Poppit Sands near Cardigan, in the Ceredigion region of West Wales, is a fantastic, family friendly beach in a country known for its fantastic beaches!
We stayed in the hamlet of Poppit, adjacent to Poppit Sands. After a difficult few months for our family, the relaxing and recharging week we spent here could not have been more perfect. For that reason, Poppit Sands will always be a special place for us.
Plus, it was one of our most budget friendly holidays ever! After the usual accommodation and food costs, we did not spend ANY money during our week long stay and yet our days were full of fun, adventure and activity.
Things to do in Poppit Sands, Cardigan
Poppit Sands Beach
The beach is huge; a broad expanse of pristine sand, backed by low sand dunes that provide welcome shade and shelter from wind and sun. It is so big it is easy to find a quiet spot even on a busy summer day.
The dog friendly, Blue Flag beach is perfect for a lazy day playing beach games, building sandcastles or exploring the rock pools at the base of Cemares Head. The sea has a gentle incline making it ideal for paddling or swimming; plus the beach is patrolled in summer months by lifeguards who have a station on the beach.
The beach is nestled between two headlands and forms part of the Teifi Estuary. It is possible to walk along the banks of the estuary to nearby St Dogmaels but make sure you check Poppit Sands tide times as the incoming tide moves quickly and you may get cut off. The banks of the estuary are a peaceful spot for fishing so don’t forget to pack your rods and nets.
There are public toilets and a small shop at the lifeguard station. A fee paying car park is set back from the beach (a one minute walk away) and boasts the friendly Poppit Sands Cafe with outdoor seating overlooking the beach.
Poppit Sands beach is special. It not spoilt with arcades or fun fair rides, it never feels crowded and, as it is set away from major roads and car parks, it is blissfully quiet.
We stayed in Cardigan Bay Holiday Park, a quiet, secluded site just five minutes walk from the beach. As a result, we spent a lot of time on the beach; one of the highlights of our trip was an evening BBQ watching the changing colours of sunset reflected onto the wet sand.
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
Another aspect that makes Poppit Sands so special is its proximity to the 300 kilometre long Pembrokeshire Coastal Path which passes through Poppit Sands beach to culminate (or start) just down the road in St Dogmaels village.
Breath taking scenery from cliff top walks can be easily accessed from Poppit Sands beach. The coastal paths are well maintained and signposted but are rough earthen paths so wear appropriate footwear.
The paths are very narrow at times and can run close to the edge of the cliff so keep you need to keep children close to hand. Some parts of the path really tested my nerves and head for heights!
We did several walks from Poppit Sands, none of which required any driving. The views were incredible.
One of the most popular trails from Poppit beach winds around dramatic Cemmaes Head, running along the stunning coastline to Ceibwr Bay. This stretch incorporates the coastal paths highest point, Pen Yr Afr, 547 feet above sea level.
Along this full day hike, walkers will spot interesting geological formations and wildlife including seals and dolphins in the waters below. On a clear day you can see as far as the North Wales mountains. I was taken aback by the diversity of colour in the sea, something I had not expected in U.K coastal waters.
Return the way you came or if you have an OS map for this area, take a series of woodland paths and cross country trails to return to Poppit Sands. We did this but I don’t think we would have achieved it without a good map.
Alternatively catch the handy Poppit Rocket bus back to Poppit Sands.
Without doubt one of the best things to do in Cardigan Bay (and the most budget friendly) is to explore the regions fantastic beaches. Each beach will offer different scenery but our favourite was the small sandy cove at Mwnt.
We visited Mwnt on a VERY blustery day. If you wish to climb the headland which gave the beach its name, I would advise against attempting it on a windy day! We could barely stand up.
Mwnt is around a 30 minute winding drive from Poppit Sands, 4.5 miles north of Cardigan. There is a fee paying National Trust owned car park with public toilets here. Adjacent to the car park is a picture perfect little white church with clifftop coastal paths leading off in either direction.
Across the road from the car park, a set of stone steps descend onto the small, sheltered sandy beach. There are some interesting rock formations here and not a lot of space for games on a busy summer day but it is a beautiful scenic spot and atmospheric in bad weather. Bring your binoculars as we spotted dolphins in the sea on the day we visited.
Other family friendly beaches in the area include Aberporth (lovely little rock pools), lifeguard patrolled Llangrannog and Tresaith Beach with its pretty beach side waterfall.
St Dogmaels Abbey
St Dogmaels Abbey are the ruins of a monastery founded here in the 12th century. Adjacent to the ruins is the Coach House Heritage Centre with displays on the history of the abbey and surrounding area as well as a collection of inscribed, Celtic era stones. A Farmers Market is also held here every Tuesday.
Entry to the abbey ruins and visitors centre is free though a donation to charity is appreciated.
Welsh Wildlife Centre
The wildlife centre is free to enter but you must pay to park.
Enjoy scenic walks around the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve here using well placed observation hides to spot kingfishers and, if you are lucky, otters. Kids will love the on site adventure playground and the free to borrow ‘Adventure Packs’ which include a geocaching trail. There is also an excellent cafe and toilets on site.
Fee paying things to do near Poppit Sands
It is easy to spend all your time – and no money – playing on the beaches or hiking the coastline but if you do wish to explore the local area, here are some ideas for you.
Explore the recently restored remains of the 12th century castle and walls and visit the Georgian mansion within. The mansion has exhibits about the history of the castle and the people who lived there. The 2 acre Regency era gardens contains some rare plants and are also worth visiting. Join a tour to get the most out of your visit.
Cost – adults £6, children £3, family ticket (2d+2c) £15.
Several companies in the area organise fishing trips, dolphin watching tours and surfing lessons. See Visit Mid Wales for recommendations.
Adventurous families can chose between canoeing, coasteering, climbing and sea kayaking. Cardigan Bay Active also hire canoes and paddle boards for those wishing to have a go.
Expect to pay around £40 per person for a surfing lesson, £45 for coasteering and sea kayaking and around £50 per person for a two hour dolphin watching trip. Note that some trips and activities have a minimum age limit.
Where to stay in Poppit Sands, Cardigan (on a budget of course!)
Cardigan Bay Holiday Park
This immaculate caravan site is probably the nicest caravan site we have ever stayed at!
We rented a three bedroom static caravan with its own outdoor space. The site is spacious, clean and quiet, lying in a secluded wooded valley – this is not a rowdy, arcade filled site!
There is a spacious heated indoor pool, a bar and a restaurant. It is a one minute drive to Poppit Sands car park on a one lane road or a short ten minute walk along a shaded woodland path. Plus, there are several hiking paths accessible from the site.
YHA Poppit Sands
This youth hostel has to occupy one of the most enviable positions for any youth hostel in the U.K.
The stone built hostel occupies a five acre plot on a hillside above Poppit Sands. It provides guests with glorious views of the beach and surrounding countryside.
The self catering only hostel has communal dining and living rooms, en-suite rooms and a useful cycle store.
Holiday homes at Poppit Sands
There are no holiday home rentals in Poppit Sands (it is a tiny hamlet!) so you will need to stay in nearby St. Dogmaels.
St Dogmaels is a charming village with limited parking. If this is an issue, make sure you read the listings carefully.
Larger families will love the space on offer at the gorgeous, 4 bed Rose Cottage which offers free Wifi, the all important washing machine and a rarity, a dishwasher.
Or check out the picture perfect 2 bedroom Trefaes which boasts scenic views.
If you have visited Poppit Sands I would love to hear your budget holiday tips for this area!