There are numerous ways to discover the North Wales coastline but, says Kate Hamilton, the best has to be by boat.
The beauty of our coastline is immense. From sandy beaches to rugged rocks, bustling harbours to quiet coves, North Wales has it all. And the only way to see the complete coastline is by boat – but what type of boat is another matter entirely.
For most of us a day trip is the answer. On the one hand it is a fun day out, on the other you have the benefit of being guided by experts who really know their coastal stuff.
Seawake operates The Beast – the biggest fastest rib on the Menai Strait. Departing from Beaumaris Pier, the Beast offers unique wildlife tours. Its experienced local skippers have a knack of being able to find dolphins and porpoises as well as plenty of seals and a huge variety of seabirds (puffins as well) around Puffin Island.
All of Seawake’s boats are coded by the M.C.A. for passenger work up to 20 miles off shore. Its skippers are all very experienced and local so you will be in safe hands at all times, and its boat trips are suitable for children from three years up wards, so the whole family can enjoy getting out on the water together.
Seawake also offers a Bridges one hour trip down the Menai Straits underneath Telfords Menai Suspension Bridge, Stevensons Britannia Bridge and on towards Plas Newydd.
Another rib company operating off the coast of Anglesey is RibRide Adventure Boat Tours.
Voted as number one of 13 things to do in Menai Bridge, and number one of 267 Outdoor Activities in North Wales on TripAdvisor, RibRide has a Blue Flag Award – Sustainable Boat Tour Operators.
The company offers tours by the seat, but it makes much more sense for families and groups to charter a whole boat. This can be for one hour, two hours, half a day or a whole day. Booking the whole RIB allows you flexibility – you can choose a start time, destination and itinerary. You may want to have a one-to-one tour, a romantic tour-for-two or bring the family – the choice is yours.
RibRide operates all year round, but its summer trips to the islands of the Skerries are an exceptional experience.
Meanwhile Seacoast Safaris is based in the town of Beaumaris, making it perfectly positioned to offer wildlife packed boat trips.
“We take great pleasure in bringing people closer to the very best of Anglesey’s wildlife,” says co-owner Nadine Jones, who has a background in Marine Biology having studied at Bangor University – and is one of only a handful female skippers in the UK.
“We still offer SCUBA diving charters and other commercial operations, but it’s mostly about the wildlife and sightseeing tours these days,” she explains. “As the seasons change we see different things, Puffin Island is where it’s all happening between April and July, but come August most of the visiting seabirds have left.
“In the early Autumn as the leaves are changing colour and the wading birds are lining the banks of the Menai Straits, it’s a lovely cruise down and under the bridges and then towards the end of Autumn the seal pups start to arrive and they can be seen out at Puffin Island. The Cruises run between April and October but we have RIBs available all year round.”
Seacoast Safaris is the only operator in the area to have a range of vessels to offer different boating experiences, from 90-minute family cruises aboard its passenger vessel Cerismar Two, to action packed adventure RIB rides. Next year the company will be running Premier Cruises on its brand-new vessel Neptune Explorer, offering yet more variety and extended cruises.
If your idea of getting out on the water involves you being in charge of your own vessel however then fear not, as there are plenty of water based activities available in North Wales.
Plas Menai is the National Outdoor Centre for Wales, based on the banks of the Menai Strait and has loads going on this summer for those looking to get out onto the water. Try out their catamaran sailing, dinghy sailing, paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaking or canoeing three-hour taster sessions, running on selected dates throughout the summer. They provide all the kit and equipment, so all you need to bring is your swimming togs and some footwear for on the water.
If all of these day trips and courses have really whetted your appetite for the water, then it might be time to take the plunge and buy a boat of your own.
Doug Edwards Yachts is a sailing yacht and powerboat brokerage in Beaumaris. It sells good quality used boats on behalf of their owners for a small commission – in a similar way as an estate agent sells houses.
From its premises at Gallows Point boatyard in Beaumaris, Doug Edwards Yachts is superbly positioned to serve all of North Wales. Doug Edwards has been a yacht broker for 14 years and has sold over 500 sail and powerboats, ranging from £2,000 to £250,000.
“We have many other boats available of various sizes and to suit most budgets, these are displayed in our shop window and also on several websites,” explains Doug. “While, for boat owners looking to sell, our sales commissions are the lowest in North Wales, we don’t charge VAT and commissions start from just £299 on sale. We also operate on a no sale, no fee basis.”
Of course, if the coastline is a sight to see from the water, so are boats viewed from the shore. Every year the Menai Strait is home to a two-week classic sailing regatta. Over 100 boats of all different sizes and class race for town cups presented each day and, unlike Cowes Regatta, this event visits different venues each day.
The regatta started in Beaumaris in 1860 when a group of sailors met as a book club, then later Royal Anglesey Yacht Club was formed and races continued every year with just two breaks for the First and Second World Wars.
The cannons and spectacle from the start line of the regatta are something very special, with many visitors spending hours watching the boats tack backwards and forwards.