At the end of August, the lovely seaside resort of Le Touquet on the Opal Coast of northern France says au revoir to the summer crowds who flock to enjoy the beautiful beaches, fabulous activities and glorious countryside that surrounds this chic little town throughout the summer months. Autumn is the perfect time for a relaxing visit and a stylish break in Le Touquet says Janine Marsh…
Arriving in Le Touquet to spend a couple of days to unwind at the beginning of September I just caught the tail end of the busy summer tourist season here in this oh-so-chic seaside resort. Those that live here year round number 5-6,000 but in peak summer months the numbers go up to 100,000 plus and it’s easy to see why. This place attracts the French, from well-heeled Parisians and city dwellers from Lille and Arras as well as the British thanks to its proximity to England whilst offering a very authentically French break all year rpund.
Golf in Le Touquet
I’m told that most Brits come for the golf which is played in a superb natural setting amidst dunes and forests and comprises three different courses: The Sea (La Mer) course (18 holes) is a typically British links course laid out in 1931 by the famous architect Harry Colt, and is rated amongst the 100 top courses in Europe. The Forest (La Forêt) course (18 holes) was opened in 1904, and is laid out in the heart of the magnificent pine forest of Le Touquet. It is a peaceful, relaxing course, sheltered from the wind and suitable for all levels of player. Le Manoir golf course (9 holes) is laid out on the dunes, and presents the golfer with all the most likely difficulties and particular situations of the game. It is ideal for beginners and those who want to improve their swing.
Golf Le Touquet is an open golf club which attracts players from all over Europe, a friendly atmosphere prevails and rumour has it a certain golf loving British Royal prince is to be seen on one of the courses from time to time!
Sports and Activities in Le Touquet
There are miles of cycle lanes through pine woods, vast sand dunes and along the coast on mostly flat paths – take a fishing rod and fish from the beach where the sign says you must eat what you catch! Sand yachting on the spectacular and vast beach with a two hour lesson is a fabulous way to build up an appetite and very popular so book in advance if you can – my guide confided in me that an old lady of Le Touquet told her that Queen Elizabeth stopped off in Le Touquet as a teenager for a sand-yachting lesson, so you’ll be following in royal footsteps.
There is a yacht club which is open to everyone where you can take a boat ride or have a sailing lesson, enjoy a snack in the little café alongside the very pretty estuary where the boats are tied up or book a table in the restaurant and look out for the seals sunbathing when the tide goes out. A fabulous equestrian centre of 65 hectares offers horse riding expeditions on the beach or in the forest, lessons and pony rides for the kids and there is a large tennis centre with more than 30 courts and a very nice outdoor centre court swimming pool which is more than a century old to cool off in afterwards.
If you are less inclined to expend physical energy this is the perfect seaside resort for a soothing break. Great restaurants, bars and brasseries will entice and delight; the smart shops have a Parisian feel with lots of French brand names. Need a bit of a pick me up? Try the Thalasso Therapy Spa right on the beach, created by Tour de France rider Louison Bobbet and located in the avenue named after him, the famous seaweed treatments will have you feeling sparkling and sprightly.
Culturally Le Touquet punches way above its weight as the town puts on exhibitions, concerts, art shows, plays, wine tastings and musical events and much more throughout the year and even has its own little museum housed in one of the old Edwardian villas. Whether it’s a motorbike race on the beach called Enduropale and set up by Thierry Sabine who also founded the Paris-Dakkar race, a fly past by the Patrouille de France flight team, an international tennis tournament or a concert – there is something going on in this little town every week, in fact there are 400 events a year!
Where to stay in Le Touquet
Wandering around the streets you’ll discover a resort that offers a peculiarly Franco-British feel, the Edwardian-era Villas give a feeling of the charm of old England blended seamlessly with typically French style; it’s because Le Touquet was originally created by an Englishman!
There are plenty of hotels ranging from the stylish and swanky such as The Westminster or the mock Baronial style Le Manoir on the edge of a golf course, to good value stays like The Bristol minutes from the beach; B&Bs and apartments are plentiful. Le Touquet also has one of the nicest mobile home parks I know, right by the Yacht Club Marina with stunning views over the estuary and surrounded by the dunes and a nature reserve, I’ve rarely seen a better setting.
I stayed at The Westminster, affectionately known as Le West. A monument to Art Deco style, it offers a taste of a glamorous era when international jet setters flocked here to party in the glitzy salons and opulent swimming pool with its vibrant Art-Deco murals at Le West. It’s still a luxurious hotel with more than a hint of the grand era when luminaries like Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf and Ian Fleming (who based the James Bond book Casino Royale on Le Touquet’s casino) stayed here. Their presence is felt in the corridors where hundreds of photographs signed by past celebrity guests draw the eye, Edward VIII, Sean Connery, Roger Moore and even Serge Gainsbourg who got his break playing the piano and singing in the restaurant Flavio next to Le West.
I loved this hotel for its old style glitz and glamour, fabulous wrought iron lift doors, welcoming doorman José and Michelin starred restaurant Le Pavillon (and that’s a whole other story!).
Don’t miss in Le Touquet
The market – held every Saturday and Thursday (and Monday in the summer) in the Art-Deco style covered market, it’s a feast for the eyes and offers a fantastic array of fresh, seasonal and local produce, gourmet specialities from bonbons to cheeses and confitures, French fashion and home décor items.
Chocolate shops – Au Chat Bleu and Beussent vie for your attention with their delicious locally made chocolates and if this isn’t enough there is a charming marshmallow specialist shop where they make the sweets on the premises in every conceivable flavour at Arts ET Gourmands in Rue de Metz.
Typically French – French china and kitchenalia, patisseries, fresh fish and cheese shops – stroll the rue de Metz for a very tempting array of goodies and stop off for a glass of wine in Le Mastroquet wine bar at No. 96 where the lovely barman will tell you a story about the wine you’re drinking.
More on shopping in Le Touquet.
Pop into the Tourist Office located in the rather smart Palais de Congres which is also home to a very pretty theatre and pick up a map and information on what’s on.
How to get to Le Touquet
DFDS Ferries Dover to Calais route takes an hour and a half and on to Le Touquet takes approximately 45 minutes by car.
Eurotunnel from Ashford takes 35 minutes and Le Touquet is about 40 minutes by car.
Information about where to stay and what to do from the Le Touquet Tourist office Website