Disclaimer: As an affiliate I may earn a commission on any qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you – read more.
Visiting Skomer Island is one of the best things to do in Wales, especially if you want to spot the infamous puffins, razorbills, and guillemots that grace our shores during summer. It’s also home to around half of the global population of manx shearwaters which reed in burrows under the ground on Skomer before migrating to South America.
You’ll also encounter, gulls, fulmars, and even the occasional chough. From the island, you can also spot dolphins, porpoises and seals around the coast.
So, how do you visit this sanctuary for birds just off the southern coast of West Wales? Keep reading for a breakdown of 4 different options and the best tour operators to us for each.
How To Visit Skomer Island
The 4 ways to visit are:
- Take a Landing Trip From Marloes
- Take a Cruise From Marloes
- Take a Cruise From St David’s
- Stay Overnight on Skomer Island
Let’s look at each in more detail.
1. Take a Skomer Landing Trip From Marloes
The best way to visit Skomer Island is by taking a landing trip. This is where you are dropped off on Skomer Island in the morning and given 4-5 hours to explore the island by yourself before getting the return boat around 3pm.
You’ll be given a brief introduction to the island and an overview of the wildlife you can expect to see by the island warden before being left to explore by yourself.
There is only one tour operator that has the licence to operate Skomer Island landing trips which is Pembrokeshire Islands operated by Dale Sailing. Landing trips run 6 days per week during the season except for Mondays.
Parking is at the Martin’s Haven National Trust car park. It’s free for National Trust members, otherwise, you will need an all-day pass for £6.
This is great for wildlife enthusiasts who want to immerse themselves among the birds that inhabit the island. I’ll share more information below about what to expect and what facilities are there.
2. Take a Skomer Sightseeing Cruise From Marloes
If you don’t want to land on Skomer Island or you’re short on time, you can take a sightseeing cruise around the island. These last around 1 hour and include a guide all the way. This is great for people who just want to see puffins from afar.
The same company that runs the landing tours from Marloes, Pembrokeshire Islands by Dale Sailing, also run the sightseeing tours.
The cost of a Skomer Island sightseeing cruise from Marloes is £20 per adult or £16 per child.
As with the landing trips, parking is at the Martin’s Haven National Trust car park. You will need a 3-hour pass for £3 or it’s free for National Trust members.
Unlike the landing trip where you are left to spot the birds by yourself, you’ll have a guide with you the whole time who can tell you exactly where to look and how to tell the difference between the species.
3. Take a Skomer Island Cruise From St David’s
The third way you can visit Skomer Island is by taking a sightseeing cruise from St David’s. These typically take around 2 hours because it’s further away from Skomer so it will take around 45 minutes to reach the island before circling around and returning.
Due to the extra distance that the boat must travel, this trip is also more expensive than visiting from Marloes.
Here are the operators currently offering trips to Skomer Island from St David’s.
- Voyages of Discovery – Can have several departures per day during the summer season starting from 9am until dusk. The cost is £54 per adult.
- Thousand Islands – Trips depart daily during the summer season costing £54 per adult and £27 for children.
The season runs roughly from May to Mid-July, but you should check their website for details.
Departures are from the old lifeboat station at St Jutinians. There is parking nearby, there are some free spots with others charged at a flat rate of £3.
4. Stay Overnight on Skomer Island
The Wildlife Trust that runs the island offer a very limited number of places for overnight stays on the island. You’ll get a boat across to the island around 9am, before the landing trip visitors, and you’ll get to stay on the island after they leave.
Remember, facilities on the island are very basic and you’ll need to bring your own food. Some basic cooking equipment will be provided.
The cost for staying overnight is between £50-85 per adult depending upon the season, so not too much more than a landing trip. Personally, I found the 5-hour landing trip to be more than enough time to do everything there is to do on the island so this trip is really aimed at birding enthusiasts.
After a day of exploring the island, you’ll gather with others staying on the island to discuss sightings for the day which will contribute to the island records.
There is no online booking system for overnight stays, so you’ll need to call or email. Find out more here.
What To Expect From A Skomer Island Day Trip
Skomer Island is a nature reserve owned by Natural Resources Wales and managed by the Wildlife Trust. Only the wardens live on the island along with huge numbers of seabirds.
When you first arrive, you’ll receive an introduction from the warden who will explain what there is to do on the island, what you can expect to see that day, and what time you need to be back for the return boat (it was 3pm for me!).
You can walk on Skomer Island along a few dedicated paths, but you cannot roam off the paths and some areas are prohibited as they are for research only. There are no roads.
I recommend taking some binoculars if you have them. If not, when you first land on the island, you can hire them from the warden at £5 per day. You can pay in cash whilst there or pay by card when you return to the mainland.
There is a bird hide where you can sit and see birds up close including gulls, blackbirds and kittiwakes here.
Here are some of the common questions I’m asked about Skomer Island landings:
What Facilities Are On Skomer Island?
The facilities on Skomer Island include a basic visitor centre which provides information about the island and its wildlife. There’s also an indoor picnic area which is ideal for sheltering if it rains during your visit.
Are There Toilets On Skomer Island?
Yes, there are toilets on Skomer Island by the visitor centre, but keep in mind that these are compost toilets and there is no sink for hand washing so you will need to use hand gel which is provided. Despite being compost toilets, they were still very clean.
How Long Does It Take To Walk Around Skomer?
The walk around the island is 3 miles, t takes around 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace with time to stop and see birds on your way around.
What Should I Wear To Skomer Island?
Skomer Island can get cold due to the sea breeze, so even on a sunny day, it’s advisable to bring a sweater or jacket to keep warm.
Best Time To Visit Skomer Island
This entirely depends upon what you wish to see. The best time to visit Skomer Island for puffins is April to Mid-July or April to June for guillemots and razorbills.
If you visit in August or September, you’ll get to see ravens and later in September, you’ll also encounter newly born seal pups on the beach.
Is Skomer Island Worth Visiting?
Yes, Skomer Island is worth visiting if you are in Pembrokeshire at the right time of year, especially in early summer when there are lots of auks (including puffins) and towards the end of September when you’ll see seal pups.
You don’t have to do the full 5-hour landing tour, if you are not a big wildlife enthusiast, I’d still encourage you to take the 1-hour sightseeing tour around the island where a guide will tell you interesting facts and help you spot birds, seals, and maybe even dolphins.
See my full article on the best things to do in West Wales for more ideas and activities whilst you are in the region.
What Wildlife Can You See on Skomer Island?
Here’s are some of the birds you can expect to see on Skomer:
- Manx Shearwater
- Lesser Black-beaked Gull
- Herring Gull
- Great Black-Backed Gull
- Short-Eared Owl
- Peregrine Falcon
Aside from birds, expect to see lots of rabbits, as well as lizards, greylings, butterflies, ladybirds, and bees.
Where Do You Get The Boat To Skomer Island?
You can catch a boat to Skomer Island from Martin’s Haven on the Marloes Peninsular or from St Jutinians on the St David’s Peninsular.
How To Get To Skomer Island From Tenby
The best way to reach Skomer Island from Tenby is by taking a boat trip from Marloes which is about 45 minutes away by car. You can take a 1-hour sightseeing tour or a 5-hour landing trip from Marloes.
Are Dogs Allowed On Skomer Island?
No, dogs are not allowed on Skomer Island because it’s a nature reserve for birds including many that nest under the ground. However, dogs are welcome on cruises around the island by all of the operators.
Can You Take Drones On Skomer Island?
No, drones are not allowed on Skomer Island because it’s a nature reserve for birds.
Can You Visit Skomer Island When It’s Raining?
Yes, trips to Skomer Island still take place when it’s raining. However, conditions at sea such as tidal flows and wind direction may cause your trip to be cancelled. You can see if trips are running by checking the @skomer_boatinfo Twitter feed after 8am each day.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.