Experience Brittany: a hidden gem at the water’s edge
While the South of France is rightly called ‘The Blue Coast’, Brittany rivals its southern cousin in beauty, charm, pristine beaches and turquoise waters. In fact, I think la Bretagne is France’s hidden gem. Coastal Brittany, with thousands of kilometers of rugged coastlines and stunning waterfronts, is not to be missed for those looking to spend some time relaxing at the beach.
Located in Northwestern France and jutting out far into the Atlantic Ocean, Brittany is the country’s largest peninsula, covering 27,209 km. The region is divided into four departments, each with its own personality and attractions. Here, one can find a dozen chateaux, pittoresque villages, delicious cuisine, megalithic monuments, and sublime beaches.
- Côtes d’Armor,
- Ille et Vilaine and
Brittany boasts over 1700 kms of coastline and a whopping 800 isles and islands off her shore. It is no surprise that thousands of tourists flock to this part of France every year.
Many visitors seek to immerse themselves in nature and Brittany is the perfect destination choice for this. Visitors are often eager to venture onto the open trails, take advantage of her expansive beaches, and marvel at the unique rock formations and dramatic cliffs that line the coast.
Many of these tourists are British, as la Bretagne is an easy voyage across the English Channel and is very similar in terms of climate. While many tourists come to this area every year, there are far fewer than France’s southernmost beach towns, making it an ideal location for travelers wanting to spend some basking in the sun, without the crowds.
Coastal Brittany: Focus on the north east – Dinard to Cap Fréhel
When I‘m yearning to soak up the sun and feel sand under my feet, I head to Dinard, a seaside town located on the Cote d’Emeraude in the Ille-et-Vilaine department. Dinard has been a favorite holiday destination for many generations, it first gained popularity when the British aristocrats vacationed there in the 1990s, building superb homes, which are still visible, close to the shoreline.
Families continue to come to Dinard to make memories, enjoy the blue skies and cool water, and relax in the stunning blue and white beach tents that line the shore, just as they have for a hundred years.
In addition to swimming and sunning, I love to take the La Promenade du Clair de Lune, which is the quay that runs along the coastline. It offers incredible views of both the sea and neighboring St Malo. I’ve walked for miles along this promenade and my breath was taken away at every turn, by the views (not from the walk).
Indulge in the local seafood delights: shellfish – mussels, oysters, scallops, crabs, prawns, and more
In both restaurants and markets, you’ll easily find a variety of treasures from the sea that are sure to please just about any palette, including oysters, scallops (most notably les Coquilles Saint Jacques), steamed mussels (les moules served with fries), sardines, crabs, prawns, and much more. For those who enjoy cooking, merchants are happy to give suggestions as to how to prepare seafood based on one’s specific tastes.
Often, the simplest dishes are the most delicious as one could not hope for fresher than what is offered here.
Restaurants line the beach at Dinard, where I have enjoyed a delicious lunch or simply a glass of beer or cider with friends. It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. If you visit Dinard and find yourself still hungry, it’s just a 30-minute drive east to Cancale to enjoy fresh oysters caught steps away.
Discover Saint Jacut-de-la-Mer and Cap Fréhel
The coastline of Brittany is so extensive that I feel it best to initially focus on the north eastern corner in order to provide you with an intimate experience.
- Traveling west from Dinard will take you to Saint Jacut-de-la-Mer. It was here with friends that I watched the tide go out and reveal a sand path that allowed us to explore a nearby isle.
- As we did, I recommend that you have a picnic on the shore, where you can watch nature’s magic show and see the sandbar appear – seemingly out of nowhere.
- Then, take time to explore the nearby isles. Be very mindful of the tides, however, and make your explorations brief.
For a slightly longer excursion, continue west to Cap Fréhel, a peninsula that lies in the Côtes-d’Armor department. Here, one can truly appreciate Brittany’s raw beauty. With its crystal-clear water and magnificent cliffs, it is truly breathtaking. In addition to being simply stunning, this protected area is home to about 700 pairs of migratory birds and a lighthouse originally constructed in 1685.
If what you crave is peace, tranquility, and some amazing ocean views at sunset, then Brittany could meet your criteria. Here, you can explore the magnificent coastlines, experience the local cuisine, sink your toes in the sand, enjoy a good book, and truly decompress.
Have you been to Brittany? Have you taken time to experience Coastal Brittany yet? If so, do you have a favorite area or favourite resources? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.
All images Copyright Amy Gruber
1. Dinard, Bretagne, France
2. Map via wikivoyages
3-6. Dinard, Bretagne, France
7. Market Day Dinan, Bretagne, France
8. Cancale, Bretagne, France
9. Saint Jacut-de-la-Mer, Bretagne, France
10.Cap Fréhel, Bretagne, France
Further reading & sources:
1. Geography Brittany: regions
2. Destination Brittany – via Telegraph.Co
3. Brittany – via britannica.com
4. Walks and Hikes around Dinard
5. Cap Frehel: a place of many legends
6. Brittany Tourism: Discover 10 of the best villages
7. Brittany via Explore France
The Ultimate Guide to Brittany
A series of articles with a focus on wellbeing & nature
From the Coast to Forests and more…
1. Experience Brittany: a hidden gem at the water’s edge (this one)
2. Experience Brittany: Forest Bathing
3. Experience Brittany: Outdoor activities & natural beauty
4. Experience Brittany: learn French—cooking with Christine Todd – interview
and many more to come…
ALSO don’t miss our LIVE chronicle of EXPERIENCE BRITTANY
BINGE on BRITTANY: The Nature Cocktail