Calais is but a stone’s throw away from some of northern France’s best towns and villages. I regularly visit France with my family, and we often plan road trips to take us through the country’s scenic countryside, or along its beautiful coastline. Travelling from Calais to La Rochelle along the coast means stopping regularly to see the sights, while also passing through the unique region of Brittany. Take a look at my road trip guide for some of the best places to stop along the way.
Calais to Rouen
As soon as you land in Calais from Folkestone, it’s time to head to Rouen, capital of the Haute-Normandie region. Rouen is a fantastic city, home to a cathedral and several beautiful churches (my personal favourite being the Church of Saint-Maclou). You can easily spend an entire day exploring all the historic buildings in Rouen, and there’s also a brilliant art gallery, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen. On a sunny day, don’t miss the local park, Jardin des Plantes, and for lunch my favourite spot is La Petit Auberge, where you can enjoy French classics such as duck breast, local cheese and frog legs.
(approx. driving time: 2 hours)Discover the charming city of Rouen.
© Flickr user putneymark
Rouen to Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue
When you’re finished exploring Rouen, it’s off to Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. A pretty coastal commune, this is the perfect place to escape the cities and stretch your legs. The town has a picturesque marina and is surrounded by pretty countryside. You can spend the afternoon taking a trip to Tatihou Island, pick up snacks and supplies from the unique grocery store, Maison Gosselin, and use Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue as a base from which you can explore the wider Cotenin peninsula.
(approx. driving time: 2.5 hours)The pretty boats at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue.
© Flickr user Archangel12
Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue to St-Malo
Passing lovely sights such as the island commune of Mont Saint-Michel (which is worth a visit if you’ve got time) you’ll eventually end up in St-Malo, Brittany. I adore this coastal city, with its walled citadel, cobbled streets and fantastic restaurants, and it has a fascinating history, dating back to the 1st century BC when it was founded by Welsh monk, Saint Maclou. Be sure to walk the ramparts, overlooking historic townhouses, and admire the city’s unique architecture. My family love taking ‘le petit train’ which takes passengers on a tour around the city, and is a great way to get your bearings.
(approx. driving time: 3.5 hours)
St-Malo to Quimper
While it’s possible to get to Quimper in less than three hours by following the D790 and N164 roads, I enjoy the longer drive via the naval port of Brest. It’s a beautiful natural harbour and has a brilliant castle and maritime museum. Driving this route will also take you through the Armorique Natural Regional Park, with thick forests, cliffs and sand dunes. Once in Quimper, you’ll be in Brittany’s unofficial cultural centre. There are museums for every taste, from the Musée Départemental Breton to the Musée des Beaux Arts, the latter boasting fantastic works of art by local Breton artists. Quimper is also known for having two of France’s prettiest rivers, the Odet and the Steir. If you’re staying in town for the night, a boat trip along either of these is a fine way to spend an afternoon.
(approx. driving time: 3.5 hours)
Quimper to La Rochelle
Following the coastal road past Nantes and the Brière Regional Natural Park, you’ll eventually end up in La Rochelle. Home to an old harbour and cathedral, La Rochelle is famous for its limestone façades and half-timbered buildings. One of my favourite places in France, La Rochelle is a liveable, relaxing and green city to explore, with plenty of parks such as Parc Charruyer, which has a river and is perfect for dogs to run about in. End your travels with a brilliant meal at Chistopher Coutanceau, one of La Rochelle’s best restaurants.
(approx. driving time: 4 hours)La Rochelle’s historic port.
© Flickr user HervéWith Eurotunnel Le Shuttle you can travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes. From there, your road trip to La Rochelle awaits!