The cliffs of Etretat are among the most famous natural places of France. Being on vacation 10 miles away from the cliffs, a visit was mandatory.
Read all the useful information to visit the cliffs of Etretat, as well as our tips and some pictures.
Why are the chalk cliffs of Etretat so famous?
Who has never seen a picture of the cliffs of Etretat? Even if you never put a specific place on the view, many people have already seen a picture of the Porte d’Aval or the Manneporte. These are big holes in the rock of the cliffs that form a kind of gigantic door.
The cliffs of Etretat are the most famous part of the “Côte d’Albâtre” which includes nearly 140 kilometers of chalk cliffs. They were formed underwater millions of years ago. Then, little by little, they went up to become these immense cliffs. They are almost 350 ft high.
The length of the path around the cliffs also explains the success of Etretat. You arrive at the level of the water and the beach, then climb the steps to reach the top of the cliffs. At this place, it is possible to walk for miles along the coast.
Where are the cliffs of Etretat?
The cliffs of Etretat are in the town… of Etretat! This small town in the Seine-Maritime territory has only about 1500 inhabitants, but the annual number of tourists exceeds one million. Quite a difference!
The main cities near Etretat are:
- Fécamp at 25 min by car
- Le Havre at 35 min
- Rouen at 1h15
- Caen at 1h30.
Is the access to the cliffs of Etretat free?
Yes, the access is open, free, and not controlled.
Where can I park to walk on the cliffs of Etretat?
Several parking lots are available. They are not free, including on Sundays and early in the morning. The closer your parking lot is to the beach and the cliffs access, the less likely you are to find a parking space in the afternoon, particularly during July and August.
With Amélie, we were lucky enough to have a space right on the beach street. But it was 8:30 a.m. on weekdays in June…
If you come by motorhome, there is some parking lots in the city. Do your research before your visit on the Internet to find out which ones.
What are the possible activities around the cliffs of Etretat?
Taking pictures, of course!
This is the number 1 activity, and we did it: taking pictures of the cliffs. You have many points of view. Take your first ones from the beach. Surrounded by the cliffs, you have beautiful landscapes to admire in each way.
As you go up the stairs of the cliffs, you have other viewpoints. Then, at the top of the cliffs, the more you walk, the more different landscapes you have.
Hiking on the cliffs
If the cliffs are impressive, the climb on the side of the Porte d’Aval is still accessible to most walkers. During our trip to Normandy, we sometimes experienced difficulties in climbing, but it was not in Etretat.
Once you go up this side, you can hike for miles. We only hiked less than a mile because we had our dogs already tired from the previous day’s efforts and the first drops of rain were falling.
The good thing is that the further you go, the less tourists there are. So, the first viewpoints are never empty, but the rest of the trail is uncrowded.
When you are on the beach, you have another cliff to your right, the Amont cliff. The climb seems steeper and offers another point of view. On this cliff, you can observe the Roc Vaudieu and the Aiguille de Belval.
Sunbathing, relaxing on the pebble beach
This part of Normandy has no beautiful sandy beaches. Everywhere, it is rocky and you have pebbles on the beach. However, these pebbles are not horrible. With water shoes, you can easily walk and put your towel in the middle of the beach.
Unfortunately, we did not do it, because the beach is forbidden to dogs…
Swimming in the sea… if you are brave!
The English Channel (“la Manche” in French) is cold, but does that stop you? I went in the water near Fécamp. The water was only 59 °F (15 °C) However, with the air being cold, it was much easier to get into the water compared to days when the water is 68 °F with an outside temperature over 90 °F.
Sailing with a view of the cliffs
Several companies in or near Etretat offer boat rentals to get a closer look at the cliffs. We didn’t do it. Looking at the pictures of people who have had the experience, it seems a very nice activity.
If you rent a boat that you drive yourself, be aware that it is forbidden to sail too close to the cliffs or to pass under the Porte d’Aval or the Manneporte for obvious safety reasons.
Enjoying a restaurant terrace
Several bars and restaurants are located on the beach. Enjoying seafood or a cocktail with such a view is a wonderful moment. It is ideal to recover from your walk.
Our visit to the cliffs of Etretat
June was a good time to visit the cliffs of Etretat. There were very few tourists. We were able to park close to the beach.
After a few minutes spent on the promenade facing the water, we went to the Porte d’Aval. The tourists we met were mainly foreign couples. It was quiet, which is perfect to enjoy such a natural place.
The paths are not perfect but practicable, and you advance without difficulty. In the middle of summer, they are surely a bit narrow to manage the influx of tourists smoothly.
At the top, we took pictures carefully, away from the precipice, and walked. These are the only activities to do at the top of the cliffs and that is more than enough.
The cliffs are not a location where you are going to lie down and admire the landscape for hours, but seeing the cliffs of Etretat, one of the most famous places in France, should be part of your program if you are on vacation in Normandy
Reminder: be careful!
Signs remind us to be vigilant. Every year or so, people die by falling from the cliffs… This is not surprising since we have seen teenagers sitting on the edge of the cliffs with their feet hanging down. An absolutely crazy behavior!
The cliffs are always moving, and landslides are common. Don’t be so reckless…