Explore the Calvados coastline

Everyone’s idea of the perfect beach is different, but rest assured that from townscapes and bustling promenades to wildly deserted beaches and historic backdrops, one of the French beaches on the Calvados coastline has got your name written all over it. Here’s our edit of the best beaches in Normandy to guide you to yours.

Deauville beach – One of the best beaches in Normandy for luxury breaks in France

Now, if you’ve ever wondered what Paris would be like if it was transported to the coast, wonder no longer as elegant resort Deauville is your heady mix of all the capital’s most chic highlights (think designer shops, high-end restaurants, luxury hotels…) yet with a sweeping sandy beach and famously glamorous ‘planches’ boardwalk thrown in! Known for its iconic beach umbrellas, its Anglo-Norman architecture, the annual American Film Festival and endless sporting opportunities and fixtures from golf and tennis to horseracing and polo, the added bonus of a break in Deauville is that you get two-resorts-for-the-price-of-one: the lovely Trouville-sur-Mer is right next door.

From the ferry port at Caen-Ouistreham (ferry crossings from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries), a drive of just 25 miles delivers you to the resort of Deauville.

Trouville-sur-Mer – One of the best beaches for summer family activities in Normandy

If you want just one beach that’s ‘got it all’, all roads lead to Trouville, with its fine golden sand, iconic boardwalk and handsome Belle Epoque villas. With summer family activities on tap (tennis, seafront pools, watersports, boat trips, seasonal beach fun…) the kids will be in their element, whilst for bigger people, a sandy wander around Centre Ville, with its boutiques, cafés and markets (including fish and seafood fresh from the boat) is essential me-time. We’d say that Trouville is also your pick in the quieter months because its population of permanent residents means it has an atmosphere all year round.

From the ferry port at Caen-Ouistreham (ferry crossings from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries), a drive of just 27 miles delivers you to the resort of Trouville-sur-Mer.

Cabourg – One of the best beaches in Normandy for nostalgia

Something about the grandiose Belle Epoque beachfront hotel and the vintage seaside posters tells you that this resort on the Calvados coast, halfway between Deauville and the D-Day beaches, has been entertaining visitors for generations. It’s still so evocative of days gone by that you almost expect a traditionally-swimsuited 19th century figure to emerge from a beach hut! Sandcastles and ice cream by day, casino and restaurant by night, this is your timeless seaside escape.

From the ferry port at Caen-Ouistreham (ferry crossings from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries), a drive of just 13 miles delivers you to the resort of Cabourg.

The locals’ guide to the best beaches in Normandy

Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer are without doubt our most world-renowned seaside spots, but if you want to know where the locals’ favourite beaches are, we’re happy to spill the beans! Search up Plage de Saint-Côme-de-Fresné, Merville-Franceville, Luc-sur-Mer or St Aubin-sur-Mer. The great thing about French beaches is that many are a lot quieter than you might think – there’s a lot more beach to go round per capita in France!

D-Day beaches – The best beaches in Normandy for WW2 history and learning

We sometimes find that when ‘Normandy’ and ‘beaches’ exist in the same sentence, people’s first thoughts are of D-Day and WW2 history. If you’re the type of person who likes to return from your holiday having learnt something new, the stretch of Calvados coast from Isigny-sur-Mer to Ouistreham is the bit for you, on the beaches once codenamed Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach. A walk along the beach or Normandy coastpath yields all manner of thought-provoking throwbacks, from bunkers and poignant memorials to sightings of D-Day’s Mulberry harbour still out at sea.

Reaching the D-Day beaches couldn’t be easier from the UK. Roll off the ferry at Caen-Ouistreham (ferry crossings from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries) and you’re there!

Honfleur harbour – One of the Calvados coastline’s most unmissable spots

In Normandy, everyone from first-time visitors to seasoned Francophiles will make a beeline for the picture-postcard port of Honfleur, so utterly magical it would be quite the crime not to mention it in our guide to the Calvados coastline. With its tall and narrow age-old townhouses and quayside restaurants reflected in the water, it will inspire you just as it did the Impressionists in Normandy before you. The nearby beach ‘Plage du Butin’ on the Seine estuary flies the Blue Flag.

From the ferry port at Caen-Ouistreham (ferry crossings from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries), a drive of just 34 miles delivers you to Honfleur.

How to get the most out of Normandy’s best beaches – Our top tips

Coastal walking in Normandy

If you’re a fan of walking and you love to be beside the sea, you’re going to love tackling a section of the ‘Grande Randonnée’ GR223 coastal walking route from Honfleur in the east of our département to Isigny-sur-Mer in the west. If you’re choosing a long or challenging stretch, you’re going to need some decent fuel so pack a picnic full of local Calvados specialities from apple juice to charcuterie and our Normandy cheeses, Livarot and Pont l’Evêque.

Get active at the beach

Some people are not content with being beside the sea and simply have to get IN it. And who can blame them when there are so many health benefits including skin, immunity and cardiovascular boosts? If you’re going for a refreshing dip, look out for beaches with safe swimming zones and lifeguard cover, generally provided in July and August. Many of the seaside resorts on the Calvados coast offer paddleboarding, sailing and kayaking or you could join in a Longe-Côte session in Courseulles-sur-Mer. It’s a sport involving wetsuited chest-deep wading in the sea in a snakelike formation with others, and really is amazingly invigorating and convivial! If you’re one to keep your hair dry, opt for sand-yachting or horseriding on the beach.

Seawater spa days

Have you heard of Thalassothérapie? No? Well, it’s a big thing in France and signals spa treatments using revitalising marine products, like seawater, seaweed or even mud. It’s incredibly good for the skin… and wellbeing too! Search up ‘thalasso’ in Cabourg, Deauville, Trouville, Luc-sur-Mer or Ouistreham.

Take the dog

Is there any greater enthusiasm than that of your four-legged friend down on the beach? Equipped with a pet passport and a few simple things to action, it’s possible to take your dog from the UK to France, rent a gite that welcomes pets and head to a dog-friendly beach in Normandy. Just be aware that whilst some of Calvados’s beaches accept dogs, on others there may be bans, dog-free zones, or requirements to keep them on a lead. Just check with your destination’s tourist office website.

Cycle a section of the Vélomaritime coastal cycling route in France

Though you might associate France with speedy cycling (yep that’s you, Tour de France), the Calvados coastline lends itself to biking that’s altogether a slower and more pleasurable affair. Vélomaritime is a new coastal cycling route that runs all the way from Dunkirk in the far north of France to Roscoff in the far west. 67% of the Vélomaritime cycling route runs along shared roads (roads with little traffic) and is punctuated by ‘Accueil Vélo’ partners, from hotels and restaurants to tourist attractions and bike services. You can start planning your cycling in Normandy adventure here.

To get you started on your plans to visit Normandy, click here for our practical guide.

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