The English Channel and the North Sea: find the cliff under the dune!
From the Flemish dunes to the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, stretches 1000 kilometers of coastline rich in landscapes. Enormous dunes, polders and marshes, grandiose cliffs, long, sandy and pebble beaches and mega-estuaries populated by birds and seals, reveal themselves in sublime milky lights, along the trails.
From the Deux-Caps, on the Opal Coast, at the estuary of the Baie de Somme
On one side, the chalky cliffs of Cap Blanc Nez (151 meters), on the other, the marl and sandstone rampart of Cap Gris-Nez...On the UNESCO listed site of the Deux Caps, a stage of the coastal path GR120, flutter between the ocean and the sky. It is a nesting place for birds, and you can find rare orchids such as the bee orchids. Heading south, the wild bay of Authie links with the bay of the Somme, a fabulous estuary of 7,200 hectares classified as a Grand Site de France, populated by seals and birds.
From the Nez de Jobourg to the bay of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy
"Where the cliff is born, the dune dies" wrote Victor Hugo. This is supported by a great tour of the Cotentin (448 km!) on the Normandy customs path (GR223), from the dunes of Utah Beach and the peat bogs of the Regional Natural Park of the Cotentin and Bessin Marshes to the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In between, climb along the treasures of Tatihou Island (Natura 2000) and its Vauban towers, or the Nez-de-Jobourg cliff, which towers 128 meters above the turquoise waters.
Atlantic: a series of granite, sand and islands!
Here is a wide selection of seaside strolls!
In the north, giant foreshores and very jagged coasts flanked by islands, islets and lighthouses are revealed along the customs path around Brittany. To the south of the Loire estuary, the paths weave their way between rocky coasts, sandy beaches hemmed in by a dune line, and a profusion of marshes gently passing the Gironde estuary. More than 100 kilometers of dune-lined beaches crisscross the Atlantic coastline all the way to the Basque country!
From Cap Fréhel and the Pointe du Raz, in Brittany
One of the longest paths: in more than 2000 kilometers, the GR34 goes around Brittany! Starting from the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, stroll from Fort-Lalatte to the moors of Cap Fréhel, classified as a Grand Site de France; between Paimpol and Perros-Guirrec, you can spot the 1001 nuances of the pink Granite coast, and in the bay of Morlaix you can count the islands... To the west, the whisper of the Atlantic Ocean sets the rhythm, the path leads to the Pointe du Raz (Grand Site de France) and its views of the lighthouses of the Iroise Sea.
From Saint-Nazaire to Biscarosse via the Bay of Arcachon, on the Atlantic coast
Along the Atlantic coast, the Fishermen play a leading role: they are about 200 of them who stand guard facing the ocean! Starting from Saint-Nazaire, on the coastal path GR34 towards Pornichet, you can see the first of these “huts on stilts” used for plaice fishing, which can be found on the other side of the estuary, on the GR8 leading from the sandy beaches of Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef to the marshes of Moutiers-en-Retz. On the Arcachon basin, you can leave aside the "cabanes tchanquées" (huts on stilts) to observe the Leyre Delta. Here, the birds guard the beaches (more than 300 species listed in the ornithological reserve) like the great black cormorant or the little egret. Further south, on the Côte d'Argent and its kilometers of sandy strips leaning against the dunes between Biscarosse and Ondres, you can take out their binoculars to explore the paths of the nature reserves between the lakes and the ocean.
From Bidart to Hendaye, between the Atlantic and the Pyrénées, in the Basque Country
High cliffs interspersed with coves and beaches of fine sand and pebbled shores... From Bidart to Hendaye, the 25 kilometers of the Basque coast path joins the Pyrénées and the Atlantic Ocean. Like in Saint-Jean-de-Luz where the Sainte-Barbe point reveals a fabulous panorama on the bay dominated by the mountain of La Rhune. After the fort of Socoa, the trail follows the road of the Basque coast, but on the heights of Hendaye, nature comes back in force on the Domaine d'Abbadia, a 65-hectare reserve, between moors with wandering heather, meadows and cliffs beaten by the waves.
Mediterranean: lagoons, creeks and red rocks!
From the Pyrénées to the Côte d'Azur and Corsica, the Mediterranean coastline is a major reservoir of biodiversity, with the coralligenous beds of the Calanques National Park, Posidonia meadows, and coastal lagoons. The richness of the coastline can be appreciated by walking along the seaside paths that have inspired painters, along with the lagoons and marshes of Occitania and the Camargue, the rocky coves of the Var and the Côte d'Azur, and the red rocks of the Corsican nature reserves.
From the Vermeille coast to the Narbonnaise regional nature park, in Occitania
Rocky coves, charming little ports and hillsides covered with vineyards... South of Argelès-sur-mer, the Vermeille coastline reveals a jagged coast, adorned by the Pyrenean Albères massif, to be gazed at during a beautiful 32 km walk to Banyuls and Cerbère. To the north, the relief softens, up to 12,500 hectares of marshes and salt flats of the Narbonnaise Regional Natural Park in Mediterranean. But in Leucate, climbs on a limestone plateau to walk on the "sentier du guetteur" (4.3 km) without losing sight of the sea and the lagoons.
From the Blue Coast, in Provence, to the French Riviera
Welcome to the land of the calanques. In Martigues, west of Marseilleyou can discover these rocky coves from the coastal path along the Blue Coast, then in the heart of the calanques national park between Marseille and La Ciotat. This is the perfect way to get ready for the 200 km of coastal paths in the Var and the Côte d'Azur, which are dotted with gems, such as the Gulf of Saint-Tropez or the red rocks of the Esterel massif in Saint-Raphaël. From Antibes, you can drive along the capes to the wealthy residences buried in the pines of Cap Martin and its plunging views of the Mediterranean.
From the Agriates desert to the calanques of Piana, in Corsica
In Corsica, more than 1000 kilometers of coastline are available to hikers, a mine of itineraries rich in rocky cliffs and beaches. In the north, you can alternate walking and swimming in the secret creeks of the Agriates desert, you can contemplate the bay of Saint-Florent from the path leading to Punta Vechhiaia and immerse yourself in the sublime scenery of the red rocks of the calanches of Piana, the Scandola reserve and the gulf of Girolata classified by UNESCO. To the south, towards Ajaccio, the paths of the Pointe de La Parata reveal the Sanguinaires islands, and in Bonifacio, the Capo Pertusato acts as a balcony on the Mediterranean. To the east, near Sainte-Lucie-de-Porto-Vecchio, stroll between the Genoese towers, the Fautea tower or the Pinarellu tower, the only square-shaped tower in the south with that of Porto!
Let's go back in time
The coastal path. A real border between land and sea, whose first sections were built at the end of the 18th century by Napoleon, were used by the French coast guard to fight smuggling and enforce the taxation of goods (the gabelle). The path along the coast made it easy to overcome natural obstacles such as cliffs and build huts made of gabions.