Bristol is well placed to access the many beautiful beaches in the South-West and Wales. Once you’re there, the activity possibilities are endless, especially if it’s sunny. Don’t be put off by the weather though, walking on a windy beach is exciting and invigorating, and you can still trawl the beaches for shells, driftwood, rocks and other interesting flotsam and jetsam.

Don’t forget the kit – There’s loads of stuff to do on the beach, especially if you’ve remembered to bring the right equipment:

  • shovels and buckets for sandcastles
  • plastic bags for collecting shells, pebbles and driftwood, and for taking away your rubbish
  • balls - football, tennis, volleyball - for games
  • kites
  • windbreaks or umbrellas
  • snorkels (we can dream, can’t we?) and goggles
  • frisbees, cricket bats, tennis rackets, etc.

Football and cricket are lots of fun on a flat beach – just take lots of tennis balls. Or invest in those hard bats and balls or badminton rackets and shuttle cocks - they won’t break the bank.

Try and take some kind of info to help you identify what you find in rock pools and learn a bit about its lifestyle. You’ll be surprised - even 15 year olds can be transfixed for over an hour with this activity!

For a little pocket resource of other ideas, get hold of these playing cards - 52 Fun Things to do at the Beach by Lynne Gordon, Chronicle Books.

Seasports Southwest - Based in South Devon, offer a range of sea sport activities including Windsurfing, Sailing, and Kayaking. They offer 2 or 5-day activity programmes leading to a RYA youth qualification.

For info on the UK coastline - including facts for kids – visit the National Trust website. 

Safety near water - There’s no need to stress how important this is. Below are a couple of key points to keep in mind.

- Activity Expertise - All specialist activities undertaken on trips must only led by appropriately qualified people, whether they are project staff or from a different organisation. Contact Bristol City Council to make sure that you adhere to the guidelines they set out and that you meet risk assessment criteria. The group leader and other supervisors should monitor the risks throughout the visit and take appropriate action as necessary. 

- Dangers of Digging in the Sand - Deep holes in sand can be dangerous. A number of deaths do occur every year from holes that collapse, trapping and suffocating the builder. Warn your group before they begin and keep your eyes peeled.

- Tracking the Tide - The tide goes in and out twice in every 24 hours, so check what it will be doing so you can organise your day accordingly and stay safe. You can get hold of tide timetables from local tourist information centres, the coastguards, newsagents or South West Coast Path Guide.

Further Health and Safety Info - Download a copy of Water Safety for Children and Young People from ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).


Beach Day Trips

Exmouth, Devon (1½ hours drive) - Water sports (windsurfing, pedallos, etc), amusement park with arcades, safe sandy beach and just a few miles from Crealy Adventure Park.

Lynmouth, Somerset (2hrs drive) – historic beach and town, on steep slopes with tiny roads. Good rock pooling and sweet seaside shopping with lots of other things to do: cliff railway, Lynmouth Flood Trail Walk, Valley of the Rocks. Roughly an hour’s drive away is the interesting village of Clovelly. You can also visit the Exmoor National Park Visitor Centre in Lynmouth itself.

Sandy Bay, Dorset, nr Bridport (2 hours drive) – On the Dorset coastal path, sand and pebbles, good driftwood to make fires, brilliant for fossil hunting if you walk west, fish and chips and ice-cream, and a pub on beach. From here you can walk to Golden Cap, one of highest cliffs in England. Charmouth and Lyme Regis nearby are also fantastic for fossil hunting and fossil shops.

Southerndown, Wales, just beyond Cardiff (1-1 ½ hours drive) - Big beach, good for games, and rock pools. Lifeguard on duty (check season), cliff walks nearby and a teashop. If your group are adventurous (and prepared), follow the cliff walk to the next beach, which is more secluded.

Weymouth, Dorset (2 hours drive) - Good sandy beach, safe for swimming and with sea and shopping close by. Ring the local Tourist board, T: 01305 785 747 to check the date of the annual Carnival and International Firework Display – a day of free entertainment and beach events. Highly recommended by Bristol youth groups. 


Beach Art

Beach art is just that – make what you can from the materials on the beach. The process is about beachcombing, looking for bits and pieces that attract you and then putting them together in any way that pleases. You could get the ball rolling with a bit of a competition, or get your whole group to work together on a joint sculpture.

Sand is fantastic, a very flexible sculpting material. It’s easy to shape into castles or mermaids, boats or cars, which can be as huge or tiny as you like. Remember that sand castles need a big base if they are going to be high. For a weird and whacky castle, drizzle wet sand from high above – this is also good for doing details like windows or arms and legs as it helps to keep the sand sticky.

Use stones and pebbles as decoration or paving, eyeballs, toes or fingers, or stack them up on each other as Neolithic landscapes. Look around for shells and seaweed, which you can drape over your sculpture for extra effect.

Other things that have been washed up can be fascinating too. Often they have been smoothed by the sea and can encourage even more creative inspiration. Keep an eye out for glass and sharp metals as you hunt around.

Encourage your group to let their imaginations and engineering skills run wild (with a bit of support when it goes wrong or the sea washes their masterpieces away).

Poetry and big signs written in the sand with a good stick are very satisfying - if possible, climb up the dunes or cliffs and look at what you’ve written from a distance. Take a video or photos of what has been made – then it won’t matter when the tides take your art back out to sea.


Bender Building

See Survival Skills



Biking is a good way to get around, especially if you know how to look after your bike yourself. The Bristol Bike Project, Jakes Bikes and Life Cycle UK all offer Bike Maintenance courses here in Bristol.

To go on a longer bike ride, link up with Young Bristol – see Mountain Biking – or try the South Somerset Cycle Route - only 80 miles long!

A great loop around Wells and Glastonbury, part of the National Byway, consists of 600 miles within the South West and 105 miles within Somerset.  The beauty of the Byway is that the route winds along Somerset's myriad quiet lanes and not the main roads.  Byway maps are available at £4.50 each from the National Byway website.

For other ideas of where to go cycling around the country, visit the Sustrans website.

Cycle Safety – For more Information regarding cycling safely see the Directgov website.


Bird Watching

Bird watching is not all about sitting quietly in a hide watching (although that can be good fun for a short while) - there are also places to see working birds of prey, feeding times, rare flocks, etc. It’s worth taking a good bird book and a pair of binoculars with you.

Many bird-watching spots are beautiful, tranquil and remote – and some can include a boat trip as well. Visit Skokholm Island off the coast of west Wales, for example. One of the best sites local to Bristol is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge between Bristol and Gloucester. Its award-winning visitor centre overlooks protected wetlands and is an important wintering area for migrating water birds. Other ideas: take a trip to Wilsbridge Mill or contact Avon Wildlife Trust. 

Good places to go for birds of prey are Bossington Farm & Birds of Prey Centre, Exmoor Falconry & Animal Farm, near Porlock, Somerset, or Cotswolds Falconry Centre.

Starling Murmurations - Every year between November and March, starlings gather in their thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, to roost in the early evenings. The birds make magnificent patterns in the sky as they gather over their favourite places to spend the night. One of the best places to see them is on the Somerset Levels at the Nature Reserves of Westhay MoorShapwick Heath and RSPB Ham Wall. A winters evening, watching the starlings on the Somerset Levels is something that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. For more information take a look at the Visit Somerset website.

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) provides loads of information on nature reserves, bird watching and conservation. The site’s Wildlife and Conservation section provides information on birds in the region, and tips for anyone who wants to become a birdwatcher, observe wildlife or become a volunteer.

Fat Birder is a site dedicated to the best bird watching points in Wales. Pick a specific area through the map interface. Details and information on specific species can also be found, with photographs and a useful books and links lists.

See Environment for other luscious places to visit out of the city. 



Ah, boating … rowing gently across the lake … feeding the ducks … For a traditional approach to boating, try the boating lake in Portishead, close to the new indoor pool – see Swimming – one of the few left in the area. Or visit Avon Valley Country Park, Keynsham - they still have rowing boats, as well as a great play area, animals, mini-quads, picnic/BBQ.

Young Bristol own a 70' long, 12 berth narrow boat with wheelchair access available for day hire and residential trips. If you do their licence training, you can take groups out on your own. 

Pride of Bristol Trust run educational/fun trips down the Severn and Avon Rivers on a 24 metre ex-Royal Navy ship. They also organise FREE team building seamanship for 12-24 year-olds.

The Bristol Ferry Boat Company runs harbour trips, goes up and down the River Avon, and travels between key points in the city – Temple Meads, Watershed, Industrial Museum, SS Great Britain, etc. See their website for timetables. The Bristol Packet also runs river and harbour boat excursions.

For a fantastic boating day out, contact Waverley Excursions. They have wonderful old wooden boats that cruise the Bristol Channel between May and October. Some boats leave from Bristol (Hotwells) as well as stopping regularly at Clevedon pier, sailing all down the Bristol Channel as well as over to the funfair at Barry Island.