La Baie d'Authie © Ville de Berck-sur-MerLa Baie d'Authie © Ville de Berck-sur-Mer
©La Baie d'Authie |Ville de Berck-sur-Mer

Views over Authie bay, the ‘alternative’ bay

The Authie bay may be the smaller sister of the Somme bay, but as a ‘Grand Site de France’ it’s a landmark in its own right. Being less extensive than the Somme bay gives it a real family friendly vibe whilst retaining a majesty across several incredible environments. From Berck-sur-Mer in Pas de Calais to Fort-Mahon in the Somme, this estuary – one of the last preserved estuaries in Europe – is in tune with the rhythm of the tides, and offers a wide diversity of terrain across its 5200 acres (2100 hectares). Feast your eyes on the scenery all around you as you cross this wild bay’s salt marshes, seashore and dunes on foot.

Northern France _ Fort-Mahon © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Nicolas BryantNorthern France _ Fort-Mahon © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Nicolas Bryant
©Northern France, Fort-Mahon |CRTC Hauts De France - Nicolas Bryant

A little edge of the world nearby

The Authie’s bay wild beauty takes you on a journey through land and sea, and into a landscape that feels like it’s at the edge of the world, shielded from the damaging hand of man. This place has not changed over many centuries, and the animals and marine plants settle and thrive in complete freedom.

The bay extends over 65 miles (105km) along the Opal Coast and Picardy, crossing – north to south – the towns and villages of Berck-sur-Mer, Groffliers, Waben, Conchil-le-Temple, Quend-Plage and Fort-Mahon-Plage. Lovers of the great outdoors will be pleasantly surprised to discover such diverse ecosystems spread over three distinct habitats.

A haven for a diverse fauna and flora

Firstly, the salt marshes – known as mollières in Picardy – are covered by the sea at high tide, resulting in a land rich in sea salt and perfect conditions for local plants to flourish. In summer, sheep roam the marshes, which are covered by sea lilac like a beautiful field of lavender as well as samphire and sea asters, often known as oreilles de cochon in French. It’s a calming place, where migrating birds come to rest and replenish during their long journey. It’s also where we can still find – nestled low to the ground – hunting hides.

A large dune borders the bay which is continually shaped by the wind, while erosion is slowly eating away at the woodlands that shelter behind it. Take in the huge sandy beds of beach grass and sea berry plants, and cross on the paths to discover damps flats and depressions – temporary ponds that evaporate in summer and showcase a rich biodiversity.

Further down the estuary you can watch the mascots of the bay – a colony of seals who strut on the sand banks that are revealed as the low tide ebbs away each day, creating the shoreline. This area is ideal for lively walks with kids.

On this immense stretch of sand, the views are truly 360°. In the distance, cockle fishermen and walkers cross paths. Look into a fisherman’s basket and you’ll find a harvest that is carefully controlled and actively monitored. This is because the Authie bay is a fragile world and it’s important to take care – you can play a role not collecting or catching too much.

Local's tip

Francois Goudeau - OT BerckFrancois Goudeau - OT Berck
©Francois Goudeau - OT Berck
Capturing sunrise on camera at La Madelon harbour


La Madelon harbour in Waben is somewhere I find magical. With just one pontoon and a handful of moorings, it’s one of France’s smallest harbours, and its water levels are determined by the tides. More often than not, I’ll come early morning not only because it has an energising effect on me, but also because the light is stunning with the cry of ducks overhead all you can hear. It’s the little boats down here that I’m particularly drawn to, either sitting on the mudbanks at low tide or dancing on the water to the rhythm of the wind and currents, altering the tranquil scene a little every time you come.

François Goudeau, expert on nature, photography and active pursuits

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