There’s no end to the number of things to do in Waterford.
There’s also great food, lively, traditional pubs and a clatter of lovely little towns and villages to base yourself… Oh, and it’s also home to Ireland’s oldest city!
In the guide below, you’ll find a clatter of things to do in Waterford in 2021. So, I’ll stop yammering on – dive on in!
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Waterford (a quick overview)
The first section of this guide will give you a speedy overview of the most popular places to visit in Waterford, with everything from beaches and seaside towns to walks and more.
1. Towns and villages
Before you decide on what to do in Waterford, it’s worth taking some time to think about where you’ll stay while you’re there.
Waterford is home to a good mix of everything from lively towns to quiet coastal villages, each of which makes a great to explore the county from. Here are some of our favourites:
2. Walks, hikes and handy rambles
Some of the best things to do in Waterford involve whacking on a pair of walking shoes and heading off along the coast or up into the hills.
Now, for some of the walks and hikes in our guide to the best walks in Waterford, you won’t need any planning or prep. However, for others, you’ll need a route planned in advance and experience under your belt. Here are a few of our favourites:
- The Mahon Falls Walk
- The Coumshingaun Loop Walk
- The Ardmore Cliff Walk
- The Ballysaggartmore Towers Walk
- Lismore Castle Gardens
- Mount Congreve House
3. Greenway and Copper Coast
In this guide, you’ll find a handy Google Map with the route, parking, toilets, places to see and loads more.
The Copper Coast, is arguably one of the best drives in Ireland. It takes in beaches, coves, cliffs, sea views and an endless number of historical sites. Here’s a guide to the route (with a map).
4. Beaches galore
Some of the best places to visit in Waterford are the countless sandy stretches that you’ll find dotted along the gorgeous Waterford coastline.
Although we go into beaches in detail in our guide to the best beaches in Waterford, here are a few of our favourites:
5. Ireland’s Oldest City
Waterford City is Ireland’s oldest. It was founded by the Vikings back in 914AD and it’s home to an absolute wealth of history.
There’s plenty of things to do in the city, from Waterford Crystal and the Viking Triangle, to Reginald’s Tower, Medieval Museum, Bishop’s Palace and it’s also a great base for cycling the Waterford Greenway.
What to do in Waterford if you fancy stretching the legs
If you’re wondering what to do in Waterford that’ll get the heart rate up, you’re in luck – this corner of Ireland is home to a solid mix of walks, ranging from nice and handy to long and tough.
From waterfalls and loughs to forests, gorgeous gardens and more, here are some great Waterford walks to head off on.
1. The Ardmore Cliff Walk
The Ardmore Cliff Walk is glorious. It’s a 4km looped walk that’s nice and handy and that treats walkers to stunning seascapes and, unsurprisingly enough, gorgeous cliff views.
The walk can be completed over the course of an hour (depending on pace) and it’s also waymarked, with yellow and brown arrows to help you find your way.
Those that give this a bash can expect breathtaking views, wildlife, and battle sites. It starts and ends at the Cliff House Hotel and the trail is nice and straightforward.
2. Coumshingaun Lough Walk
Although the mighty Coumshingaun Lough Loop Walk is one of the more popular things to do in Waterford, it isn’t for inexperienced walks (unless you’re accompanied by an experienced guide).
It’s also one to avoid when the weather is bad. Warnings aside, this is one of those walks where the view just knocks you sideways.
There are a couple of different walks that you can do here, with the full walk taking between 4 to 6 hours, depending on pace (here’s a guide to follow).
3. The Mahon Falls Walk
Mahon Falls is one of those places that you’ll just want to plonk yourself down in front of for a while.
The waterfall stands at around 80m and can be found nestled in the Comeragh Mountains, not far from the village of Lemybrien.
You can drop your car in the car park here and take a 20-minute walk up along a gravel path to admire the view. See our guide to the Mahon Falls walk for more info.
4. The Anne Valley Walk
The Anne Valley Walk packs a punch! And it’s on this walk that you’ll stumble along Dunhill Castle – a ruin with a very colourful past.
The castle here was built during the early 1200s by a crowd called the la Poer family. The La Poers became infamous in the 14th century after they launched several attacks on Waterford City.
In 1345, the family destroyed the area surrounding the city but were counter-attacked, captured, and subsequently hanged. The walk stretches for 5km and takes around 1.5 hours to finish. Here’s a map.
5. Lismore Castle Gardens
The gardens here are divided into two distinct halves. The Upper Garden is a fine example of the 17th-century walled garden that was first constructed here by the First Earl of Cork, in around 1605.
The Lower Garden, which was created in the 19th century, is more informal and is filled with shrubs, trees, and lawns. If you’re after a walk with some cracking castle views, then get yourself here.
6. The Ballysaggartmore Towers Walk
Ballysaggartmore Towers are one of the lesser-known tourist attractions in Waterford and, to be fair, you probably wouldn’t want to travel here just to see them.
However, as they’re a stone’s throw from Lismore Castle, they’re well worth a visit while you’re in the area. There’s a handy walk at the Towers.
The Ballysaggartmore Towers walk is an easy loop of about 2km through gorgeous woodland. It tends to be quiet here and there’s a nice bit of parking right in front.
7. Mount Congreve House
If you’re wondering what to see in Waterford on a fine day, get yourself to Mount Congreve House (you’ll come across it if you cycle the Greenway).
The gardens here are widely regarded as one of “the great gardens of the world”, and it’s here that you’ll discover beautifully planted woodlands, a walled garden and 16km of walkways.
You can also take the expert gardeners’ tour of Mount Congreve or you can just saunter along solo and drop into the cafe after.
If you fancy trying your hand at a bit of surfing, you’re in luck – there a few places in Ireland’s Ancient East as well suited to a bit of wave-taming (is that even a thing?!) than Tramore Beach.
There are several different surf schools in Tramore that offer lessons for novice surfers and first-timers, so don’t worry if you’ve never tried surfing before.
If you’re wondering what to do in Waterford with a group of friends, you can’t go wrong with a group surf lesson!
9. The Dunmore East Cliff Walk
The final ramble is the brilliant Dunmore East Cliff Walk. This is a linear, 5km ramble that’s suitable for all ages and that should be double for those with a moderate level of fitness.
Interestingly enough, the route dates to the 1820s, when the town’s harbour was first constructed. Those working on the construction used this trail to go back and forth from Portally and Ballymacaw.
Unique and unusual things to do in Waterford
Some of the top things to do in Waterford are, in my opinion, the places that either 1, take you off-the-beaten-path or 2, treat you to a nice, unique experience.
This section of the guide is packed with places to visit and things to see in Waterford that tend to get missed by many visiting the county.
1. The Magic Road
You’ll find Waterford’s Magic Road in the Comeragh Mountains as you make your way to Mahon Falls. This is definitely one of the most unusual things to do in Waterford.
I’m not going to even try and put into words what happens when you park on this road. Hit play on the video above and see for yourself.
Definitely one of the most unique places to visit in Waterford. Now, keep in mind that if you plan on trying this, you need to do so safely – i.e. have someone watching out for other road users.
2. Goat Island
This next place is a bit of a hidden gem that should appeal to those of you wondering what to do in Waterford that’ll take you slightly off the beaten track.
You’ll find a lovely little sheltered cove known as Goat Island (I’d love to know where the name came from!) 5km west of Ardmore.
Hardy locals swim here all year round. If you’re feeling brave, lash on your swimming togs and head for a swim (just always be careful when entering the water!).
3. The Metal Man
The Metal Man is a unique monument near Tramore. It stands on one of the three pillars at Newtown Cove and can be seen from long distances away.
It was constructed as a maritime beacon after the tragic loss of over 350 lives after HMS Seahorse sank back in 1816.
Dressed in traditional British sailor clothing, the Metal Man is on private land with the entrance to the monument blocked due to dangerous cliffs. However, you can see the figure from various points along the coast.
4. Blaa from Barron’s Bakery
If you’re looking at the video above and thinking, ‘Eh, that’s just bread, pal!’, then bear with me. Waterford Blaa dates wayyyyy back to the late 17th Century and in 2013 was given Protected Geographical Indication status.
It arrived in the city with a group of Huguenots (French Protestants) at a time when Waterford was a powerful trading city for goods like wheat, butter, and flour.
In 1702, a Huguenot bakery opened in Waterford. It’s believed that the bread rolls that we now know as Blaa were made from leftover pieces of dough which couldn’t be used for baking loaves.
Traveller Tip: Fancy tasting some Blaa for yourself? Drop into Barron’s Bakery in the town of Cappoquin. They’ve been baking here since 1887.
5. Copper Coast Sea-kayaking
Over the course of the tour, you’ll see marine wildlife like seals and dolphins (if you’re lucky), sea stacks, arches, caves, tunnels, blowholes and caverns.
I’ve just watched the video above from one of their trips and, I’ll be honest, I’d sh*t myself going through one of those dark caves. Definitely one of the most unique things to do in Waterford.
6. Quirky accommodation
Although there are plenty of great hotels in Waterford, there are also some very funky places to spend a night if you fancy a stay with a difference.
If you’ve cash to splash, the Cliff Beach House (above) in Ardmore is worth a look, as is the nearby Cliff House Hotel.
If you’re looking for things to do in Waterford to mark a special occasion, the likes of Waterford Castle Hotel is well worth checking out, as is Nire Valley Glamping.
7. The Suir Valley Railway
This heritage railway runs for 10km along the abandoned Waterford and Dungarvan line. It travels from Kilmeadan back towards Waterford along the banks of the River Suir.
It’s a charity-run initiative with volunteers now running the trains. The old carriages trundle through the valley offering great scenery of the area, which is only accessible by this train or on the Waterford Greenway trail.
If you’re wondering what to see in Waterford with the kids, this makes for a solid day out (especially when the weather’s fine!).
Our favourite places to visit in Waterford
The next section of our Waterford attractions guide is packed with our favourite things to do in Waterford, from hikes and walks to pints, drives and more.
Below, you’ll find everything from old pubs, meals with a view and arguably one of the best drives in Ireland.
1. The Comeragh Drive
OK, I’m going to be using dodgy Google Map photos to give you a taste of what you’ll experience on the Comeragh Drive, as I can’t find any online that I can use.
This is one of those drives that rarely makes the pages of shiny travel guides or ads. Which is a shame, as the Comeragh Mountains are a beautiful part of Ireland that you can soak up by car, foot, or bike.
The last time I did this drive was when we were visiting Mahon Falls. When you leave Mahon Falls, point your nose in the direction of Dungarvan and let the road that winds through the mountains do the rest. There’s plenty of things to do in Dungarvan when you get there.
2. Dunmore East
Dunmore East is one of those villages in Ireland, similar to Doolin, that people tend to visit, fall in love with, and return to time and time again.
This is a buzzy little fishing village that’s situated on the west side of Waterford Harbour. Visitors can expect an unspoiled coastline, coves and beaches.
The village is packed with fine restaurants and pubs; If you fancy a bite to eat, nip into the Spinnaker Bar & Restaurant. If you fancy a pint with a view, drop into the Strand Inn. See our Dunmore East accommodation guide for places to stay.
3. The Waterford Greenway
We’ve mentioned The Waterford Greenway in passing in the guide above, but it deserves its own section, as it really does pack a punch.
The Waterford Greenway is an off-road cycling and walking trail that’ll take you along an old railway line, across 11 bridges, 3 viaducts and through a 400m long tunnel.
Running from Waterford City to Dungarvan, the Greenway covers 46km and boasts spectacular views throughout. You can do the whole thing in one go or you can join it at various points.
If you can, try and do this either very early in the morning or during the week – as this is one of the most popular things to do in Waterford, it can get very busy at times.
4. Bunmahon Beach
This is a gorgeous spot that stretches for around 5km and it’s backed by sand dunes with tall, craggy cliffs at each end.
Get out. Stretch the legs. And gulp down that fresh ocean air. There’s also a nice viewing point where you can admire the beach from above.
If you whack ‘Bunmahon Beach Viewing Point’ into Google Maps it’ll take you straight there. Note: It isn’t safe to swim here!
5. The Copper Coast Drive
A day spent spinning along the Copper Coast is arguably one of the best things to do in Waterford.
If you’ve never heard of it, the Copper Coast is a stretch of coastline that sits between the towns of Tramore and Dungarvan, and it’s widely regarded as one of the most scenic drives in Ireland.
It boasts a spectacular, ever-changing landscape with seemingly endless rolling hills and steep cliffs. The Copper Coast was rightly declared as a European Geopark in 2001 and a UNESCO Global Geopark later in 2004.
6. The Nire Valley
The Nire Valley is a glorious collection of coums and lakes with a plethora of walking trails on offer, with something on offer for both experienced and inexperienced walkers.
You can saunter along through the woods beside the Nire River or try one of the many looped walks. Aim for the car park and tip over to one of the information boards for an overview of the different trails.
The unspoiled beauty of the Nire Valley gives it an almost other-worldly feel. A fine spot for a day of exploring on foot.
Things to do in Waterford City
The final section of the guide is packed with things to do in Waterford City, from the Viking Triangle to fine food, there’s something to tickle most fancies.
There’s also an endless number of great spots to grab a bite to eat and to kip, if you fancy staying in Waterford City.
1. The Medieval Museum
First up is the Medieval Museum. Here, visitors can soak up the story of what life was like in the Historic Waterford City thousands of years ago.
The city was excavated between 1986 and 1992 and many of the unique discoveries made during this time are housed here.
The Medieval Museum exists to tell the story of life in Waterford city during the Medieval era and is home to several preserved medieval structures.
Spend some time wandering around the museum, and head off on the guided tour if you fancy.
2. Bishop’s Palace
Yes, there’s a lock of Napoleon Bonaparte’s hair inside the Bishop’s Palace. It was brought to Ireland, randomly enough, by Napoleon’s niece who married a man from Waterford.
The palace itself was built in 1743 and it’s one of the more interesting places to visit in Waterford City when it’s raining.
Bishop’s Palace houses paintings of Waterford that date back 300+ years, carved Dragon Mirrors, the best of 18th-century Irish furniture, the oldest piece of Waterford glass from the 1780s, and more.
3. Waterford Crystal
The now-iconic Waterford Crystal Tour is a tourist favourite and it offers an insight into skills that have taken two hundred years to perfect
Those that choose to take the factory tour can observe the meticulous transformation of glowing balls of molten crystal into elegant glassware.
Take the tour and drop by the crystal store after if you fancy taking a chunk of Waterford home with you.
4. Reginald’s Tower
This is another handy one for those of you wondering what to do in Waterford City when it’s raining, then add this to your list. As was the case with many parts of Ireland that they invaded, the Vikings left their mark on Waterford.
Reginald’s Tower is actually named in honour of a Viking called Ragnall, who ruled the area during the 10th century. The tower now houses an exhibition on Viking Waterford that’s well worth a visit.
The tower is Waterford’s landmark monument and, interestingly enough, it’s Ireland’s oldest civic building, having been in continuous use for over 800 years.
5. Jack’s Walking Tour
Jack Burtchaell’s Walking Tour of Waterford City is a one-hour award-winning walking tour that’ll take you on a journey through Ireland’s oldest city.
Although the tour is only an hour-long, it covers over 1,000 years of history and is delivered in a witty manner that’ll leave you itching for more.
The tour includes 2 cathedrals, 4 national monuments, and a gallery of many a rogue and rascal.
6. Old pubs and great restaurants
There’s also a lot of solid restaurants in Waterford where you can grab a feed and a half, from fine dining to cheap, tasty eats.
And, if you fancy staying in the city, you’ll discover some great accommodation in our Waterford City Hotels guide.
7. Winterval (the Waterford Christmas market)
Feeling festive? Every November, Winterval Waterford returns, bringing with it a shed-load of Christmassy buzz.
Ove the course of 5 or 6 weeks, this Christmas market lights up the city and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.
You could easily combine a trip to the markets with an adventure around the county, pairing up some of the activities above.
What places to visit in Waterford have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that there are plenty more worthwhile things to do in Waterford that we’ve (unintentionally) missed.
The guides on this site rarely sit still. They grow based on feedback and recommendations from readers and locals that visit and comment.
FAQs about what to do in Waterford
Since first publishing a guide on the various different things to do in Waterford a few years ago, we’ve had a rake of emails and DMs asking about different bits and pieces.
Below, you’ll find some of the most FAQs that we’ve received about what do do in Waterford City and the wider county.
What are the best things to do in Waterford?
I’d argue that the Waterford Greenway, the Copper Coast and Mahon falls are the best places to visit in Waterford.
What are the most unique things to do in Waterford?
If you’re wondering what to do in Waterford that’s a little bit different, visit Goat Island, the Magic Road or the Suir Valley Railway.
What are the most beautiful places to see in Waterford?
This is a hard one. The views from up at Coumshingaun really are incredible, as are the views as you come into Dungarvan on the Greenway. As are the many beaches… you get the picture.