© Wimereux, les dunes de la Pointe aux Oies | CRTC Hauts-de-France - Stéphane Bouilland

10 spots to relax overlooking the sea

Fancy a weekend of majestic, wide, open spaces? Looking for a change of scenery away from the hustle and bustle of daily life? Then head to the North Sea and in particular the seafront between the Somme Bay and the Opal Coast, both famous for their dramatic, cinematic views from clifftops, breakwaters, chapels and lighthouses. The horizon here stretches as far as the eye can see and evolves with the changing character of light throughout the day… Escape to the sound of breaking waves and feel the wind in your hair!

Northern France _ Le Touquet-Paris-Plage _ Dunes © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Ishak NajibNorthern France _ Le Touquet-Paris-Plage _ Dunes © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Ishak Najib
©Northern France, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, Dunes |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Ishak Najib
Malo-les-Bains / Dunkirk

01. The promenade in Malo-les Bains

Shall we take a walk down the promenade? Well, it’s part of the scene in Malo-les-Bains, a resort brightened by coloured beach huts and pretty villas from the Belle Époque era of French history. Walk along the beach dipping your feet in the water, breathe in the sea air or simply chill out on a terrace gazing out to sea.

Escalles

02. A 360° view from Cap Blanc-Nez

 

 

Immerse yourself in the vastness of the open sea, where the continuous dance of boats and ferries invites you to travel. With the wind in your hair and your lungs full of salty air you can see Great Britain from the top of the chalky cliffs of Cap Blanc-Nez – some 440 feet (134 metres) high. Closer by, you can see Cap Griz-Nez, the sister of Cap Blanc-Nez. Even accessing this Grand Site de France feels like an adventure, a refreshing walk along the clifftop path, through heathland exposed to invigorating sea spray. It’s a real taste of being somewhere completely new and different.

Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

03. The Bay of Canche from La Base Nord

Do you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular resorts of the Opal Coast and find a wilder, more natural place? The Canche estuary and its surrounding bay can be easily reached via the dunes if you duck off the promenade next to L’Aqualud water park. The Canche is an ideal place from which to observe flora and fauna. You’ll be able to enjoy unmissable views over the estuary in the company of seals and migrating birds. The invigorating sea air blends with the woody aromas from the nearby forest, creating a moment of rejuvenation to connect with yourself and your surrounds.

Ault/Mers-les-Bains

04. The cliffs of Ault

Ault and its chalky cliffs are like a balcony over the sea! The cliffs peak at close to 262 feet (80 metres) in height between Mers-les-Bains and Ault. In Ault itself they stand tall at 125 feet (or 38 metres), affording impressive views over the endless sea. Here’s a little piece of advice to impress your lover – take the narrow pathway from Le Bois de Cise to really arouse your five senses. “It’s a green gem – a wood by the sea nestling in a hollow in a suspended valley”. If you have the chance to visit during the spring tide, find a high spot to watch as the waters rise even higher than usual – it’s awe-inspiring.

Audinghen

05. Cap Gris-Nez from the beach and restaurant La Sirène

Sitting comfortably at a window of the La Sirène restaurant in the town of Audinghen, just to the east of Cap Griz-Nez, recognised officially as a “Grand Site of France” and nestled between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais, you’ll feel like you are on a transatlantic crossing as the British Isles sit on the horizon. The sea air permeates this feeling of being on the high seas and is accompanied by seafood carefully prepared by chef Jean Bouloy. Try an à la carte grilled lobster or shellfish … an incredible view and stunning food, a match made in heaven.

Saint-Valery-sur-Somme

06. View over the Somme Bay from the sailors’ chapel

Let’s climb a little more to Saint-Valery, a small and pretty medieval town on the Bay of Somme. From the top of the eye-catching maritime chapel, the view over the bay is UNMISSABLE! This Neo-Gothic chapel was built in 1878 and is known locally as the “sailors’ chapel” because it is adorned not with a cockerel, but with a seagull as a tribute to the sailors who sounded their foghorns to salute the edifice as they navigated the cliffs.

Wimereux

07. Let's take a stroll along the promenade at Wimereux

The promenade at Wimereux unfolds over a mile or so and is a must-see that can be enjoyed in all weather and at any time of the day or night.  It has an ambiance that harks back to the glamorous Belle Époque era: there are Anglo-Norman villas in the town and blue and white beach huts on the beach. When the sun is out, your gaze will settle on the surf of the North Sea, the lively beach and – in the distance – the English coast. When it’s raining, you can still enjoy an invigorating walk, taking in everyday activities in the villas and people-watching as others pass on foot or bike.

Enjoy an artisanal ice-cream as your face is gently brushed with sea spray – pure joy! At the end of the day, you’ll be bathed in a light so particular that this special place was named after it, the Opal Coast.

Cayeux-sur-Mer

08. Watch the sunset from the beach

The beach at Cayeux-sur-Mer stretches all the way to Pointe du Hourdel – that’s almost 9 miles (14km) of sand where you’ll be able to find a spot alone with your family, partner or friends to face the infinite sea as the sun sets. It’s just magical how the sun gently floats above the sea, colouring the sky an inferno of yellow, orange and red. It’s the perfect spot to capture some rays of vitamin D on your camera to take home with you.

Calais

09. The lighthouse at Calais

It stands like a tall white lady and reaches up to a height of 167 feet (51 metres). Topped with a distinctive black band, the Calais lighthouse is located in the Courgain quarter, the maritime lifeblood of the city located between the seafront and beach. By day, its contrast between black and white warns approaching sailors; at night, its timed flashes of light, which can be seen 27 miles (43 kilometres) away, keep sailors safe.

Take all the time you need to climb the 271 steps to the balcony. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with a unique panoramic view of the port, where ferries, fishing boats and catamarans dance in a unique maritime ballet. When it’s clear, the English coast can be seen on the horizon. Some local tips: firstly, take some binoculars with you if you can. Secondly, cover up well as the wind can be strong this high up. If you visit in the morning, you could also catch the daily fish market, which is always buzzing with life.

Dunkirk

10. Dunkirk’s Saint-Eloi belfry

A guaranteed 360° view! Dunkirk’s famous belfry, built in 1440 and UNESCO-listed, rises to a height of 190 feet (58 metres) and offers superb panoramas of the town, the port and the sea. A lift whisks you almost to the top – all that remains are 60 steps to finish the ascent and marvel at an unbeatable view of the North Sea and nearby Belgium.