5 In Europe/ France/ Normandy

One Day In Etretat France: White Cliffs, Pebbled Beach And Sunset Paradise

White cliffs and the sea

One day in Etretat France is one of the best days out you can experience in Northern France. This idyllic Normandy location is a must see if you are in the region. If you are looking for top things to do in Etretat and the points of interest, you’ve come to the right place! This post shares everything you can easily see during a day trip to the Normandy location.

How To Get To Etretat France

Etretat is located in the Normandy region of France, east of the city of Le Harve. The town of Etretat has just over 1200 locals residents. Etretat is one of the most prettiest white cliff locations on the whole of the Alabaster Coast, making it a popular weekend destination in Normandy. The town itself is only 50 metres from the cliffs, so its perfect for seeing all in one day.

The easiest way to get to Etretat is arriving by car. You have the flexibility to arrive at your own time and park up in the city area and beach parking. A day trip is perfect from a road trip, as this gives you plenty of time to see the prettiest white cliffs in Normandy. We arrived a little late, as we had driven down from Dieppe. This was planned as we wanted to see the sunset (shared below!)

Facts About Etretat

There are of course some interesting facts about Etretat. These facts of Etretat include the following:

  • One of the most popular spots on the Alabaster Coast for enjoying the white cliffs
  • Famously known from the 1883 painting of Claude Monet
  • You can stand on top of the 300 feet / 92 meters high cliff looking down (or up!)
  • The cliffs contain mostly chalk and limestone
  • It is part of the Alabaster Coast, which is 130 kilometres long.

You can read about the whole Normandy Alabaster Coast here!

Must See Things In Etretat France

Being one of the most popular locations on the Alabaster Coast, you won’t be disappointed with visiting Etretat. This once busy fishing port is now a busy touristic treasure. In the summer months it can get rather crowded. However we visited during June 2020 and quarantine times for many countries, it was pretty empty!

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde

This pretty little church sits at the east cliff side of Etretat. You can walk up and visit, but during our day trip we didn’t. From what we have read, there isn’t must to really see. However the views from the church are just as pretty!

The Pretty White Cliffs

The main thing in Etretat is of course the pretty white cliffs and the coastline. Once you walk up to the top of the cliffs, you have an amazing panoramic view of Etretat behind you. The church above is in the distance above the other section of the cliffs.

Porte d’Aval

This pretty little spot has a walkway and barrier for you to feel a little more safe at the top of the cliffs. This is the popular spot that all visitors walk up to, as you have a beautiful view of the coastline on both sides.

Falaise d’Aval

By this section you have a walkway from the cliff to the rock still standing tall on the edge (pictured below). This part seemed somewhat safe, but of course it is at your own risk that you walk this. Not for those who are scared of heights as either side you can see right down into the water.

Chemin Des Douaniers

The rest of the cliffs have a lovely view of the beach below too. Walking to this point on the map will give you the view of the Falaise d’Aval towards Etretat. There is a golf course behind this location, but you can still walk along the edge without walking over any golf balls. From here you can also see the beach below better. The entrance to this section of the beach is through the cliffs, which is explained next!

Climbing Through To The Beach

To get through to the beach area you see in between the cliffs, you will need to be a bit adventurous! It is definitely for those not comfortable with climbing a rusty ladder or down a rope on the other side! But let me explain how it is and maybe you are interested too.

You start following the cliff edge west from the main beach area of Etretat, following the cliff around the corner to the next part. At this point, you will already see a hidden gem of a little cave that once had a door.

Trou à l’homme / Man Hole

From here, you will reach the Trou à l’homme, which bascially means Man Hole, as this is a manmade hole made to reach the beach on the other side. You find the rusty but secure ladder in this cove. Here you need to climb up and head into the tunnel.

However do not attempt this until checking the tide times first. Also do not attempt this without wearing a decent pair of sneakers either! It is extremely not recommend to climb through if the tide is coming in, as you need plenty of time to get back to the main beach area. Else you will become stranded.

If you find yourself at the top of the ladder, the warning signs share that you can wait in the tunnel while the tide is up, and simply wait until the tide is out again to leave the tunnel. However I don’t think anyone would want to wait 6+ hours here, and its not really safe! We definitely do not recommend getting stranded here.

If you time it safely and are confident in climbing the ladder, then we can suggest heading through the tunnel to see the beach. However at the end of the tunnel, you will need to climb down the rock with the rusty iron bars and rope. The rope we saw looked pretty new, but the iron bars and chain were definitely placed there years ago.

Below you will have to look carefully to even see the role in the picture!

Sunset On The Beach

If you are lucky with the time of year and time of the tide going out, you can experience a stunning summer sunset on the pebbled beach in between the white cliffs. We were indeed lucky with our one day in Etretat France for this.

Visiting in July 2020, we were super lucky to have this romantic moment together. The sky was clear and not a cloud in sight. Not only did we have the whole beach section between the white cliffs to ourselves but it was also very peaceful. We think this was likely because not many tourists were in Normandy due to the corona virus situation. Also more because not everyone would want to climb up the ladder or down the cliff edge by rope.

Like the warning signs at the location, do not attempt this if the tide is coming in, as you will get stuck or need to be rescued. You can still enjoy one day in Etretat France without having to be on this part of the beach. Stick to the areas you are confident with and feel safe at.

Check Out Our Other Normandy Posts!

Weekend In Dieppe France: What To See, French Cuisine & White Cliffs

Normandy France Coastline: The Alabaster Coast, White Cliffs and Fishing Villages

Summary Of Our Etretat France Day Trip

Enjoying a trip along the Normandy Alabaster Coast is perfect to do with one day in Etretat France. Arriving from Dieppe and stopping along the way is easy to do with your own transportation. This allows you to visit either Etretat for the whole day or half a day and combine other places along your day trip.

If you are scared of heights, don’t let that stop you in walking up the white cliffs. Etretat France is a good location to walk up the concrete pathway and with a path and barrier at the top, this is a pretty safe place to see the cliffs on the whole Alabaster Coast.

Tips

  • Don’t leave any rubbish around, take it with you and throw when back near the carpark
  • Plan ahead with tide times and weather for beach activities
  • Take your time, relax and enjoy the views

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Thank you for sharing our one day in Etretat France post!

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Ophelie
    22nd August 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Amazing I want to go to Etretat this year! I am French but I never had the opportunity to visit so far. I am so glad you shared all your tips!

  • Reply
    Alanna
    22nd August 2020 at 5:27 pm

    What a beautiful spot! I have a 4 month trip to France coming up (pending a pandemic and all) so I’m definitely adding this to the list! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Maria
    22nd August 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Wow Etretat looks absolutely beautiful, I’ve never heard of this place before! Totally adding it to my list

  • Reply
    MacKenzie
    22nd August 2020 at 11:50 pm

    Those white cliffs are so cool! I didn’t know there were any as big/popular as Dover, but I’ll definitely have to go now that I know.

  • Reply
    Rick Rodriguez
    1st September 2020 at 9:14 am

    Wow! It looks amazing! The photos is just super! Thanks for sharing!

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