A beginner’s guide to kayaking in Pembrokeshire

This article is reproduced from tyf.com … you can find TYF Adventure on the High Street in St Davids, where you can book activity sessions, hire kayaks and equipment and drop in for their kayaking advice. Their fleet of kayaks includes Islander’s recycled plastic models, which are a great fit for TYFs B-Corp status, pursuing sustainability.

The Pembrokeshire coastline gained National Park status in 1952 and has become a site of pilgrimage for those seeking tranquility, exploration and breathtaking views. No other craft gets you closer to the coast than sit-on-top or sea kayak – gliding along the incredible coastline to explore the beautiful rock formations, caves and crystal clear waters.

If you’ve never been in kayak or are looking to build your skills before you take on a stretch of coast we highly recommend you join an expert guided tour with TYF Adventure for a half or full day session. On a TYF kayak session you will learn the basics of kayaking that will equip you with the confidence to hire a kayak and take on the coastline. You can also hire a kayak and create your own adventure from the TYF Adventure Hub in St Davids, where you can choose from a range kayaks including and all the rest of the kit you might need for your trip.

Book a kayak session with TYFHire a kayak + kit from TYF Adventure Hub

Preparing for your trip

Before you head out to the open sea it is important you take the right equipment with you, so here’s a quick kit list. While preparing for your trip you should also be aware of what the tides are doing and what the forecast is predicting. It’s important to keep an eye on wind speed and direction and check on what the swell is doing for the day. We recommend using Windguru for the most accurate prediction of wind, you can check tide times here. Take note of the safety advice in these location guides and at the foot of this article.

  • Buoyancy aid
  • Boat & paddle
  • Wetsuit or similar
  • First aid kit
  • Tow line
  • Cagoule (if cold or windy)
  • Mobile phone
  • Water and snacks

Three great spots for beginners

Pembrokeshire has plenty of beautiful stretches of coastline to paddle in a kayak. Here are some of the more accessible and easier to navigate stretches of coast for you to explore …

Porthclais Harbour

Porthclais Harbour is a beautiful little harbour on the St Davids Peninsula. The harbour itself dates back to the 12th century and the earliest records of trade date back to 1385 accounting for building works on St Davids Cathedral! Although the history that graces the harbour is fascinating, the real show stopper is the natural beauty of the surrounding coastline.

On arrival you’ll find a small National Trust Car Park (charges apply). Situated in the carpark is The Kiosk which offers delicious coffees and locally baked treats as a post kayak treat!

It is important to check tide times before attempting to launch your kayak, you want to aim for high tide to be sure you have plenty of water in the harbour to test your kayak skills. The valley that encompasses Porthclais provides a good amount of shelter form any wind or swell so it’s the ideal place to get to grips with your paddle and practice manoeuvres before heading out to open water. If the forecast is predicting calm seas and no swell you can venture out on to the coastal waters to take in the wonders of the spectacular sea cliffs.

When you head out of the harbour walls you can paddle left or right however, it is important to go no further than Porthllisky beach if you do paddle right. Heading left out of the harbour and paddling east towards Caerfai beach, about 2.5 km stretch, you’ll find some incredible caves and natural arches along the way! Stay close to the cliffs and coves, if you cut across bays and go into deep water you may find the wind is stronger and the conditions are harder to paddle.

Note: £1 launching fee per boat contributes to the upkeep of the harbour.

DO NOT paddle beyond Porthllisky beach towards Ramsey Island, beyond the headland are dangerous tidal currents.

Solva Harbour

Solva is a picturesque village a few miles from St Davids, with plenty of options for food and drinks it’s a great place to finish an afternoon on the sea, we love the homemade Welsh cakes served at Mamgu’s. Their is paid parking in the harbour however keep it in mind that it does get busy. Solva Harbour is triple the size of Porthclais so you’ll have plenty of room to navigate within the natural harbour. 

Getting the tides right is really important here, be sure to check them before planning your trip and consider how much water will be left in the harbour when you finish your paddle otherwise you’ll have to carry your boats up the dry harbour, which isn’t too fun if you’ve got tired arms from paddling!

Similar to the valley at Porthclais you’ll be able to seek shelter form any wind or swell making it a good place to practice manoeuvres before heading out to open water. Before you leave the safety of the harbour walls you will find a small pebbled beach to your left called Gwadn which you can relax on in between paddles.

If you’re feeling up to it you can venture out to the open sea and head left or right out onto the coastline, both offer incredible views with lots to take in. Our favourite stretch is heading right and aiming west along the incredible sea cliffs. Immediately on the right you’ll find a beautiful natural arch that you can paddle through. When you’re kayaking along this stretch of water it is important to stay close to the cliffs and coves, if you cut across bays and go into deep water you may find the wind is stronger and the conditions are harder to paddle.


Whitesands is one of Pembrokeshire most popular beaches, for obvious reasons! You’ll find the magnificent micro mountain, Carn Llidi towering over the beach, the crystal clean water and sparkling white sand. There’s plenty of space for parking and good facilities at the beach including public toilets, a beach cafe and an ice cream truck.

Whitesands is a lifeguarded beach in the summer season, with a dedicated hard craft zone between the black and white flags. Like any kayak adventure its important to check the conditions before entering the water.

Whitesands isn’t as tide dependent as the harbours mentioned above, however, Whitesands Beach is known for it’s surf, so it’s important to make sure there is no swell forecast. If there are waves on the horizon you’ll have hours of fun using the right equipment such as a body board or surfboard, but if you’re new to kayaking you may find the waves create an unwanted challenge!

On a flat day with no surf you can easily launch your kayak from the beach. Whitesands is a wide open bay and the same guidance applies when navigating the open water here, it is important to stay close to the coastline and seek shelter from the cliffs. If you end up in wide open water you’ll be exposed to more conditions that you may find tricky to manoeuvre as a beginner kayaker.

If you are equipped with the right skills and feel confident you can head out from the comforts of the beach along the sea cliffs. Paddling to your left and heading south you’ll make your way to Porthselau beach, a small sandy cove with stunning views of Carn Llidi and Whitesands. If you land the kayaks on the beach here you can take a short walk up through Pencarnan Campsite where you’ll find the hidden Pencarnan Courtyard offering food, drinks and sweet treats with fabulous views. It is worth checking operating hours and bookings before planning your visit.

If you head North from Whitesands along the cliffs you’ll find a few more little coves and caves to explore all within a 4 km range, you could take a picnic with you and land your kayaks on Porthmelgan the view up the headland to St Davids head is a treat for your eyes!

DO NOT paddle beyond Porthselu beach towards Ramsey island, beyond the headland are dangerous tidal currents.

DO NOT paddle beyond St. Davids head, the northerly headland is exposed to strong currents and wind

Safety at sea

We’ve put a map together to highlight the danger zones along the St Davids and Solva peninsula. The racing tidal currents can be extremely dangerous to inexperienced paddlers. If you intend to explore Pembrokeshire by sea or land we encourage purchasing an OS map of the relevant area. The beaches and harbours mentioned above are included in this North Pembrokeshire Active Map which can be purchased here.

The suggested kayak trips from Whitesands, Solva and Porthclais only offer basic guidance and if you seek additional information swing by the TYF booking office in St Davids and they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

The sea is a magical place and can provide endless hours of joy, but it must be treated with respect. If the weather is not in your favour, don’t risk it, wait for a calmer day. Make sure you tell someone that you are on the water and inform them of your destination and estimated timings. If you notice someone in danger or distressed at sea dial 999 and ask for the coastguard. What Three Words is a great application that makes sharing remote locations easy, we’d recommend downloading it.