Brittany is the second most popular beach destination for French holidays after the Mediterranean. But with over 2,000 kilometers of coastline, you can always get away from the crowds of visitors who flock here for their vacations.
Brittany has everything: long, white-sand beaches, rocky coves full of small pools of fish and shellfish while a coastline of cliffs fall dramatically to the pounding waves of the sea below. Brittany is perfect for a summer holiday, but it’s also a wonderfully romantic stretch of coastline during the winter, when the waves lash against the shoreline and tales of shipwrecks and smugglers spring to mind.
Here is a guide to the best beaches that stretch along the coast from Cap d'Erquy on the north Brittany Cap round to the southern more sheltered bays of the Quiberon Peninsula.
West of St-Malo and east of St-Brieuc, Cap d'Erquy is a small stretch of coast on the north Brittany Cap with nine beaches. It's rugged and beautiful with pink sandstone cliffs plunging down to the sea. It's also a nature reserve, so there's plenty of local flora and fauna for walkers along the coast. For many Cap d'Erquy sums up Brittany.
If you're there with your family, try the sheltered Plage de Caroual; if you feel adventurous, walk along the clifftop where you'll discover paths leading down through the pine trees and gorse to small, hidden beaches. The Cap d'Erquy is well known to the French, though curiously ignored by many other nationalities.
2. North Brittany - Baie de Lannion
Along the delightfully – and accurately – named Pink Granite Coast, the Baie de Lannion’s beach, known as Grand Plage de Goas Lagorn, is sheltered enough for families with young children. Keep them happy with a raft of activities, from windsurfing to kayaking. The stretch of beach runs along the North Brittany Cap between the Celtic towns of Lannion and Trébeurden.
For more information, see the Guide to Baie de Lannion
Directly west from Roscoff, you get to Ménéham down a single-track road north of Kerlouan. The village itself on the top of the cliff is an extraordinary site with its stone houses built among huge boulders that make the place look as if there’s been a manic fight between two giants. You can either scramble down to the boulder-strewn beach, or drive down to Brignogan-Plages to the east.
4. Baie d Audierne, Finistere
On the west coast of Finistère on the Pointe du Raz, the Baie d’Audierne is a 30 kilometer long tongue of land, which perches on the edge of the southern tip. The westernmost beach, the Baie des Trépassés feels like the end of the world. Looking out to the Ile de Sein, then beyond, this is a perfect place for surfers riding the long waves of the Atlantic.
For more information, see the Guide to the Baie des Trépassés
5. Southern Brittany - Quiberon Peninsula, Cote Sauvage
The Quiberon Peninsula is a glorious long sandy stretch jutting out into the ocean. At St-Pierre-Quiberon you find the two beaches of Penthièvre Plages. The west-looking beach facing the might of the Atlantic is the place for the adventurous. The Grande Plage, stretching between Plouharnel and Penthièvre on the eastern side is perfect if you want to go sand yachting. Facing the Baie de Quiberon, this part of the Quiberon peninsula is also ideal for families. The boardwalk that runs down between the two beaches has plenty of shops and restaurants for that après-swimming rest.
For more information see the Guide to St-Pierre-Quiberon
Catch the ferry from Quiberon to Belle-Ile, the largest island off Brittany and famous for its associations with Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask. It’s a beautiful place with wonderful beaches, particularly les Grand Sables which faces east towards France.
7. La Baule
To north Brittany
- Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth to St-Malo and from Plymouth to Roscoff
See Ferry travel
- The Dinard-Pleurtuit-Saint-Malo airport has daily flights from East Midlands, London Stansted and Guernsey
- By train: From Paris, the TGV goes to Rennes (2 hrs 15 minutes), St-Malo (3 hours) and Quimper (4hrs 25 mins)