Côte d’Opale


The ever-changing colours of the Côte d’Opale, which span from Calais to Boulogne, are a great introduction to the French coast. Comprising of white cliffs, dunes and beaches, the Opal coast lines the English Channel, reflecting the blues of the sea against its grey rock structures. The coastal landscape is spotted with beaches (usually swarmed by British visitors) and dramatic peaks that are cordoned off by flat farmlands further inland. This area is also sprinkled with remnants of the Nazi Germany Atlantic wall, which was supposed to fend of the Allied attacks that eventually took place in Normandy. The landscape of the Côte d’Opale is partly attributed to the Parc Naturel Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais, of which the coast is a part of. The entire Opal Coast stretch is intersected by hiking paths that thread through little coastal villages. The iridescent landscape has been an inspiration to many artists including Carlous-Duran and Eugène Boudin, as well as writers such as Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens.  In fact, the coast was named by an artist, Éduord Lévêque, who was particularly taken with the area’s distinct coastal light.

There are several natural and man-made sights laid out along the coast (all the way towards Boulogne). The northernmost tip of the coast starts off with the Channel Tunnel that lies under the Straits of Dover, leading up to the village of Stangatte (approximately 8km west of Calais). Although Stangatte is known for its sandy beaches, it is usually passed through as many head straight for the Cap Blanc-Nez, which lies southwest of this. The 134m Cap Blanc-Nez; is one of the most prominent peaks in the coastline and is well-known for its splendid views over the Bay of Wissant and the Calais port. It is also backed up by the Flemish countryside with scattered herds of cows and goats. Dotted with WWII bomb craters, the Cap Blanc-Nez is a stone’s throw away from a grey obelisk that honours the WWII Dover patrol heroes. If you wish to put up a night here, you can stop by at the village of Escalles, nestled in a valley south of Cap Blanc-Nez. The village offers basic amenities in the form of restaurants and hotels as well as a pathway to the cliff.

Heading south brings you to Wissant (pop. 1,070). Visitors come to this affluent seaside resort town for its wide beaches and coastal walks. The town was also the launch pad of Julius Caesar’s British invasion in 55BC.

Cap Gris-Nez (Grey Nose Cliff) is another popular Opal Coast peak, lying south of Wissant.  Unlike its chalky, white FRANCE PAS DE CALAIS Ambleteusecounterpart, Cap Gris-Nez is a rugged greyish-stoned headland that got its name from a corruption of the archaic English word, craig-ness (meaning rocky promontory). The peak is a protected habitat for migratory birds that stop over here from across the straits (as it lies only 28km from the English cost). These 45m cliffs are crowned by a lighthouse and a radar station that serve the hundreds of ships, which pass through daily.

(pop. 1990) southeast of Cap Gris-Nez is worth a visit for its 17th century Fort Mahon that once guarded the local beaches. This village can also be used as a base by those who wish to explore the Dunes de la Slack – a protected, grassy, dune-filled area that lies close to the mouth of the Slack River after which it is named.






Javascript is required to view this map.
OPAL COAST1. Channel Tunnel  2. Stangatte  3. Cap Blanc-Nez  4. Wissant  5. Cap Gris-Nez  6. Fort Mahon, Ambleteuse  7. Dunes de la Slack