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Coasteering: what it is and where to do it

For the best views of the sea, veer off the coastal footpath and dive straight in

By Sam Lewis
Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:39 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 15:48 BST


Photograph by Celtic Quest

"Coasteering is everything your parents tell you not to do at the beach," says Cleopatra Browne of Celtic Quest Coasteering. "It lets you explore a stretch of coastline by scramble climbing, rock hopping, cliff jumping and adventure swimming." As daredevil as it sounds, some companies offer coasteering trips that enable participants as young as three and as old as 80 to get up close with the coast from a very different angle. It doesn't have to be physically demanding, and you don't even need to be much of a swimmer — life-jackets and ropes do much of the job for you. It's become a big deal in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US, but Pembrokeshire claims its surfers invented coasteering as they scrambled around cliffs in the '80s.

Get the kit

A full wetsuit keeps you warm and offers some protection from bumps against rocks. Most operators also offer a buoyancy aid/flotation jacket, helmet and gloves. If shoes aren't provided, old trainers will do. Some operators also ask you to wear old shorts to protect the wetsuits.

What to expect

If you've never coasteered before, there's plenty to experience. Take in the coastal views from clifftops before jumping into the sea and scrambling over rocks and cliff faces on the way back to dry land. Bodysurf with the swell and discover sea caves and rock formations. And don't forget to look out for wildlife — from native seabirds to seals.

In numbers
The highest jump you can do with a coasteering company

Six of the best: European coasteering spots

01 Pembrokeshire, Wales
02  São Miguel Island, Azores
03 Dancing Ledge, Dorset
04 Gouliot Caves, Sark
05 Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
06 Ajaccio, Corsica

The perfect conditions for coasteering

– Blue sky and sunshine
– A gentle onshore breeze
– Some swell (2-3ft is ideal) to make it fun, but not so big that the route and distance are restricted

Published in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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