It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to picking a seaside base in France for a brilliant holiday. But here are three locations where you not only have great beaches but stunning countryside too…
Normandy is a marvellous mix of seaside resorts and glorious countryside, peppered with historic and enchanting towns and villages. The look and feel of the coast varies enormously. From the craggy wild granite coastline of the northern Cotentin to the Pink Granite coast and the long sandy beaches and white cliffs of the south. Rouen, lies on the left bank of the Seine and is the capital of Normandy. It’s dominated by the great cathedral of Notre Dame which captivated impressionist poster boy Claude Monet whose house and garden you can visit in Giverny – it’s utterly gorgeous.
There’s nothing that prepares you for the sight of the almost one thousand year old Bayeux Tapestry in person. Be prepared for a truly memorable wow moment when you visit Mont-Saint-Michel. This breath-taking medieval town winds its way helter-skelter like on an island until you reach the top with an ancient abbey and incredible views over the bay.
Go inland to discover ancient beech forests, apple orchards and meandering valleys where dairy herds proliferate. Normandy is a foodie paradise – Camembert, cider, apple tart and Calvados, what more is there to say?
Where to stay: You’ll find plenty of options in Normandy from pretty little cottages for two to chateaux that will sleep families and large groups.
Brittany is a brilliant blend of country and coast, beautiful beaches. There are historic and authentic cities and picture postcard villages with loads for the whole family to do.
Spectacular coastal towns, secluded islands, the Pink Granite Coast with its rose-tinted rocks beaten by the sea into amazing shapes. And the bustling port towns of Saint-Malo and Brest are more than enough for even the most ardent of seaside fans. The west coast is characterised by dramatic cliffs and rock formations, the north by pretty coves and tiny harbours. To the south there are wide estuaries and long sandy beaches. Take the coastal road that links St. Malo and Dinard to St.-Brieuc and discover enchanting harbour towns and authentic cafés plus amazing scenery.
A very different landscape awaits you inland, with valleys and forests, rivers and canals. Don’t miss Dinan which lies at the mouth of the River Rance. Its old town, cobbled streets and city walls are magical.
Where to stay: Whether you want sea views, a bijou villa for a couple, a fabulous mansion house for bigger groups, on the coast, inland or in a city – there’s a vast choice. Sea views anyone?!
Charente Maritime is another department with both a brilliant beach base and fabulous countryside. La Rochelle has a unique mix of charm and style, steeped in history and rich in architectural Treasures. The seaport town is in southwest France on the Atlantic coast, and it’s the capital of Charente Maritime department.
In the Vieux Port, with its historic towers which seem to watch over the city, you’ll find many good bars and restaurants. There’s also excellent shopping in arcaded streets lined with ancient buildings. Its all about boats here, it’s a major port and sailing centre. It’s also great for water sports and bobbing about, with speed boat, sailing boat and catamaran trips on offer. There are a couple of beaches in the city. But, for the best beaches, head round the coast to towns like Fouras and Chatelaillon-Plage.
Go island hopping and cross the bridge to Ile de Re or take a ferry to Ile d’Aix. Discover the historic towns of Royan and Rochefort, once the site of Louis XIV’s naval dockyards.
Head inland for glorious countryside. The Parc Naturel Regional du Marais Poitevin is especially pretty, a land of marshes, canals and picturesque villages. Cognac, in the neighbouring department of Charente, is just over an hours drive from La Rochelle.
Where to stay: There are some fabulous holiday homes in the Charente-Maritime including on the islands of Re, Aix and Oleron. Countryside, seaside, city stays, you’re really spoiled for choice here…