Although almost the whole of the west coast of Normandy along the Cotenin peninsula (heading south from Avranches) is a non stop beach with massive expanses of sand, our favourite beaches are along the stretch of coastline east of the D Day landing beaches. Here you can find a delightful marriage of perfect beaches and charming coastal towns.
Description: A delightful sea-side resort between Caen and the Seine estuary, often overshadowed by its upmarket neighbour of Deauville, but offering just as much entertainment for a young family. In fact we would recommend it as it is quieter and more relaxed but still possessing all the necessary ingredients for a beach resort.
Location: Along the coast north east of Deauville on the D513.
Our recommendations: When you tire of the beach you can head off into the shops – they are pleasant to browse around although Honfleur is still the place to go for shopping culture! There are some pleasant gardens a short trip inland. There is an excellent fish market (our children weren’t sure whether to be shocked or amazed by the live fish/shell fish squirming around!) to visit and not surprisingly some great fish restaurants like Brasserie Les Vapeurs and Brasserie Le Central. These are right next door to each other and are under the same management, and it can be somewhat tricky to know where one starts and the other ends!
For the children: The beach is the place to head for. But if the weather is inclement then try out the sea front swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) or head for Honfleur to see the butterflies and exotic indoor gardens at Naturospace. There is a small aquarium the kids might enjoy on a rainy day.
Description: A favourite resort of Parisians for generations, with a splendid beach and impressive seaside hotels. There is almost every conceivable entertainment available from the Olympic size sea water swimming pool to crazy golf, tennis and yachting.
Location: Just south of Le Havre and Honfleur.
Our recommendations: Honfleur is worth a detour. Unless visiting for the American film festival, avoid the period during September when Deauville makes a valiant attempt to rival the festival in Cannes. Prices will be high, and the town very busy!
For the children: If they tire of the beach, there is a pleasant boating and activity lake 10 minutes from Deauville that offers water based entertainment with canoes, kayaks, jet skis, swimming beaches etc..
Beaches around Granville
Description: Les Salines to the north of Granville is very popular. There is a nice area inland, separated from the sea by dunes. Access is limited at high tide. However facilities are limited with a few huts selling snacks and portacabin loos. Nearby Agon-Coutainville and St Martin de Brehal have facilities although the settings are not as good. All these beaches have a mixture of sandy stretches interspersed with some pebbles.
Our favourite beaches in this area are those to the south of Granville (St Pair-sur-Mer, Jullouville and Carolles-Plage). These are all in one long stretch with a promenade ~6km long for a pleasant walk/cycle. One problem was the lack of facilities in places….generally you have to come off the beach into one of the villages and even there you would probably have to pay for a drink in a local café (of which there are plenty).
Our recommendations: Tip for parking…..try the side roads that are the other side of the main road from the beach. Those on the beach side are usually packed. And it is only a couple of minutes walk to the beach.
Tip about the tides on these beaches……in common with the whole of the Mont St Michel bay area the tide goes out a very long way……try to go to the beach when the tide is in. The benefit here is that the beaches shelve very slowly….nice for youngsters.
The beach at Omaha
Description: This is a truly spectacular beach; Steeply backed by dunes the beach stretches seemingly for miles and is probably very busy on the summer months. There is a monument on the top of the dunes as well as a couple of former gun emplacements and some underground trenches to explore.
Location: If you are heading west along the coast road D514 there is a very minor road to your right just after Colleville-sur-Mer which heads down to the beach and a small car park (this doesn’t look big enough to cope with potential high summer visitor numbers). If you reach the roundabout for The American Cemetery you have gone too far. Alternatively you could park at the cemetery.
Our Recommendations: As it is not that easily accessible it may not get too crowded in the summer months so may be worth seeking out, although we imagine that people will use the car park at the American Cemetery – see above. We have only ever visited out of season so any reports received would be very welcome.
For the children: If they like bucket and spade days they’ll be happy here.
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to Normandy:
- Chateaux / Gardens
- D-Day Sites
- Food & Drink