Enjoying Water On Your Travels
As the days get longer and slightly warmer, I find myself thinking about taking a walk along a beach, lake or even a riverside. I find time spent by water to be refreshing and exhilarating., even better if the sun is shining and there is a pub or cafe to sit and enjoy a drink afterwards! With no beaches or lakes near me at present, writing about them seems the next best thing. Here’s my guide to some of my favourites around the world.
The Gower Peninsular, Wales UK
The Gower Peninsular is just a short drive from Swansea in South Wales. The Gower Peninsular is breath-taking with a rich and varied environment of sandy beaches, moors and limestone cliffs. The 19-mile peninsular starts at Mumbles and extends westwards. This year the Gower Peninsula celebrates 62 years since becoming the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956. Last year we went to Three Cliffs Bay and enjoyed a great hike through the sand dunes, getting great views over the bay and beyond.
The Worms Head, Wales UK
The Worms Head, Rhossili, marks the most western tip of Gower. The following bit of text is taken from the explore Gower website, describing the 'Worm':
'Historically named 'Wurm' meaning 'dragon' by Viking invaders, the promontory, Worm's Head, is shaped like a giant sea-serpent and marks the most westerly tip of Gower. The island is joined to the mainland by a rocky causeway and features an large flat-topped 'Inner Head', towards a natural rock bridge called 'Devil's Bridge', a 'Low Neck' leading further out to the 'Outer Head'. The headland is one mile long and the highest point is approximately 150 feet.'
If you walk across the causeway to get to the 'Worm', make sure you check the tide timetable. The rocky causeway is only exposed for two and half hours before and after low tide – you wouldn't want to get stuck for half a day with no facilities! There is also the spectacular Rhossili beach to walk along and explore if you don't fancy crossing the causeway.
Barry Island and Jackson's Bay, South Wales UK
I have written about these beaches before. They are where I spent most of my school summer holidays and visited on many occasions since, and they are places very dear to my heart. If you find yourself wanting to travel to South Wales, they are definitely worth a visit to enjoy coastal walks or just sitting on a beach.
This place has attracted visitors since around the 1870's. Families came from the mining communities in the Rhondda Valleys for a day of fun at the Pleasure Park, the amusement arcades and the golden sands of the beach – Whitmore Bay is its official name.
The promenade runs the whole length of the beach. There are places to get a bite and a drink, a climbing wall for children, various stalls selling the usual seaside paraphernalia. Dogs are only allowed on the beach from October until April, although there are plenty of dog friendly cafes open all year. We tried Coffee Cove on the Esplanade. There is also Cadwaladers and K9 Plus 1 to choose from.
This a smaller bay to the East of Whitmore Bay. You can walk around the headland on the coast path, which is a fairly easy 15 minute walk on a paved path. On a clear day you will get views across the Bristol Channel to Somerset and Devon. This is a dog friendly beach and is popular, although far less crowded, with far fewer facilities than Whitmore Bay, so you might want to take something to drink and eat if you are planning on spending time there. You'll find public restrooms at the start of the harbour wall.
Southwold, Suffolk UK
Situated on the Suffolk Coast, between Aldburgh and Lowestoft is Southwold, a picturesque English seaside town. You will find a long sandy beach, beach-hut lined promenade, pier and a thriving market town atmosphere. Adnams Brewery is located in the town, next to the towns working lighthouse which you can't miss. On the Pier you will find a restaurant, bistro, shops and a family entertainment centre amongst other things, plus a great view looking back to Southwold. When you are at the seaside you need to try traditional English fare – Fish and Chips and you'll find no better place than Mrs T's Fish and Chips at Southwold Harbour.
Lake Michigan, USA
Lake Michigan is the third largest of the five Great Lakes of North America and is so big that you could be forgiven for thinking it's an ocean as you fly over it into Chicago, as I did. Chicago is a great city and it also has 26 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan and an 18.5 mile long bike and walking pathway to enjoy. North Avenue Beach, in the neighbourhood of Lincoln Park, is one of the most popular beaches with locals and visitors alike, so it can get pretty busy at weekends, holidays and summer evenings. If you venture north of the city you will find Foster Beach and Rogers Park Beach, which can be quieter and have fewer tourists. Montrose Beach on W Lawrence Ave, has a dog friendly area and you can let your furry splasher (or swimmer) run free and enjoy themselves and then take a shower afterwards for a fee.
Lake Garda, Italy
We visited Lake Garda twice during our month long stay in Verona, Italy. The journey by train from Verona's Porta Nova train station to Lake Garda Desenzano takes about 20 minutes. The lake front is about 10 minutes walk, downhill from the station. We went just out of the Summer season so Chelsea was the only one brave enough to jump in the water! There are plenty of places where you can sit by the shore and beach areas. You will also find plenty of cafes, restaurants and gelaterias along the shore to sit and take in the view. There are ferries that will take you to other parts of the lake – it is 31 miles long and 9 miles wide, if you plan carefully then you can take advantage of the ferry service or hire a car. From Lake Garda Desenzano there is a frequent ferry to Sirmione, situated on the southern bank of Lake Garda. It's known for it's thermal baths and pools (some of these are free to use), Rocca Scaligera, a medieval castle and the church of San Pietro which is adorned with beautiful frescoes. We recommend staying for a few days if you want to take in the surrounding villages of this most beautiful lake.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Lake Bled is spectacularly beautiful but very busy, we preferred the less popular shores of the stunning Lake Bohinj. The lake is fed with water from the surrounding Triglav mountains, its crystal clear and can be refreshing for swimming, although that didn't stop us from having a dip and not much stops Chelsea from getting in! You can take a hike around the whole lake, or halfway and return the same way. Parts of it are alongside a road, so not as quiet as sticking to the lake side. There are plenty of other activities if you choose, paddling boarding, paragliding or taking a rowing boat or kayak to list a few. There is a place to eat called Pizzeria Center with a terrace over looking part of the lake – get a pizza and beer for around 9€. We hired a car for a week in Slovenia, it gave us a bit of freedom from public transport, although when you have a car you need to consider car parking fees.
Rivers and Canals
Staying in a city, usually means you'll find a river flowing through it. On our travels last year we were close to the Danube in Vienna, the Rhine in Cologne and the Adige in Verona. All the rivers have pathways along their banks that take you away from the bustle of the city and at the same time can give great views of the city.
Take advantage of city parks too – Green Park in London, The Prater in Vienna. We have been fortunate on a few of our stays to be close to a canal or river and have had some great hikes with Chelsea.
We always stay in places for a month or more, using Air BnB – check out our link to get a discount on your first booking.