Monday, 25 June 2012 9:16 AM
Anyone struggling to come up with ideas for family days out should consider Wales's Gower Peninsula - a 19-mile stretch of unspoiled land on the south coast that was designated Britain's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956.
Nature and beaches
Starting in the Swansea village of Mumbles, the peninsula extends westwards and has some of the world's most stunning beaches, making it a favoured walking spot for hiking enthusiasts.
One of the Gower Peninsula's most interesting features is its rich and diverse set of ecosystems, all located within a relatively small area - its 188 sq km of land contains oak woodlands, fresh and salt-water marshes, limestone grassland and heathland.
Boasting dramatic cliffs and rocky shores to the south and extensive dune salt marshes and dune systems to the north, this is an area of Wales that continues to astound visitors with its panoramic views and amazing landscapes.
No doubt any family vacation to Gower Peninsula will include time at the beach, and the region does not disappoint, offering a host of Blue Flag areas and several seaside awards.
The beaches at Bracelet Bay, Caswell Bay, Limeslade Bay and Langland Bay have all won accolades for their quality, while Rhossili Bay is considered by many to be the best of the bunch, having previously been voted Britain's best beach and picnic spot.
Facilities and amenities do differ between the beaches, so make sure to research what area will be best suited to your needs before heading out for the day.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy while on a seaside adventure, including surfing, diving and horseback riding.
A guided boat tour of the coastline is also available, which departs from Mumbles and Port Eynon, but it is essential to book in order to guarantee a place on this popular expedition.
Culture and history
If you are more interested in brushing up on your historical knowledge than soaking up the sun's rays, the Gower Peninsula has a number of attractions to keep you occupied.
It has more than 1,200 archaeological sites from various dates across history, including Iron Age forts, medieval castles, ancient caves and 19th-century parks.
Of these sites, 73 are considered to have significant national importance, while 124 are listed buildings, including churches, lighthouses and other cultural structures.
One of Gower Peninsula's claims to fame is that it is where Britain's oldest dated modern human remains were discovered, which at the time were the only fossilised person to have been found anywhere in the world.
Nicknamed the Red Lady of Paviland, as the skeleton was dyed using red ochre, it was later revealed that the remains were actually male and from 33,000 years ago.
A day trip that is guaranteed to keep the kids happy is Swansea Prom on Mumbles Road - a 5 mile stretch of Swansea Bay that provides fun for all the family.
Have a go on the pedalos at Singleton Boating Lake, try your hand on the 10-hole golf course or challenge your children to a game of crazy golf - there is plenty to see and do here.
The Swansea Bay Rider is also a popular attraction, with the 72-seater land train tracing the route of the Mumbles train, allowing you to get an excellent view of the surrounding landscape from the comfort of the carriage.
The Gower Heritage Centre shouldn't be missed if you are travelling with children, particularly youngsters, as it has a range of fun-filled activities aimed at kids.
It has an old-fashioned games arcade, a sandpit area, an animal farm and an adventure playground, among other things.
Parents can instead visit the onsite museum, which details the region's rural life and is located on a working 12th-century water mill.
Wine and dine
After exploring the vast beaches and delving into local history, you may have some hungry children on your hands and the Gower Peninsula offers a huge range of both home-grown cuisine and international dishes.
A large number of restaurants in the area take pride in sourcing ingredients from the local community, whether it is meat, seafood or alcohol.
Specialties unique to the Gower area include Llanrhidian salt-marsh lamb, laverbread and Welsh black beef, although you should not miss out on hand-gathered cockles collected from the beaches of the peninsula.