When you go on summer holiday with children, the main aim is usually to spend time on the beach. For 3 years running we’ve always gone camping with friends in the same week, and so far have had pretty good weather throughout. This year though, only going for 4 nights instead of the usual 6, and we weren’t as lucky. We had 2 beautiful days of sunshine – arrival day and the second day, and did manage to make the most of it by getting onto the beach.
We were camping at Three Cliffs Bay campsite which is on the Gower Peninsula, Wales. It’s a geography student’s ideal location – right near the study centre I went to for my 4th year geography field trip, and several of us swore we’d been to Three Cliffs Bay for river and beach studies on those previous study trips too. The coast is really rugged and wild, and we’d checked out the beaches with lifeguards because we’d seen online that several Welsh beaches near the campsite weren’t safe for going in the water.
(on an aside, I didn’t even use my good mirrorless or my compact camera this holiday because I was lent a Samsung Galaxy 8 from Three to review. The photos it takes are amazing – and the battery lasted 2.5 days, so no need for any other cameras each day to retain the phone battery!)
Here’s two of the beaches we checked out.
Three Cliffs Bay
After reading prior to our visit that it wasn’t safe for bathing or body boarding in, we discovered there are now lifeguards there during the summer months. Perfect because it’s a beautiful bay and was just calling out for us to go exploring. After a failed effort to find a parking space at Caswell Bay, we decided that we’d just walk the 20 minutes down from the campsite to stay closer to home.
Life so many beaches in the Gower, the access is hard going. There are a couple of routes down from the campsite (you can also pay as a non-camper to park at the site, or can park in the field car park and access it past Pennard Castle ruins), but neither option are wheelchair friendly. It’s a long way downhill, down gravelly, rocky paths, and either across sand dunes or across stepping stones and rocks. We did meet cattle coming up as we were going down, and a family with a buggy! Let’s just say, while the beach is amazing, it’s a long hard walk back up and not one I fancied doing more than once, however pretty the beach. We were glad we only took a few of our beach gear items and not the usual car load.
You can’t go on the beach when the tide is in, because the river fills in, there’s bad currents, and danger of hitting the stepping stones etc. When we arrived the sea was out, but it does come in quickly. We spent our hour there just moving bags back (the guys who got there earlier had set up ‘camp’ fairly close to the sea) every 20 minutes.
It’s a spectacular location from the top or the bottom of the cliffs. Having the stepping stones across the river makes it a bit more magical, the sunset over it if the position is right, is beautiful, and it’s exclusive enough (presumably because of the walk back up) that there’s lots of beach space.
N did a bit of body boarding with the others before I got there, until he realised he’d seen a crab and wasn’t keen after that. Thankfully, he’s happy with a spade. Although he did get a bit bored, and we left before the others (which meant a more ‘relaxing’ walk back up to the campsite).
If you’re fit, healthy and like a good walk, then Three Cliffs Bay is a beautiful beach setting. It’s not a full beach day place for us though – no toilets or refreshments. For those you have to go back up to the campsite.
If you’re after an easier walk to the beach, then it’s worth checking out Caswell Bay. We tried on the first afternoon we arrived but the car park was rammed, and the smaller car park up the hill was also too full. We were told you need to get there by 10am otherwise there won’t be spaces left. Even car sharing, there were going to be 5 vehicles to park, so the next day we vowed to be there before 9am.
Let’s just say that arriving then meant a choice of the whole car park! At £5 for the day, it’s a bargain and getting there early – when it was high tide, meant we could have a coffee in the café before setting up our spot at the rear of the beach and letting the children follow the sea out.
With toilets, showers, cafes, beach shop and lifeguard, not forgetting surf school, there’s plenty for families if they’re spending the day at the beach.
Although the car park fills up, and the beach gets bigger as the sea goes out, the beach was never full. It was some trek down to the low tide, but it’s a small enough bay to be able to look out and see where the kids are without having to hover over them.
With the tide going out there was so much for the children to do. The older ones spent a lot of time body boarding even though once it was low tide the surf wasn’t doing much. After last year and loving body boarding, N wasn’t fussed this year and preferred to dig. Rock pooling was a favourite too, and with caves to explore, they kept the children interested for hours. They found 2 starfish, sea anemone, a sea snail and a mini crab. Oh and a bubbling sandy sink hole which they loves surprising each other with – it had surprisingly freezing cold water compared to the other remaining water spots.
The 6 year olds were kept happy with body boarding by the rock pools and playing with boats bought from the beach shop.
Lunch was a nice easy hot dog / burger / chips option from one of the cafes. The Surf Café is more gourmet burgers, so we opted for the faster food version – the burgers were delicious so much better value. But then everything tastes better eaten outside by the sea.
One phenomenon we’d not expected to see was the sea mist coming into shore. At first it was just shimmering over the sea, but came some way in. It was quite a picture although the children were very underwhelmed by it.
Caswell Bay kept everyone entertained for hours, with us only going back to the car early afternoon. It was a perfect family beach – with the car park close enough to pop back for anything else we needed, and toilets and refreshments nearby too.
It was a shame the weather for the rest of our holiday wasn’t better, because we’d have certainly made the most of the bay options and found some others to visit as well.
Have you been to any Gower beaches? Where would you recommend for family beach days?
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