Explore The Pembrokeshire Coast By Boat
Unlocking the freedom of the ocean on an exhilarating boat trip where the coast becomes your playground – sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
Boat trips in Pembrokeshire
Adventure doesn’t end at the coast, and in Pembrokeshire, there’s so much more to see and do out on the water. Whether it’s along the coast admiring majestic cliffs, getting close to wildlife, or being able to explore parts of Pembrokeshire unreachable by land, there’s a boat trip on offer for everyone.
There is 186-miles of magical coastline in Pembrokeshire, so you’re not short on options for a sea adventure or two. You might even wonder where you’re meant to start when it comes to planning a trip, so we’ve put some of our favourite options together for you.
1. Visiting Pembrokeshire's Islands
Pembrokeshire has a collection of beautiful islands littering the coast and there are some great trip options for you to visit and enjoy. When you’re looking at booking one, make sure you check the details. Some only ferry guests to and from the islands, others may take you on a safari around it and not include getting off, and others, offer both! It’s best to check before you book to avoid disappointment.
Ynys Sgomer, or Skomer Island
You can’t visit Pembrokeshire, without going to Skomer Island (we love it so much we named one of our lodges after it). Found at the southern tip of St Brides Bay the uninhabited island and surrounding waters are a national nature reserve and area of special protection, making it one of the most important areas for wildlife and conservation in the UK. Home to thousands of seabirds including half the world’s populations of Manx shearwaters and one of the largest colonies of Atlantic puffins in the UK, Skomer is bursting with exciting species including its own species of vole. People are definitely in the minority here, and it’s important to remember Skomer really belongs to our much-loved feathered friends – we just visit.
The waters surrounding the island are just as exciting, teaming with wildlife both above and below the surface. Seals, porpoises, and dolphins can regularly be spotted in the cliffs and waters around the island. With so much to enjoy you’ll be pleased to know that there is a range of different types of boat trips to Skomer and the surrounding waters, with trips focusing on transfers to the island and also tours around the caves, cliffs, and marine area.
Find out more about visiting Skomer Island, with our guide.
Ynys Sgogwm, or Skolkhom Island
Just a little further from the coast than Skomer, you’ll find its little sister Skolkholm. A mile in length and half a mile at its widest point, Skolkhom is known for being quieter and wilder than its more famous neighbour, though is just as rich in diverse wildlife. Sitting within the same Marine Nature Reserve, the island is covered in wildflowers and lichens and attracts a varied array of wildlife to its land, coast, and waters. Thousands of puffins, storm petrels, and Manx shearwaters populate the cliffs, and in the water, you’ll spot dolphins, porpoise, and Atlantic grey seals.
You can only visit Skolkholm on an organised trip, meaning you can explore the island at your leisure.
Voyages of Discovery, Pembrokeshire Islands Boat Trips, and Thousand Islands Expeditions offer a selection of different trips to Skomer and Skolkholm including wildlife safaris around the island and drop-off for guests to explore the island. If you just want to visit the islands boats depart from Martin’s Haven between April and September.
Ynys Gwales, or Grassholm Island
Lying west of Skomer is the small island of Grassholm, which covers just 26.5 acres. While it might be small Grassholm is of huge importance in the wildlife world and also holds the prestigious title of being the westernmost point of Wales. Owned by the RSPB, it’s been a National Nature Reserve since 1947 and is the third most important site for gannets in the world.
It’s estimated around 39,000 pairs of birds breed there every year and support 10% of the world’s population of gannets. The choppy waters around the island are also the perfect feeding ground for porpoises and dolphins, and marine life is often spotted in the area around the island. While the public can’t land on Grassholm, Falcon Boats do offer a trip around the island where you can enjoy the wildlife at a safe distance.
Ynys Dewi, or Ramsey Island
Just off St Davids Head on the northern side of St Brides Bay is Ynys Dewi, known in English as Ramsey island. Just slightly smaller than Skomer, Ramsey is owned and managed by the RSPB and is the perfect destination to combine spectacular landscape with incredible wildlife. Ramsey Island is one of the best sites to see choughs in Wales, as well as a host of other seabirds including peregrines, razorbills, guillemots, and northern wheatears. It’s also a great choice for seal spotting, as the island is one of the most important breeding colonies for grey seals in the UK, with over 400 pups born each autumn.
The main island is surrounded by groups of islets, tidal islands, and rock clusters the most famous of which are The Bitches, The Bishops and Clerks, and Meini Duon (Black Rocks). Some of the tidal islands include Ynys Bery, Ynys Cantwr, and Ynys Eilun, which are connected to the mainland at low tide but cut off at high tide, but it’s not recommended to try and visit any of these small, tidal islands due to the strong currents in this area. Known as the Ramsey Sound, the waters around these islands have a substantial tidal effect and a tidal waterfall even occurs between “The Bitches” that is around 217 feet deep.
Luckily, there are plenty of options to explore the area safely. You’ll find a range of wildlife safaris that will take you for a closer look at the coast, including Falcon Boats, Voyages of Discovery, and Thousand Islands Expeditions.
If you just want to just visit Ramsey Island, then you can visit between April 1 (or Easter if earlier) and 31st October. Boats depart from the Lifeboat Station at St Justinians. There are two departures a day and you can book your boat ticket through Thousand Islands Expeditions.
Ynys Bŷr, or Caldey Island
You’ll find Caldey Island on the other side of Pembrokeshire, sitting just off the coast of Tenby. One of the UK’s only holy islands, Caldey has a history dating back 1,500 years and is currently the home of an order of Cistercian monks. You can visit the island and tour the village and Caldey Abbey, where the monks make and sell a range of products including perfume and delicious chocolate. It’s not the only attraction though. The island is beautiful to explore, with several walks and beaches to visit. It’s also home to some of the UK’s most rare flora and fauna including species of wildflowers and red squirrels. The coast around the island is also teeming with life, with sea birds flocking to the area especially in the summer months, as well as dolphins and porpoise.
You can explore the area around Caldey and the Tenby coast on trips running out of Saundersfoot and Tenby, including Saundersfoot Sea Safaris and Tenby Boat Trips, who both offer various trips.
If you want to visit the island boats run from Tenby - a historical seaside town - in spring and summer, weather dependent. You can’t buy tickets ahead of time, these can be bought in Tenby Harbour from one of the operators, but it’s a good idea to call ahead and check if and when boats are running as these often change due to weather and tides.
If you want to learn more about Caldey, check out our complete guide to the island.
2. Wildlife Tours
As you’d expect from the UK’s only coastal National Park, there is so much exciting wildlife to spot around the coast, and the best way to enjoy it is out on the water. Not only does it give you a different perspective of the coastline, but you can also journey out into the ocean where you can get up close and personal with marine wildlife like dolphins, porpoises, and even whales.
Closer to land, wildlife tours of the beautiful islands give you a chance to enjoy the thousands of seabirds that call Pembrokeshire home-like Manx Shearwater, Puffins in their natural environment and from a safe distance.
The sheer volume of birds is something you can’t experience from land, and it’s a perspective you won’t want to miss. Thankfully, there are so many trip options to choose from with an array of different lengths, and locations. Some options specialise in dolphin or puffin watching, while others are a more general experience.
Some of the best providers are Celtic Wildcat Sea Life Adventures, Saundersfoot Safaris, Falcon Boats, Voyages of Discovery, and Thousand Islands Expedition.
3. Cleddau River Boat Trips
Known as the secret waterway, the beautiful Cleddau River can sometimes be overlooked on a visit to Pembrokeshire. With its high, dense banks, it’s not easy to get to, and by far the best way to explore this beautiful estuary is by boat.
Calmer than the coast, it’s a relaxing and enjoyable option for a day out, and it’s close to Bluestone too. Celtic Wildcat Sea Life Adventures, and Dive Pembrokeshire, both offer tours of the river, with various options on where you explore.
As a Special Area of Conservation, it's important to respect that you're visiting a place that supports important wildlife, and as such remember to leave no trace you've been there.
4. Tenby and Saundersfoot Boat Trips
It’s not a bad idea to combine a day trip with a visit to one of Pembrokeshire’s beautiful coastal towns or villages. The majority of boat trips on the Southside of Pembrokeshire leave these two harbour towns.
If you want to explore the coast on this side of the county, it’s best to try a trip from there. On offer are trips to and around beautiful Caldey Island and various wildlife options. For boat trips leaving Tenby or Saundersfoot harbour, we recommend Tenby Boat Trips, and Saundersfoot Sea Safaris who provide a choice of different options.
5. St David’s Boat Trips
The centre for adventure in the north of Pembrokeshire, there are a number of different companies that offer boat trips running out of St David’s. As well as wildlife trips, it’s the best place to find a trip to explore Ramsey Island and the surrounding islands.
Some trips also go south into St Brides Bay and take you to visit the area around Skomer island, so there’s lots of choice from here. Venture Jet, Thousand Islands Expeditions, Falcon Boats, and Voyages of Discovery operate out of St David’s and are a good choice if you’re interested in exploring the coast there.
If that's got you excited about what you could enjoy on a break to Bluestone, then have a look at what else you can enjoy. You can explore the magic of the sea from on top, in, and below the waves, in so many exciting ways.