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

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 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 Dunkirk


Those crossing via ferry or the Channel Tunnel from Dover, 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 in addition to French, the area is one of the most culturally diverse in France.

Le Tréport


Le Tréport is a very old city that has nonetheless remained small in population and area, thanks to which fact it retains much of its classic character. This is where Haute-Normandie (the modern Departement of Somme) and the Côte d'Albâtre, or Alabaster Coast, begin.

Dieppe


Long a favorite Watertravel 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.

Ètretat


One 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-Mer


Sword 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. What the small commune lacks in terms of interesting architecture it makes up for in being a great spot for a beach vacation.

Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer


Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer is another town of mostly modern architecture situated beside an excellent sandy beach. Those with an interest 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-Bains


Gold 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-Michel


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 the hype, something to put on your itinerary if you’re in the area.

Normandy Coast

Calais & Dunkirk

Dieppe

Le Tréport

Ètretat

Sword Beach
Luc-sur-Mer

Juno Beach
Courseulles-sur-Mer

Gold Beach
Arromanches-les-Bains

Mont Saint-Michel

Central France

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Copyright © Don Douglas