France – Britanny and the Atlantic Coast

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Bienvenue at your nautical Elysium, one of the BoatPlanner’s most loved sailing destinations! France’s bipolar physiognomy as a sailing destination, from the rugged Atlantic splendor and Celtic soul of Britain’s coastline to the elegant Mediterranean allure of the French Riviera, down south, sets a diverse terrain for marine holiday adventurers to explore, with the two destinations being poles apart. So, let’s Divide and Conquer!

Britanny and the Atlantic Coast

France’s Atlantic coast stretches from Britanny and the Bay of Biscay in the northwest, to Saint Jean de Luz on the borders with Spain. It is an enchanting rugged coastline, with dramatic cliffs and windswept moors, creating a wild and captivating experience for sailors and yachters.

Le Havre: The port of entry in Havre is a major maritime gateway to the northern coast of France. The Normandy region is accessed through Le Havre Yacht Basin, a marina with excellent facilities. Other mooring options abound in the region, some of which are bordering the Seine River.

Brest: Rolling down the French Atlantic Coast, Brest Harbor awaits to introduce you to the stunning Britanny shore. Marina du Chateau offers sheltered moorings and easy access to the city center. Rade de Brest is a natural harbor, popular with the sailor society.

Nantes: Located on the Loire River, Nantes Marina provides modern facilities and easy access to the heart of Nantes. Moor along the Loire or explore the Erdre River for a sweet break from the salty waters.

La Rochelle: One of the largest marinas in Europe, Port des Minimes, is the main gate to the charming town of La Rochelle.

Ile de Re: An idyllic island just a short sail away from La Rochelle.

Bordeaux: The city’s main marina, Port de la Lune, is a perfect base for sailors to savor the famous wine varieties. Explore the Gironde estuary, offering sheltered coves for anchorage.

Biarritz: Nestled on the Basque coast, the Port des Pecheurs, is a picturesque marina not far from the Rocher de la Vierge, the Rock of the Virgin Mary.

Weather & Climate

The oceanic climate on the French Atlantic Coast brings mild temperatures and moderate westerly winds in spring, with mild weather, occasionally disrupted by rain, whereas the autumn weather is stable with less rainfall. Summer is the peak sailing season providing ideal conditions for leisurely sails, however, the Mistral, a strong NW wind can affect sailing in some regions. The French Atlantic coast enjoys longer daylight hours in late summer, allowing for extended sailing adventures. While in Atlantic shores one must beware of the tidal currents.

History & Places of Interest

Britanny is steeped in Celtic heritage, and this cultural richness is reflected in its language, music, and traditions. While ashore, you can immerse yourself in Breton folklore and join in lively night festivals, commonly known as fest-noz. Coastal towns like Saint-Malo and Dinard offer an authentic taste of Brittany.

Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, the historic castle in Nantes, houses the local History Museum and Brest Castle in Brest houses the National Maritime Museum. Stroll through the cobbled streets and savor the day’s catch at local seafood bistros, or take a walk further to the lighthouse-studded shores such as Pointe Saint-Mathieu and Phare d’ Eckmuhl.

Visit the famous medieval towers surrounding Vieux Port (Old Port) in La Rochelle. La Tour Saint-Nicolas and La Tour de la Chaine were once part of the city’s fortifications.

Bordeaux’s well-preserved historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, including Place de la Bourse and the Bordeaux Cathedral. What else is well-preserved in Bordeaux? It is world-famous wines of course. Be sure to explore ‘la Cite du Vin’, the nearby vineyards and wineries.

Beaches

La Baule Beach is the most popular beach all along the French Atlantic coast, offering a lively atmosphere, water sports, and beachfront restaurants.

A more family-friendly ambiance awaits visitors of the Plage des Dames, Ile de Noirmoutier, or the Plage de la Horizon, in La Tranch-sur-Mer.

Plage des Sables d’ Olonne and Le Petit Bec, Ile d’ Yeu are hailed as couples’ retreats. However, Lacanau Ocean Beach and Sable-d’ Olonne are excellent surfing hubs.

Activities

Visit the Machines of the Isle of Nantes, an intriguing blend of art and engineering, explore Oceanopolis in Brest a marine science center, explore the Salt Marshes on the Ile de Re, and contemplate the Menhirs and Dolmens in Britanny, those ancient megalithic structures, which provide a glimpse into prehistoric history.

Looking for watersport fun? La Point aux Oies, in Wimereux and the Ile d’ Oleron Beaches, offer various spots for kitesurfing and windsurfing. The Maritime Museum and the Aquarium, both in La Rochelle, introduce you to the mysteries and history of shipping and marine life. In Bordeaux, take a break from wine tasting and visit the Palais Rohan and the Place de la Bourse, where you will find one of the world’s largest reflecting pools; the Miroir D’ Eau is a square of 3,450m covered with water on a granite surface that creates a striking mirror-like reflection effect.