It’s finally happened – after what feels like months and months of winter hibernation, spring has arrived. And what better way to celebrate its arrival, than by getting outside and blowing the cobwebs away with some of the world’s most exciting outdoor adventures. Here’s our short-list of activities you just have to try this year.
If you’re not familiar with it, that may be because there’s no easy way to define coasteering. It usually involves some or all of the following – climbing, rock-pooling, caving, swimming, body-surfing and cliff-jumping. It’s an up-close and often thrilling way to explore Britain’s coast, while the changing wildlife, tides and weather ensure that no two experiences are ever the same.
There are many locations around Britain where you can give it a try, but for our money, we’d choose the birthplace of coasteering, Wales. Here, the sheer cliffs and unrelenting waves of the wild Atlantic make for a visceral experience, while the indented nature of the Welsh coast enables trips to be tailored to your skill level.
There’s no better way to discover the diversity of Britain’s marine life, and the rugged beauty of its coastline.
TYF Adventure is based in historic St. Davids in the stunning Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and offers coasteering sessions several times a week.
Adult prices start from £58 for a 3.5 hour guided session.
Britain’s expansive, blustery beaches are well suited to the extreme sport of kite buggying. Riders steer three-wheeled buggies across the sand with their feet, while controlling kites that can reach up to 12 metres wide. There’s a definite knack to it, but once you’ve successfully harnessed the power of the wind, it makes for an exhilarating ride. With some practice, it’s possible to reach speeds of up to 50 mph.
No previous experience is required and the sport is enjoyed by those aged from eight to 80. If you’re keen to give it a go, it’s advisable to take some lessons. Camber Sands on the East Sussex coast is a good place to start. It’s known for its consistent, smooth wind (i.e. no sudden gusts), while offering miles of open sand on which to play.
The Kite Surf Centre at Camber Sands on England’s southeast coast offers kite buggy lessons for beginners. Choose from a two and a half hour taster, or a longer four-hour lesson.
Prices begin at £59 for an adult.
Originally a way to transport goods in mountainous regions, zip lining’s popularity as an adventure sport has exploded in recent years, seeing operators the world over scramble to offer the longest, steepest and fastest rides to dare devil adventurers.
Many operators now also include zip lining within a nature expedition, such as at the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, USA. The park lies along the Blue Ridge Mountains and boasts 500 miles of trails, numerous waterfalls and a number of rocks dated at over one billion years old. It’s also home to black bears, coyotes and more than 200 species of birds.
Want to see the park, but don’t have several days to hike and camp? One option could be a canopy tour, offering incredible views of the Massanutten Mountains and the hardwood forest of the Shenandoah Valley and culminating in a zip line ride of over 1,000 feet that reaches speeds in excess of 40 mph.
Zip the Park offers a three-hour canopy tour of the Shenandoah National Park, which includes an air stair bridge, a sky bridge, a rappel, two nature walks and eight zip lines.
Adult prices start at $89 (plus park entry fee of $7).
Simply put, a fat bike is an off-road bicycle, equipped with oversized tyres. The increased tyre surface and lower pressure allows the bikes to be ridden on softer terrain, such as snow or sand, without sinking. It’s an amazing way to access locations and scenery that might normally be inaccessible to cyclists.
If you fancy giving it a go, a good place to hop on your bike is somewhere along the 363 miles of Oregon coastline, which stretches from the Colombia River in the north, down south to the California state border. Along the way, take in wide-open beaches, rocky headlands, tidal pools, lighthouses and sand dunes. Oregon’s glorious coastline has prompted an increase in fat biking over the last few years, but there’s still more than enough beach to go around.
South Coast Bicycles in Bandon, in Oregon’s South Coast, rents fat bikes from $50 a day (other rates available for hourly, weekly or monthly rentals). They can also assist with recommendations for transportation, accommodation and guided tours.
Stand Up Paddle-Boarding
Stand-up paddle boarding (known as ‘SUP’ to its fans), has taken the world by storm over the last few years. If it’s passed you by so far, essentially it involves standing on a specially adapted surfboard and using an oar to paddle yourself around. It’s an excellent workout for your core, and a unique way to explore lakes and rivers, giving you a higher vantage point from which to enjoy the scenery than from a kayak.
Known as one of the world’s top SUP locations, Portugal offers a variety of waters in which to paddle, most within easy distance of Lisbon, the capital. The Luiz Saldanha Marine Park is around an hour and a half south of the city and has been described as like paddling in an aquarium, with around 1,000 species of marine life and visibility reaching up to 70 feet.
Mana Kai Divers operates guided SUP tours around the Luiz Saldanha Marine Park, including the chance to snorkel in its clear waters.
Prices start at €40 for a two and a half hour group tour.
Also known as canyoneering, this is another sport that’s experienced a boom in popularity. A close relative of the previously mentioned coasteering, it’s the art of navigating a canyon or gorge by any means necessary – trekking, jumping, sliding, abseiling and even swimming. It’s a remarkable way to witness the drama and beauty of some of the world’s most inaccessible spots, up close and personal.
The UK has some great spots to try the sport, especially in Wales and Scotland, but we recommend the south of France for some of the world’s best canyoning locations, including Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The variety of canyons, the glorious scenery and crystal-clear waters are the major attractions here. At 25 km long and reaching a depth of 700m in places, the Gorges du Verdon in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence offers hours of excitement to canyoning thrill-seekers of all skill-levels.
Canyoning Verdon are experts in the area and provide qualified instructors and all the equipment you’ll need.
Prices and durations vary, but start at €37 for a one and a half hour experience.