There are plenty of things to do in Bantry, regardless of when you visit.
At the south-east head of Bantry Bay lies the ancient town of Bantry, a place once negotiated by waterways instead of streets.
For the history buffs, Donemark Falls in Bantry is where folklore has it that the first human foot was set on Irish soil in the 3rd Century.
Today, it’s a fine base for exploring many of the best things to do in Cork, like Bantry House and Garnish Island, to name a few.
Our favourite things to do in Bantry
These days, Bantry is one of the more popular towns in Cork where locals and visitors use the promenade for sitting and watching the world go by.
In the first section of our guide below, you’ll find a good mix of things to do in Bantry along with lots of lovely places to visit nearby.
1. Bantry House and Gardens
Bantry House and Gardens sit on Bantry Bay with panoramic views of the Caha Mountains and the Bay itself.
The estate has been owned and managed by the White family since 1739, and the house contains much of the original furniture and collectables.
The house, gardens and Tearoom are open to the public from Easter to October and even in weather not so great, and the covered outdoor area is a perfect spot.
To enjoy an even better experience, climb 100 steps behind the house for expansive views of the house, gardens, and the Bay beyond.
2. Garnish Island
Take the ferry from Glengarriff (every 30 minutes April – October), stopping off at Seal Island to visit the photogenic and tame seal colony before heading onwards to Garnish Island or the Island of Holly as it’s otherwise known.
The island is essentially a garden that takes every advantage of the region’s micro-climate, courtesy of the Gulf Stream.
There are many plant species, and the walks are delightful, not just for the colourful blanket of flowers but for the interesting buildings scattered about.
If you’re in search of unique things to do in Bantry and nearby, you can’t go wrong with a trip over to this gorgeous little island.
Related read: Check out our guide to the best places to visit in West Cork (a mix of tourist favourites and hidden gems)
3. Bantry Blueway Trail
If you’re in search of active things to do in Bantry, then Bantry Blueway Trail should be right up your street. This an enticing water-based trail that’s sure to tempt you out onto the waters of Bantry Bay.
Alongside the Sheep’s Head Peninsula on its northern side, the trail offers loads of activities, from kayaking to sailing and is suitable for all levels of experience.
If you’re kayaking, there are three trails categorised for beginners, intermediate and advanced kayakers. The trail is well signposted, and the consensus is that you should stick to the signposts and not custom-make your own route.
Related read: Check out our guide to the best hotels in Bantry (with something to suit most budgets)
4. Whale Watching with Bere Island Sea Safari
About ten years ago, I went to Tonga to see Humpback whales on their migratory route – I missed them by a day, so imagine how delighted I am to know I only have to travel a couple of hours to go whale watching in Cork.
Bere Island Sea Safari is a popular attraction with visitors and locals alike. The 90-minute trip is filled with thrills as you are on the lookout for seals, porpoises, dolphins, and of course, the whales.
You can take a Sea Safari from July to December to see Orcas, Basking sharks and both bottlenose and common dolphins around Bere Island, and you might even be lucky enough to see Humpback or Fin whales.
Other popular things to do in Bantry and nearby
One of the beauties of Bantry is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find some more things to do in Bantry along with plenty of place to visit a stone’s throw from the town.
1. Whiddy Island
Whiddy Island lies at the entry to Bantry Bay and historically was crucial to the protection of the Bay’s deep-water anchorage.
This location resulted in the British Authorities building fortified batteries on the island to prevent a repeat of the French Armada’s arrival in 1796. In 1880 the population was 450 but has now been reduced to 20, increasing significantly during the summer months.
The 10-minute Ferry ride is an opportunity to get local history from the extremely knowledgeable Captain and allows you to get fantastic views of the Island, the Bay, and Bantry town.
2. The Sheep’s Head Way
Far from the bright lights of city life is The Sheep’s Head Way, a narrow Peninsula in one of Ireland’s most remote places. Its narrowness ensures you’re never far from the spectacular Atlantic coast with views out to Beara and Mizen peninsulas.
The trails are the local community’s work over the past 20 years and, except for a few stretches of public road and coastal parts, are mostly across private farmlands with the owner’s permission.
The Sheep’s Head Way covers more than 200km of routes along the Peninsula and East from Bantry to Gougane Barra.
3. Mizen Head
The most south-westerly spot in Ireland, Mizen Head sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mizen Head cliffs, resulting in a spectacular and exhilarating experience as you watch the waves crash onto the shore.
Start with the Signal Station Museum, which contains displays on Mizen’s geology, the Fastnet Lighthouse, and a navigational simulator that shows Mizen Head from the sea.
Get your steps in by taking the 99 steps down to the Signal Station and on to the Keeper’s Quarters, all the while keeping an eye out for whales and dolphins as you enjoy the breathtaking views.
4. Gougane Barra
Gougane Barra, a place you must visit because photos simply don’t do it justice. A wonderful park for walkers, whether you prefer easy or more strenuous routes. It’s also one of the rare places that is brilliant even on a rainy day – the numerous waterfalls more than make up for getting a bit wet.
The Park covers 138 Ha, is home to about twenty tree species, and it teems with native flora and fauna.
The Church, St Finbar’s Oratory, is a significant attraction, dating from the 19th Century, but it’s for the Park you should go.
What to do in Bantry: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally missed out on some great things to do in Bantry from the guide above.
If you have an activity in Bantry (or somewhere to visit nearby) that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below.
FAQs about the best things to do in Bantry
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from active things to do in Bantry to where to visit nearby.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Bantry?
Bantry House and Gardens, Bantry Blueway Trail and Whiddy Island are three of my favourite places to visit in Bantry.
Where is there to visit close to Bantry?
If you’re looking for things to do near Bantry, head to Garnish Island, The Sheep’s Head Way, Mizen Head and Gougane Barra.
Norah is a writer and self-publisher of fiction and non-fiction. She adores the excitement of unknown places and together with several locations in Ireland, has, over 21 years, made her home in London, The Hague and New Zealand, returning to Ireland with her Kiwi rescue dog Barney, in tow.