Girl touching a crab found in a rock pool (Dreamstime)
List Words : Wanderlust team | 05 March

The life aquatic: The UK’s best rock pools and the creatures you’ll find in them

Mysterious, intriguing and teeming with life, rock pools are guaranteed to engage even the most screen-obsessed child. These beautiful spots provide the perfect introduction to our blue planet

1: Saltburn, North Yorkshire

Saltburn beach on the North Yorkshire coast (Dreamstime)

Saltburn beach on the North Yorkshire coast (Dreamstime)

With its eight miles of golden sands, huge cliffs and a promenade full of cafés and amusement arcades, Saltburn is a typical Victorian-era bucket and spade seaside resort. Indeed, riding the Cliff Tram to the beach, one of the oldest water-powered funiculars in the world, is like stepping back in time.

At low tide, however, a whole new world is revealed. A series of rock pools are exposed, each brimming with a wealth of wildlife including crabs, periwinkles, starfish and sea anemones. Time will fly as your kids jump from one wondrous rock pool to the next, so keep an eye on the tides. Be warned: you may have to promise ice cream to drag them away.

2: St Helens Duver, Isle of Wight

Child pointing to a sea anemone in a rock pool (Dreamstime)

Child pointing to a sea anemone in a rock pool (Dreamstime)

With its countless bays and beaches and rocky coastline, the Isle of Wight is rock pooling heaven. Brits of a certain age will go all misty-eyed remembering summers spent here watching tiny fish and shrimps darting between the seaweed and rocks.

Horse Ledge at Luccombe is a great spot to look for anemones, especially snakelocks with their green and purple tentacles. But the island’s premier rock pooling spot is undoubtedly Node’s Point, situated at the rocky end of the beach at St Helen’s Duver.

The limestone crevices here provide shelter for whelks, limpets and periwinkles, and sea anemones live in the pools and damper surfaces. The pools are teeming with small fish such as blennies and gobies and, if you’re lucky, the occasional seahorse.

3: Sheringham Park, Norfolk

Sheringham beach and cliffs at sunset (Dreamstime)

Sheringham beach and cliffs at sunset (Dreamstime)

Another traditional seaside town, this time in Norfolk. Sheringham grew out of an old fishing village, and small fishing boats can still be seen returning with their catch at the end of the day. The promenade is an adventure too, running in and out of the low cliffs, with steps and slopes connecting it with the town above.

At low tide, you’ll find plenty of tidal pools for the kids to explore. There’s a whole range of marine life to find, so they can spend their time digging for worms, netting some shrimps and trying to catch crabs. Then, to top it all off, how about a steam train ride on the famous ‘Poppy Line’ to Holt and back? 

4: Porthdinllaen, Gwynedd

Looking down on remote hamlet of Porthdinllaen (Dreamstime)

Looking down on remote hamlet of Porthdinllaen (Dreamstime)

Porthdinllaen is a peaceful little fishing village perched on a spit of land that stretches into the Irish Sea. To reach it, visitors must walk across the beach from Morfa Nefyn or across the golf course on top of the headland, past the Iron Age hill fort.

The clear, sheltered waters and seagrass beds here attract a wealth of wildlife that you can search for in the rock pools, including anemones, crabs, fish and jellyfish. Feeling more active? Porthdinllaen is an increasingly popular spot for stand-up paddle boarding. Paddling over the seagrass bed, which is easily seen through the translucent waters, is an experience that you and your kids will never forget.

5: Wembury, Devon

The rugged beach at Wembury in Devon (Dreamstime)

The rugged beach at Wembury in Devon (Dreamstime)

Wembury is a small village on the south coast of Devon, close enough to Plymouth to be regarded as one of its suburbs. It is incredibly beautiful, making it a popular stopping point on the South West Coast Path.

It also has some of the best rock pools in the UK, with masses of sea creatures and plantlife to discover – and the Wembury Marine Centre will teach your kids all about them through fascinating interactive displays. The centre also runs 'Rockpool Rambles' for children during the school holidays. 

Away from the beach, there are countless walks to the nearby woodlands and the Yealm Estuary, or around the headland at Wembury Point.