7 Great Coastal Aires within 3 hours of Calais
We have stayed on coastal many Aires in Northern France on our trips abroad and I thought I would let you know about some of our favourites as you may well want to take a trip abroad in the near future. These Aires are perfect for a one week short break and can all be visited for one night before returning to Calais. Or, if you can stay longer, then spend at least two nights on each one.
Many French towns and villages have their own municipal Aires to attract visitors and boost the local economy, unlike in the UK, where visiting motorhomes are treated like an inconvenience and more and more car parks have height barriers to further deter us from day visits.
In France more and more of these former municipal Aires are now operated by CAMPING-CAR PARKS who have over 200 to chose from all over France. The benefits of using these sites are…
– You can go online and search for a site.
– You can see how many free spaces there are and reserve a space.
– Stay for 24 hours or multiples of 24 hours.
– Some allow you to service your van for a reduced fee.
The one (and only) tricky part of using the Camping-Car Parks sites is getting a pass card the first time you arrive at one of their sites. This card allows you to enter the sites and you pay via it on departure. Sounds simple but in fact the card has to be ‘activated’ before entry on first use which is not the easiest process. Strangely you can’t pay by credit card directly but you have to ‘charge’ your pass card from your credit card which nearly always leaves a small balance on your pass card.
Having said all of that, not all the Aires I am about to list are CAMPING-CAR PARKS! The Aires being described are denoted by a red pin in all the overhead Google maps. To give you a better idea of the towns and villages we are recommending I have embedded a two minute video of each one.
So, travelling north to south down the coast from Calais the first recommendation is…
Fort Mahon Plage
GPS 50.338717, 1.555814
Fort Mahon Plage is a seaside town with the most amazing beach. It has a traditional resort feel and there are no huge imposing hotels. The Aire is a municipal Aire directly off the main street and only a few hundred yards from the beach. The facilities are a bit basic and there are no electricity hook ups. It is only a short hour and a quarter hop down the coast from Calais and should be the first / last stop on your French holiday.
Read about Fort Mahon Plage HERE.
GPS 50.218220, 1.633246 & 50.229788, 1.641403
Le Crotoy has two Aires and we have stayed at both. The first GPS co-ordinates are for the main Municipal Aire right on the riverside and a very short walk from the charming town and beach. The Aire has the basic facilities but no electric hook-up. Lots of good restaurants and individual shops and another great beach.
Read about Le Crotoy HERE.
Read about the Somme Bay HERE.
The other set of co-ordinate is for a Camping-Car Park Aire which is 1.5 miles out of the town. It is not nearly as good as the municipal Aire but you can plug into electricity here.
Apart from the town itself, there are two other reasons for stopping here. One is the walks / cycle from the municipal Aire around the Somme estuary and the other is the steam railway which travels around the bay for 27km.
Read about it HERE and see it on the video for Saint Valery sur Somme.
GPS 50.182194, 1.628963
From Le Crotoy you can see Saint-Valery-sur-Somme across the river and a short drive takes you to another popular municipal Aire. Saint-Valery-sur-Somme owes its rich and eventful history to its strategic position on a limestone promontory facing the Somme Bay. It has now become a member of the Most Beautiful Detours in France network. William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc both visited the medieval city.
From the Aire it is an easy walk into this beautiful little town, the end point for the steam train from Le Crotoy.
Read more about Saint-Valery-sur-Somme HERE.
GPS 50.059506, 1.389098
Le Treport is an interesting place for a stopover on the journey down the Channel coast. There is much to see and do in this bustling town, home to the highest chalk cliffs in Europe at 348ft. The town is easily accessible on foot or bike along the river and past the marina. There is a free funicular railway which takes you up to the top of the cliffs for a fantastic view over the town and out to sea. The fish market down on the key side is also worth a visit.
Read more about Le Treport HERE.
As you travel further down the coast you pass through the Channel ferry port of Dieppe which has a wide range of shops including a huge out of town shopping complex. We have stayed at the Aire in the seafront (49.931956, 1.084045) and if you look at these co-ordinates on google earth you will see it is situated within walking distance of the town centre. The night we spent there was probably the coldest we have ever been in a motorhome and it was the first time I have had to knock icicles off a van before driving off. I am sure if we had visited in the summer and if our heating was working we might have fonder memories of Dieppe!
Saint Valery en Caux
GPS 49.872026, 0.709665
Saint Valery en Caux has a busy little harbour and marina with excellent mackerel fishing from the pier in season. The Aire is at the harbour entrance and you can easily walk from there along the shingle beach under the impressive cliffs or into the town. You can see from the position of the red pin how well the Aire is situated.
The outstanding building in the town is one you pass on the harbour side as you go to and fro the Aire. It is a 16th century house said to have been slept in by King Henry IV. A lot of the town was flattened in the second world war but this building survived.
Read more about Saint Valery en Caux HERE.
Read about the 1940 WW2 surrender of the British forces HERE.
GPS 49.760827, 0.371700
When we stayed at Fécamp we managed to stay on a free parking spot after registering with the nearby Tourist Information Office. There are no facilities at all but there are elsewhere near the harbour. Our visit was in Louis the McLouis and it was the maximum length to fit between the warehouse and the kerb. If we go back with Bessie we would have to stay at the nearby official Aire as Bessie would be too long to park at the marina. The other Aire’s co-ordinates are 49.760137, 0.375501.
Framed by impressive white cliffs, this historic coastal town offers a mix of attractions. Fécamp is both port, resort, ducal town, pilgrimage destination, art centre and the home of the famous Benedictine liqueur, housed in a very impressive building.
Read about Fécamp HERE.
GPS 49.418930, 0.241098
Of all the Aires in this list, this is probably the largest, in fact it may be the largest in northern France. It has the basic facilities and there are a few electric hook ups, but you will be lucky to get one.
So, why is this Aire so big and popular? Well, Honfleur is stunningly beautiful and the Aire is within easy walking distance of the ancient harbour and town centre.
Honfleur is a charming town located in Normandy, in the north of France. With more than 1000 years of history, it’s really worth a visit if you love the ocean and medieval architecture. From the twelfth century onwards, it became an important crossing point for goods transiting via the sea to England. In order to be protected from enemy invasions, the town was fortified and did not cease to grow with the expansion of maritime trade.
Visiting Honfleur means discovering a beautiful little town, with its cobbled alleys, half-timbered houses, small typical harbour and old yachts and trawlers.
To get to Honfleur you have to cross the Seine via The Normandy Bridge, which, at the time of construction held the world record for a cable-stayed bridge. It is 215 m high and 2,141 m long and hopefully it is not a windy day when you cross it as it was for us!
If you only have a week to visit this part of France it may be advisable to drive straight to Honfleur as you may want to spend more than one night here. You can then visit the other places I’ve mentioned above, leaving out one for another time…
Honfleur is so pretty I made two videos of it …
In a future blog post I will carry on heading west along the northern French coast and recommending more Aires to stay at…
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