In the north of France, the Somme Bay is still an undiscovered area for most people. And yet, it has such an attractive and diverse coastline. Picturesque spots line up between the mighty chalk cliffs and nature is at its best with unique flora and fauna. Bird lovers are in their element in this region yet one can also find the largest seal colony in the country. The Somme Bay is therefore an ideal holiday destination.
Sightseeing and activities around the Bay of the Somme
What you can see and do around the Bay of the Somme.
Bird watching in Parc du Marquenterre
If you love birds, you should not miss out on Parc du Marquenterre. Many birds use this spot as a resting point on their journey to or from Africa. That’s why you can behold and admire hundreds of species here.
The park is beautifully situated in a nature reserve with marshes, dunes and reed beds. The unique landscape in itself is reason enough to visit but the greatest attraction of all is the immense number of different birds that live there. A beautiful walking route of about 6 kilometres takes you past 13 large observation posts. You can shorten the route at various points. But why would you? The park is too beautiful to skip some bits. This is our blog on the park.
Visiting picturesque places
The Bay of the Somme has beautiful seaside resorts, where time seems to have stood still. French painters liked to come to this area to capture the beautiful image on canvas for good reason. The places are not far from each other, therefore, it’s definitely worthwhile seeing them all. Each place really does have its own charm and assets.
Mers-les-Bains is the southernmost seaside resort. The town is particularly special thanks to the beautiful villas from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rich Parisians especially had their second homes built there. Today, there are still around 300 colourful villas, each one more beautiful than the last. There will be a separate blog about Mers-les-Bains later on.
Ault used to be a fashionable seaside resort. But it no longer has that position. However, reminders of those times can still be seen in the small village. The chalk cliffs are now the main attraction of Ault. The famous writer, poet and statesman Victor Hugo liked to come to Ault for the chalk cliffs.
Cayeux-sur-Mer is the surfing hotspot of the area. Kite surfers dance over the waves here and do spectacular jumps. The pebble beach is lined with multicoloured bathing huts. An immense 1.8-kilometre-long boardwalk runs along all of them. The starting point for the steam train along the Bay of the Somme is in the village.
Saint-Valery-sur-Somme is, in our opinion, the best place to visit. What an atmospheric street this village has! Walking along the quay of the Somme, you see the beautiful villas, with old fortifications towering above them. Be sure to visit the chapel, a bit out of the village, and Cap Hornu. Saint-Valery also has many nice shops and flowery alleys. Later, we’ll come back to our visit to Saint-Valery-sur-Somme in more detail.
Le Crotoy is the terminus of the steam train through the bay. This is the only seaside resort that faces south. With its long and fine sandy beach, it is a popular holiday destination. The beach is immense at low tide.
Fort-Mahon-Plage has a beautiful dune area and a lovely coastline. You can go for beautiful walks there but the beach is most visitors’ favourite spot. Sports enthusiasts can go sand yachting.
With the steam train along the Bay of the Somme
A unique way to get to know the surprising landscape is by steam train. From Cayeux-sur-Mer, you can go on a beautiful round trip to Le-Crotoy. On the way, you visit the places Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and Noyelles-sur-Mer. Meadows, marshes and the bay pass by along the track. You have plenty of time to take in the scenery as the train travels at approximately 25 kilometres per hour.
Visit the House of the Somme Bay
To find out more about the area, visit the ‘Maison de la Baie de Somme.’ There you will discover everything about the origins and evolution of the bay. In the small museum, you can enjoy excellent exhibitions about the birds in the different seasons and the museum also gives details about the history of the region and its inhabitants. You can book various excursions in the surrounding area at the House of the Somme Bay.
In the Bay of the Somme, you can walk through the muddy water areas. The most beautiful trip is the one from Saint-Valery-sur-Somme to Le Crotoy. You cross the Somme via muddy gullies and wide ditches. This is only possible at certain times. Twice a day, the seawater retreats some fifteen kilometres. Then the cove dries up almost completely. A few hours later, the bay fills up again. In that time, you will have to have reached the other side. It is an intensive trip, which you should only do if you are in good shape. Always make the crossing with a guide, on your own it is life-threatening.
A less strenuous trip, but certainly just as much fun, is in the Bay of Authie. This is the little “sister” of the Bay of the Somme. Here, too, the water recedes several times, making a beautiful nature reserve accessible. Along the way, you will discover the smallest snail in the world. You’ll also pass many small lakes. Hunters use them to hunt ducks from their hidden hunting huts. You should also do this trip with a guide. A good guide who knows the area like the back of her hand is Odile. You can book her via her website. Unfortunately, she only speaks French. So, you will have to master French to fully understand her explanations.
One of the most beautiful golf courses in France is located in the vast dune massif of Marquenterre. Take a turn on the 18-hole golf course while you hear the sound of the wind and the murmur of the sea in the background. Amidst the dunes and pine forests, golfing here is a delight.
The largest seal colony lives in the area around the Somme Bay. The best place to see them is on the pebble beach near Le Hourdel. This can be done from three hours before low tide until about two and a half hours after. A large colony of seals lies resting on the dry sandbanks. Every now and then, they turn their noses towards the sun to enjoy the pleasant warmth. Don’t walk on the dry parts on your own. The water is treacherous and can sometimes rise quickly.
Another place, somewhat north of the Bay of Somme, is by the dunes of Berck-sur-Mer. About 100 seals gather here. The main advantage of this location is that you can safely get close to the seals. Park your car at the car park at the end of the Chemin aux Raisins and you will almost see them.
The best walks in the Bay of Somme
The area around the Somme Bay invites you to take beautiful walks. We made several of them when we were there recently. Especially the walk from Mers-les-Bains over the cliff was fantastic. Just like the walk from Saint-Valery-sur-Somme through the village, the woods and the viewpoint over the bay. We will describe these walks in detail later on in the blogs about these places.
Around Fort-Mahon-Plage the walk Dune d’Authie and Dune de Royon are very nice. Both are not long (2.5 and 4 km), but very varied.
From Le Hourdel there is a beautiful walk along the coast. If you do it at the right time, you will come face to face with the largest seal colony in France. The second part of the route takes you inland.
Near Ault, there is also a beautiful hiking trail. One of the highlights there is the large field of red poppies. Several lakes lie on the way. Many water birds stay there. The last part goes over the dyke back to Ault. You then have a beautiful view of the village and the chalk cliffs further on.
Read our extensive blog about the hiking possibilities around the Bay of the Somme. The blog also includes route descriptions and GPS tracks of the walks.
Excursions from the Bay of the Somme
On the way to the Somme Bay or on the way back you can do two special trips:
Not far from the Bay of the Somme is the beautiful city of Amiens. Many people know it for its imposing cathedral. It is one of the largest Gothic churches in Europe. But Amiens has many more sights. We were pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere of the student city of Amiens.
Experience the Battle of the Somme
Be sure to visit the places that remind you of the biggest battle during the First World War. The Battle of the Somme claimed the lives of more than a million soldiers from England, France and Germany. In the area between the towns of Albert, Bapaume and Péronne, you will find many reminders of the Battle of the Somme.
Our opinion of the Somme Bay
To be honest, we were as yet unaware of this region. We are very glad that we travelled around it for a week! Picturesque spots are not many, but we were amazed. Beautiful seaside resorts with a unique atmosphere… But what surprised us most was the variety of landscapes. In an area that is not even that big, we saw impressive chalk cliffs, dunes and dune valleys, salt marshes and swamps. Nature shows its most beautiful side here. So, as nature lovers, we had a great time. The many walks gave us a wonderful view of the beauty of the Bay of the Somme. In short: this region is worth a visit!
Everything you want to know when visiting the Somme Bay
The Somme Bay is located in the northwest of France, in Picardy.
The easiest way is to get there by car.
The best chance for good weather in the Somme Bay is from May to September. The warmest months are July, August and September. In August, the French go on holiday in large numbers. It can be busier than usual in that period therefore.
There are many good restaurants in the Bay of Somme. Fish and shellfish dominate the menu, that goes without saying. We can definitely recommend these restaurants. Booking a table is a must!
- Les Mouettes in Mers-les-Bains. Beautifully situated at the end of the beach by the cliff. Smooth service and delicious food.
- l’Horizon in Ault. Book a spot by the window and enjoy the beautiful view of the sea but also the delicious dishes and professional service.
- Le Relais Guillaume de Normandy in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. In a beautiful belle-epoque villa on the Somme bank, you sit in the first row. Meanwhile, you enjoy an excellent meal at good value for money.
- Auberge de la Louvière in Fort-Mahon. The ideal stop after an excursion in the Bay of Authie. Quiet location, with a charming restaurant and sunny terrace.
- Au Souffle de vert in Bouvaincourt sur Bresle. A beautiful old country house with an attractive interior. In the room, you’ll feel like a prince or princess. Personal touch and excellent breakfast.
- El Brise du Large Maison d’Ault in Ault. Book a room with sea view and you will experience the most beautiful sunset. The quiet garden or the roof terrace are great places to be.
- La Terrasse in Fort Mahon. Again, book a room with a sea view. The location of the hotel near the beach is unique. The breakfast room does lack atmosphere.
This is the list of all accommodations in Bay of the Somme.