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Cardigan Bay Dolphins holiday cottages

Cardigan Bay Dolphins

Laura Mackenzie 04 July 2024

From land to sea, West Wales is a haven for wildlife so it’s no surprise that a special section of this coastal region is home to the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in Europe! Dolphin watching in Cardigan Bay makes for a lovely memorable day out and Cardigan Bay is one of just two places in the UK where you’re likely to spot these fascinating creatures leaping and dashing through the water.  

Did you know that Cardigan Bay is also the largest bay in the British Isles? This brilliant basin spans around 63 miles from the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales to Struble Head in pristine Pembrokeshire. That’s a lot of gorgeous coastline; no wonder these adventurous dolphins call it home!   

If you are hoping to see dolphins in Cardigan Bay then come stay at one of our handpicked holiday cottages where you can rest up after a thrilling day out on the water. 


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Cardigan Bay Dolphin FAQs

A bottlenose dolphin jumping fully out of the water

Can you see dolphins in Cardigan Bay?

Yes! You can see dolphins in Cardigan Bay. The bay is home to the largest pod of bottlenose dolphins in the whole of Europe. 

What time is the best to spot dolphins?

Dolphins are largely crepuscular (around twilight), so the best time to spot dolphins is in the morning and evening when they are most active and immediately after high tide. Here’s a handy link to the tide tables for Cardigan Bay

Calendar-wise, the summer months, May to November, are the best time of year to spot dolphins in Cardigan Bay. 

How many dolphins are there in Cardigan Bay?

There are over 300 bottlenose dolphins known to be in Cardigan Bay. Numbers increase through the summer months and peak towards the end of September. 

How long do dolphins live?

Bottlenose dolphins can live for up to 45 to 50 years in the wild!  


Where's the best place to spot dolphins in Cardigan Bay?

The best places to spot dolphins in Cardigan Bay are New Quay, Mwnt, Cardigan Island and Aberystwyth, discover more about these coastal locations below.


New Quay

An aerial image of New Quay. Pictured is the sea, the harbour with boats and the sand. Also in the photo is the town with rows of colourful houses on the hill behind

New Quay is by far the best place to see dolphins in Cardigan Bay. Sit on the picturesque harbour wall and try to spot the bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the bay. You can also take a trip out to sea with one of the town's boat trip providers to have the opportunity to admire these inquisitive dolphins up close.


Mwnt

An aerial photo of Mwnt Beach, a small cove with a golden sand beach tucked behind a large headland

This delightful picture-perfect cove with a beautiful beach is a great spot for a sandy day out dolphin spotting.   

Head up the conical hill (Foel y Mwnt) that rises above the beach and take in the outstanding panoramic views over Cardigan Bay. You may even catch a glimpse of the mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia) in the distance. 


Cardigan Island

Taken from a clifftop, this photo shows a small sandy cove, the sea and in the background, Cardigan Island, a small grassy island

Cardigan Island is a private nature reserve – it’s a favourite hangout for dolphins and nesting sea birds and is owned by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. 

Why not say hello to the farm animals and enjoy a day out at   Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park? This popular park overlooks Cardigan Island and is the ideal location for a chance to spot seals and dolphins at play. 


Aberystwyth

A photo taken from Constitution Hill, looking down on the town of Aberystwyth with the promenade and the beach on the right of the image

Stay in Aberystwyth in the early summer for your best chance of spotting dolphins. Stroll the pleasant promenade and browse the independent shops and decadent eateries of this bustling university town. 

Aside from a great place to spot dolphins, Aberystwyth is also home to the oldest pier in Wales which offers a great vantage point of the seaside town. Another great spot for amazing views is atop the 430-foot-tall Constitution Hill. 


Dolphin-watching boat trips in Cardigan Bay

Take a boat trip out into Cardigan Bay for your chance to spot dolphins at play.   


New Quay Boat Trips

On a small white boat, there are a crowd of people watching two dolphins on the left on the image. They are jumping out of the waterPhoto courtesy of New Quay Boat Trips

Offering accessible trips with wheelchair access by arrangement, New Quay Boat Trips are open to all including large groups and even your favourite canine companions!  

Watch and learn on this fully guided educational experience which sails within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The team has an excellent knowledge of the area and they showcase their understanding of dolphins with these dolphin-related blogs: 

How do Bottlenose Dolphins Sleep Without Drowning? 

How long bottlenose dolphins can hold their breath? 

How fast can bottlenose dolphins swim?

The experience with this family-run business is exceptional and they have been offering safe and entertaining dolphin-spotting boat trips from New Quay in Cardigan Bay for nearly 70 years.  

New Quay Boat Trips has a range of boats, our favourite being Suncatcher, a fine double-decker dolphin spotting boat with an indoor area and a deck that offers uninterrupted 360-degree views of the beautiful Cardigan Bay coastline.  

Good to know:

  • Contact: New Quay, SA45 9NW | 01545 560800 |  [email protected]
  • Locations: Departing from New Quay and cruises south to Cwmtydu. Longer trips venture further to the little bay of Ynys Lochtyn, just before the village of Llangranog
  • Price: From £15 for adults – for more details visit the New Quay Boat Trips website
  • Trip length: 1–2 hours. Longer private charters are also available

A Bay to Remember

A close up of a bottlenose dolphin just breaching the water

Experience dolphin watching in Cardigan Bay with the family-run A Bay to Remember.  

This enthusiastic and dedicated team has been providing a safe and enjoyable experience on the water since 2007. The name says it all, they aim to give guests a true “Bay to Remember”! 

They cater for all ages including children, so no one misses out on the chance to spot these amazing dolphins in Cardigan Bay.  

You’ll explore and discover via the Bay Pioneer and Bay Explorer vessels, both agile and manoeuvrable boats that offer the latest in digital navigation and comfortable seating for your next dolphin spotting journey. Think sea cave exploration and wide-open speed!  

Good to know:


SeaMor Dolphin Watching

Showing two dolphins in the water, one head is visible and to its left is the tail of another dolphin

Perfect for families and nature lovers, Seamor offers dolphin-spotting leisurely cruises around the sheltered waters of New Quay Bay. Learn all about the human history of New Quay before cruising towards the dolphin hotspots. 

Discover what’s in the pots! There are a few strategically placed lobster pots along the boat trip route and kids will love seeing and learning about what fascinating creatures may arise! From huge spider crabs to scorpion fish and sea spiders, if you’re feeling brave you can even handle the creatures quickly! 

It’s not just dolphins you’ll get the chance to spot on these idyllic cruises, there’s also some of the tallest cliffs in Cardigan Bay and thousands of breeding seabirds. Watch the sun go down over the sea on the sunset dolphin-watching experience and discover why these trips in particular are more likely to include dolphin sightings.  

Good to know:

  • Contact: Sail House Gifts, S John St, New Quay SA45 9NP | 07795 242445 | [email protected]  
  • Locations: Departs from New Quay and visits Traeth Gwyn, Ina Reef, Birds Rock, and the caves of Ogof Dwy Ben
  • Price: From £15 for adults – for more details visit Seamor's website  
  • Trip length: 1–3 hours 

Dolphin Survey Boat Trips

There are two dolphins in a blue sea. One is leaping out with its head visible. The other is just going back underwater and its back and fin is visible

These exclusive dolphin-spotting boat trips run by the team at Dolphin Survey Boat Trips in Cardigan Bay support the important marine research of the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre. 

Join the team as they survey the dolphins of Cardigan Bay and learn from the onboard researcher – there’s also an underwater microphone or hydrophone so you can even listen to the dolphins!  

Hop aboard and learn all about the local marine wildlife. With over 30 years of experience operating in Cardigan Bay, the team have been involved in marine conservation and research and has contributed towards guaranteeing the area's designation as the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC). 

It’s not just delightful dolphins around here, there have also been sightings of harbour porpoises and Atlantic grey seals along with occasional sightings of common dolphins and Minke whales.

If it’s a bit of birdwatching you’re after, there are also excellent sightings including Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, gulls, cormorants, shags, gannets, peregrines, choughs and more!   

Good to know:

  • Contact: Patent Slip Building, Glanmor Terrace, New Quay SA45 9PS | 07796 135490 | [email protected]  
  • Locations: Departing New Quay, the boat trips usually follow a set route within the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Price: £150 whole boat charter (max 12 people), 1.5-hour trip £25 per adult – for more details visit Dolphin Survey Boat Trips' website 
  • Trip length: 1 hour or more

Stay in the bay

A dramatic image showing the hot tub of Golwg y Mor, a holiday cottage. It’s nestled right on the top of a cliff face surrounded by a metal fence. In the background can be seen the cliffs and the seaGolwg y Mor

There are so many amazing things to do in Cardigan Bay, from spotting playful dolphins to a night at the theatre, from a jam-packed day at one of Cardigan Bay’s beautiful beaches to dining out at one of the fantastic places to eat, you’re truly spoilt for choice here.  

Conveniently, we offer a fantastic range of cosy cottages right along Cardigan Bay so wherever you find yourself wanting to explore, they’ll be somewhere nearby to unwind in after a memorable day of discovery. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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