Hauts-de-France, France’s northernmost region, is the UK’s closest international self-drive destination, offering a truly authentic French experience on our doorstep. Easy and cost effective for families to reach, it ticks all the boxes for a family holiday for all ages. Think wide sandy beaches to escape to, pretty towns and cities to explore and plenty of child-friendly activities from horseriding and cycling to riding on the back of a giant dragon.
This year at Parc Asterix, there’s even the chance to be one of the first to board ‘Toutatis’ – France’s tallest and fastest roller coaster which opened in May 2023. What’s more, as this year’s European Region of Gastronomy, the region makes an ideal introduction to delicious French cuisine, with a huge choice of restaurants and cafes, vibrant local markets, fresh seafood on the coast, as well as tasty chocolates, endless cheeses and of course great craft beers and wine for parents!
Sporting Beach Break: Le Touquet-Paris Plage
The elegant resort of Le Touquet-Paris Plage is just 50 minutes from Calais and offers the perfect beach escape for sporting families. With strong ties between England and Le Touquet dating back to the creation of this most ‘British’ French sea resort developed by Englishman John Whitley in the early 20th century, it’s even been selected by the English Rugby team as their base during the World Cup this autumn. In the roaring 1920s and 1930s, Le Touquet was Europe’s most fashionable resort, frequented by the British smart set with guests such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Noel Coward, P G Wodehouse, and Winston Churchill all regular visitors. Some 100 years later, it continues to impress with a cocktail of the very best of French art de vivre and the opportunity to make the most of the great outdoors and fresh sea air.
Today, Le Touquet’s white sandy beach is just one of the highlights for families, with its vast dunes and array of beach activities. Kids are well catered for with tennis courts and swimming pools, horse riding through the forest and the dunes, sand yachting, sailing, a water park, great golf courses and mini golf. Take the tourist train to explore the town with its art deco style villas, or visit Le Touquet’s iconic lighthouse with 274 steps to climb. With a great choice of restaurants and boutiques, weekly markets, an annual sand sculpture festival in the summer and all under an hour’s drive from Calais, families can escape and relax in this seaside gem.
Stay: The Holiday Inn is a 4-star family hotel that comes complete with pool, tennis, gardens and games. Accommodation for families is in a two-storey family suite and comes with breakfast included. Price from £138 per night, including buffet breakfast for four.
Escape to the tranquillity of the Baie de Somme
For families looking for a tranquil escape, from seal watching to cycling and sand yachting to horse riding, the beautiful Baie de Somme makes a superb choice for an away-from-it all break. The vastly varying tides create ever-changing views – from wide stretches of sand, to sparkling waters and also enable a great choice of activities including barefoot beach walking, land yachting at low tide, as well as kayaking and boat trips when waters are higher.
The area is particularly renowned for its wildlife, with the landscapes forming a unique habitat for all types of marine life and birds. Along with the seal colony, there is also an Ornithological Park at Marquenterre, home to some 360 species of bird.
For added adventure, try a ‘Bivouac Escape’ – an overnight horseback trip organised by the Henson Equestrian Centre, with overnight accommodation included in a bivouac tent. Meet the group at midday, along with your Henson horse – a breed that has been developed in the Somme and is particularly suited to trekking. In the company of a guide, ride through the beautiful dunes and the thousand hectares of the Marquenterre nature reserve, before an overnight camp, with fireside dinner, ready assembled tents and breakfast included.
Stay: Try the family-friendly Hotel Le Cap Hornu, right on the edge of the bay, with wonderful sweeping views. With a heated pool, it is within walking distance of the beach and there are options for horseriding and cycling nearby. It also has a no-cars policy on its 37-acre site, making it a very welcome safe space for children. Price from £171 per night for a family room, including buffet breakfast and use of the pool.
France’s Tallest and Fastest Roller Coaster Now Open at Parc Asterix:
Parc Asterix opened France’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, Toutatis, in May 2023. With a top speed of 110 km per hour and at 51 m high, it brings more thrills and excitement to the hugely popular theme park. The roller coaster is part of a new zone called, “Festival Toutatis” in Gaul and offer thrill seekers some unique special effects with a world record 23 air times and a European record of four magnetic launches. There’s also a new family attraction “Chez Gyrofolix” based on hypnotic visual effects, and a playground for little ones ensuring a fun-filled, themed experience for guests amongst the characters from the well-known comic books.
The Hauts-de-France region has a great choice of theme parks for all ages (and is third in France in terms of numbers) with other options including Bagatelle near Le Touquet, La Mer De Sable, Dennyls Parc near St Omer, Parc Saint Paul, Le Fleury and Samara Parc near Amiens.
Stay: A family room at La Cite Suspendue – a themed hotel in the heart of Parc Asterix. Price from £334 for a family of four for one night, including entrance to Parc Asterix theme park for four people, buffet breakfast and accommodation in a family room. www.french-weekendbreaks.co.uk – At Parc Asterix, a family forest Hotel and entrance for 4 people – French Weekend Breaks (french-weekendbreaks.co.uk)
To find out more and to plan a visit to Hauts-de-France, visit Hauts-de-France Tourism – Official Website (hautsdefrancetourism.com)
For further ideas on accommodation in Hauts-de-France, visit www.french-weekendbreaks.co.uk