Where to buy French property... if you want the seaside
PUBLISHED: 10:45 23 June 2015 | UPDATED: 15:47 15 December 2015
Karen Tait takes her bucket and spade around France’s coastline
If the beach is your heart’s desire, you have a whole lot of coastline to choose from! France is surrounded by three oceans – the English Channel (or La Manche), the Atlantic and the Mediterranean – and has everything from long sandy beaches to rocky inlets, and windswept cliffs to fashionable promenades. Some 24 départements in France have a coastline:
• English Channel: Nord, Pas de Calais, Somme, Seine-Maritime, Eure, Calvados, Manche, Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d’Armor
• Channel and Atlantic: Finistère
• Atlantic: Morbihan, Loire-Atlantique, Vendée, Charente-Maritime, Gironde, Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
• Mediterranean: Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault, Gard, Bouches-du-Rhône, Var and Alpes-Maritimes
While some only have a short stretch of seaside, others have coastlines that go on for ever – Les Landes, for example, is home to the Côte d’Argent, 200km of sandy beach backed by dunes and pine forest.
Many people rush through Nord-Pas-de-Calais from the ferry on their way south but it has wonderful wide sandy beaches, cliff walks and attractive towns and resorts such as Boulogne and Le Touquet, known as Paris-Plage.
Heading west, Normandy is home to the charming port of Honfleur and the elegant seaside resort of Deauville, as well as one of France’s premier attractions, Mont St-Michel and the D-Day Landing beaches.
All of Brittany’s departments have a coastline and you’re never more than an hour from the seaside. The varied coastline includes the Côte de Granit Rose, with its pink granite rocks, the Côte d’Émeraude, home Dinard and Cancale, the rugged Finistère headlands, and the gentler Morbihan gulf and coast. There are many resorts to choose from, including the walled town of St-Malo on the north coast, and Quiberon and Carnac, known for its standing stones, on the Atlantic, as well as islands such as Belle-Île.
On the Atlantic, Pays-de-la-Loire has resorts such as La Baule, with its 9km beach, Pornic on the Jade Coast, and St-Nazaire on the Loire estuary. Vendée is known for sailing, being the starting point for the Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race. Just off the coast, the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier are popular holiday destinations.
Poitou-Charentes has only one seaside département, the aptly named Charente-Maritime, but it has plenty of popular beaches and resorts, including Talmont-sur-Gironde and Royan, as well as one of France’s most-loved harbours at La Rochelle and the islands of Oléron and Ré.
Across the Gironde estuary, Aquitaine is where you’ll find the long straight beaches of the aforementioned Silver Coast, backed by sand dunes, including the towering Dune du Pyla, and Europe’s largest pine forest. Closer to the Spanish border, the Basque coast is more rugged, with a mix of cliffs, creeks and bays. Resorts range from Arcachon with its elegant villas to the surfing mecca of Biarritz, which also has more than its fair share of grand architecture. Other popular spots include the Cap Ferret peninsula, St-Jean-de-Luz and Mimizan.
Crossing France to the Med, Languedoc-Roussillon’s coast stretches from Spain to Provence, and includes the pretty port of Collioure, Banyuls, known for its dessert wines, Argelès, Gruissan, Cap d’Agde, Sète and La Grande Motte. The coastline is rockier towards the Spanish border, with sandy beaches further north. These are popular for windsurfing, and backed by freshwater lagoons, home to flamingos. The coast also includes part of the Camargue on the border with Provence.
Last but not least, the Riviera is world famous for glamorous resorts like Cannes, St-Tropez and Antibes. It also has major cities and ports such as Marseille, Toulon and Nice. The most built-up of France’s coastlines – and the most cosmopolitan - it has countless marinas, hotels and restaurants. Expect a mixture of pebbles and sand on the beaches, some of which are private. It also includes the principality of Monaco.