One of my greatest pleasures since the end of the lockdown in France two weeks ago was going back to the beach and hiking on the coastal path. Saint-Nazaire, my hometown on the Atlantic coast, is famous above all for its ship-building industry, but what most people don’t know is that the city has also not less than twenty beaches and many little coves! With the sun shining and the beautiful weather we have these days, I thought that it was the perfect timing to tell you about the eight beaches of Saint-Nazaire that I like most.
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of Saint-Nazaire.
I also borrowed a few pictures on this article from my own mother – have a look at her blog (in French only) called “My alphabet of Saint-Nazaire“!
🇫🇷 Cliquez ici pour lire cet article en français.
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As I’m publishing this article, all twenty beaches of Saint-Nazaire have reopened but only for dynamic activities: swimming, running, walking… but not staying on your towel! Some of the pictures below were taken way before anyone heard about the coronavirus, when lying on the sand and sunbathing were still allowed.
1/ Main Beach
Because of its situation at the end of the Loire Estuary and close to the harbour, there’s always a lot of mud below the water of Main Beach, especially at low tide; definitely not a good swimming area, even though there are lifeguards on duty here during summer. But it’s not for swimming that me, my friends, and so many other “Nazairiens” loved to gather here when social distancing wasn’t an issue. Since 2018, when a bar called the “Baleine Déshydratée” (literally the “Dehydrated Whale”) and four restaurants opened directly in front of the ocean, it has become the most vibrant part of the city, where everyone likes to go after work for a drink with their feet in the sand, or a dinner on a beautiful terrace. None of these places have reopened yet; hopefully they will be allowed to do so in a couple of weeks from now. I can’t wait, and I’ll probably spend a big part of my summer here!
Villès-Martin used to be the beach where my parents and I went when I was a kid. It’s still a family favourite today, especially because it’s so close to the city centre. It’s a great beach to relax while your kids are building a sandcastle, or to have a drink at the bar directly on the sand called “le Petit Baigneur”. And I didn’t mention the iconic lighthouse of Villès-Martin, which brightens up the sight very nicely, especially at sunset when the sky takes a stunning orange colour… The coastal path begins just after this beach. It’s the starting (or ending!) point of the GR34 hiking trail following the Breton coast until Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy over 2,000 kilometres (actually the real start/end is a few kilometres away, at the Saint-Nazaire bridge, close to the shipyard).
3/ Rocher du Lion
The name of this beach literally means “lion rock”, because there used to be a lion-shaped rock there (do you recognise it on the ancient postcard to the right?). Used to be only: the erosion that sculpted it over the years also slowly made it disappear… You won’t see it anymore, even with a lot of imagination (bottom left picture)! But it’s still a very nice place, the first of many little and peaceful coves. I really enjoy running on this section of the coastal path; it always brings me back memories from the summer of 2002, 18 years ago, when I spent two weeks in a former manor overlooking the neighbouring beach of Bonne-Anse for an unforgettable holiday camp.
This is usually where I turn around when I go for a run on the coastal path, after a loop in the Porcé Wood nearby. It’s another really nice beach, very popular for families and with seasonal lifeguard surveillance. I like how green the entire area is!
The section of coast between the beaches of Porcé and Trébézy is by far my favourite of Saint-Nazaire, with a lot of breath-taking views and a very special bench where me and my parents always come at least once every summer for a delicious picnic, that became a family tradition! Just before reaching Trébézy, there are four beautiful fishing cabins next to each other, forming a gorgeous panorama. I love it!
6/ La Courance
The beach of La Courance is one of the largest and most popular beaches of Saint-Nazaire, where both locals and tourists love to go (there’s a four-star campsite, the Camping de l’Eve just across the road). It’s also the beach with the strongest current and the biggest waves; nothing dangerous and not a problem for swimming (plus lifeguards are always very watchful), but surfers and kite surfers always like to come here, especially on windy days. As it was a direct bus ride from home, this is the beach where I used to go with my friends as a teenager, but also a couple of times again last summer after work, when temperatures rose above 35°C.
7/ Monsieur Hulot
Among all the beaches of Saint-Nazaire, Monsieur Hulot in the suburb of Saint-Marc-sur-Mer is the superstar! Its celebrity began in 1953 when the French filmmaker Jacques Tati chose it as the main location for his movie “Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot”. A bronze statue of the character of Monsieur Hulot is now forever staring at the beach named after him. I can hardly find any fault to this beach: it’s beautiful, safe, the swimming conditions are great, a market takes place in the main street going to the beach every Thursday and Sunday morning… and I could have found many other good arguments! So if you had only one beach to see in Saint-Nazaire, it would be this one.
8/ Les Jaunais
The beach of Les Jaunais is the last of the twenty beaches of Saint-Nazaire: the next one, Sainte-Marguerite, is part of the town of Pornichet. It’s the only one where you can practice nudism (not on the main beach though, but on a smaller cove to the left). The section of coast before Les Jaunais is slightly different to the rest of the shore closer to Saint-Nazaire: it looks a little bit wilder, with less trees and more cliffs, until you suddenly reach this large and beautiful stretch of sand. The diversity of landscapes between this beach and the one of Villès-Martin at the other end of the coastal path is really stunning!
Before ending this article, one last word about the other beaches I didn’t mention here: Ker-Villès, Kerlédé, Kerloupiots (what a cute name!), Belle Fontaine, Bonne-Anse, Virechat, Port Charlotte, l’Eve, Saint-Eugene, le Grand Traict, Georama and Petite Vallée. Twenty beaches for only one city: not too bad right?
Have you ever visited Saint-Nazaire? If not, which of these beaches would you like to try first? Let me know in the comments!
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