La Baule has often been described as Europe’s most beautiful bay, with 9 km of pale sandy coves and a sea that becomes a veritable nautical stadium at high tide. Just to the south is Pornichet, a perfect place for kids with its innovative resort that lets all ages experience diving. At the end of the promenade, Le Pouliguen offers a unique view of the bay of La Baule. There’s a frothy mix of luxury boutiques, friendly restaurants and stunning villas – and at Benoit beach, the Brittany Polo Club stages a free exhibition match.
The ports of the Presqu’ile de Guérande
Sheltered by the majestic Pointe du Castelli, Piriac-sur-Mer is an authentic fishing village where you can breathe in the quayside atmosphere with the smell of salt and local seafood cuisine. The sardine reigns supreme in La Turballe and, situated on the tip of the peninsula, Le Croisic is both a typical seaside resort and a lively fishing port. Further south, nestled between salt marsh and ocean, Batz-sur-Mer charms all its visitors with its rugged coastline.
Known as the 'jewel' of the Côte de Jade (Jade Coast), Pornic is a hidden treasure. Less well-known than its chic neighbour La Baule, this little fishing port perched on the rocks is equally charming with its beaches and coves, boats and jetties, picturesque lanes, covered market and 18-hole golf course. It was a fashionable seaside resort in the 19th century, sitting at the very heart of the Jade Coast, so-named for the unique turquoise hue of the surrounding water. Fishing huts on Plage de la Boutinardière remind you of the town’s heritage, and you can learn the basics of sailing, windsurfing or kayaking here. Visit local craftsmen such as the cheese-makers at Le Curé Nantais and the brewers at the Brasserie de la Côté de Jade. Nearby Saint-Brevin-les-Pins is also well set-up for beach activities and watersports, and if you’re wild about nature and looking for peace and quiet, head for the Pierre Attelée forest, the only dune forest in Loire-Atlantique where fragrant pines, green oaks and mimosas spill onto the beach.
The port of Saint-Nazaire has long been renowned for its shipyards – but not only a hub of maritime industry, it also boasts amazing beaches and a year-round buzz with excellent shops, bars, hotels and restaurants. Rebuilt after WW2, the urban landscape is contemporary with several buildings listed as 20th-century heritage. Vestiges of the past still remain and you can find some elegant villas from as early as the 1880s, testament to the history of this dynamic town. The local coastline is dotted with 20 small beaches protected by rocky promontories; if you feel energetic, take a bracing clifftop walk along the Chemin des Douaniers, where the views are breathtaking. To one side is the sea and to the other the occasional bunker, serving as a reminder of Saint Nazaire’s wartime role.
Saint-Nazaire is a great holiday destination for families; it’s safe and accessible, with lifeguards on the main beaches and special equipment also available for those with disabilities. Don’t forget to visit the Plage M. Hulot in Saint-Marc-sur-Mer, where screenwriter Jack Tati is immortalised in a statue overlooking the location – it’s here that his film Monsieur Hulot was shot. But Saint-Nazaire’s main landmarks are its elegantly curved bridge with panoramic views of the estuary, city, shipyards and out to the open sea – and the shipyards themselves, where you can take a tour of several vast vessels under construction and get a view of the ocean depths in the Espadon submarine. Airbus is also headquartered here, allowing visitors a spectacular close-up of the A380 jumbo jet. A must for boys (and girls) who love their toys!