Harlech Beach is about a 20-minute drive from Porthmadog.
It has lovely soft sand and fun, high sand dunes to explore.
The wide bay is inviting for paddlers and swimmers.
It is a fairly long walk from the pay and display car park (about 10 minutes), which also houses the nearest toilets, along a footpath which cuts through the golf course (watch out for flying golf balls).
Harlech Castle is set on a steep hill in this small village and proves very popular with visitors.
The fortress, built by Edward I nearly 800 years ago, is in superb condition.
You can scale the castle walls and see stunning views across North Wales.
There are good explainer boards around the castle showing what each area was used for in the 13th century.
Entrance costs £27.50 for a family of four unless you are members of Cadw (a Welsh version of English Heritage). There is also a small shop, bustling cafe and a short video you can watch before walking across the bridge to the castle.
There aren’t many parking spaces at the castle and it’s a steep walk to other options, so it’s best to drop off children and passengers who may struggle before finding somewhere to park.
While you are at the castle, it’s worth walking a few metres up the road to see what claims to be a Guinness World Record-breaking road.
Ffordd Pen Lech is apparently the World’s Steepest Street with a 40 per cent gradient.
Well worth a quick walk to say you’ve scaled a spot in the record books.
There are also cafes, ice cream parlours and shops on the high street in Harlech.
Walking is a great way to explore this pretty town.
(Our video of the hotel above, includes many of the attractions in this article).
You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll, you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.
If you want to head further you can walk along the harbourside and down Lombard Street to the small cove of Borth-y-Gest which has a nice, small beach.
Walks towards Snowdon
We did two brilliant walks in the hills above Porthmadog heading towards Snowdon.
We walked along the Aberglasyn Gorge from the National Trust car park at Aberglasyn to the village of Beddgelert.
The walk is challenging, particularly the first mile from the car park along the side of the river. There are some steep drops and no barriers in places.
Our children aged 12 and 8 loved the adventure but younger ones will need to be watched throughout. After the first mile,the path changes to a more straightforward flat, paved walk all the way to Beddgelert.
There are places to stop and have a paddle in the river along the way so bring a towel and some swimming gear if it is a warm day.
The walk ends at Beddgelert – the pretty village made famous by the story of the faithful dog Gelert slain by Prince Llewellyn after he mistakenly thought the dog had attacked his baby son.
You can visit Gelert’s grave under a tree and read about the tale. Beddgelert has several cafes, a busy ice cream parlour and a village shop if you need supplies for the walk back.
Gelert’s grave at Beddgelert
Further towards Snowdon into the mountains is another great walk we tried. This one starts from the National Trust site at Craflwyn. You can park there and cross the busy A498 onto a riverside footpath, which runs for just over a mile to Llyn Dinas.
The footpath goes past the Sygun Copper Mine, where you can take a self-guided tour down the mine.
If you carry on along the footpath towards Nantmor, you emerge at the stunning lake Llyn Dinas.
This is a wonderful spot for a swim on a hot day, there were lots of people out on the water on paddleboards and canoes. You can also walk around the lake on a solid, flat path. There are a few picnic tables near the small boathouse next to the main road but apart from that, no other facilities.
Llyn Dinas lake
For anyone who doesn’t fancy the walk from Craflwyn, there is roadside parking alongside the lake but it gets busy quickly on a sunny day.
We take our children to stay at this hotel in the centre of Porthmadog opposite the railway station
Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel.
Where is it?
This Premier Inn hotel is in Porthmadog in the county of Gwynedd, North Wales, a small coastal town on the Glaslyn Estuary.
It’s in a great location, opposite Porthmadog Railway Station and the estuary. The rear of the hotel has views over Snowdonia National Park.
What is it?
Premier Inn is the UK’s biggest hotel chain with over 800 hotels and this one only opened in 2022.
Our Standard Family room had three beds – a really comfortable and cosy king size, a single and a smaller pull-out.
Our Standard Family room
All rooms have an en-suite bath and shower with shower curtain, tea and coffee facilities, hairdryer, desk and chair, plus free Wi-Fi and a flat screen Smart TV.
Other room options are a Standard Double, Premier Plus Double, Standard Twin and Standard Accessible which includes adjustable beds, more space and wider entry bathrooms.
We were very grateful that the room had very effective air conditioning, as we stayed during a heat wave.
Food and drink
The hotel’s Thyme restaurant serves breakfast and evening meals.
Breakfast is self-service and includes hot options like bacon, eggs, hash browns, mushrooms and baked beans plus fruit, cereals, croissants and yoghurts.
You can toast your own bread, pancakes and crumpets. Breakfast was £9.50 per adult or £7.50 for just the continental options when we stayed.
In the evening, you can choose from a huge menu which includes reasonably-priced standard pub favourites like lasagne, steak and pizza.
Is it family friendly?
Yes, this is a family friendly hotel, our room was a great size for the four of us.
Breakfast is free for children (up to two children eat free with a paying adult).
Also, travel cots are available at no extra cost.
*The location – this is a great spot to explore Porthmadog and we enjoyed several walks from the hotel.
It’s a two-minute walk to the pretty harbour and town centre.
*Spooner’s cafe bar at the railway station opposite serves good value drinks and its terrace has a nice view across the bay.
*The views – from our window at the front we could watch steam trains arriving and departing from Porthmadog Station and the estuary beyond.
Windows at the back look over a pretty pool with mountains beyond.
*The comfortable beds and the room’s air conditioning were a real bonus, as was the cleanliness and the modern fresh feel of the whole hotel.
*Car parking is described as limited on the website. Although the hotel was full when we visited we did manage to park on site each day. If you are keen to ensure your vehicle is left in the hotel car park, then we suggest arriving earlier as it rapidly filled up from around 5pm.
*Don’t miss out on a lovely short walk directly behind the hotel around a lake. If you follow the green railings around the back of the hotel, it looks like a dead end, but you can head out on to Cob Crwn – a short, circular stroll.
A view of the hotel from the lake behind it.
*Breakfast times were allocated at 6.30, 7.30, 8.30 or 9.30am. The area was busy around 8.30am but quietened down afterwards so we suggest if you don’t want to wait for a table, get there either before 8am or after 9.30am.
*There are six electric car charging points in the car park. However, none of them were working when we visited! The nearest charging points in Porthmadog are at the Tesco supermarket, which is a 10-minute walk away.
Porthmadog Railway Station
Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite is a major hub with three lines – the Ffestiniog (which runs to Blaenau Ffestiniog), the Welsh Highland Railway (which goes to Caernarfon) and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.
Porthmadog Railway Station is opposite the Premier Inn
The Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway and runs 25 miles between Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years. It is 13.5 miles long and runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offers a short train ride in historic narrow-gauge railway carriages to Pen-y-mount station and back.
This Italian-style tourist village, built between 1925 and 1975, is two miles south east of Porthmadog.
It is famous for being The Village in the tv show The Prisoner.
Black Rock Sands (Morfa Bychan)
This big beach is two miles west of Porthmadog. It’s very accessible as you can park your vehicles on it.
Just be careful of little ones running around and also keep an eye on the tide and your car – one had to be towed out of the sea when we were there.
Cars parked on the beach at Black Rock Sands
We visited Harlech Castle and Harlech Beach, which were 20 minutes away.
Harlech Beach is large and sandy and is a fair walk from the car park.
It is overlooked by the castle, set high on the cliff.
You don’t have to go far from the hotel for a stunning stroll.
The marina is very close or you can head around the back of the building to a footpath which takes you around a lake. A 20-minute walk brings you back to the hotel.
You can find out more about the attractions by reading our feature on what to do around Porthmadog with children here.
Premier Inn Porthmadog Hotel, Britannia Terrace, Porthmadog, Wales, LL49 9NB.
We take our children on the Ffestiniog Railway which runs through Snowdonia National Park
What is it?
The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years through the beautiful Snowdonia National Park.
Where is it?
It runs between Porthmadog’s harbourside and the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog – 13 and a half miles away.
What did we think?
This is one of the country’s best preserved vintage railways with wonderful scenery and child-friendly stops en route.
*The steam engine. Harry Potter fans can imagine they are on the Hogwarts Express as the train starts off. The noise, smell and sensation of a steam engine is unique for children.
*Its history. The Ffestiniog Railway is the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway. This line was originally built to take slate from Snowdonia’s quarries to the harbour at Porthmadog from where it was shipped around the world.
*The carriages are original but despite their age are fairly comfortable and reasonably spacious.
*Table service. Attentive staff regularly come round offering drinks, snacks or guide books. They serve homemade cakes and a selection of alcoholic and soft drinks.
*The views. The journey starts along the water at Porthmadog harbour before chugging up into the mountains. It is a narrow route with some houses right by the railway. As you climb, the railway goes past rocky walls and woodland but it barely goes a few minutes without a great view of Snowdonia’s mountains, streams and valleys.
*Tan-y-Blwch walk. Getting off at Tan-y-Blwch is the best option with children. You have over an hour before the train comes back for the return journey. That is enough time to walk the 1/4 mile down through woodland to Llyn Mair and wander around the lake, possibly with a picnic, before heading back to the station.
*Tan-y-Blwch station. The station has a small but fun playground, cafe and hut showing some of the railway’s history. There is also a bridge over the railway where you can get a good view of the steam trains arriving and departing.
Our top tips
*Sit on the right hand side of the train on the way out of Porthmadog and the left on the way back for the best views.
*The toilet is in the middle of the train so if you have little ones who might need to pay a visit, sit near that carriage.
*With younger children, consider riding to Tan-y-Bwlch rather than all the way to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The journey is 45 minutes each way instead of 1 hour 15 minutes. There is a playground and walk at Tan-y-Bwlch.
Ffestiniog Railway information
Food: Drinks and snacks menu served on-board. Cafes at Porthmadog and Tan-y-Blwch stations on the route serving cakes, ice creams and cooked meals.
Opening hours: For most of the season there are four trains per day. The first train leaves Porthmadog at 10.05am. Other departures are 11.25am, 1.35pm and 3.50pm with the last one getting back at 6.30pm. In the summer holidays there is also an 8.50am departure.
Cost: Adult all-day ticket £25.60, half way return to or from Tan-y-Blwch £16.50. One child free with every paying adult. All under-threes travel free.
Best for: Ages three upwards
Time needed: three hours
Access and restrictions: There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities at all the main stations. The train itself has a toilet but it is small.