The Waterford coast is something of a hidden gem, treasured by those who know it but often overlooked by visitors. Aside from a string of small fishing villages and a number of marinas popular with sailors it has some of the loveliest beaches on the east coast.
There is everything from the hustle and bustle of Tramore – a hugely popular resort town – to small rural beaches where even in the best days of Summer you’ll find peace and seclusion. Good surfing is available at a number of locations and other water sports are catered for at larger centres.
The Copper Coast
From Kilfarrasy Beach to Stradbally is a 17km stretch known as the Copper Coast, named for the historic tradition of copper mining in the area. This is now a UNESCO recognised Geopark, with records of Palaeozoic volcanos and the last ice age. A visit to the Geopark visitor centre is recommended, but even without it the drive along this stretch of coastline is a spectacular one.
A small sheltered sandy beach in the pretty town of Ardmore, popular with families and with a number of caravan sites close by. The waters are shallow, making it very safe for kids, and life guards are on duty in summer. The nearby Cliff House Hotel has a well deserved reputation for as a foodie destination, very popular for short breaks.
There are lots of places worth visting locally, most notably Ardmore Round Tower. However it’s not the best beach in the area and unless you are based in Ardmore I’d say seek out a nearby option instead.
Another hugely popular beach, long and sandy with dunes at the back and cliffs at either end providing shelter. Very popular with families, there are caravan parks nearby and the small village has good amenities, with a kids playground, restaurants, pubs and amusements for those less sunny days.
It’s an excellent beach for learning to surf, with good but not huge waves and a sandy bottom to cushion your falls – the local surf school will also rent gear to visitors.
Tra na mBó
Close to Bunmahon, this small beach surrounded by high cliffs is a real gem. The name in English means ‘Beach of the Cow’, though I’ve no idea where that came from. A distinctive feature is a huge and imposing ‘standing stone’, jutting out of the sand in a most improbable way. It looks man made and has been confused by some with rather similar looking megalithic remains but it is a natural occurrence.
Get there by taking the cliff walk for about 2km from the path beside Hayes’ Pub in Bunmahon, a fantastic walk with magnificent cliff views. There is a steep grassy path leading down to the beach. You are very likely to be alone.
The beach has no lifeguard service and is steep with quite a strong undertow so swim with caution. It’s in an isolated place with no immediate amenities but even if just for a look at the stone and it’s beautiful surroundings is well worth visiting.
Long and sandy with magnificent views and great coastal walks nearby, this beach is very popular with people from Waterford city. The beach is scattered with small rocky outcrops which means lots of rock pools for catching crabs. There are a number of caravan parks closeby and a couple of car parks – watch out though, one of them is free and the other is privately owned and is not, so don’t end up paying by mistake.
Kite surfing and wind surfing are available locally, and there are shops and a few places to eat in Clonea village. It can get a bit crowded in summer, but at other times is generally deserted. Lifeguards on duty in Summer.
Dunmore East is a small and pretty town built into a hill which slopes steeply to the sea. It’s a working fishing port and also has a marina and yacht club, as well as two popular beaches.
Counseller’s Strand is small and bordered at one end by steep rocks, but is very popular for its safe bathing and possibly also because on a sunny day you can sit on the veranda of a nearby pub, sipping a cooler, while still keeping a close watch on small ones on the beach. At low tide you can walk (or swim) around the rocks at the south end from this beach to Dunmore Strand, a slightly less crowded and sandier beach which is also accessible by road.
Dunmore, aside from the beaches, is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours just wandering around from harbour to marina to beach, doing nothing in particular.
Tramore is a real holiday town, packed all summer long with both families there for a holiday and day trippers. The town bustles with typical seaside activity – amusement arcades, carnivals, ice cream vendors, pubs and fish and chip shops abound and there is a vibrant nightlife. It’s fun if not to everyone’s taste, often crowded and noisy, but the beach itself is a treasure, stretching for miles along a narrow spit of land that almost reaches across Tramore Bay.
The shallow beach is a mixture of stone – mostly towards the town side – and sand with dunes in parts and long enough that if you walk even a short distance away from town there are secluded areas to be found, even at the busiest of times. There is a very good surf centre on the beach where you can hire gear and lots of other water sports are available. For non-beach lovers there is golf, horse riding and numerous other activities on offer locally too. Lifeguards are on duty throughout summer.
Really beautiful, if a bit off the beaten track, this is a sandy beach backed by cliffs and with many rocky outcrops which give it a unique character. It’s almost always quiet, even in the summer it rarely gets crowded and it will not be unusual if you are the only person here.
The light on the beach is gorgeous in the setting sun and is a great place for walks in the evening. There are no shops or other amenities in the area, but if you want to get away from the crowds in Tramore, a 10 minute drive will whisk you to a different world. There are no life guards, so although swimming here is considered safe, do take care.
A stunning little beach, popular with locals who seem keen to keep this glorious secret to themselves. When the tide is out it’s a reasonable size, with lots of damp sand perfect for making sand castles. When the tide comes in it gets a good deal smaller, but now, if you are the adventurous type, you can do some cliff jumping.
The rocky cliffs and the sea stack are also popular with abseilers and this beach is commonly used by the adventure centre based in Ardmore. It’s also a good place for rock fishing. But despite all that it is a quiet place, with nothing much nearby and you get a real sense of having stepped away from the world.
There are no life guard services, but with caution swimming is safe. It can be hard to find, but you could try asking locally for directions – they might even tell you!
This is my personal favourite beach in Waterford, in a deep cove with high cliffs along both sides and a small river running down one side of the beach into the sea. It’s unusual, a very narrow and deep beach and especially when the tide is out it’s a good walk to the shoreline. But low tide is the best time to explore the caves and small inlets in the cliffs.
Although there are no life guards, the beach is very shallow, you’ll be a good distance into the water before it even hits your knees, so it’s very safe for small kids to splash around in. A walk along the cliff top – which can be accessed from the beach, is well worth doing. It’s fairly popular in high summer, though very rarely crowded.
Nearby Stradbally village is a small and charming place, with a central green and just enough shops not to leave you stranded.
Though the beach here is tiny and with strong currents and a tide that races in all but covering the entire beach is unsuitable for swimming (though people do), I’m including it because it’s lovely and because it’s a sort of secret among surfers when seas are high. The cove is horseshoe shaped and small, with rocky hills rising on both sides.
It’s also a great place for spectacular photographs – the image at the top of the page is Kilmurrin – almost any time but especially just as the sun begins to rise. Very off the beaten track and with nothing around it, though there is space to park close by.