Brittany, the westernmost part of France, can lay claim to having some of the country’s best beaches. The peninsula is surrounded by sea on three sides; to the north by the English Channel, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the south by the Bay of Biscay. The beauty and drama of the natural environment and ecosystems change markedly as you meander along the region’s 1,800 miles (2,900km) of coastline. Follow any of the coastal hiking routes or roads and you will encounter innumerable picturesque estuaries, moody dramatic cliffs, historic maritime towns, little fishing ports and pretty small harbours. Offshore, a large number of the region’s 800 islands are accessible to visitors.
You will also discover hundreds upon hundreds of wonderful beaches; some stretch for miles into the distance while others are just 800 yards (730m) of picture perfect soft white sand and turquoise sea. With such a diversity of seascapes and landscapes; from grand La Belle Époque resorts to secluded coves visited only by seabirds and intrepid travellers, any list of Brittany’s best beaches can only be subjective and ephemeral.
With that important proviso, here is a brief run-through of what, I believe, are currently some of the best beaches in Brittany worth exploring. To make the journey easy to follow on a map, I have grouped the beaches within a short drive from the nearest main town.
Located in an area of the north coast known as La Côte de Penthièvre, the area around Erquy boasts some great beaches and I would highlight Plage Saint-Michel and Caroual Plage as worth visiting; both offer miles of soft white sand and are great for children. At low-tide, it is possible to walk from Caroual around the headland to the nearby beach at Saint-Pabu. The neighbouring beaches of Lourtuais, Portuais and Guen have a wilder, more secluded, feel and are also worth visiting. Towards the end of the large beach at Lortuais, there is a 550 yard (500m) strip (if you pardon the pun) where nude bathing is permitted.
To the north of Erquy, the stretch of coastline heading towards the dramatic cliffs at Cap Fréhel offers the visitor a series of beautiful, broad sandy bays to discover and, depending on tides, it is possible to explore a few from Sables D’Or Les Pins.
Also worth a visit are the beaches around Pléneuf-Val-André just a few miles south of Erquy but before you leave the seaside town, do take the time to enjoy the panoramic view from the Cap d’Erquy.
Along the coastline known as La Côte de Goëlo and just south of the historic town of Saint-Quay Portrieux is the beach at Binic and the picturesque Plage du Moulin, a soft sand beach that is ideal for children. North of the town, you will discover the beautiful La Plage du Palus, Plage Bonaparte and Plage Bréhec. These are large and usually uncrowded beaches.
A little further south along the coast is Rosaires beach which stretches for almost 1.5 miles (2.3km), it is a wide sandy beach which turns to shingle as you get closer to the abutting cliffs and is another beach that is popular with those with children.
North of Saint-Quay Portrieux, the north coast headed west towards the seaside town of Perros-Guirec possesses some stunning soft sandy beaches with beautifully clear sea and small bays peppered with picturesque islets and unique rock formations.
The stretch of coast between Plougrescant and Perros-Guirec will delight you with some wonderful beaches such as that at Port Blanc.
The resort town of Perros-Guirec sits on a scenic stretch of coast known as La Côte de Granit Rose after its unusual and striking pink rock formations and has three stunning child-friendly beaches that offer sea views that are just as pretty as the actual beaches themselves: Trestrignel, Trestraou and Porz Garo are particularly worth singling out.
Several miles to the south west are the great and often empty Plage de Maez-an-Aod and Plage de Goas Lagorn both of which are worth visiting. Naturists can enjoy an area to the right hand side of the former beach but be aware it can get rather windy on this stretch of coastline.
The historic medieval town of Roscoff boasts some beautiful beaches around it, in an area known as La Côte des Sables and the beach in the crescent bay at Pointe de Perharidi just west of town, looking over towards the Île de Batz, is a real delight. The Île de Batz is only a 15 minute ferry ride away and will reward you with several good, sandy beaches.
Continuing westward from Roscoff, the two main beaches at Cleder – La Plage de Kervaliou and La Plage de Kéradennec are well worth visiting, as is Dossen Plage at Santec which boasts beautiful soft white sand looking across at the Île de Sieck. From here, the coast westwards offers miles and miles of sand dunes, beaches and ocean colours that dance between the lightest blues and emerald-turquoise. The beach at Keremma is a particular gem.
The Atlantic coast is littered with beautiful coves and sandy beaches from La Plage Plougouri near Quistillic down to La Plage des Blancs Sablons near Le Conquet.
On the far west of Brittany, the Crozon Peninsula offers forests and forts aplenty as well as some beautiful coastal scenery. The area has dozens of picturesque beaches for you to explore, some only accessible on foot or at low tide.
La Plage de Kersiguénou is an impressive expanse of sandy beach as is La Plage de Lostmarc’h just a little further south. If you do not mind traversing a rather poor pathway, I would definitely recommend a trip down to La Plage de l’île Vierge; a secluded picturesque gem of a beach where you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in the Mediterranean or Caribbean rather than Brittany.
Heading back east along the southern part of the peninsula, the oft-photographed beach at Morgat offers over a mile (1.5km) of soft, white sand that children and grown-ups will love. A few miles east is Raguénez and another sweeping sandy beach, La Plage d’Aber. The footpaths here give you a great view of Douarnenez Bay and the Île d’Aber. This small island is accessible on foot at low tide and is home to an abandoned 19th century fort.
Just under 2.5 miles (4km) away is La Plage de Trez Bellec; a wide sandy beach about a mile long with an area set aside for water sports and sand yachting. Similar sporting opportunities are available at the nearby La Plage de Pentrez, just outside the small town of Saint-Nic, which offers a 2.5 mile (4km) stretch of soft sand.
Heading further south, La Plage de Kermabec is a good place to access a stretch of sandy beach over six miles (10km) long; it is contiguous with the beaches known as La Torche and Tronoën and predominantly backs onto sand dunes.
Turning east along La Côte de Cornouaille on Brittany’s southern coast, La Plage de Kermor is a popular sandy beach; the first of a series of noteworthy beaches dotted around the resort of Concarneau with its quaint walled old town. While the town’s main beach, La Plage des Sables Blancs, is wonderful, it does get very busy particularly during the summer holidays. Unless vying for a car parking space and threading through crowds of sunbathers is your thing, I suggest that you explore the much larger and far less crowded beaches at Mousterlin to the west or Kerouini to the east.
Concarneau is one of the gateways to the Îles de Glénan, a stunning archipelago of islands about 10 miles (16km) off the coast which you can visit during the summer only.
Continuing eastwards, the 10 mile (15km) stretch of coast between the beach resorts of Guidel Plages and Larmor-Plage is very popular with surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers. Just across the Blavet estuary from Larmor-Plage is the resort of Gâvres which it the start of over 16 miles (26km) of sandy beaches that continue to Quiberon. About half-way down this strip of coast is la Plage de Kerminihy, a 1.5 mile (2.5km) stretch of beach where nudism is allowed.
Located on La Côte des Mégalithes, the Quiberon Peninsula offers the visitor a swathe of good scenic beaches to choose from, particularly on the western Côte Sauvage. Beaches that are perhaps more child-friendly, such as La Plage du Porigo and La Plage du Fort Neuf can be found on the southern and eastern coasts. The Grande Plage in Quiberon is a useful stopping point for lunch or for taking the ferry over to the wonderful Belle-Île and its many beautiful sandy coves and beaches, most notably Plage de Port-Donnant.
Although many people visit the south coast town of Carnac for a day out at one of its great sandy beaches, the town is better known as the home of the renowned Carnac Alignments and other megalithic monuments. Indeed, the main sites at Carnac contain over 3,000 menhirs arranged in about a dozen rows over 2.5 miles long.
Under eight miles east is one of the gateways to the Gulf of Morbihan, Locmariaquer. A small town with several beaches and another great megalithic site. It is worth visiting to see the remarkable Table des Marchands (a large dolmen with prehistoric decorations) and the Great Menhir (70 feet high and weighing 280 tons, this was the largest monolith ever erected by humans at this time – now, sadly, broken into four pieces). Excursions by boat are available to allow you to explore the Gulf of Morbihan; you can choose between cruises around the Gulf and its 42 islands or strike out to sea and on to the beautiful islands of Belle Île or Houat and Hoëdic.
If you are a fan of therapeutic body treatments or perhaps thinking of an unconventional day out while on vacation, you might wish to try one of the many thalassotherapy treatments that use seawater and seaweed to revitalise the skin and body. Thalassotherapy in the modern era was invented and popularised in Brittany and the region boasts the highest concentration of thalassotherapy facilities in the world.
Whatever your attraction to the sea and the beach, in Brittany you can be guaranteed to find one to match your every mood and to break open a smile on even the moodiest of days. Best of all – it is unlikely to be crowded!