernock Point, the bay has steep cliffs at one end and dense trees at the other.  The terrain is a mixture of sand, pebbles and rocks.  At low tide a large area of mud and wet sand is exposed with seaweed-covered stones. The beach has views over the Bristol Channel towards Avon and Somerset.  Also visible from the beach is Flat Holm, a limestone island which is the most southern point in Wales. Steep Holm, the island behind it, is technically in England. 

Watch House Bay or Watchtower Bay, Barry

Watch House Bay, also known as Watch Tower Bay, is one of the quieter beaches in the Barry Island area.  It is also known as Little Island Bay. The old watch house, which can still be seen on the beach, was built in the 1860’s as a lookout over the old harbour, and reminds visitors of the area’s nautical past. At high tide the pebble beach here is flanked by rocks on one side and low rise cliffs with dense trees on the other.  When the tide recedes, a vast expanse of sand is exposed. There is a slipway and a small jetty leading down to the water.

Llantwit Major Beach, Llantwit Major

This pebble and rock beach has some patches of sand and is backed by cliffs. Llantwit Major beach is popular with dog walkers and families who come here to hunt for crabs in the rockpools. There are also some fossils to be found, usually among the cliff face. There is a free car park and a beach café selling food, drink and souvenirs, with a separate toilet block.

Nash Point, Llantwit Major

With a large bedrock beach full of fossils and fertile rock pools, stunning rugged cliffs and rock formations, and all topped off with the majestic Nash Point Lighthouse. It is a popular location for ramblers and hiking along the cliffs to Llantwit Major Beach. The lighthouse and its meadow are a site of special scientific interest, with rare plants and wildlife.

Tresilian Bay, Llantwit Major

Tresilian Bay is known for its limestone cliffs and stunning scenery. This rock and shingle beach is set in a cove underneath the chalk cliffs. Located at the rear of the beach is the distinctive Tresilian House, a large, white farmhouse at the end of a small valley. This coastal area is popular for walking, and there is a coastal path the passes the beach and continues along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast.

Splott Beach, Splott, Cardiff

The Foreshore or Splott Beach. Cardiff’s hidden beach showcasing its industrial past

Don’t expect golden sands and fresh sea air at Cardiff’s secret beach. The Foreshore or Splott Beach is near Rover Way, though you wouldn’t know it is there from driving past. It’s littered with rubble, bricks, concrete, twisted metal and old tyres, all remnants of the docks’ past. Amusingly, it’s marked up on Google Maps as a “beach resort”.

Cardiff Bay Beach, Cardiff

Unlike the rest of the beaches on the list, this one is man-made, and is only around for a few months of the year. Built in Roald Dahl’s Plass in Cardiff Bay during the summer holidays the urban beach has a sandy beach, water play area, a giant wheel and other fairground rides. There is also entertainment, live music and street food stalls.

Southerndown, Bridgend

Southerndown, also known as Dunraven Bay, is a sandy beach, with some rocky areas. It is enclosed by spectacular cliffs. The beach itself is popular for swimming, and watersports such as canoeing and surfing. It is also one of the best beaches in the area for fossil hunters. The beach is surrounded by open countryside. A path runs along the cliff tops towards Ogmore, offering good views out over the Bristol Channel. A short walk in the other direction leads to a castle and hill fort.

Ogmore, Bridgend

Ogmore-by-Sea is a popular sand and shingle beach along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. The mouth of the River Ogmore runs into the sea over the beach. The beach has the reputation as being one of the cleanest in the region, and is popular for a variety of activities, including swimming, diving, surfing, fishing, and walking. The name ‘Ogmore’ is thought to come from the large caves located nearby (ogof is Welsh for cave). There is also a coastal walk which offers stunning views out to sea from above the cliff-tops. There are plenty of shops and places to eat nearby too.

Temple Bay, St Brides Major, Bridgend

Temple Bay is a small cove which sits in Dunraven Bay, just around Witch’s Point from the larger Southerndown beach. The beach here is a narrow stretch of sand between rocky ledges. The top of the cliffs at Witches Point provide great views across the bay and are also the site of the ruins of Dunraven castle, a manor house which was mostly demolished in the 1960s. There are also the remains of an Iron Age hillfort towards the end of the point. Access to the beach is a challenge with a steep path and steps leading down to the beach.

Traeth Mawr, St Brides Major, Bridgend

Traeth Mawr, meaning Big Beach, is composed of pebbles above the high tide mark with a good stretch of sand when the tide goes out. Access can be something of a challenge with a ladder on the cliff face needing to be negotiated. Combined with its fairly remote, rural location this keeps visitors to a minimum. It is most commonly frequented by anglers and apparently the occasional naturists.

Newton Bay, Porthcawl

Also known as Black Rock Beach, Newton Bay is in Porthcawl. A long sand and rock beach backed by the very extensive and scientifically interesting Newton Burrows and the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes. It is popular for walking, horse riding, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Rest Bay, Porthcawl

Sat on the rocks along the Coastal Path which you can access at Rest Bay in Porthcawl

Rest Bay is a golden, sandy beach. It sits alongside The Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, so you can expect to find some lost balls. The waves can be quite large, making it a good beach for surfing, as well as wind and kite surfing. Fishing, bathing and canoeing are also popular pastimes here. Rest Bay is also home to rock pools so marine life can be found. There is a pay and display car park and cafe here. If you don’t mind walking, or cycling, you can go towards Porthcawl promenade where there are shops, restaurants, cafes and a theatre.

Sandy Bay, Porthcawl

Sandy Bay, also known as Coney Beach, is a wide, sandy, and gently sloping beach. The beach is wide, but there can be several hundred meters of sand separating the surf and the promenade behind the beach at low tide. It is a popular spot for surfing and swimming and is backed by an amusement arcade.

To the west of the beach is the Eastern Promenade, leading down to the harbour and lighthouse, with views out over the bay. A short walk beyond the harbour, visitors will find the centre of Porthcawl, with many shops, places to stay, places to eat, and an interesting museum about the history of the town.

Trecco Bay, Porthcawl

Trecco Bay Beach is a large, sandy beach which has been awarded a Blue Flag for its excellent water quality; this makes it great for families looking to indulge in some paddling or swimming.

Aberavon or Aberafan Beach, Port Talbot

Aberavon is one of Wales’ longest beaches, which is nearly 3 miles long. It is popular with surfers and every summer it hosts a festival with live music, funfair rides, craft stalls, plus food and drink. The sandy beach also has 2 miles of flat promenade making it popular for walkers and joggers. It is also part of the National Cycle network.

Aberafan Sands, Port Talbot

Aberfan Sands is also known as Sandfields East Beach. It is a long strip of golden, sandy beach popular with swimmers, sunbathers, surfers and kayakers. The promenade is popular with pedestrians and cyclists. There are a couple of cafes and restaurants along the seafront, a children’s play area and skate park nearby. Although the views of the Tata Steelworks and cranes of the ports may not be to everyone’s taste, there are also good views right across Swansea Bay towards Mumbles. 

Afan, Port Talbot

Afan is a small, sandy beach close to the Port Talbot docks and the Tata Steelworks.  There is a promenade, with a couple of cafes and restaurants nearby. The beach is used for fishing, with its great tidal range, and it is popular with surfers and other water-sport enthusiasts.

Margam Sands, Port Talbot

Margam is long sandy beach near the town of Port Talbot. It is also known as Morfa Mawr. Unfortunately, it is overlooked by a huge steel works at its northern end, but the further south you walk the more you find surroundings of moorland and dunes along with the Kenfig Nature Reserve.

It’s time to discover the beaches

All of these beaches are 30 minutes from Cardiff. All are perfect for stretching your legs, swimming in the sea, or for discovering more of Wales. Have I missed any beaches off the list? Which is your favourite beach to visit?

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