Being French, I often think that it’s my duty to highlight not just the best cities in France, but the best countryside
towns and villages, too. Particularly in northern France, my family and I have spent a lot of time travelling around,
exploring quaint rural locations. Here’s a selection of some of my favourite charming towns and villages, all found
within a 30-minute drive of Calais.
Once known as Oderzelle, the commune of Audresselles is a historic part of the Pas-de-Calais department, boasting two
beaches surrounded by picturesque cliffs. With a history dating back to the Middle Ages, I love exploring Audresselles’
past through its fascinating town centre and sea front, which is home to traditional flobarts (small boats) that
are still in use today. With such a thriving fishing culture here, it’s only natural that the local cuisine centres
Delicious fresh fish and crustaceans take pride of place on local restaurant menus, such as La Marie Galante, where you can order a whole crab (if you know how
to dismantle it!) Local activities make the most of Audresselles’ natural beauty and wildlife, and the first time
my family and I visited, we went searching on foot for mussels, shrimp and crabs. I’ve also seen painters sat with
their easels on the beach, so if you’re the artistic type, you might want to bring your painting equipment! When
the weather is fine, try taking a stroll along one of the marked hiking trails which line the coast – you won’t be
Wissant, which translates to ‘white sand’ in English, is a thriving village most famous for its vast beach. During low
tide, the beach is a vast stretch of flat sand, and is perfect for sports such as windsurfing and kite flying. It’s
also a great beach for kids, and I’ve spent many afternoons watching my little ones running around and building sandcastles!
Much of this landscape is part of a protected area, and when driving into Wissant village you get the distinct feeling
that the countryside has stayed the same for many years. While there are plenty of great restaurants and cafés, I
particularly enjoy the gastro pub just outside of town, Le Colombier. It’s a very attractive building surrounded by picturesque
countryside, and the food’s delicious.
Found between Boulogne and Calais, Ambleteuse is a small town nestled right on the coast. The surrounding Caps et Marais
d'Opale natural park is full of natural beauty to explore, so if you’re a fan of walking then this is the place.
One of my favourite restaurants in town is A L'Opale des Caps. All of the food here is locally sourced, and there are some truly delightful
items on the menu. If you’re a fan of seafood, you must try the seafood platter!
When it comes to exploring the town of Ambleteuse, there are some great historical spots found in and around town. You’ll
see a 17th century fort, Fort Mahon, alongside the Slack river, while the river itself boasts many different types
of flora, and I love taking the kids here to teach them a little about nature. I ask them to see how many different
types of plants they can spot – but it’s important that they don’t pick any as some are quite rare! Don’t forget
to visit the World War II Museum, where you’ll see uniforms, weapons and video footage from the war. It’s a great
activity on a rainy day.
The seaside town of Wimereux is really charming, and it’s still a hidden gem when compared with much of the coast around
Calais. Of all my favourite towns near to Calais, Wimereux arguably has the most to offer. It’s got a stunning beach,
with a scenic promenade lined with beach huts, a fantastic culinary scene and there’s even an impressive 18-hole
golf course. 19th century Victorian buildings dominate much of the town centre, and on an especially clear day, you
can see the white cliffs of Dover from the coast!
If I’m treating my family to a special day out, we often go horse riding along the beach, which is great fun. My kids
love the mini golf course just outside of town, and if you’re into sports, the winds at the beach are ideal for windsurfing,
sailing and sand yachting. There’s a lovely restaurant at the Hotel du Centre, but if you’re looking for something more casual, try
They serve pizza (which the kids love) and traditional Breton buckwheat crepes.
Ready to explore the coast around Calais?
With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you can get
from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes, and with all of these destinations within a 30-minute drive, you’ve
got more time to explore.