Soak up the seaside village of Étretat

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A delightful town nestled between two cliff faces on the Côte d'Albâtre.

Étretat is a breath-taking village that beckons both trendy Parisians and English tourists. Attracting the likes of painters and writers for years, the cliffs of Étretat continue to pull in tourists who want to admire the stunning views. Being a short distance from Calais, the coastal drive down to Étretat makes a perfect destination to visit by car, too.

Étretat

Where in France: The Alabaster coast, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandy.
Distance from Calais: 270km / 3h

The small and delightful village of Étretat is found on France’s northern coast within the Seine-Maritime department of Haute-Normandy. Despite its small size though, there is plenty to keep you entertained if you feel like leaving your world behind for a few weeks. Thanks to its position on the Côte d'Albâtre, or Alabaster Coast, this stretch of white cliffs and pebble beaches are easily explored, from the fishing village of Le Tréport to historical port Le Havre.

Natural Beauty

The village is a sight to behold, framed by its dramatic coastal scenery and two cliffs that seem to set the boundary for where it begins and ends. The natural allure and relationship the village has with the sea has inspired painters for centuries, including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and even Claude Monet.

The incredible needle and elephant at Falaise d'Etretat
The incredible needle and elephant at Falaise d'Etretat.

Étretat has been a fashionable haunt for metropolitan Parisians since the 19th century. During the early years of their fascination with the town, they built extravagant villas that today add buckets of charm and sophistication. The destination seems to have never gone out of style and still swells with visitors from around the world every weekend throughout the year.

To the French, the beauty of the cliffs along their Northern coastline is held in the same regard as The White Cliffs of Dover to the English, this is no coincidence as they’re both made from the same brilliant white chalk. The most distinct and recognised section of the cliff face has been artistically dubbed, ‘Cap Blanc-Nez’, which translates to “Cape White Nose”. Depending on your route from Calais to Étretat, there’s plenty of opportunity to hop out and observe these awe-inspiring cliffs while stretching your legs.

Best enjoyed on foot

Once settled you’ll undoubtedly want to grab your walking shoes! Whether you’re a wanderer who likes to find their own way, or a serious hiker who leaves no stone unturned, Étretat has you covered.

There are a number of natural wonders in and around the area that simply must be enjoyed first hand, including the three arches found in the nearby cliffside. Porte d'Aval and the Porte d'Amont are visible from the town, but the Manneporte is the third and biggest arch that requires seeking out. This provides you with the perfect opportunity to flex your French tongue and ask a local for directions!

From a German WWII bunker nestled in the cliff face at Falaise Aval, a popular walking route begins where visitors can head in the direction of the famous ‘L’Aguille’ or “The Needle”, a 77m high pointed rock formation. The climb - when safely approached - allows you to enjoy magnificent views over the channel.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde atop the cliff face at Plage à Etretat
Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde atop the cliff face at Plage à Etretat.

Another rewarding stroll is to visit the ornate Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. The chapel was built in 1856 following a mission preached by a ‘Father Michael’, who had allegedly found a written note from the Virgin Mary herself at the site.

The building was sadly destroyed during the German occupation in 1942, but then resurrected in identical fashion in 1950. Nestled at the top of Falaise d'Amont in Étretat, the church is a short yet steep walk from the town.

There is also a golf course aptly named ‘Golf d’Étretat’ that overlooks the bay, providing breath-taking views and wild coastal conditions to challenge even the most seasoned player.

The town also has a delightful promenade that spans across most of the beach. Promenade sur le Perrey provides the perfect setting for a stroll and is the viewpoint from which the two nearest cliff arches can be spotted. It’s ideal for those without hiking boots.

The golf course and clubhouse on the cliffside
The golf course and clubhouse on the cliffside.

Getting wet

The coast here runs along the English Channel, which flows from the Atlantic Ocean. This means that it can get a little chilly, yet not too chilly for the local residents who enjoy a good swim in the summer! Of course, the temperature really isn’t much of an issue when you pair it with a beautiful sunny day. For some of you, taking a dip isn’t very appealing regardless of the weather, but for others it’s an integral reason to visit Étretat. If you need convincing, the water is the most alluring shade of blue, as well as being incredibly clear and clean.

To make the most of the summer months, the pebbled beach along the promenade is home to a water-craft rental company offering catamarans, windsurf boards, funboards, paddleboards and kayaks. Paddling out into these shores at high tide offers the unique experience of getting up close and personal with the three arches and the standalone, L’Aguille (the needle).

This is the perfect location for both experienced water sports hobbyists as well as complete novices. The short drive from Calais allows seasoned enthusiasts to bring as much equipment as they need, otherwise the local surf school will lend you a board and teach you how best to use it. Visit the Normandy Tourism site to find out more.

Colourful kayaks on the pebble beach at Étretat
Colourful kayaks on the pebble beach at Étretat.

So how about it? Do you fancy a short, beautiful drive along the French Northern coast, kayak in tow? Whether you’re planning a short or long stay, getting active or just taking in the sights, Étretat is the ideal destination for a getaway. Book your next adventure with us now to take advantage of the best fares.