How and where to go rockpooling in Pembrokeshire

By Paul Burton Rockpooling

The seas around our coasts are rich in beauty and wildlife - and when the tide washes away rock pools give a glimpse at the hidden world living beyond our beaches.

Pembrokeshire is an ideal place for children and families to start their coastal adventures. A rock pool safari is one of the cheapest and easiest outdoor activities, with fascinating creatures waiting to be discovered on the edges of the county’s beautiful sands.

Summer is a great time to start - with plenty of spots easily accessible from Bluestone with a huge range of wildlife harboured beneath cliffs and hiding in the mesh of rocks that bookend the beaches. Crabs, starfish, anemones, limpets and snails can all commonly be seen in Pembrokeshire’s rock pools.

Here’s our guide to where to go and how to prepare.

What to bring:

Good footwear is a must. Rocks are by their very nature slippery, so bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet but will protect you as well.

Instinct will tell you to bring a net, probably from fond memories of crabbing off a pier in your youth. Don’t bring a net. They are generally discouraged as they can damage a rock pool’s fragile ecosystem. Instead, don’t be afraid to handle the wildlife with your hands. Pick up a crab by handling it with your thumb and forefinger, on top and below.

Bring a bucket - but make it a clear one. That way the children can have a look at the creature in action from all angles - they’ll be fascinated by suckers on the side of a clear plastic container. Just remember to change the water in it and not to pile up the wildlife, keep them separate otherwise they’ll probably attack each other. And put the creatures back after!

Make you check off your usual beach checklist - hat, sunglasses, and sun tan lotion. Hanging out by the water all day makes you especially susceptible to the rays reflecting off the beautiful Pembrokeshire seas.

When to go

Late spring to early autumn is perfect. The sea warms up during the summer months so you can go later in the year that you think. Make it a day when the weather is calm - if the sea is washing about it makes it difficult and potentially dangerous explore, plus it’ll be difficult to spot the wildlife. This might sound obvious but go at low tide. And beware the tide times - don’t go to a secluded spot not knowing when the tide is going to come rushing in again and potentially cut you off.

Rockpool
 

What to look for

Pembrokeshire is rich in animals in the rock pools but here are the main ones you can expect to find:

Crabs - there are lots of crabs in Pembrokeshire’s waters, commonly you’ll find the hermit crab in a large conical shell, small, orange shore crabs and even spider crabs with their long spiny legs - though possibly not in the rock pools themselves.

Starfish - you’ll probably spot the common starfish, which is orange and yellow in colour with short, thick arms. Then there is the brittle starfish, which is darker and smaller in the body but much longer legs.

Fish - There’s an abundance out at sea but it tend to be the goby small fish with thicker heads and shiny bodies that you’ll find in the rock pools. Limpets and periwrinkles - you’ll find the cone shaped limpet stuck to the side of most rockpools, while the ‘flat’ periwinkles will often be in there as well.

Shrimp - you’ll find the stripy kind with a see through body and if you’re lucky you may spot the brown ones - harder to spot in the sand because it looks like sand.

Sea anemones - the classic red kind will be waving its tentacles at you in more than one pool. When you’re out hunting check the patterns in the sand - that can indicate there’s a creature hiding nearby or just underneath. Don’t be surprised if you look in a rock pool and there’s nothing there. Where would you hide if you were in a rock pool?

Check the shady protective spots away from the eyes of predators. If you have older children they may be able to snorkel over the same area when the tide comes in and see a previously calm spot come alive with wildlife.

Look under loose rocks - you’ll find brittle starfish and crabs hiding here, and it’s great fun watching children discover something vaguely disgusting looking in an unexpected spot. Children tend to be drawn to disgusting looking things! Place your bucket in the pool and see what swims in or push it gently through the water to scoop up a critter you’ve found.

Remember always put things back where you find them and be very very careful when handling sealife so to not hurt them. 

Where to go

Broad Haven

broad haven beach

Broad Haven is a nice, easy spot to start your rock pooling adventure. There are numerous rock pools below the cliffs at the north end of the beach. On a quiet day you can walk to Little Haven when the tide is out. The beach is a popular spot for holiday makers and is accessible by car.

Miles from Bluestone: 18

Parking: Yes

Toilets: Yes

Little Haven

little haven beach

Just a short walk or drive up the road from Broad Haven beach Little Haven is more of a secluded cove with some great rock pools to enjoy crabbing or searching for other ocean species that you may be surprised to find. As it’s only a small bay this one can get really packed during peak periods of holiday season so to get the best from it visit bright and breezy or later in the evening to enjoy the seclusion that locals love so much about this spot.

Miles from Bluestone: 17

Parking: Yes

Toilets: Yes

Saundersfoot

saundersfoot

A small cove set within the quaint seaside town of Saundersfoot itself. This is a great place for rock pooling, or sea fishing from the shore line and simply to plot up for a picnic. You can also enjoy a coastline walk and some traditional fish and chips if picnics aren’t your thing. The countryside around is also rewarding to visit, green, wooded and undulating with picnic areas and camping sites and walks through both inland and along the coast. One of the favourites is along the old coal tramway and through a tunnel to adjacent Wiseman’s Bridge.

Miles from Bluestone: 22

Parking: Yes

Toilets: Yes

Conigar Pit Beach

Conigar Pit is a secluded little bay about 20 minutes from Manorbier, a mixture of rocks and a sandy beach tucked behind Old Castle Head. The crags of rock form little coves – but you’ll have to come at low tide otherwise the beaches disappear. The beach, in a little cove called Presipe, is a happy hunting ground for fossil collectors – a great way to while away the afternoon with children. The views are also stunning, with Lundy Island and the Devon and Somerset coasts often visible.

Miles from Bluestone: 13

Parking: No

Toilets: No

Monkstone Beach

Monkstone

Two miles north of Tenby, Monkstone Sands is a long beach with safe swimming and plenty of rockpools. Access to Monkstone Sands is easy off the coastal footpath via a farm, down some steep steps to the remote location.

Miles from Bluestone: 10

If it’s raining outside…

You can’t count on the British weather but you can count on the Blue Lagoon. Free for all guests staying at Bluestone, the younger ones can splash about in the separate wet play areas and water cove where they can hunt in the rock pools and get their practice in!


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