Categories: Seasonal Inspiration

Nothing says summer like a seaside town and Northern Ireland has some of the prettiest, most panoramic and most welcoming of all. Whether you’re looking for a coastal adventure, an encounter with sea-faring wildlife or villages to potter about in, there’s a place here for you. And if all that doesn’t have you reaching for the buckets and spades, the thought (and taste) of exceptional locally produced food and drink certainly will.  

Along the Causeway Coastal Route 

1. Ballycastle 

Ballycastle has a spectacular marina, just made for outdoor activities. It’s a great place to be on a sunny day, with plenty of nearby restaurants and pubs for when you need a break. And if you’re staying a while longer, the Marine Hotel makes a brilliant base for exploring the area. 

Just a short ferry ride away is Rathlin Island, home to an RSPB Seabird Centre. So you’re sure to meet some other summer (feathered) visitors, including puffins - if you’re here between April and July.  

2. Portstewart 

This seaside town is a great place for families with lots of friendly entertainment during the peak summer holiday season. 

The blue flag Portstewart Strand is a big hit with surfers. The more enthusiastic ones take to the water all through the year. And, if you’re looking for somewhere special to eat, you don’t have to look too far. The famous Harry’s Shack is right on the beach, serving up superb local produce. 

3. Portrush 

Just minutes from Portstewart is the wonderful town of Portrush, an all-time favourite for families who return year after year. Perhaps to visit Curry's Fun Park (formerly the legendary Barry's Amusement park) which has been part of the scenery here for over 90 years.  

Not surprisingly, some of the finest links golf courses are found along this coastline too. One of the world’s most challenging, Royal Portrush Golf Club hosted the The Open Championship for the second time in 2019.  And Portrush is also home to Dunluce Castle – historic ruins on the dramatic coastal cliffs. 

Nearby, the Giant's Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and Old Bushmills Distillery will ensure you never run out of things to do – no matter which beach you choose. 

At the foot of the Mourne Mountains 

4. Newcastle 

With the magical Mourne mountains as a backdrop, Newcastle sits in a pretty spectacular location. There are plenty of cafés, bars and amusements here to keep you entertained. And a busy harbour which you may have to share with some visiting seals. 

The blue flag Murlough Beach is just a stone’s throw away. As is the Murlough National Nature Reserve, a 6,000 years old sand dune system and a haven for walkers and birdwatchers. Bring your hiking boots though. You could find time for a trek up Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard. Then, if you’ve still got energy to burn, head to neighbouring Castlewellan for a visit to the Forest Park and Peace Maze

5. Warrenpoint 

Just a short drive from Newry along the Mourne Coastal Route is the seaside town of Warrenpoint. Overlooking picturesque Carlingford Lough, this is the ‘Narnia’ land that inspired Belfast-born C.S. Lewis to go open that wardrobe. 

In Warrenpoint, you’ll find restaurants to suit every taste. Sweet Pea Restaurant and The Whistledown Hotel are well worth checking out. Or if you’re in search of some more family outdoor fun, Kilbroney Park in nearby Rostrevor is a popular spot. 

Down to the sea 

6. Bangor 

The beautiful seaside resort of Bangor, now officially a city, sits on the southern side of Belfast Lough, not too far from Belfast itself. It’s home to one of Ireland’s largest marinas – a holder of the prestigious 5 Gold Anchor Award. Nearby, the Pickie Family Fun Park is a seaside paradise for kids with Giant Swan pedal boats, paddling pools, adventure playgrounds and a miniature railway. 

There are more attractions at North Down Museum in Bangor Castle’s picturesque stable block. You’ll learn all about the region’s history, experience life as a Viking and see your young explorers set off to discover the hidden wildlife of Castle Park.  

7. Strangford Lough 

The pretty conservation village of Strangford is a picture-perfect place for a relaxing lunch or a stroll around the harbour. So, it won’t surprise you to hear that Strangford Lough itself is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s also home to Northern Ireland’s only Marine Nature Reserve. And just a short ferry hop to Portaferry Castle to wander the wonderful grounds or chill as you take in the breath-taking views. 

So, if that sound you’re hearing is the call of the sea – and you can already feel the sand between your toes – you know what to do. Get packing, and we’ll see you soon. 

Marine Hotel Ballycastle
Hotel
Marine Hotel Ballycastle

Ideally located between the Glens of Antrim and the Causeway Coast, the Marine Hotel lies only 2 minutes from the beach and 2 minutes from the ferry terminal to Rathlin Island. The hotel has all conveniences including free WiFi throughout.

Rathlin Island
Nature and Wildlife
Rathlin Island

Amidst the rugged landscape of this isolated island, you can let your mind wander and discover a tranquility and beauty that is so unexpected.

RSPB Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre
Visitor Centres & Museums
RSPB Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre

Just six miles off County Antrim's north coast with must see views of Northern Ireland's largest seabird colony and a chance to explore Rathlin's unique 'upside down' lighthouse part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland Trail.

Portstewart Strand and Barmouth
The National Trust
Portstewart strand

Between Portstewart and the mouth of the River Bann lies the golden sands and domineering sand dunes of Portrush Strand Beach. This area of natural beauty and of scientific interest is owned and managed by the National Trust.

Harry's Shack
Café
Harry's Shack

Beach Shack style restaurant at the entrance to Portstewart Strand.

Royal Portrush Golf Club
Golf Course
Royal Portrush Golf Club

Founded in 1888, the legendary Royal Portrush Golf Club has two Championship Courses - the renowned Dunluce Course and the smaller, but equally enjoyable Valley Course. Proud Hosts of The 2019 148th Open Championship .

Dunluce Castle Medieval Irish Castle on the Antrim Coast
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Dunluce Castle Medieval Irish Castle on the Antrim Coast

Dunluce Castle is located dramatically close to a headland that plunges straight into the sea, along the North County Antrim coast.

Giant's Causeway
The National Trust
The basalt stones at the giants causeway stretch into the sea

Follow in the footsteps of giants at Northern Ireland's iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site. The basalt columns of the Causeway landscape were left by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago. All visitors are encouraged to book Visitor Experience tickets online in advance of arrival onsite.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The National Trust
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Pre-booking essential for Rope Bridge crossing.

Old Bushmills Distillery
Distillery
Old Bushmills Distillery

In 1608, in Bushmills, a legend was born. In that year, King James I granted a very particular licence to this small village, just a few miles inland from Ireland’s rugged north coast. The licence gave Bushmills the right to distil whiskey. Today, Bushmills is home to the oldest licenced whiskey distillery in the world.

The Mountains of MourneThe Mountains of Mourne

"Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea" (Percy French) The popular song has made the Mournes the best known mountains in Ireland. Distinctive and self contained, they are tucked away in the south east corner of Northern Ireland, ...

Newcastle and Murlough Beach
Beach
Couple walking on Murlough Beach, Newcastle

This 5 mile stretch of golden sands is still the essence of the resort and is hugely popular for swimming, sunbathing and other forms of recreation.

Murlough National Nature Reserve
The National Trust
Murlough National Nature Reserve

Murlough National Nature Reserve is a fragile 6000 year old sand dune system owned by the National Trust and managed as Ireland’s first Nature Reserve since 1967. It is an excellent area for walking and bird watching.

Castlewellan Forest Park & Peace Maze
Forest Parks
View of Castlewellan Forest Park

Located in a dramatic setting of mountains and sea, this is one of the most outstanding tree and shrub collections in Europe. The beauty, vigour and perfect shape of the trees in the National Arboretum attract tree enthusiasts from around the world.

Sweet Pea Restaurant
Café
Sweet Pea Restaurant

Listed on Georgina Campbell as best Restaurant to visit in the Mournes, listed as ‘’service of excellence’’ on Trip Advisor. and winner of ‘’best place to eat’’ in Newry Greater Area Awards

Whistledown Bistro and Finn's Bar & Pizzeria
Restaurant
Whistledown Bistro and Finn's Bar & Pizzeria

The Whistledown Bistro and Finn's Bar & Pizzeria enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains. Dine 'al fresco'on the seafront overlooking Carlingford Lough. One in 10 of NITB's recommended Beer Gardens to visit.

Bangor Marina
Adventure Sports
Birds eye view of Bangor Marina

Northern Ireland’s biggest and most prestigious marina is situated in Bangor and is the setting for a variety of major sailing and tourist events each year.

Pickie Fun Park
Adventure Park / Playground
Photo of people enjoying rides on the Giant Swans pedal boats on the blue waters of the man made pond at Pickie Funpark

Pickie Funpark is one of the top ten visitor attractions in Northern Ireland. The park provides a fun day out for all: An 18-hole mini-golf course, giant pedal swans, Pickie Puffer train, children's play area, children's electric car track and more.

North Down Museum
Visitor Centres & Museums
External building of museum with adjoining Town Hall building in background

Visit North Down Museum to explore the fascinating saga of the North Down area from the Bronze Age to the present day. The Museum takes you on a journey through Early Christian heritage and the Vikings to Scottish Settlers and the Victorians.

Bangor Castle (Town Hall)
Public Park
Photo of the side view of Bangor Castle (Bangor Town Hall) on a beautiful sunny day framed by flowers

This impressive building was built for the Hon Robert Edward Ward and his family in 1852. It is presently the headquarters of Ards and North Down Borough Council who use the mansions spectacular grand salon as the council chamber.

Castle Park
Nature and Wildlife
Photo of walkway through leafy Castle Park

Stroll through this beautiful wooded wonderland which is an exhilarating experience throughout the seasons.

Portaferry Castle
Historic Sites, Houses, Castles & Buildings
Photo of a smiling couple with Portaferry Castle Tower in background

Portaferry Castle is a 16th Century tower-house, built by the Savage family. It is located on the slope overlooking Portaferry harbour.