Conservatoire National du Littoral: a precious collection of natural sites

  • © Bruno Monginoux

Conservatoire National du Littoral: a precious collection of natural sites

The aim of this public body, which owns over 10% of France's coastline, is to preserve as many of France's diverse coastal landscapes and ecosystems as possible.
Below you'll find lots of great ideas for coastal walks throughout the year...

France is home to no fewer than eight main types of ecological habitat along its three coastlines: the Channel, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean (not counting its overseas territories). These specific environments include lagoons, salt marshes, beaches, cliffs, dune formations and rocky creeks. The cliffs of the Calanques and Corsican coast (800km in total), the Côte d'Albâtre, Côte de l'Estérel, Brittany moors and the long stretches of sand in the Vendée and Aquitaine bear witness to the country's vital environmental heritage. Through its regional parks, listed reserves and national parks (Port-Cros), the Conservatoire du Littoral has developed a major complementary role in the protection of nature areas as part of a model that is unique worldwide. Today, it owns and is helping to protect 600 sites stretching across 1,000km of coast and covering an area of 125,000 hectares.

As a result of its work, colonies of seals now bask along the Normandy coast and in the bay of the Somme, thousands of pink flamingos inhabit the waters of the Camargue, and marine birds nest on rocky islets off Marseille (Le Riou, Le Frioul etc) and in Brittany (Les Sept-Iles, Les Glénans etc), in so doing providing hope and a commitment for the future!

On mainland France, one third of the coast is sandy shoreline (2,000km), a quarter marshland and basins (1,00km) and 40% (2,200km) rock formations (including 13% of cliffs). Every coastal region is diverse, and home to many different maritime environments.

Some examples

Dunes de Mayville, near Le Touquet
The Mayville, Stella and Baie de Canche dunes, all of which are sites under the protection of the Conservatoire, are located close to the attractive Channel seaside resort of Le Touquet, a chic destination full of character which has been attracting holidaymakers for a century or more.

Dunes du Jaunay, near Saint-Jean-de-Monts
The Le Jaunay and Le Grand Bec dunes punctuate the Côte de Lumière (Coast of Light) on a section of the Vendée coast popular as a seaside destination but which has also preserved its pristine natural landscapes.

Courant de Sainte-Eulalie, near Biscarosse
The Sainte-Eulalie current is a water course which flows from the ponds and lakes of Biscarosse (Pays de Born) and out into the Atlantic at Mimizan, a little further along the coast. This area, which is of great ecological interest, is part of the Réserve du Marais de Tafarde, a marshland reserve which is home to several wetland zones behind the line of dunes skirting the coast here.

Cap Lardier, near Cavalaire
This headland is one of the few examples of unspoilt nature along the resort-strewn Var coastline. Visitors here can enjoy a pleasant walk along the rocks and scrubland of this stretch of coast which is framed at either end by two famous resorts renowned for their beaches: Cavalaire and Saint-Tropez.

Sentier des Bruzzi, near Bonifacio
This footpath (1hr 30min) just a few kilometres from Pianotolli-Caldarello to the north of Bonifacio, skirts the south-west coast of the Island of Beauty, as Corsica is known, wending its way through a typical maquis landscape of heather and schist and past a succession of hidden creeks and delightful remote beaches.