Boasting Wales’s capital, Cardiff, South East Wales is the ideal location for families who want a taste of cosmopolitan city life, while also having access to a range of countryside activities.
Start your journey with Cardiff’s never-ending list of museums, shopping streets, bars, restaurants and historic sights. Then, if you can, venture out into the nearby beauty of the Forest of Dean, South Wales Valley, and Chepstow.
And don’t worry about the infamous Welsh weather, there’s plenty to do inside, too.
4 must-see sights in South East Wales
1. The capital city of Cardiff
Cardiff, Wales’ capital city, is an excellent place to base the family. It may sound like a cliche, but it’s actually true: there’s something here for everyone.
The best way to get around Cardiff is with its City Sightseeing Cardiff Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, which tours Cardiff Castle, the Castle Quarter shopping arcades and Cardiff Bay. Pay for a 24-hour ticket, and use the service as much as you like!
If it’s good weather to stay inside, Cardiff also has a number of family-friendly museums to explore. Our top pick is the National Museum Cardiff; it’s free to enter, and there’s an amazing selection of dinosaur skeletons and world-famous art.
2. Cardiff Castle
South Wales has a beautiful selection of historic sites, and Cardiff Castle ticks two boxes: it’s a 9th Century structure, sitting on top of a two-thousand-year-old Roman fortification!
There’s a Family Trail designed just for young ones; via a mobile app, kids are challenged to find certain artefacts and answer a set of questions. Check back against the app at the end of the day to see how many you got right!
3. South Wales Valley
Spanning across South Wales from east to west, the South Wales Valley is a lush band of landscape beginning just north of Cardiff, offering adventurous families plenty of opportunities to walk, climb and even mountain bike across the undulating terrain.
Once the epicentre for Wales’s coal, iron and steel industries, there’s also a number of well maintained mining pits and ironworks to explore. The Welsh Mining Experience is arguably one of the best and, being less than 30 minutes drive from Cardiff, it’s a must for any history fans out there.
4. The Forest of Dean
Sat right on the border of England and Wales, the Forest of Dean covers 24,000 acres of dense, ancient woodland — much of which is veiled in mystery! The area’s been linked to curses, witch hunts, ghostly encounters and mysterious beasts. True: wild boar were reintroduced to the forest during the 1990s, but does that really explain sightings of ‘The Beast of the Dean’, otherwise described as the Moose-Pig? Why not head there yourself to find out!
If you’re driving to Wales from the south of England, the forest makes for a picture perfect road trip. Or you can easily visit for a day or two from Cardiff and Newport (expect about an hour in the car), or Chepstow (less than 30 minutes).
3 must-do family activities in South East Wales
1. Spend the day at Cardiff Bay
If you want to stick close to the city, spend the day at Cardiff Bay; a 2,700 acre area with warehouses and wharves transformed into restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.
Our best bit? Techniquest: an interactive science centre that’s kid-friendly and a masterclass in hands-on learning experiences. The planetarium is our favourite part!
2. Scuba dive in Chepstow
Yep, you read that right! Chepstow is home to the National Diving & Activity Centre, where PADI and SDI dive schools run throughout the year. If you’ve always wanted to experience life beneath the surface, now’s your chance!
Not so keen on going underwater? No problem.
There’s also endless other activities to enjoy, from kayaking, paddle boarding and zip wiring. You’ll even find a drive-through cinema, should you just need to rest those weary feet for 90 minutes!
3. Enjoy an event at Caldicot Castle and Country Park
Caldicot Castle isn’t just an immersive history lesson — founded by the Normans, developed in the Middle Ages, and restored by the Victorians — it’s also the home of many family-friendly arts, culture and foodie events throughout the year.
For the kids, there’s outdoor cinema in the summer (Harry Potter and Mamma Mia!, both showing this July). And adults will relish the chance to sample wine from the local vineyards! Whatever month you’re visiting, make sure you check out the packed cultural calendar — it won’t disappoint!
The best time to visit South East Wales?
South East Wales is slightly wetter than England due to its maritime climate, making off-season a little more risky. But if you’re fine with hopping in and out of museums and visitor centres, there’s no reason not to consider South East Wales as a holiday destination all year round.
Top tip: the summer tends to be the busiest season so expect prices to be a bit higher. April and May are a better choice if you want to avoid the crowds and keep to a budget.
What to pack for South East Wales?
Considering the risk of rain, waterproof clothing is a must-have whatever time of year you’re travelling to South East Wales. Summer temperatures tend to settle between 15°C and 20°C (rarely going over 25°C), so light layers will allow you to cool down or warm up as needed.
Of course, if you’re heading out to the South Wales Valleys and the Forest of Dean, we’d also recommend sturdy walking shoes and a pair of binoculars — you want to be able to spot ‘The Beast of the Dean’ if you can (and from a safe distance!).
Getting around South East Wales
South East Wales is best explored by car, giving you all the freedom you need to spend a day in Cardiff, before exploring the nearby valleys and forests.
That being said, there’s a good network of local trains and buses, too. And if you plan to use public transport a lot on your trip, it’s worth looking at the Explore Wales pass. Valid on Cardiff Buses and trains from Newport to elsewhere in the UK, it’s a great way to enjoy discounted — and unlimited! — travel for up to 8 days.