5 escapes into nature in Northern France

Inspiration

Northern FranceCultural HeritageNature and Outdoor ActivitiesCycling TourismVillages and CountrysideCoastal

Le Hourdel famille sur la plage avec des phoques
© CRT Hauts-de-France - Stéphane Bouilland - Le Hourdel famille sur la plage avec des phoques

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 22 September 2023, updated on 16 April 2024

Ever got off the beaten track in Northern France? If you're seeking wide, open spaces and outdoor activities, you'll love the region - it's home to a wealth of natural wonders to discover on foot, by bike and by boat.

The Bay of the Somme by bike

Baie de Somme - Plage du Hourdel
© AdobeStock - Baie de Somme - Plage du Hourdel

The Somme Bay is the ideal place to immerse yourself in nature. Its changing skies, opalescent lights and endless views make you feel as though you're standing on the edge of the world. The landscape is home to all kinds of animals, including Henson horses, bighorn sheep and even seals. To admire all this and much more, Le Vélo Voyageur offers two-, three-, four-day or week-long trips to explore the bay by bike. These are easy rides, accessible to all, and detailed from the outset to ensure you don't miss anything of the splendid surroundings.

France's first 'cycle hub' network

Already popular in Belgium and the Netherlands, the Northern France cycle hub network is the first of its kind in France. Known as the Lys Valley & Monts de Flandre Network, it covers 830km of cycle routes between the two areas, giving you the freedom to choose an itinerary according to your wishes and ability. You can even change your route along the way. Routes combine nature with cultural heritage and places of remembrance - spot the numbers of the route's hubs and get on your bike by following the green and white signs.

By boat through Amiens' floating gardens

Hortillonnages à Amiens
© CRT Hauts-de-France - AS Flament - Hortillonnages à Amiens

Take a breath of fresh air at the heart of Amiens. The 'hortillonnages' are a group of floating gardens on a 65km maze of canals. Here, vegetable and flower gardens alternate with islands, marshes and large wooded areas where nature has reclaimed its rights. You can visit the whole area by boat, accompanied by a guide. Meet the market gardeners and learn about their history on this thousand-year-old site. Some 35 tons of pumpkins are harvested each year, among other vegetables!

Seal watching in the Authie Bay

Baie d'Authie
© Nicolas Viard - Adobe Stock - Baie d'Authie

Classified as a Grand Site de France, Authie Bay bears a strong resemblance to its sister bay, the Somme. While smaller, it's just as majestic, with an incredible concentration of environments home to remarkable wildlife. From Berck-sur-Mer in Pas-de-Calais to Fort-Mahon in Somme, this estuary - one of the last preserved in Europe - lives to the rhythm of the tides and offers a great diversity of landscapes over 105km, between the Opal and Picardy Coasts. Everyone loves meeting the grey seals and their calves that come to enjoy the sun on the sandbanks at low tide, sometimes in their hundreds.

Birdwatching in the Parc du Marquenterre

Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont - Parc ornithologique du Marquenterre
© CRT Hauts-de-France - AS Flament - Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont - Parc ornithologique du Marquenterre

Whistling ducks, crested lapwings, greylag and laughing geese, barnacles, gulls, egrets, purple herons... children will only have eyes for these thousands of migratory birds that stop over at the Marquenterre reserve. This privileged area in the Somme Bay nature reserve is a meeting place for man and nature. Bring good shoes and a pair of binoculars to explore the dunes, marshes and reedbeds. Follow the paths along three different routes to observe this almost silent environment, where thousands of birds rest on their journey to Scandinavia or West Africa.

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