Emerald coast brittany beach

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I love the north coast of Brittany. I spend more and more time there, and every time I go, I discover new things, new places, new nuggets. This time, I wanted to focus on a corner that I’d skimmed over a little and that I wanted to explore in greater depth: the Emerald Coast. Above all, I really wanted to know if its name was deserved! because the French coast is full of superlatives (especially in Brittany, with the Côte d’Emeraude, the Côte de Granit Rose, the Côte des Légendes…). And so, it was time to find out: is the water really emerald? And I’ll take the opportunity to solve one of Brittany’s greatest mysteries (at least!): does it really only rain on Parisians? First, I’ll introduce you to the region’s most beautiful spots, then we’ll talk about the practical info you need to prepare your stay. When to come, how long, where to stay, that sort of thing… Let’s get to work and find out what makes this place so unique!

Emerald Coast dinard Brittany
Sunset Saint Malo from Dinard

Where is the Emerald Coast

The Emerald Coast is a beautiful region on the north coast of Brittany, France. It stretches for some 60 kilometers, between Cap Fréhel to the east and the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel to the west. Its name comes from the emerald color of the sea that lines its sandy beaches. Straddling the departments of Ille et Vilaine and the magnificent Côtes d’Armor, the Côte d’Emeraude owes its name to a historian from Saint-Malo, Eugène Herpin, in reference to the color the water takes on at certain times: “The hue of the sea, the greenery of the trees reflected in it, all this strange symphony of different greens, made me call our coast the Côte d’Emeraude.“In practical terms, it doesn’t take too long to get from one end of this area to the other, but there’s so much to see, a very chiseled coastline, numerous villages that you’ll spend a lot more time than expected!

Let’s have a look

Emerald Coast Bretagne France Beach

Hiking on the Sentier des Douaniers GR34 along the Emerald Coast

I’m going to do a dedicated article on this, but walking along the Sentier des Douaniers (the famous GR 34) is one of the best ways to discover the Emerald Coast. Of course, I’m not going to tell you to do every section in its entirety, but in the same way as between Fort la Latte and Cap Frehel, there are some really great little hikes to be had, not too long:

  • around the Saint Jacut de la Mer peninsula (with all its beaches!)
  • between Cap Frehel and Fort la Latte
  • the moonlight walk along the fortifications in Dinard, pushing on to Saint Lunaire (3h round trip)
  • the Pointe du Grouin in Cancale
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel brittany hike sentier des douaniers
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel Brittany
GR 34 sentier des douaniers brittany saint jacut de la mer hike
GR 34 sentier des douaniers brittany saint jacut de la mer

The pretty little town of Dinard

Dinard is known as a seaside resort that’s a bit of a posh. That’s true, but it’s not all. In Dinard, you’ll find those magnificent Belle Epoque houses, huge English-inspired mansions found all along the coast. And especially along the Promenade du Clair de Lune, a magnificent stroll that runs along the Dinard coast, from the Priory beach to the Saint Enogat beach. It’s sumptuous, running alongside the town’s fortifications. What’s more, Dinard faces Saint Malo, which you can admire from the shore. But Dinard is on the Emerald Coast, and that’s no accident. We’ve got some great beaches and magnificent water. My favorite is Plage de la Fourberie, and not just for its name!

  • Must-do activity: the moonlight walk, between the view of Saint Malo, the city walls and the various beaches.
  • Recommended accommodation: Royal Emeraude, one block from the main beach, a top-quality hotel around 150€.
path clair de lune dinard houses brittany
Dinard view Saint Malo brittany
Beach dinard brittany emerald coast
dinard emerald coast clear water brittany

Saint Lunaire, Dinard’s twin sister

I didn’t spend too much time there, but the little seaside resort of St Lunaire is also very nice. I preferred the old town, with its pretty stone church, but the beachfront is also lined with beautiful houses, as in Dinard.

I recommend the walk to the Pointe du Décolle, it’s very pleasant and offers lovely views of the coast

Church Saint Lunaire Bretagne
Pointe du décollé Saint Lunaire Brittany Emerald Coast
View Saint Lunaire Emerald Coast Brittany

The corsair city of Saint Malo

Do we still need to introduce Saint Malo? It’s the corsair city, the town of Surcouf, a magnificent fortified and impregnable city that did everything it could to annoy the English for hundreds of years. With its interesting history and well-preserved heritage, Saint Malo is a major tourist destination in Brittany. For its architecture, of course, its ramparts on which you can walk around the town, for its immense beaches and also as a spa town (tried and tested!). What’s more, there are a few little fortresses to visit, like the Fort National and the Grand Bé, which are super interesting 🙂 Finally, I can’t recommend the many cookie factories. Your balance won’t thank me, but your palate will. Like Maison Guella or (of course) Brieuc or Larnicol.

  • Must-do activities: tour the ramparts, visit Fort National
  • Recommended accommodation: Hôtel la Porte Saint Pierre Logis, a very nice hotel within the city walls and just a few meters from the beach! Ideally located for less than 100€.
Saint Malo, tower, ramparts at low tide, brittany
ramparts of Saint Malo view from Grand Bé
Lighthouse mole des noires in Saint malo Brittany
Saint Malo and its ramparts in Brittany

Cancale and Pointe du Grouin

Cancale is famous for its oysters. And it’s true that the oyster beds are at the foot of the harbour! But Cancale is also a pretty little town, a very pleasant little seaside resort, with several seaside restaurants and bars. Around Cancale is also the Pointe du Grouin! It’s said to be one of the most beautiful and extensive views in Ille et Vilaine. This little rocky peninsula makes for a truly magnificent walk. You’re right on the edge of the Mont Saint Michel bay, which you can see on one side, while on a clear day you can see the Cap Fréhel lighthouse on the other. A complete view of the Emerald Coast, quite simply! In the rocks, in nature. What more could you ask for?

  • Must-do activity: Pointe du Grouin, of course, and oysters right on the harbour for those who love them.
  • Recommended accommodation: Hotel Kêr L, with a magnificent sea view.
Oysters Cancale Brittany
La pointe du Grouin in Cancale, brittany

The beaches of Saint Jacut de la Mer

Well, I’m not going to beat about the bush, the most beautiful beaches, the most beautiful water, are at Saint Jacut de la Mer. It’s a small, long peninsula with 11 beaches (10 are totally tide-dependent), while the last one, at the very end, is exceptional. What’s more, at low tide you can walk into the Ebihens archipelago. The water is beautiful, rohlala. And surprisingly, there aren’t many people around, which surprised me (although I was there for the July 14th weekend). The town itself is nothing special, but clearly the beaches are the peninsula’s real asset.

saint jacut de la mer Emerald Coast Brittany
saint jacut de la mer Emerald Coast BRittany

The great beach of Saint Cast le Guildo

Right next door, we’ll find our big sister, Saint Cast le Guildo. The town has some beautiful coastal residences, but above all a large turquoise beach. The view from the Point de la Garde is magnificent, and to the north of the town you’ll find beautiful cliffs and a great walk along the coast to the next beaches. And to the south of the town, there’s the fortified castle, which you can visit free of charge.

Beach saint cast le guildo Emerald Coast
Guildo MEdieval castle Brittany

Fort la Latte

Le Fort la Latte, otherwise known as Château de la Roche Goyon, is the most visited castle in Brittany. It’s a beautiful fortress, standing on the tip of a rocky outcrop, which was designed to be impregnable, and obviously was, as a few English ships tried to take it but were superbly impaled on the surrounding rocks. Its fortification was built by a colleague of Vauban, which explains the very similar style. The château also has the particularity of having a cannonball furnace. The idea was to heat the cannonballs just before firing them to set fire to the ships. A visit to the fort is a must, I’d say, as it’s not only interesting for the history of the region, but also for the views it offers. Around the château, you’ll find lovely coves, magnificent vegetation and the GR34, which passes right by!

fort la latte cotes d'armor brittany
fort la latte in Brittany

Cape Fréhel

Another of Brittany’s most beautiful spots! But here, it’s all about nature. A sumptuous, multicolored heather that’s a sight to behold. It surrounds the famous lighthouse, one of the 5 most powerful in France, but Cap Frehel also boasts magnificent cliffs from which, from mid-February to mid-July, numerous birds can be observed. The area is classified as a nature reserve to protect the nesting grounds of several species, including Razorbills, guillemots (which look a lot like them) and cormorants. Admittedly, I’ve never been at the right time of year (in this case, it was a matter of days), but it’s still very spectacular! Of course, go around the cliffs and to Fort la Latte via the GR34!

Cap Frehel Emerald Coast Brittany
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel Brittany
Cap frehel Brittany France emerald coast
GR 34 fort la latte cap frehel brittany

Saint Suliac, the real little Breton village

Well, I’m cheating a little because Saint Suliac isn’t strictly speaking on the Emerald Coast because it’s not by the sea (like Dinan, by the way), this superb Breton village is located along the Rance. But the water is just as beautiful! And there’s just as much wind as on the coast, so you’d think you were there 😀 Saint Suliac (I was there yesterday as I was writing this, so it’s still fresh!) is one of the most beautiful villages in Brittany, without doubt the most beautiful in the area, but also voted one of the most beautiful villages in France. Stone houses, charming alleyways and, above all, a real sense of authenticity. You won’t find X stores per street trying to sell you Breton bowls with your name on them. Quite the opposite, in fact! And that’s what makes the visit even better. Really, come and wander around this wonderful little surprise for half a day, you won’t regret it 🙂

  • Recommended accommodation: the pretty stone house of La Goëlette
Saint Suliac most beautiful Village Brittany Street
Saint Suliac beautiful Village Brittany
Saint Suliac most beautiful Village Brittany Ile et Villaine
Saint Suliac beautiful Village Brittany

Dinan, the super sexy medieval touch

Dinan is one of Brittany’s best-known small towns, but with good reason. First of all, you arrive in town along the River Rance, arriving at the ultra-cute little port. From there, you have to climb up into the medieval town, following the Rue Jezrual in particular, an emblematic cobbled street with lots of little boutiques, artists and the like. The charm of this street and its neighbours is truly amazing! The medieval town is not to be outdone, with its many old houses, some of them half-timbered. But above all, Dinan is surrounded by ramparts that you can walk around, as well as its famous medieval castle. Really, Dinan is a must-see!

  • Must-do activity: visit the medieval quarter with its wooden houses.
  • Recommended accommodation: Eglantine, the historic house in the heart of old Dinan.
Visit dinan Brittany
city Dinan Brittany

Why visit the Emerald Coast

It’s simple, simply because there’s everything you need for a great vacation!

  • magnificent historic towns such as Saint Malo and Dinan
  • beaches with transparent water and white sand (just a few degrees away from the Caribbean)
  • pretty villages like Saint Suliac
  • nature! all along the coast, nature offers us wonders. I particularly enjoyed the colorful heather of Cap Fréhel
  • a rocky coastline that makes for magnificent scenery
  • we’re close to other great places like Mont Saint Michel and its Abbey, Perros Guirec and the Côte de Granit Rose, simply the must-sees of the Côtes d’Armor.
  • Last but not least, between the cider factories and the local beers, we’ve got plenty to drink! And of course, the food is great. I’m not going to lie, between the crêpes, the Kouign Amann and the galette saucisse, it’s very, very light!
Most beautiful Beach Emerald Coast Brittany
Beach saint cast le guildo emerald coast brittany

Where to sleep on the Emerald Coast

I’ve given you a few suggestions for nice places to stay before, but to visit the Emerald Coast it can be good to be in a fairly central location.Saint Malo lends itself well to this as it’s close to everything! The only places that are a little far away are Fort la Latte and Cap Fréhel, but these are only a 40-minute drive away and can be visited in a single day.

Dinard is also a very good option (I was there a few days ago), but the hotel offer is a little smaller. But the setting is really pretty! The advantage of staying in Dinard is that you can enjoy the sunset on the Promenade and be in a nice setting without it being too touristy.

But for something a little different, there are these lovely options:

Practical information for visiting the Emerald Coast

How long to visit the Emerald Coast

It’s about sixty kilometers as the crow flies, but in fact it’s much more than that. If you want to enjoy it to the full, take in the towns and villages, enjoy nature and a few walks, go to the beach, I’d say you need a good 4-5 days:

  • 1 day for Saint Malo
  • 1 day for Dinan
  • 1 day for Fort la Latte, Cap Fréhel and the walk in between
  • 1/2 day for Dinard
  • 1/2 day for Saint Suliac
  • 1/2 day for Saint Jacut de la mer and its beautiful beaches
  • 1/2 day for Cancale and Pointe du Grouin

And that’s the minimum I’d say, so we could even stay for a week without worrying!

Don’t forget the Emerald Coast is really close to Mont Saint Michel ! So you can visit it and even sleep at the Mont!

Beach fourberie dinard brittany

When is the best time

Each season has its advantages and disadvantages (logical!), you’ll have to juggle between the weather and the time of year.

  • Spring (March to June): the weather starts to warm up, nature comes back to life and the landscape becomes verdant. It’s an ideal time for hiking and biking. What’s more, spring is a time of year less frequented by tourists, allowing you to enjoy the tranquility of the area.
  • Summer (July to mid-September): truly the most popular time to visit the Emerald Coast. The weather is generally warm and sunny, perfect for enjoying the beaches, boating, sailing and diving. However, as it’s high season, it can get very crowded and accommodation prices can rise.
  • Autumn (mid-September, October): this is a great time to visit the Emerald Coast. The summer tourist crowds have dissipated, temperatures are milder and the landscape is spectacular with leaves changing color. It’s one of my favorite destinations for autumn vacations!
  • Winter: In winter, the climate is cooler and there are fewer tourists. It’s a good time of year for those who like peace and quiet and want to discover the region’s more authentic side. However, there’s likely to be a lot of rain and wind. It’s Brittany, so it’ll be more than usual 😀
cap fréhel lighthouse brittany

How to get to the Emerald Coast

The easiest way is by car. But it’s not necessarily next door, depending on where you’re coming from. From Paris, it’s about 4h15, while from Nantes it’s 2h15. Alternatively, by train, there’s Paris – Saint Malo direct in 2h40. Then another station at Dinan and… that’s it! But there’s a good bus network, BreizhGo, which makes getting to all these sites (apart from Saint Suliac) pretty easy. Dinard, Saint Lunaire or Saint Briac, Dinan is easily accessible, as is Cancale. For Cap Frehel, you have to go to Plevenon, but unfortunately I couldn’t find a bus to Fort la Latte (if you’re at Cap Fréhel, you can get there on foot)

Côte Emeraude bus Train Saint Malo

In conclusion

So there you have it, you know everything (I hope!) about the Emerald Coast. It really is one of the most beautiful places in Brittany, a place where you can enjoy beaches and magnificent waters, pretty villages and historic towns. In short, you can’t get bored there, and if you want to prolong the pleasure, you can head off to discover Perros Guirec and the Côte de Granit Rose a little further on. So don’t hesitate! What’s more, the food and drink there is so good, it’s impossible to be disappointed, especially as the weather forecasts are often more pessimistic than the real thing. The famous Breton plot: make people think it rains a lot to keep tourists away :D*To find out more about Brittany, you can also check out the following articles, which I think you’ll also enjoy. As I’m spending more and more time in the region, I’m adding new articles regularly, most recently on Carnac and its menhirs:

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