If you’re wondering where to go this year for a quintessential French holiday that’s a real family pleaser then look no further!
Just across the English Channel you will find long golden sandy beaches, rock pools where you can fish for shrimp and mussels, discover secret inlets and see seals sunbathe. Somewhere you can buy freshly made croissants for breakfast, a crispy baguette and lip-smacking fromage for a delicious al fresco lunch, and a mouth-watering cake for tea! Explore vibrant seaside towns and fishermen’s hamlets where you can get the freshest fish ever straight from the boat. A land of picturesque villages where you’re assured of a warm welcome and where there are more activities than you can possibly do in a week of Sundays.
A place that is just about perfect for family holidays – idyllic coastline, delicious food, fun things to do, and where mums and dads can relax while kids from tots to teens will find plenty to keep them occupied.
The “Famille Plus” label has been awarded to four towns in Pas de Calais, each very different from the other. They are all recognised for their outstanding family friendly welcome and having a programme that offers loads to do for everyone, no matter what age.
A country and family seaside resort between the Bay of Somme and the 2 Caps, stunning cliffs that overlook the English coast which you can easily see on a clear day. 12 km of sandy beaches, bracing fresh air (in fact it’s famous in these parts for its beneficial iodized climate) – and just right to fly a kite. Every year, in early Spring, the world’s greatest kite flyers gather here for a spectacular annual contest (usually in April). The look on people’s faces when they see the hundreds and hundreds of colourful kites flying high is priceless.
For me, this place has an enchanting retro vibe. From the pastel coloured beach huts to the outstanding double-decker carousel on the sea front, and the legendary sweet shop “Le Succès Berckois” in the town, where scrumptious bonbons and lollipops have been made by hand for almost a century. There’s a definite hint of yesteryear and when the sun starts to go down, there’s not much that beats eating chips from a paper bag on the beach or sitting at a terraced restaurant basking in the laid-back atmosphere.
- Visit the Baie d’Authie to see a colony of grey seals, tours organised by the tourist office.
- Bagatelle Amusement Park on the outskirts of town, it’s very French, rather quaint and has rides for little kids as well as thrill seekers who love roller coasters and the like (free for kids under 1m tall). Read our Review of Bagatelle Theme Park
Tourist office: www.berck-tourisme.com
Le Touquet Paris-Plage
Le Touquet is one of the best kept secrets of Paris families who flock here with their cars loaded with toys and bikes for a break that’s authentic, relaxing and fun. This seriously chic destination has everything that maman and papa could possibly want and kids are spoiled for choice with so many things to do.
Tennis, swimming pool, waterpark on the sands, horse-riding through the forest and the dunes, sand yachting, sailing, great golf courses and mini golf, several supervised kids clubs (ages 2.5-15 years) – sports enthusiasts and budding athletes will adore this smart seaside resort.
The white sandy beach is glorious and benefits from having lifeguards present. The buggy-friendly esplanade is where you board the little tourist train that will take you through the town and the surrounding pine forests to admire the dazzling art deco style villas once owned by the jet set who made le Touquet famous in the 20th century. Though it’s rather quieter these days, you may well spot a celebrity or two from time to time. Le Touquet is still very enticing with dozens of great restaurants and a very Paris vibe.
There are hundreds of events throughout the year including an eye-popping Sand Sculpture Festival which is guaranteed to inspire the whole family to build sandcastles on the sandy beach (July-Aug) and a charming Flower Festival (Aug 19).
- The lovely market (Thursday and Saturday, plus Monday from June to mid-September), pick up some fabulous, fresh local produce and enjoy a picnic.
- Hire a Segway and pootle about town.
- Pony rides from 3 years upwards and riding for the whole family at the equestrian centre.
- The famous fish soup at Chez Perard.
This old walled medieval town has visitors falling in love with its ravishing good looks and is ranked in the top 10 of the “100 most beautiful detours in France”.
There are no chain coffee shops or restaurants here, this town is typically French and proud of it.
15km from the sea, Montreuil-sur-Mer has a rich history. The ramparts that surround it offer stunning views over the local countryside. You’ll hear birds sing as you sit in the elegant squares watching the world go by. Shop at the Saturday morning market or wander the cobble stone streets admiring the architecture.
There is a canoe club (note that kids need to be able to swim a minimum of 25m). Alongside the river bank are some lovely picnic spots.
Adults will appreciate the great choice of restaurants and café lifestyle in this village fleurie (flowery village). Kids will love to tuck into the tasty pancakes from the local creperie in rue du Clape en Bas.
- Les Miserables performed by around 500 townsfolk in fabulous costume on the ramparts. It’s an incredible piece of open air theatre complete with charging horses and booming cannons. This is a superb homage to Victor Hugo who based his famous story on a visit to this town. (29, 30, 31 July and 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 August 2016 – tickets from the tourist office).
- Antiques Fair – 14 July. You’re bound to find something for all the family here. And, in the evening join in the fun and enjoy the fireworks because it’s also Bastille Day.
- Centre Azincourt 1415, in nearby Azincourt, Agincourt to the English, a brilliant museum presents a view of one of the most historic battles ever. Azincourt1415.com
This seaside town is a family-friendly gem. 3km long pristine beaches that are uncrowded and ideal for toddlers to try out their first bucket and spade. This is the place to go for those who want to relax in tranquil, beautiful surroundings and let the sugary sand tickle their toes. Kids will love the wide open spaces here and the chance to run about in the fresh air.
It’s a peaceful, countryside location that lies in the centre of the regional park between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Touquet. Neufchatel is a village and Hardelot is a lovely seaside resort – so you get the best of both worlds.
There is a super equestrian centre with a pony club for four years upwards. You can take guided rides through the village and surroundings. For more experienced riders, a full gallop on the beach beckons. Just a few of the fun things to do include sand yachting, sailing, catamarans, wind surfing, speed sailing, kayaking and a skate park for teens. Golfers will love the chance to play surrounded by scented pine trees. On these flat roads, family bike rides are fun!
With several really great restaurants and cafés, this is a terrific chill out place. You won’t feel crowded or rushed here, but can take your time to truly appreciate the French way of life.
- Release your inner gourmand at the Sunday morning market on the beach throughout the summer – fresh produce and artisan goods.
- Chateau de Hardelot – a very English castle in the heart of rural France. There are concerts and exhibitions year-round. It’s beautifully furnished (I loved how clothes were laid out on the beds as if the owners were coming back to get dressed for dinner) and there’s a very glamorous tea room.