While road-tripping around South Wales in 2022, Tenby repeatedly cropped up as one of the most popular spots to visit. Even though the population is around 5,000, every year 2.5 million visitors flock here and more than half of those travel from outside of Wales. After seeing this little seaside town for ourselves, we understand why! This beautiful town is full of hidden gems and so much history. With St. David’s Day just two weeks away, here’s why you need to plan a trip to Tenby:

The beaches

Of course no trip to a seaside town is complete without putting your toes in the sand! Even on a chilly March day, the sun shone down on us as we strolled along South beach, watching families playing games together and dogs running up and down the long stretch of sand. The South beach ends in a kind of cove – Castle beach – where most people sit to enjoy the sun with a row of colourful houses lining the rocks above.

We admired St. Catherine’s island as we climbed the stone steps to Tenby Castle above, before heading along to North beach which we found to be much quieter. It’s here you’ll find the most popular photography spot in Tenby, as you turn the corner to find a cove of pretty painted houses along Harbour beach – more on those below!

The colourful buildings

If you, like us, head to Instagram for travel pictures to inspire your trips, then you will have seen the painted houses in Tenby from every conceivable angle. There’s nothing like seeing these rows of coloured houses in person, and the whole town has brightly-painted buildings down every secret street and cobbled alleyway. The daffodils lining those on the beachfront in the Spring make for a very patriotic Welsh scene – perfect for our trip just a few days before St. David’s Day!

The picturesque Georgian houses themselves are reminiscent of vintage British postcards, and are even prettier in the sunshine as all the colours stand out boldly against one another. Legend has it that fishermen would paint their homes in varying colours so they could recognise their own as they returned from long trips at sea. It’s this rich tapestry of history woven through the streets in Tenby that make it such a special place to visit.

The history

Tenby is brimming with sites of interest everywhere you look. At low tide on South beach, visitors can walk to the tidal island of St. Catherine’s to learn more about this Napoleonic fort and view its main gun deck. Back on the beach, visitors can climb the steep stairs up to Castle Hill to view the remains of the 12th century Tenby Castle. Tenby Museum and Art Gallery is situated here in a building believed to be the castle’s hall. Most of the town walls in Tenby were built in the 13th century, and these walls are remarkably complete, creating a maze of narrow, characterful streets that make up the town. It’s magical to wander through the alleyways here, and there’s something to see around every corner. The National Trust owned Tudor Merchant’s house gives visitors a real glimpse into how life would have looked for a merchant in the 15th century, and the three levels are packed full of locally-made reproductions of historically-accurate objects.

Back on the coast path you’ll find a distinctive red and white building at the end of a long platform out to sea. Now a privately-owned home, this building was once Tenby’s lifeboat station. We stood to admire this quaint building for a while – it’s a total dream house and definitely worth a Google search to see what it looks like inside! The new RNLI lifeboat station is open to the public so visitors can learn more about the services the volunteers provide, and if you’re lucky you might catch a practice launch of one of their lifeboats.

The cafes

Seeing as Chris has to plan our days around food stops (I get snacky) we spent some time searching for the perfect place to pause for a bite to eat. In the end there were just too many to choose from so we went to two! After sight-seeing all morning we headed to the small Pembrokeshire Pasty and Pie Company to grab a hot pasty from their abundant array of fillings, and sat outside on a public bench to enjoy some people-watching.

When the weather turned colder in the afternoon, we chose Caffe Vista to stop for a cup of hot chocolate and a generous slice of cake each. We had two reasons for choosing this cafe from the dozens that line the streets. One: it’s dog-friendly and we made friends with a sweet Labrador puppy at the adjacent table, and two: the floor-to-ceiling window at the back of the cafe has a stunning view across Tenby harbour! They also have an outdoor terrace overlooking the beach here – a coveted spot in warmer weather. As the terrace was covered by shade on that chilly February afternoon during our visit, we felt good about our warm interior seating choice. If you get snacky like Suze, plan where to eat in advance when you visit Tenby as you’re absolutely spoilt for choice with fantastic cafes once you arrive!

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