We have fallen in love with the beautiful Somme Bay. The picturesque villages, the chalk cliffs and the special nature have stolen our hearts. But as far as we are concerned, Parc du Marquenterre is the absolute highlight of the region. Hundreds of bird species use this place as a resting point on their journey to or from Africa. And you do not have to be a fanatical birder to enjoy the many birds. A visit to this nature park is special for every nature lover.
In this blog ...
- The history of Parc du Marquenterre
- Be a guest in the natural habitat of the birds
- Our visit to the Parc du Marquenterre
- Special guided tours in Parc du Marquenterre
- Courses at Parc du Marquenterre
- Hiking around Parc du Marquenterre
- Practical information about your visit to Parc du Marquenterre
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The history of Parc du Marquenterre
In 1923, a fervent French hunter bought a dune area with pine trees. Besides hunting, he tried to cultivate the area. For example, he started to grow onions there. Later, the area changed hands. These owners gradually brought it back to its natural state. In the 1950s, a large part of the land was reclaimed from the sea. Tulip cultivation began on the new land.
In 1973, the area was transformed into an ornithological park. In 1994, the area became part of the Somme Bay nature reserve. Since then, Parc du Marquenterre has become one of the most beautiful ornithological parks in the country.
Nowadays, the park covers an area of over 3,000 hectares. The landscape is so varied. You will encounter dunes, but also marshlands, lakes, meadows, pine trees and salt marshes.
Be a guest in the natural habitat of the birds
For the birds, this is a special place. They come here all year round. To hibernate, nest and brood, or on their way to other regions. There are some 450 bird species in Europe. In the nature park, you can admire more than 300 of them all year round. That is what makes the Parc du Marquenterre so unique.
The park is the birds’ natural habitat. We as visitors are their guests. It gives us the opportunity to admire the birds up close or to observe their behaviour.
Our visit to the Parc du Marquenterre
On a dusty road through the forest, we reach the large car park of the nature park. We are not alone, we notice immediately. The park appears to have a great attraction for more enthusiasts.
Many of the visitors are fully prepared for their visit. Carrying binoculars or a camera with a huge telephoto lens, they walk towards the visitor centre. We do the same, only with a somewhat smaller camera. Along the car park, we see many families picnicking on the many benches. A nice place to end our visit to the park.
The short walk takes us through a beautiful pine forest. We buy a ticket at the visitor’s centre. We are given a handy booklet. Apart from background information on the area and pictures of many birds, it has a handy map. On it, the route is marked, as well as all the observation posts. We start our walk full of expectations.
The nice thing about the Parc du Marquenterre is that you can do a beautiful walk over about 6 kilometres of hiking trails. At some points you can choose to shorten your walk. We decide to go for the full tour because there is so much to see. It would be a shame to skip a part of the park. The walking route is beautiful in itself.We walk through the forest. A little later, we cross a meadow. Dunes, salt marshes, swamps and lakes, we see it all on our route.
Right at the start we come to two viewpoints. From the hill, we have a beautiful view of the surroundings. The lake below is teeming with birds. A nice start to our visit.
But for the perfect view of bird life, there are 13 observation posts scattered around the park. Spread out so as not to scare off the birds, but close enough to the area where the birds live.
From the openings, we spied the area every time. Despite the fact that we are not bird experts at all, we notice that there are many different species. We visited the park during breeding season. In many places, birds were breeding or nursing their offspring. We saw such beautiful images.
Some observation posts are nice and quiet. At others, many photographers are busy trying to get the perfect picture. Fortunately, every observation post offers sufficient space to get a unique view of the surroundings. In some huts, a park guide is present. He will tell you all sorts of interesting facts or answer questions from visitors.
Special guided tours in Parc du Marquenterre
The park organises special tours at different times of year. So you can visit the park in the twilight. Together with the other participants you have the park for yourself, an ideal time to admire the birds. Or listen to the birds singing. In the evening, the natterjack toads provide special concerts in the various creeks and ditches. Therefore, this is a unique opportunity to enjoy nature. The guide takes you to the most beautiful spots of the park. Such a tour usually lasts 3 hours. The price is €38.50. This includes entrance to the park, picnic and the rental of binoculars.
Courses at Parc du Marquenterre
The park also provides various courses. So you can follow an ornithology course of four hours. It is intended for the first steps on the path of birdwatching. After such a course, the park is much more alive for you.
In addition, the park organises photography courses for all levels. These often last all day. You must bring your own camera. An ideal way to take even better pictures of the unique birds and their way of life. The courses are held in French or English.
Hiking around Parc du Marquenterre
Besides a walk in the park, it is also possible to make a walking tour around the park. It’s quite a hike, because the length is just over 16 kilometres. A few kilometres of this go through the loose dunes. Nevertheless, it is absolutely worthwhile. There are also some observation points along the route. As well as an area where small French mussels are bred. Furthermore, there is a beautiful view of the bay of the Somme, the lighthouse of Le Hourdel and Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme. This is the GPS track of the hike around Parc du Marquenterre.
Practical information about your visit to Parc du Marquenterre
The park is located in the north of the Bay of Somme. The address of the nature park is 25 bis Chemin des Garennes, 80120 Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont. That's about 6 kilometres west of the large town Rue.
The easiest way is to come by car. You can reach the entrance of the park via small country roads. After this, you have to drive a little bit further on a dusty road through the forest. You will then reach a large car park.
Actually, the nature park is worth visiting at any time of the year. Birds use the park to hibernate, migrate, nest and migrate. So every season has its own character.
A ticket costs €10.50 per person.
The visitor centre has a restaurant with a terrace.
- Rue is a nice town with a beautiful clock tower (UNESCO world heritage) and is not far from the park. This is the offer in Rue.
- Le Crotoy is a small seaside resort on the north side of the Bay of the Somme, not far from the park. Here you will find all the accommodation in Le Crotoy.
This is the complete offer of accommodation in Bay of the Somme.