If you’re looking for a beautiful seaside resort with a huge range of things to do Tenby is just the place. There are so many sides to Tenby – the gorgeous harbour with its pastel-painted Georgian townhouses, the warren of medieval lanes and alleyways, a complete stretch of 16th century town walls and the three glorious beaches just around the town centre. It’s also a great base to explore the Pembrokeshire coast, whether on land or by one of the many Tenby boat trips that depart from the harbour. There are also a host of Pembrokeshire family attractions within a short drive from Tenby, from Folly Farm’s farmyard animals to the prehistoric beasts of Dinosaur World, and from quad-biking at Ritec Valley to Heatherton World of Activities. So here’s your ultimate guide to things to do Tenby.
- 1 Tenby Harbour
- 2 Tenby North Beach
- 3 Tenby Castle Beach
- 4 Tenby South Beach
- 5 Castle Hill and Museum
- 6 St Mary’s Church
- 7 Tudor Merchant’s House
- 8 Caldey Island Boat Trips
- 9 Wildlife-Watching Boat Trips
- 10 Tenby Fishing Trips
- 11 Tenby Coastal Walks
- 12 Tenby Guided Walks and Tenby Ghost Walks
- 13 Tenby Restaurants and Eating Out
- 14 Tenby Nightlife
- 15 Things to do around Tenby with kids
- 16 Dinosaur Park
- 17 Manor Wildlife Park
- 18 Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo
- 19 Oakwood Theme Park
- 20 Heatherton World of Adventures
- 21 Ritec Valley Quad Biking
Tenby Harbour is just beautiful, and every time we return and see it again the sight of it gives us a lovely rush of endorphins, happiness flooding through us. I’ve loved it since first seeing it when I was nine years old, and it’s one of those places I always yearn to go back to. The harbour is huddled between the south end of North Beach and Castle Hill headland, with the stately Georgian houses of Bridge Street overlooking the scene. As with everywhere along the South Wales Bristol Channel coast high and low tides vary significantly, so at low tide the harbour becomes a boat-filled beach. The harbour is the departure point for boat trips from Tenby, and the various kiosks selling tickets are located here.
We’ve spent many an hour walking around the harbour and its narrow lanes. The Simply Seafoods kiosk serves fantastic crab sandwiches, and the harbour is a great place to sit and enjoy one, even if some of the local seagulls might want to share it with you.
Tenby North Beach
Tenby North Beach is adjacent to Tenby harbour, a lovely sweep of sand passing beneath the brightly painted hotels along the clifftop. This is the place to go if you want that amazing view to the harbour, and you also get to see the Carmarthen Bay coast to the east.
Tenby Castle Beach
Tenby Castle Beach lies in the shadow of Castle Hill, where a tower, gateway and some walls remain from Tenby’s medieval castle. It’s a very short walk over the rise from the harbour and down the hill to Castle Beach, whose view is dominated by St Catherine’s Island, home to a 19th century fort built to repel a French invasion that never transpired. The fort has been closed for many years, and a number of schemes have been mooted for it, though none have yet come to fruition. It’s a lovely view across to the island and, to the right, the much bigger island of Caldey, 4 km (2.5 miles) offshore.
Tenby South Beach
If you walk along the sand to the right from Castle Beach, you’ll soon come to Tenby South Beach. This stretches for miles, past a long series of dunes and the golf course to the village of Penally and a rocky headland. In summer it’s very popular, and the ice cream van does a roaring trade. The hotels along Paragon and Esplanade and their cliff gardens make a fine backdrop, and the view across the water to Caldey is sublime.
Castle Hill and Museum
Above the approach to Castle Beach, a pathway passes through an ancient fortified gate, soon reaching Tenby Museum on the left, housed in a building that was part of the castle. It’s a wonderful place to while away a couple of hours, especially if the weather is a little inclement. It’s Wales’ oldest independent museum, and has a very-much-loved feel about it. The Tenby Story section tells the fascinating story of this lovely town, from Henry Tudor – later Henry VII’s – escape through a Tenby tunnel to its growth as a tourist destination from the 19th century onwards.
The other remains of the castle are scattered around the top hill, the small pepper-pot tower and a statue of Prince Albert (husband of Queen Victoria) surveying the scene, with a fine 360° view over the town, beaches and St Catherine’s Island.
St Mary’s Church
The slender tall spire of St Mary’s Church still dominates the Tenby skyline, as it has done for the last six centuries. The church is one of the most beautiful in Pembrokeshire, and packed with historical interest. One curiosity is the wall memorial to Robert Recorde, a 16th century mathematician from Tenby who introduced the equals (=) sign to mathematics.
Tudor Merchant’s House
Tenby’s Tudor Merchant’s House, run by the National Trust, offers an intriguing glimpse back to the late 15th century, when it was built. It’s on a narrow partly stepped side street leading from High Street down towards the Harbour, a three-storey house whose ground floor served as a shop, while the upper floors were the merchant and his family’s living and sleeping space. It’s furnished and decorated to look much as it was in 1500. It’s the oldest surviving house in the town.
Caldey Island Boat Trips
Caldey Island – Ynys Byr in Welsh – lies 4 km (2.5 miles) offshore from Tenby, and feels a world away from the 21st century. It is one of several Welsh holy islands, and is home to a Cistercian monastery with a small permanent population of monks who make a living by making and selling perfumes and chocolate in the small island shop. Many come to visit the monastery and two small medieval churches on the island, but it’s also worth the trip to explore some of the magnificent coastline, especially around Sandtop Bay in the west of the island. Check at the ticket kiosks in Tenby harbour which boats actually land on Caldey – some do not (see below).
Wildlife-Watching Boat Trips
Some Tenby boat trips take you out for a full circuit of Caldey Island, but do not land. These take visitors out solely to see the island’s wildlife and coastal scenery. The trips tend to follow an anti-clockwise route around, starting at St Margaret’s Island, Caldey’s uninhabited near-neighbour, and home to one of the largest cormorant colonies in Britain. The boats give you a great view, taking you very close to the foot of some imposing sheer cliffs and within sight of the birds. The cliffs of St Margaret’s and Caldey also host nesting razorbills, puffins and gannets between May and July. Atlantic grey seals live on the Welsh coast throughout the year, and outside of seabird nesting season, these are the main attraction for visitors.
Tenby Fishing Trips
Several operators also run fishing trips out of Tenby. Trips usually last an hour and a half, and anglers of all (including no) abilities are welcome. Mackerel is the usual catch.
Tenby Coastal Walks
Tenby is in a prime position on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and, since 2012, the Wales Coast Path. The section to the north takes you past tiny Waterwynch Bay and on to Monkstone Point and the popular seaside resort of Saundersfoot. The section to the south of the town takes you along South Beach to Penally. Further to the west, there’s more cliff scenery, with a lovely stretch either side of Manorbier beach and on beyond Swanlake Bay.
Tenby Guided Walks and Tenby Ghost Walks
We haven’t been on one of Marion Davies’ guided walks around Tenby and Caldey, but know several friends who have, and are fulsome in their praise of her. Tenby has a rich, fascinating history, and her Story of Tenby walk shows you where Henry Tudor – who went on to become King Henry VII of England – managed to escape. Many other famous names have visited, from Lord Nelson to painter JMW Turner, author George Eliot and writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter, and her Poets and Painters walk tells the stories of their connections with the town.
Tenby Restaurants and Eating Out
Tenby has a great range of dining options spread throughout the town, and there’s an emphasis on seafood in many places. We have dined several times at Plantagenet House, which is next door to the Tudor Merchant’s House, a couple of minutes from the harbour. It’s housed in a medieval building with a lovely Flemish chimney, but the reason we’ve always gone back to the Plantagenet Tenby is the food, which has been stellar every time. We’ve also enjoyed The Mooring and the Salt Cellar – the latter is downstairs in the Atlantic Hotel, on the Esplanade. We can also recommend long-time local chippy Fecci’s for takeaway fish and chips overlooking the beach.
For many years Tenby has had something of a reputation as a stag and hen party destination, to the consternation of some who prefer to keep Tenby genteel and elegant. We have stayed over in Tenby many times over the years, and also visited on day trips. On weekdays and Sundays, you won’t find a trace of a stag and hen do. It’s possible you will come across one on a Friday or Saturday night. Yes, they can sometimes border on the rambunctious, but if that sort of thing’s not for you, you’re only a few yards’ walk from peace and serenity. Watching an international rugby match on TV in a crowded pub is a more raucous affair, as is the long return train journey we used to make to Cardiff on a Saturday night.
Things to do around Tenby with kids
There are also several big Tenby attractions geared towards families and kids within a short drive from the town, and we’ll be writing much more about these on our family travel site in the near future. Here’s a brief overview of things to do in Tenby for families.
Dinosaurs are a great diversion for kids, and this park in nearby Gumfreston has a big dinosaur trail running through woodland with huge models to captivate them. There are also plenty of activities on site, from wheely bug rides for toddlers to trampolines to rides and tractors and a triceratops.
Manor Wildlife Park
This zoo in St Florence has species from all over the planet, from Cameroon sheep to rhinos to lemurs to wallabies, and kids are fascinated by their encounters with new animals. Some of the enclosures have walk through areas where you can get close to the animals – including the African village for farm animals, and wallabies.
Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo
This is another big family day out, where kids can pat farm animals, see the only giraffes in Wales, go for a few rides at a vintage fairground and run off energy in themed play areas, both indoors and out.
Oakwood Theme Park
Oakwood Theme Park is the biggest in Wales, and has all kinds of rides, from a wooden rollercoaster, sky swing or getting soaked in a 45 foot tidal wave. For toddlers there are the carousel and revolving teacups, which are probably the closest I’d get to an adrenaline fix.
Heatherton World of Adventures
Heatherton has several activities geared towards families, mainly for older kids. These include tree-top rope walks, zip wire rides, paintballing, archery, golf and zorbing.
Ritec Valley Quad Biking
This is the place to go if you want to try quad biking in Wales, with both track and trail rides available. Kids aged 6 and above can try out track riding, while more experienced riders can tackle the trails.