Watertravel & Waterside Destinations
A boy throws stones into the bay at Ètretat, elephant rock in background.
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A boy throws stones into the bay at Ètretat, elephant-shaped rock in background.

Ètretat on the Normandy Coast

Ètretat may not have a natural river-mouth harbor — as do Dieppe, Le Havre and Le Tréport — but it does have some fascinating rock formations.

Writing in Un Vie, Guy de Maupassant described La Porte d’Aval as “... a rock of curious shape, rounded, with gaps in it looking something like an immense elephant with its trunk in theHôtel la Résidence, an Ètretat landmark since the 14th century. water; it was the little port of Ètretat.” Having no harbor or pier, Ètretat today is a port for beachable boats only. The elephant description was fitting, though, for the famous rock formations which also are seen in paintings by Monet.

Another of Ètretat’s outstanding features is manmade: the Hôtel La Résidence. Built in the 14th century, its ancient facade has been preserved while the rooms have been brought up to date with modern plumbing, and other amenities. For golfers Ètretat is quite special in that it has an 18-hole par-72 course with a seaside location that rivals Pebble Beach at Carmel, California.

We arrived at Ètretat around lunchtime and decided to try one of the restaurants near the pebble beach pictured below. The food was not the sort that gave France its reputation for gastronomy but the service was definitely the sort which gave French waiters their reputation for courtesy toward foreign guests. That's the luck of the draw and next time the experience may be different. The choice of eatery will certainly be different. By contrast, we can heartily recommend the restaurants along the quay in Dieppe.

Small boats on the gravel beach at Ètretat.

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Copyright © Don Douglas