Tenby, Wales is a popular destination to visit, much due to its beautiful beaches, rich history and location in scenic Pembrokeshire. Surrounding the picturesque town are countless castles, the popular Pembrokeshire National Park, and even more stunning beaches. There are lots of great things to do in Tenby, as well as outside of the town limits, and in this post I hope to highlight some of the best.
Fun fact about me: At 17 I moved to the United Kingdom as part of the Education First Exchange Program. I had no idea where I would end up, and the time leading up to departure was nerve-wracking. I was finally told that I had been matched with a host family in Saundersfoot, just a 10 minute drive from Tenby, Wales. I had spent months assuming I would be living in England, so I had quite a lot of googling to do once I got that letter. Little did I know of Tenby being an absolute pearl in the South of Wales!
Need a place to stay? Read my list of the best Tenby accommodation!
About Tenby, Wales
Tenby is in the County of Pembrokeshire, and all though accessing it from outside the UK is not the easiest task in the world, it is well worth the trip! Simply jump on a plane to London or Cardiff and then get on a train. The train ride from London is approximately 5 hours and from Cardiff it’s around 2-3. You’ll have to switch in Swansea, and from there on you’ll wish trains had seatbelts. Once you get there you’ll forget all about the journey though!
Fun fact: The Welsh name for Tenby is Dinbych-y-pysgod, meaning ‘fortlet of the fish. Do you think you can pronounce it?
12 Things to do in Tenby
Surrounded by beaches, Tenby is a haven for fishermen and summer tourists. If you’re thinking of what to do in Tenby, the recipe is easy: spend a day lying on the beach, buy an ice cream form the cart and enjoy the sun. For lunch (or dinner, whatever floats your boat) drop by one of the many local ‘chippies’ for some real fish ‘n’ chips! There are several to choose from, but my favourite is on Upper Park Road.
#1 Go shopping
The streets of Tenby are absolutely adorable, and you’ll find lots of fun little shops throughout the town. From chain stores to unique family run little finds, there is something for everyone. Some local favourites are Equinox and Clarice Toy Shop.
You’ll find gifts, toys, interior and some great art shops scattered around the streets of Tenby, and going shopping is one of my favourite things to do there.
#2 Go on a ghost walk
A ghost walk is always a good time, and I was surprised to find that they had one in Tenby. The Tenby Ghost walk will tell you all about the eerie stories of Pembrokeshire and Tenby, while at the same time sharing some of the interesting history of the town. The ghost walk starts outside the Lifeboat Tavern, which is one of the pubs by the Square.
#3 Relax on the beach
Tenby is known for its stunning beaches surrounding it on almost all sides, so it’s with good reason that this made it to the list of things to do in Tenby. Whether you want to lie in the sun on South Beach or Castle Beach, or stroll along North Beach, you’ll find plenty of space, beautiful ocean views, and lots of seagulls (yayy..). Heading to the beach is not to be missed when visiting Tenby, Wales.
#4 Visit Caldey Island
Caldey Island is an island just outside of Tenby where you’ll find an old priory, an Abbey, and two beautiful churches. The island is mainly inhabitated by the Cistercian monks, who also own the island, in addition to around 40 permanent residents. If you don’t have time to head over to the island, there is a store in Tenby named Caldey Island Shop, where they sell treats and items from the island.
Fun fact: the monks actually make chocolate on Caldey Island, which is a popular souvenir to bring back home.
#5 Visit a castle
Personally, I love castles and history, and there are some great castles near Tenby. Don’t miss Pembroke Castle, where King Henry VII was born (you know, the guy who won the War of the Roses?). They put on reenactments and fairs from time to time, and the castle has even been used for the filming of several movies.
Another castle I love is Carew Castle, where there is said to be a ghost of a monkey haunting the towers! Enter if you dare.
#6 Head to St. Catherine’s Island
St. Catherine’s Island is a tidal island, which means that you can practically walk there when the tide is low. The island is where you can find St. Catherine’s Fort, a fortress build in 1867.
St. Catherine’s Island was actually not accessible when I was studying in Wales, but opened to the publish in 2014 (for the first time since 1979). So now you are free to visit the island whenever you’d like, and there are tours to join through the fort itself.
#7 Explore the ruins of Tenby Castle
You can’t visit Tenby without spending some time exploring Tenby Castle. There are mentions of the castle dating as far back as 1153, but the main structures remaining are from the 13th century. Tenby was a great place for a fortress and a castle, strategically speaking, and the castle was originally built by the Normans during the invasion in the 1100s, and then destroyed by the Welsh again.
200 years later, by the late 13th century, the Tenby town walls were built, which made the castle itself less needed. Jasper Tudor, the uncle of the above-mentioned King Henry VII, contributed to the improvements to the castle walls in the 1400s.
#8 Go on a guided tour to learn the Story of Tenby
Tenby is an incredibly interesting place, and a town drenched in history. That’s why anyone wondering what to do in Tenby shouldn’t have a problem finding something to do!
For example, King Henry VII (who, as mentioned, was born in Pembroke Castle just a short drive away) actually escaped from the beach in Tenby when he was sent into exile during the York rule in the War of the Roses. The remnants of the city walls also have a story to tell, and so this tour is not to be missed. Get all the info you need here.
#9 Visit the Tudor Merchant’s House
The oldest standing house in Tenby is the Tudor Merchant’s House, which is also a Grade I listed building. It operates as a museum of a historic house today, and is definitely one of the top things to do in Tenby! It is run by the National Trust today, and you’ll be able to see what it was like to run a merchant’s shop in the 1500s. The house itself would have belonged to a merchant trading with all the goods coming in and out of the harbour, as Tenby was a popular commercial port for trading.
#10 Go for a walk and take in the colours of the town
Tenby is a well-known image of the perfect Welsh fisherman’s town, with its colourful buildings, white beaches, and blue waters. So what better place to simply go for a walk?
Strolling through the streets of Tenby, you’ll find yourself utterly charmed by the beauty of the buildings, with it’s summery colours. It’s the perfect location for an #Instagram photo, right?
#11 Visit St. Mary’s Church
In the middle of Tenby, overlooking the town square, you can find St. Mary’s Church. Visiting the church is often overlooked amongst the things to do in Tenby, definitely something that should be on your list. The church dates back to the 15th century, with some features dating as far back as the 13th century.
Of historical interest is the tomb of Thomas White, who was Mayor of Tenby in the 15th century. He is mostly known for hiding the future King Henry VII from King Richard III before he later beat him in battle to seize the throne.
Side note: If you, like me, are interested in the War of the Roses and Tudor history, I strongly recommend Philippa Gregory‘s books! The Red Queen is one of my favourites, and it tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, King Henry VII’s mother, who gave birth to him at Pembroke Castle when she was just 13 (!), and spent her whole life fighting for his throne.
#12 Spend some time at the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery
Did you know that Tenby houses the oldest independent museum in Wales? That’s right, the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery was established in 1878, and is one of the absolute best things to do in Tenby, especially on a rainy day. The museum has an impressive collection of artefacts, and you can also find an impressive collection of images and crafts created by national (and local) artists.
The exhibitions cover topics ranging from local history and geology, to maritime history and even piracy (the latter is super interesting!).
What’s on in Tenby?
All year, and especially in the summer, there are lots of events and activities going on in Tenby, Wales. From the popular (and freezing) Boxing Day Swim to local productions and markets, there is there is always something to do. So if you’re wondering what’s on in Tenby during your visit, make sure to hit up these links before you go!
If you head this way, you can find a great calendar of date-specific things to do in Tenby.
On this link they share all upcoming activities in Tenby and the surrounding area, such as the Tenby Beer Festival, and a family-friendly ghost tour for Halloween.