Normandy is forever associated in our minds with the World War II D-Day Landings, and those beaches do tell a remarkable story. They are an important part of what is a wonderfully long coastline which starts at the Cotentin Peninsula, with Cherbourg at its tip. The coast runs along to Le Mont St-Michel, mysterious and strange in its sea setting even in the height of summer when it is overrun with crowds.
01 of 07
Granville, Cotentin Peninsula
On the south west corner of the Cotentin Peninsula, curiously shaped like a snail's head, Granville looks out onto the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, though the holy island is too far to see. Granville has its own long beach to the north and some delightful finds to the south. St Pair-sur-Mer, Jullouville and Carolles-Plage run down the coast on a sandy 6-km stretch of shoreline. All the resorts are also ideal for walking and cycling, but take your own picnic as cafes and restaurants are few and far between.
Granville itself is a delightful fortified coastal town with an impressive citadel set apart from the town. And check out its great annual seafood festival, running at the end of September. In 2017 it takes place on September 30th and October 1st.
For something delightfully different, visit the villa of Christian Dior.
02 of 07
Barneville-Carteret, Cotentin Peninsula
Barneville-Carteret on the west side of the Cotentin Peninsula is the closest port to Jersey in the Channel Islands. About a mile outside the center of Carteret lies the fabulous, empty golden sands of the Plage de la Vieille Eglise. It’s a nationally protected seashore, so there’s very little but yourself and the gulls for company.
More information on Barneville-Carteret
03 of 07
Normandy Landing Beaches
The long, sloping sandy beaches were ideal for the Normandy D-Day Landings in June 1944 and Gold Beach, between Arromanches-les-Bains and Courseulles-sur-Mer, was one of the important of them. Today you’ll find that these famous beaches, including Omaha, are extraordinarily peaceful. The sparkling sea, the surfers and the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach are a far cry from the horrors of World War II. Each year in June there are commemorations around the D-Day Landings, so you'll have to book your accommodation in advance.
Where to Stay
Stay at La Ferme de la Ranconniere just 5 km (3 miles) from the Landing Beaches
Nearby Avranches is another good place to stay. This town was vital for General Patton and his troops as they launched their offensive in July 1944.
04 of 07
Houlgate is set in the pretty, green Drochon Valley. This gracious Second Empire resort became popular in 1851 and has never lost its appeal, though it's small compared to its bigger neighbours, Deauville and Trouville. A promenade overlooks the long sandy beach that runs east to the cliffs of the Vaches Noire.
Houlgate is one of the towns associated with William the Conqueror who embarked for his invasion of England in 1066 from nearby Dives-sur-Mer.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Trouville-sur-Mer - Corniche Normande
Trouville became the fashionable seaside place during the Second Empire and still retains the grace of those years in the 1850s when the Cote Fleurie was all the rage. Trouville is delightful with a wooden boardwalk running the full length of the beach. Here the cliffs of the Normandy corniche snake down to the mouth of the River Touques and a lovely little fishing harbor. Less posh than it’s more famous neighbour, Deauville, and more relaxed, it has enough going on to make it a resort for all seasons.
06 of 07
"Its beach, whose beauty has been immortalized by so many painters, is the embodiment of magic" wrote Guy de Maupassant about Etretat plage. Dominated at both ends by magnificent arches, the scene inspired the Impressionists, Boudin, Manet and Monet. The grandeur of the natural stone needles also inspired Alexandre Dumas, Andre Gide, Victor Hugo, Gustave Courbet, Jacques Offenbach, and de Maupassant among many others.
Known as the Alabaster Coast because of the minerals that make the rocks sparkle, it’s popular for the bathing, the scenery and the bustling lively town of Etretat itself. Etretat is near Fecamp, associated with William the Conqueror and medieval Normandy.
07 of 07
Getting to Normandy
Getting to Dieppe
- DFDS sails from Newhaven to Dieppe
Getting to Caen
- Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth to Caen and Poole, Dorset to Cherbourg.
See Ferry travel
- By train: From Paris, the TGV goes to Lisieux where you change for the TER to Caen. The whole journey takes a little over 2 hours.
Book through Rail Europe (U.K.) and Rail Europe (U.S.A.)
- More on Normandy Tourism