The towering white chalk cliffs of Étretat are among France’s most memorable natural wonders, inspiring generations of artists, photographers, and Instagrammers. Just over a half-hour drive from Le Havre, it’s the ideal destination for ferry passengers to explore on a day trip. Here’s how to plan the perfect trip.
Exploring France’s Alabaster Coast
Extending for some 80 miles (130 kilometres) from Le Havre to Le Tréport, the Alabaster Coast is an undisputed highlight of Normandy’s rugged coastline. Named for its gleaming white limestone cliffs, the Alabaster Coast is dotted with pretty seaside villages, pebbled beaches, and spectacular coastal viewpoints.
If you think the scenery is photo-worthy, you’re not the only one: this stretch of coast has inspired artists including Boudin, Morisot, Monet, and Pissarro over the years, drawn to the luminous contrast of the white cliffs against the windswept waters of the English Channel. The most famous painting of all is Monet’s 1885 work, “‘The Cliffs of Étretat,” and travellers still make a beeline for this dramatic stretch of sea cliffs.
One day in Étretat: your perfect itinerary
With its magnificent white cliffs, emerald-green headlands, and sweeping shingle beach, Étretat is the headline act of the Alabaster Coast. A day trip to Étretat from Le Havre will give you plenty of time to explore, so here’s how to make the most of your day trip.
Morning: Walk the White Cliffs
Some of the best views of Étretat’s cliffs lie just west of the town, and the best way to experience the coast is on foot. Park in town and walk up to the Aval Cliff viewpoint at the south end of the beach for a panoramic view across the beach, the town, and the white cliffs. From there, hike down to Pointe de la Courtine, a 2.6-mile (4.2-kilometer) there and back hike that passes the Manneporte Cliff viewpoint and the Chambre des Demoiselles and Trou-à-l’Homme caves.
Another popular viewpoint is the Amont Cliff at the north end of the beach, from where hikers can also join the long-distance GR-21 hiking trail.
Afternoon: Beachside sightseeing
Head down to Étretat beach for lunch at one of the seafront restaurants – the coastal town is renowned for its delicious fresh seafood. A stroll on the pebbled beach is a must, and you can also cool off with a swim, go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, or take a boat cruise.
Afterwards, wander around the village with its traditional 19th-century buildings, take a peek inside the Étretat Heritage Museum, and browse the shops and stalls at the Covered Market.
Evening: Sunset with a view
Étretat’s seafront viewpoints afford plenty of spots from which to admire the sunset, but our pick is the view from the picturesque Notre-Dame de La Garde Chapel, which is perched on the eastern cliffs of Étretat. Climb up the cliffside before sundown to stroll around the idyllic Jardins d’Étretat next door, where the award-winning landscaped gardens stand in stunning contrast to the natural cliffs.
Étretat Insider tips:
- Étretat is hugely popular among day-trippers, so opt for a weekday visit outside of the school holidays if possible. If you do visit in the peak months of July-August, consider arriving early or staying overnight to avoid the biggest crowds.
- Check the tide times before exploring Étretat Beach – it’s not unusual for tourists to get trapped between the two cliffs at high tide (the Tourist Office can advise you if necessary).
- You can also enjoy lunch or dinner at a restaurant overlooking the cliffs: Le Bistrot du Dormy and Restaurant du Golf both have spectacular vistas.
How to get to Étretat
It’s about a 35-minute drive from Le Havre to Étretat along the D940. If you prefer to arrive by public transport, trains run directly from Le Havre to Etrétat and take about an hour. You can walk up to the cliffs from the village, but it is handy to have a car if you want to explore more of the Alabaster Coast.
How to get to Le Havre from the UK
Ferries run from Portsmouth to Le Havre four times a week.
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