Seaside stays


Whether you’re taking buckets and spades or surfboards, we have found great accommodation for your holiday on the French coast

L’Hermitage Barrière, La Baule

There is something undeniably soul-stirring about waking up to the sight and sounds of the sea. From my bedroom balcony, I wipe slumber from my eyes while watching a hazy morning sun cast chasms across the cobalt ocean lapping softly at swathes of golden sand. I’m staying in the five-star L’Hermitage Barrière hotel, which occupies a prime position along the seafront promenade of La Baule-Escoublac. The resort in the Loire-Atlantique département is not only blessed with a nine-kilometre beach – one of the longest in Europe – but many beautiful villas, high-end boutiques and casinos.

The hotel, built in 1929, is a bastion of old-word elegance, with a sprawling half-timbered façade complete with pointed roofs and jolly red balconies. Inside, a makeover has given the place a sense of renewed splendour. Between the soaring ceilings and gleaming polished floors of the foyer, you’ll find satin-soft sofas and tiered chandeliers, gilded mirrors and rococo lights with glass doors opening on to an outdoor swimming pool. Rooms, all 200 of them, take on a nautical sophistication; mine was spacious and themed in cream and marine in perfect harmony with my sea view. From the lobby, a path leads directly to the Eden Beach, the hotel’s idyllic beachfront restaurant, which has a breezy, laid-back feel and serves delicious platters of seafood. The speciality is bar en croute de sel, a whole sea bass baked in a thick salt crust to make it moist and juicy. Doubles from €175 including breakfast. Zoë McIntyre

The Beachhouse, Gironde

A trip to the seaside is a chance for a good old-fashioned holiday where you get back to basics. This 1930s house is just five minutes from Gironde’s Atlantic coast and filled with charm. Original features, bleached floorboards and vintage touches evoke childhood holidays and memories of sun-drenched trips to the beach armed with buckets and spades, blankets and picnic hampers.

Sleeping 16, the cosy 7-bedroom house has a 20-metre terrace with plenty of room to stretch out, play board games and compare suntans. Situated in Montalivet, the Beachhouse is a two-minute stroll from the town’s daily market where you can stock up on Medoc wines and local seafood for a long, lazy lunch on the veranda. Sleeps 16; from €1,200 per week

Hôtel Demeure Les Mouettes, Corsica

The scented isle offers more than 1,000 km of coastline so if you’re after a seaside stay, Corsica is the place to be. The Hôtel Demeure les Mouettes is a 19th century villa with a private beach close to the centre of Ajaccio, making it an inviting place to retreat to after a morning enjoying the sights of the port town.

The large terrace with saltwater pool is shaded by pine trees and the place to snooze away an afternoon. If you’re feeling more energetic, borrow a snorkel and flippers from reception and plunge into the clear waters of the bay below. Rooms from € 95; breakfast €21

Hôtel Best Western Le Champlain, La Rochelle

For an authentic French hotel experience sidestep the big chain hotels lining the port of La Rochelle and seek out the Hotel Le Champlain. Just five minutes’ walk from the Vieux Port, this quaint establishment, housed in a hôtel particulier, is an instant charmer. Walk in through the small stone entrance and you’ll be met with imposing chandeliers, stone pillars and a staircase complete with gold balustrades, all of which immediately give the place an ornate edge.

Mosey on up the grand staircase to find three floors of carefully-crafted bedrooms; my room was no. 38 located on the second floor. I unbolted the tall wooden door to find a spacious chambre where contemporary met classical style with a huge ergonomic bed, floor-length satin curtains and period furniture. The room’s oversized windows looked out onto a delightful rear garden bursting with cherry blossom. I couldn’t immediately locate the bathroom, but after a few minutes I happened across a secret door which led me into a room of pure comfort complete with super size rainwater shower head. Breakfast was an equally pleasant experience; served in one of the several elegant public rooms on the ground floor, guests are treated to a view of the garden as they munch on a generous assortment of pastries, cheeses, yoghurt, cereals and fruit. Rooms from €84 per night. Peter Stewart

Les Criques de Porteils, Pyrénées-Orientales

Camping holidays and five-star luxury are not two things you’d automatically put together but at Les Criques de Porteils the two go hand in hand. The Mediterranean setting alone, between Collioure and Argelès-sur-Mer, is enough to make this a memorable experience. Hard-core campers can pitch up their tents while campervans and caravans are also welcome. You can also hire a mobile home or choose to unfurl your sleeping bag in a Polynesian-style wooden cottage or faré. Car-free visitors can reserve special pitches with easy access to the coastal path for walks towards Argeles-sur-Mer and Collioure.

At the on-site restaurant you can dine on Catalan dishes and enjoy panoramic views over the resort’s private beaches. Nature lovers will love the rocky coastline and secluded coves while watersports fans can explore this heritage area by stand-up paddleboard or immerse themselves in the azur waters of the Cerbère-Banyuls marine reserve on a scuba dive. Camping pitches from €24.50 per night; mobile homes from €299 per week.

Hôtel du Parc, Hardelot, Nord-Pas-de-Calais

Just a short hop south from Calais on the Cote d’Opale, the Hotel du Parc at Hardelot Plage is a great destination for beach-lovers of the active persuasion. With tennis courts, golf courses and horse-riding activities all easily to hand, it’s a great place to breathe in the sea air and get your heart pumping. The Hotel du Parc is part of the Najeti group, which has several hotels (many focussed on golf) across France, and this particular hotel offers 81 rooms and 22 apartments, along with a bar, restaurant, heated outdoor pool, tennis courts and (somewhat untidy) petanque court.

Our twin room was big, bright and airy, with a balcony at the back looking out toward the pine trees that cover the landscape between the hotel and the beach, two kilometres away. Decorated in light green and white, with green checked bedspreads, the colour-scheme was a little dated, but mod cons came in the shape of a flatscreen TV offering French channels, and a nice modern bathroom with excellent shower and big fluffy towels. Sadly tea and coffee making facilities were absent, which seems a shame with such a frequently British clientele. Thankfully breakfast offered a great spread and choice, and we tucked in to a hearty breakfast before heading to the nearby aquarium Nausicaa at Boulogne for a closer look at life beneath the ocean wave. Rooms from €79 per night. Carolyn Boyd

Hôtel Oceania, Saint-Malo

For those seeking a relaxing seaside stay close to home the iconic fortified town of Saint-Malo makes for an excellent choice. The Oceania Saint-Malo is just a stone’s throw from the winding streets of the old town, situated along a coastal promenade overlooking Sillon beach. An ultra modern, glass-fronted structure with a prime location overlooking the widest stretch of Sillon beach, this is the mother of all seaside hotels. The huge glass doors invited us into a lobby which screams design hotel, with sleek minimalist interiors, oak-coloured parquet floors and colourful wedge furniture spread throughout.

The helpful staff made our check-in a hassle-free experience and handed us the keys to two top floor rooms, despite it being early in the day – helpful given that we had just rolled off the ferry. I flung open my door and gave a little gasp at what had instantly become my dream pad. What lay before me was an incredibly spacious room, lined with egg-shell white walls, a huge ergonomic double bed, wall-to-wall wardrobes and a super size jacuzzi whirlpool bath. With a flick of a switch a 48-inch plasma tv screen quickly descended from out of nowhere and background lighting added a peaceful maritime blue hue to all four corners of the room.

The highlight for me was when I threw back the cream, geometric print curtains to behold a jaw-droppingly long glass-fronted balcony with truly mesmerising views over Sillon beach and beyond. Rooms from €95 per night.

Peter Stewart

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