Watertravel & Waterside DestinationsDieppe beach at sunset, the ebbing tide revealing a broad expanse of pebbled beach by alabaster cliffs.

Normandy_Coast  Calais_&_Dunkirk  Dieppe   Le_Tréport   Ètretat   Sword_Beach_Luc_sur_Mer   Juno_Beach_Courseulles_sur_Mer   Gold_Beach_Arromanches_les_Bains   Le_Mont_Saint_Michel
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Normandy Coast & D-Day Beaches

Across the English Channel by ferry from Brighton and Dover is an area full of history and culture. It also offers plentiful opportunities for rest and recreation on some of Europe’s best beaches.

Viking raids along the coast and up the rivers of northern France began in the fourth decade of the ninth century. Seven decades later, in the year 911, a viking armada attacked, conquered and remained in the region that came to be named for them: Normandy. Of course, however interesting the Viking era and Norman Conquest might be, for many the region is somewhat better known for its later history: the D-Day invasion of Allied forces in 1944.

Aside from an interest in both ancient and recent historical events, however, our main focus here is in the sheer beauty of this coastal region and the fact that it’s a prime destination for travel and recreation. There’s much to see and do on the Normandy coast which is not included in these pages, but here are some highlights:

Calais and DunkirkThose crossing via ferry or Channel Tunnel or driving south from Belgium will arrive first at Calais and Dunkirk in the Departement of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. With a local dialect of Dutch spoken as well as French, the area is one of the country's most culturally diverse. 

Le TréportLe Tréport is an old city that has nonetheless remained small in both population and area, retaining much of its classic character. This is where Haute-Normandie (the modern Departement of Somme) and the Côte d'Albâtre, or Alabaster Coast, begin.

DieppeLong a favorite destination of the British, Dieppe is home to sea-front hotels, harbor-side restaurants and ancient stone architecture. On a cliff overlooking town is a 15th-century castle, today housing a museum with a vast collection of carved ivory and other art.

ÈtretatOne of Ètretat’s Dover-like white cliffs is weathered and eroded by wind and ocean waves into the likeness of an elephant which appears to be drinking from the sea. You can check into a 14th-century Hôtel La Résidence and stroll on a beach beside the famous cliffs.

Luc-sur-MerSword Beach was the name given to the broad (when the tide is out) sandy beach that stretches from Ouistreham on the eastern end to Luc-sur-Mer on the west. The small commune may lack interesting architecture but is a great spot for a beach vacation.

Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-MerJuno Beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer is another town of mostly modern architecture beside an excellent sandy beach. Those interested in tanks and WWII momuments will find much to appreciate here. Apart from that, it’s an excellent choice for a vacation spot.

Arromanches-les-BainsGold Beach, as it was known on D-Day, is located at the commune of Arromanches-les-Bains. The caissons have weathered the decades fairly well and now serve as a habitat for mussels and other shellfish, which are harvested during low tides by the locals.

Mont Saint-MichelLe Mont Saint-Michel, located on the border between Normandy and Brittany at the mouth of Couesnon River, is an island surrounded by mudflats or water depending on the tide. It definitely lives up to its hype, worth putting on your itinerary if you’re in the area.

Copyright © Don Douglas