The Opal Coast of Pas de Calais, northern France is the perfect place to take the family. A coastline that takes in golden sandy beaches with lots of activities, cliff top views across the Channel, Jurassic looking rock pools, castles, museums, farms and more – you’ll discover a secret part of France that will have the whole family enthralled…
If you’ve been wondering what to do for a day, a few days or the whole week why not take a look at nipping across the Channel and having an authentic and fun French break with the family!
There’s plenty for the grown-ups to do here and loads to keep the kids happy and busy plus its a great opportunity for everyone to practice their French language skills.
Of course with 80 miles of beaches, it’s the perfect place to build a sandcastle or fly a kite, investigate rock pools and discover the history of the area. The Opal Coast is where Julius Caesar launched his invasion of Britain; Napoleon later contemplated the exact same thing and for those with a head for heights, you can climb the Column of the Grande Armée and stand next to the French Emperor’s statue and take in amazing views over the from 50m up in the air. There are lots of museums and memorials to the First and Second World Wars, chateaux, forts and historic buildings galore for kids to explore and discover history first hand.
Beach activities are plentiful – sand-yachting at Le Touquet where the sport began (Queen Elizabeth II took lessons here as a teenager), boat rides (Boulogne, Wimereux, Dunkirk) fishing expeditions (look out for the seals basking along the coast!), how about horse and pony riding along the sand or through the dunes or seaside forests (Le Touquet and Hardelot).
There are goat farms, ostrich farms and petting farms to visit, nature reserves and beautiful bays where you can see seals dozing and watch the sea birds swooping around noisily.
If the weather is cool or wet, one of the top attractions in the area is Nausicaa at Boulogne-sur-Mer, the national sea centre of France and the biggest aquarium in Europe. There’s a covered and seated sea lion show, meet the penguins in their Cousteau-designed enclosure and take a back stage tour with the keepers. You’ll see thousands of fish including turtles, a giant octupus and jellyfish, sharks, giant tortoises, caimans and a great touch pool where the kids can stroke a ray – it is the perfect way to spend a morning or an afternoon.
The Calais Lace Museum is great for the whole family and tells the history of the area’s lace industry with lots of working looms and fabric and clothes collections – in fact there are a dozen or more museums in the area like Dunkirk’s Port Museum (where you can climb aboard an old boat), Etaples Fishing museum, Fine Arts museums in Calais and Dunkirk and several more among the Opal Coast towns.
A visit to a chateau in the area is a must – you’ll find them dotted about all over the place in this part of France. Along the Opal Coast you’ll find Hardelot Chateau – a centre of entente cordial that celebrates its British neighbours with lots of exhibitions – it’s got a lovely team room too! Visit the impressive and dark 17th Century fort at Ambleteuse near Wissant which was used by Napoleon. The ancient castle at Montreuil-sur-Mer is great for kids to run about and explore the tunnels and ramparts. Boulogne-sur-Mer’s castle, built on Roman ruins, is now a museum and the views from the ramparts will impress the whole family.
More on the Opal Coast and Nord-Pas de Calais
Pas-de-Calais Tourist office website.