Brittany, and in particular its coast, is one of the most attractive regions in France – especially when holidaying with a caravan or motorhome. This rugged beauty on the Atlantic coast captivates with its raw nature, rich culture and authentic cuisine. We head towards the salty breeze of the Atlantic Ocean and follow the seagulls on their journey along the most beautiful places on the coast.
Brittany at a glance: The basics
Brittany is the largest peninsula in France. It is located in the northwest and characterised by hills, rocky landscapes and picturesque bays. Brittany is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, west and south. The neighbouring regions are Normandy and Pays de la Loire. The capital of Brittany is Rennes. The history and language of the region are shaped by Celtic culture: the Bretons once populated this region and left behind defiant fortresses and the Breton language, which is still reflected in many place names today. The Gauls once called Brittany "Aremorica", which means "place in front of the sea".
When is the best time to travel to Brittany?
The Gulf Stream is responsible for the temperate climate in Brittany. It brings mild winters and not too hot summers. Brittany is worth a visit at almost any time of the year, except in winter when rainfall is highly likely. Between June and October, the many bays are perfect for swimming and exploring the area, whereas spring and autumn are popular with surfers due to the wind conditions. However, there is no such thing as "typical weather" in Brittany. The region is known for its rapid and unpredictable weather changes. A mixture of sun, wind and showers can be observed all year round, thus the saying that you can often experience four seasons in one day here. The diverse lighting conditions with their kaleidoscope of colours along with the lush landscape, which is either in bloom or draped in a golden blanket depending on the season, has attracted numerous artists over the centuries, including Gauguin.
Roads and traffic: Travelling around Brittany in a motorhome or caravan
How suitable is Brittany for campers? In principle, the region provides the perfect template for a coastal tour: the peninsula literally protrudes into the Atlantic and you can easily visit some of the country's highlights on the coast, especially since Brittany has some beautiful winding coastal roads. What you will come across again and again on your tour are lighthouses. They not only fit wonderfully into the romantic landscape, but are also excellent points of reference. It will usually take you one day to get to Brittany from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands or the UK. However, you will have to factor in the tolls if taking the motorway through France. You can find detailed information on traffic rules, tolls and entry regulations in France here.
If travelling from northern Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands, you could take the scenic route through Normandy. If you come from the southern regions of Germany, Austria or Switzerland, you can plan your route to Brittany along the idyllic Loire Valley and get to admire some fairytale castles along the way.
One major advantage of Brittany: Brittany itself is toll-free. Instead of motorways, there are carriageways with up to four lanes where speeds of up to 110 km/h are permitted. Not all roads are really designed for travelling with a motorhome – some small coastal roads are very winding and narrow. But for the most part, the road conditions are good. There are also a number of campsites along the coast, most of which are in the north and south of the region. And many campsites have direct access to the beach.
Delicious Breton specialities
Brittany has a lot to offer from a culinary point of view. The two best-known specialities are crêpes and galettes Bretonnes (buckwheat pancakes), which are available in both sweet and savoury versions. Other classics include Breton butter and Far Breton (cake). Due to the proximity to the sea and the fertile soil, freshly caught fish, seafood dishes and locally grown vegetables are also popular regional specialities. The choice of drinks is not to be scoffed at, either: in addition to the excellent wine from the vineyards of Brittany, the locals also like to drink “chouchen” and mead – both alcoholic beverages based on honey and apples.
Highlights of Brittany
Thanks to its relatively small size – Brittany covers around 27,206 square kilometres – the coast is ideal for exploring by motorhome. We've selected a few highlights for you to discover on your own. We visit vibrant port cities, sleepy fishing villages, get to know the Emerald Coast, the Pink Granite Coast and the Gulf of Morbihan and immerse ourselves in the Breton way of life.
Highlights of Brittany #1: The Emerald Coast – picturesque bays and charming fishing villages
We start our journey in the northeast of Brittany, more precisely on the Emerald Coast. The illustrious name goes back to the divine emerald green colour of the water and describes the stretch of coast from the port town of Cancale to Cap Fréhel. Cancale is also known as the "oyster capital of Brittany" because there is a long tradition of oyster farming here. So it's hardly surprising that this speciality can be found on almost every menu in the village. The mystical monastery island “Mont-Saint-Michel”, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is within sight, but is part of Normandy by a hair's breadth. It is definitely worth visiting. And if you want to stretch your legs on the Emerald Coast and enjoy the fascinating landscape, we recommend you follow the network of hiking or cycling trails that run from Cancale to many a pristine bay.
Jewel of the Emerald Coast: Saint-Malo – bustling port city
We continue our journey to the romantic port city of Saint-Malo. Great for exploring on foot, the historic old town is surrounded by the sea on three sides and has popular city beaches that are perfect for swimming. The tides are very pronounced here – there can be a difference of up to 12 m between ebb and flow. In summer, life mainly revolves around the water during the day before the many restaurants and bars open their doors in the evening.
Highlights of Brittany #2: The Pink Granite Coast
The Pink Granite Coast, "Côte de Granit Rose" in French, is characterised by pink, shimmering round rocks that have been ground down over the centuries and lie in the surf like mythical creatures from a distant world. It is dotted with exceptional bathing bays, where beach restaurants embedded in the landscape serve specialities with freshly caught fish. The Côte de Granit Rose stretches roughly from Paimpol to Trébeurden, its largest and most impressive rock formations are in the Ploumanac'h natural park and near Trégastel. If you do not have a lot of time to spare, drive from Saint-Brieuc via the N12 and D767 to Lannion and then on to Trégastel. If you're not in a rush and would also like to see a few small villages, then drive along the coast via the D787 to Paimpol and then on to Lannion.
Tips for the Pink Granite Coast
- The Customs Officers' path ("Sentier des Douaniers"): this hiking trail begins above the "Plage de Trestraou" bay in Perros-Guirec. The impressive pink granite backdrop and the "Sept Îles" island group are always in full view.
- The Ploumanac'h natural park with many pink granite highlights.
- The “Trégastel” aquarium, which is integrated in the rocky landscape and introduces visitors to the fascinating world of local sea dwellers and the tides that rule Brittany.
Highlights of Brittany #3: Brignogan-Plages – fishing villages, white beaches & tranquillity
Another cultural and scenic gem awaits visitors in northwest Brittany: the municipality of “Brignogan-Plages” with its authentic flair and white picture-perfect beaches. This is just the place for anyone looking for some peace and quiet as life in Brignogan-Plages is easy-going. Discover the port and Pontusval lighthouse, the "Menhir de Men Marz" – a megalithic monument from prehistoric times – and the unspoilt beaches with quaint local pubs.
Highlights of Brittany #4: Brest – a touch of metropolitan flair
After all that peace and quiet, the bustling port city of Brest on the east coast of Brittany is quite a contrast. This is where the past and present come together: historic castle ruins are next to futuristic office complexes. The most famous sights include the Brest Fortress ("Château de Brest") with the Maritime Museum and the panoramic view over the harbour, the botanical garden and the "Centre Atlantique de la Photographie" art centre covering more than 400 m². Carnivals take place in the port of Brest in July and August. And there is a huge maritime festival every four years – the last one was supposed to have been held in July 2020, but it has been postponed to July 2022 due to the pandemic.
Highlights of Brittany #5: Île Vierge – probably the most beautiful bay in Brittany
In the last few years, a number of travel portals and magazines have crowned the small beach “Île Vierge" in western Brittany the most beautiful beach in the region, if not in all of France. Therefore, at least in July and August, the bay says adieu to tranquillity and solitude. Nevertheless, a visit to the small promontory on the Crozon peninsula near the village of Saint-Hernot between Morgat and the Cap de la Chèvre is very worthwhile. The bay is framed by rocky coasts so you will definitely need sturdy shoes for the descent. Take care with small children – always hold their hands!
Highlights of Brittany #6: Pointe du Raz – observation point en route to the south
When driving south, stop over at "Pointe du Raz" observation point on the west coast of Brittany. It is the perfect area to enjoy a picnic or a coffee surrounded by breathtaking views. Feel the wind on your face, enjoy the view and relax.
Highlights of Brittany #7: “Pointe de la Torche” – a surfer's paradise and sand dunes
Are enthusiastic surfers – or anyone aspiring to become one – on board? Then a stopover at the “Point de la Torche” coast in southwest Brittany is a must. Numerous surf schools and cosy beach cafés are nestled between the dunes on the beaches, dominated by a relaxing atmosphere.
Highlights of Brittany #8: The megalithic Carnac stones
Brittany also stands for extraordinary stone formations, such as the mystical stone rows of Carnac on the south coast. Various menhirs (standing stones) are scattered across the landscape and exude an archaic energy reminiscent of Stonehenge. The formations are remnants of Stone Age cultures, probably dating back more than 6,000 years. The two most important sites, Ménec and Kermario, have around 3,000 menhirs alone, which were arranged surprisingly evenly.
Highlights of Brittany #9: Southern Brittany – the Gulf of Morbihan
“The little sea”, as the Gulf of Morbihan is also called, boasts magnificent landscapes, a maritime flair, a milder climate compared to the north of Brittany and pretty villages with half-timbered buildings. The area is perfect for leisurely strolls, gentle hikes along the coast and simply relaxing.
Highlights of Brittany #10: Vannes – step back in time to the Middle Ages
The enchanting half-timbered town of Vannes with its many parks and rivers is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Gulf of Morbihan. It is surrounded by a medieval fortress wall and will make you feel as though you have stepped back into a romantic city from the Middle Ages. "Château de l'Hermine", a small castle with beautiful gardens, will take you back to bygone times and illuminates the historical past of Vannes. The area has a number of routes for hiking and cycling tours. Nature lovers should plan a visit to the “Jardin des Papillons” butterfly garden outside the city walls.
Highlights of Brittany #11: A detour to the capital Rennes
Our journey is slowly but surely coming to an end. Before we head back home, there are two more remarkable sights waiting for us: you can't really go to Brittany without at least making a short visit to its proud capital, Rennes. Rennes is an exceptionally green city, not least because of the city park “Parc du Thabor”. Its exotic, flowering plants make it one of the most popular parks in France. The imposing cathedral, the town's landmark, is also well worth seeing. Our FREEONTOUR tip: if you want to experience more wondrous stones in Brittany on your way to Rennes, make a stopover at the magical stone rows in Saint-Just.