Hardelot Plage is a seaside resort on the northern French coast between Boulogne and Le Touquet. It is within very easy reach of Calais and looks across the English Channel to England. Families with children will love this refreshingly authentic seaside town and Hardelot is one of the official 38 ‘Kids’ resorts in France. They provide additional security and protection for children. Hardelot has much to offer visitors of all ages though.
The town embraces 13 kilometres of golden sandy beaches and has a chic, polished and sophisticated ambiance. The immediate sea front area is home to superbly maintained beach huts, top notch shops and sand yachting. On the inland side of town rests a greatly restored chateau at the centre of a wonderfully preserved country park. This area is home to much wildlife, natural forestry and a brand new contemporary Shakespearean theatre built with timber panels and bamboo struts.
I visited Hardelot in the autumn and town life remained busy and elegant after a busy summer and the sport of sand yachting thrives all year round. It was the famous French aviator, Louis Bleriot, who started it all. He invented the ‘Aeroplage’, the forerunner of the modern sand yacht. The flat and wide beach open to the elements is an ideal location for pursuing this sport. Kite flying is also popular on the sands as is canoeing – including for kids.
Town shops were busy and offer sophisticated goods and services. Restaurants were all pretty full when I was there and offer stylishly cuisine. Hotels are plentiful and of high quality. For families they provided great value for money.
Between the beach frontage and the inland chateau and park area, domestic housing is conspicuously prestigious, varied and graceful. In this area there are many opportunities to take part in other sports. Two golf courses exist in the town and are open to non-members. The ‘Pins’ course is 18 hole course that’s said to be the most ‘technical’ in France. Horse riding and training is available for children and there is a pony club for the youngsters.
Entente Cordiale at Hardelot
In the north east corner of the town, visitors will find the Chateau d’Hardelot , a medieval ruin converted into a Tudor style large fortified house. It was restored to its present state by 19th century British owner, Sir John Whitney whose famous guests included King George V of Britain. It is dominant, impressive and a symbol of French and English entente cordiale, flying a flag split by the two nation’s emblems.
The protected park land in which the Chateau sits are home to an impressive, contemporary theatre. The English architect Andrew Todd is an Oxbridge graduate who’s also a jazz musician who lives in Paris.
Hardelot’s Shakespearean Theatre
The theatre is constructed of wood and bamboo and meets all modern design requirements to fulfil safety and fire resistance rules. It emerges from the surrounding old lime tree woodland as a superb modern contrast. It is an impressive two stories high and provides 388 seats arranged in such a way that everyone can view both the stage and all other visitors at the same time. The theatre is referred to as ‘Shakespearean’ but presents many different theatrical performances. It looks a little like the recent globe theatre on the south bank in London. That, it seems, is the root of its culture. It provides for all tastes though and aims to bring the history of drama into the 21 first century. It rests in the countryside and keeps a low profile but when visitors find it, they love it.
Ironically, the first performance at the theatre was presented as a symbol of European solidarity. It took place on the 24th June 2016. The day after the British referendum.
The theatre is supported by a separate café and restaurant presenting itself in the best of tea room style including a beautiful grand piano visitors can try out for themselves.
Hardelot is a charming, civilized oasis to visit. Adults and children will find plenty to enjoy in what is actually quite a small town. It rests just north of Le Touquet which is brimming with the finer things of life on the Cote d’Opal. My impression is that Le Touquet suits the affluent, but Hardelot is for the seaside connoisseur.
Bob Lyons is an ex-pilot turned travel writer, and a total Francophile.