Road Trip in Normandy: a journey between history and nature

Honfleur

Road-trip in Normandy: history, art, gastronomy and nature. Let yourself be seduced by the richness of France!

A jewel in the crown of French history, a gourmet destination with surprising landscapes, Normandy is bursting with interest. You’ll be drawn in by a flood of emotions as you discover the historic scenes played out on the D-Day beaches. But it’s also a place to awaken the palate to cheeses, freshly caught fish and apples in all their forms. You’ll admire paintings by great masters and contemplate landscapes that range from steep cliffs and golden beaches to endless pastures, hedgerows and half-timbered houses.

Today, Generation Voyage invites you to take to the Normandy coast at the wheel of your own vehicle: feelings of freedom and immensity guaranteed. Road trip in Normandy: a one-week itinerary. And if you want more, don’t worry, we’ve got several extensions to make the pleasure last.

Day 1: Mont-Saint-Michel – Granville

Mont Saint-Michel

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Nyokki

  • 🗺️ Itinerary: Mont-Saint-Michel to Granville
  • 📍 D istance: 57 km – 1h05
  • 📷 Places to visit: Mont-Saint-Michel, its abbey and its shifting sands
  • 🏠 Where to stay: Hotel La Vigie du Port

The Mont-Saint-Michel offers a magnificent start to your road trip in Normandy. As remarkable as it is intriguing, this Unesco-listed monument is undoubtedly one of our most precious heritage sites. To visit Mont Saint-Michel, plan a full day. You’ll have plenty of time to explore its breathtaking Abbey, survey its museums and walk the grounds of its parish church.

Better still, you can enjoy the cobbled streets and half-timbered houses set in the old stone. The site, the scene of Europe’s highest tides, also boasts an exceptional natural setting. Photographers will enjoy playing between the water and the imposing silhouette of Mont-Saint-Michel. While the more adventurous can opt for a guided walk through the tides and shifting sands…

At the end of the day, drive towards Granville.

To take the step further :

  • You can stay in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel and enjoy the Champeaux cliffs and Vauban’s hut the very next morning. This is undoubtedly one of the best views of the Mont, its Abbey and its crown of quicksand riddled with puddles.

Day 2: Granville – Coutances

Granville

Photo credit: Shutterstock – marketa1982

  • 🗺️ Itinerary: Granville to Coutances
  • 📍 D istance: 30 km – 40 minutes
  • 📷 Places to visit: the fortified town of Coutances, the village of Régneville-sur-Mer, the huts of Pointe d’Agon and Gouville-sur-Mer, the rural spirit of Coutances
  • 🏠 Where to stay: Hotel Tanquerey de La Rochaisière

Granville is a fortified town, perched on a rocky promontory, where you can lose yourself in the cobbled streets. Its old-fashioned decor is resolutely aesthetic, with designer boutiques and ultra-photogenic doorways. Spend a morning here: at the market, the museum, the Christian Dior garden or at the foot of the lighthouse. Then off to Coutances.

Along the way, stop off at Régneville-sur-Mer and Pointe d’Agon. Régneville-sur-Mer is a charming village where old stone still holds sway and exceptional biodiversity flourishes. The latter is a wild place, overlooked by a lighthouse, where traditional huts have withstood the ravages of time and storms.

In the afternoon, make a detour to Gouville-sur-Mer. This picture-postcard site will be one of the most emblematic of your Normandy road trip. It’s home to no fewer than 69 colorful cabins that blend into the sea, the dunes and the horizon.

In the evening, you finally arrive in the « town in the country » of Coutances. From gardens to religious buildings, the old town can be savoured slowly.

To take the step further :

  • From Granville, you can set sail for the islands of Chausey, in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel ;
  • After your visit to Coutances, you can complete your tour with a visit to the sublime Maison du Biscuit (beware, this is a diet-hostile environment), the white and blue huts of Potinière beach or the mysterious and intense atmosphere of Cap Carteret.

Day 3: Coutances – Cherbourg

Cherbourg

Photo credit: Shutterstock – NatureStock1

  • 🗺️ Itinerary: Coutances to Cherbourg
  • 📍 Journey: 80 km – 1h15
  • 📷 Places to visit: the dunes of Biville, the pretty town of Vauville, Normandy’s « Little Ireland », the famous Cherbourg
  • 🏠 Where to stay: Cherbourg Sea Sand hotel

Start the day on the dunes of Biville, along the Route des Caps in Normandy. This is the advantage of the Normandy road trip formula: discover the most beautiful itineraries at your own pace. Follow the coastline and take in the superb views.

Make a second stop at Vauville. Its church, footpath, dunes and botanical garden are well worth a visit.

Then it’s on to the second most visited spot in the region: Cap de la Hague. Its stretches of green grass, dotted with sheep, have even earned it the nickname « Little Ireland ». The Cape contains Le Nez de Jobourg: a rocky promontory almost one hundred and thirty metres high. The breathtaking cliffs are complemented by unspoilt nature and a beautiful coastal path.

In the late afternoon, set foot in Cherbourg. It’s not just the Umbrellas that are there, but also Europe’s largest artificial harbour and the Cité de la Mer. You can visit the famous « Le Redoutable » submarine, the Titanic exhibition and, of course, the Aquarium. In the evening, Cherbourg’s bewitching port is the perfect place for a drink and a taste of the nightlife.

To take the step further :

  • Following on from the Nez de Jobourg, you can also take a stroll in Ecalgrain Bay. A little more Ireland. Nearby, don’t hesitate to climb up to the Goury lighthouse, between land and sea;
  • Port Racine: the smallest port in France, and probably the cutest too! It’s a picture straight out of a fairy tale: colorfully splashed cottages, fluttering little boats held together by flimsy ropes, and all around, emerald valleys that stand out against the blue of the water.

Day 4: Cherbourg – Utah Beach

Utah Beach

Photo credit: Shutterstock – CTatiana

  • 🗺️ Itinerary: Cherbourg to Utah Beach
  • 📍 D istance: 53 km – 45 minutes
  • 📷 Places to visit: the charming market town of Barfleur and the dapper houses of Ravenoville-sur-Mer
  • 🏠 Where to stay: Juganville manor house

You’re already halfway through your Normandy road trip, so don’t lose your rhythm. Wake up early and head for Barfleur. Its small granite port is a marvel. The colorful boats glide painfully over the mud. Silence… Then let yourself be carried away by the charm of the narrow streets lined with houses with rainbow shutters.

Do you love the emblematic cabins of La Manche? We’ll grant you, they’re awfully cute and photogenic! So let’s head for Ravenoville-sur-Mer, where houses – not huts – in a variety of bright hues fall directly into the sea.

At the end of the day, set down your bags near Utah Beach.

To take the step further :

  • A detour via the Caen memorial: before setting off on the route of memories along the D-Day landing beaches, immerse yourself in history at the Caen museum. The museum offers a genuine reflection on the dramas and issues of the 20th century. It houses an incredible collection of wartime artefacts, videos, photos and testimonies, all of which are unique, moving and fascinating.

Day 5: Utah Beach – Beuvron-en-Auges

Beuvron-en-Auges

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Borisb17

  • 🗺️ Itinerary: Utah beach to Beuvron-en-Auges
  • 📍 Route: 120 km – 1h30
  • 📷 Places to visit: the D-Day landing beaches, museums dedicated to the Second World War and the American cemetery.
  • 🏠 Where to stay: Pave d’hôtes hotel

A « shock » day on the road to Memory and a tragic part of world history. Discover the D-Day landing beaches. Emotions will run high, and your throat may feel tight, but there’s no doubt that this experience will remain one of the strongest memories of your Normandy road trip.

So you open your eyes at Utah Beach: the only D-Day beach in the English Channel. Like horses in the early hours of the morning, tread this long beach and enjoy the silence imposed by the place. Even walk to the Utah Beach Landing Museum to learn more about the famous June 6, 1944.

Continue your memorial tour at Pointe du Hoc. This was the scene of one of the most violent battles of the D-Day. A path leads you to the remains of the battle, including fortifications and artillery batteries. It’s hard to imagine that such a beautiful place, with its flowery cliffs backed by hypnotic waves, was once a scene of horror.

Then drive to Omaha Beach. Located in the American sector during the war, this beautiful ochre beach was sadly nicknamed « Bloody Omaha ». It was the most explosive point of D-Day, with over 34,000 soldiers landing and, in the end, two thousand wounded and over a thousand dead. Omaha Beach turns its back on the famous American cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer. There are almost ten thousand white crosses perfectly aligned: one for each buried body. The aesthetics of the place, the weight of the past, the silence: it moves!

Move on to a « lighter » stage of your Normandy road trip: the village of Beuvron-en-Auges, one of the most beautiful in France.

To take the step further :

  • Arromanches and its artificial harbour for Allied troops.

Day 6: Beuvron-en-Auges – Honfleur

Honfleur

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Johannes Valkama

After the emotions of the previous day, it’s time for a much gentler stage of your Normandy road trip. Put on the kilometers of the Côte Fleurie.

First, discover Deauville. This chic, elegant town, with its worldwide reputation dating back to the 1900s, is a must-see. You don’t have to love excessive luxury and refinement to appreciate Deauville’s gentle way of life and architecture. Stroll from imposing palaces to prestigious buildings, passing by the famous beach planted with typical boards and colorful cabins…

Finally, discover the exquisite town of Honfleur. This « Little Amsterdam » will be another highlight of your Normandy road trip. Few towns can match its charms. There are so many ways to discover and love Honfleur, from the old port to the half-timbered houses.

To take the step further :

  • Trouville: this pretty town near Deauville has nothing to be ashamed of with its half-timbered architecture and charming port, not to mention its large, uncrowded beach.

Day 7: Honfleur – Cliffs of Etretat

Etretat

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Gaspar Janos

  • 🗺️ Itinerary: from Honfleur to the cliffs of Etretat
  • 📍 D istance: 47 km – 50 minutes
  • 📷 Worth a visit: the cliffs of Etretat
  • 🏠 Where to stay: Hotel La Cabane de Cécile

Road trip to Normandy or… Portugal, or even Australia? Etretat is reminiscent of the famous landscapes of the Portuguese coast and the Great Ocean Road.

Your itinerary ends with these cliffs and their natural arches, which radiate around the world. The three main ones are Aval, Amont and Manneporte. You can admire them from the beach or from above.

The climb takes a few minutes of strenuous walking. The big birds, like guardians of the place, accompany you and seem to laugh a little at the out-of-breath visitors… Once perched in such a beautiful spot, it’s easy to spend hours there without even realizing it, going back and forth along the steep paths where nothing stands in the way of emptiness…

And if on your strolls you recognize a painting by a great master, it may be that you’re looking at a setting immortalized by an Impressionist. Indeed, the Normandy coastline inspired many of them, including Monet, Boudin and Courbet.

To take the step further :

  • The Grand Site d’Etretat is the setting for a beautiful hike that takes in the three cliffs and the famous hollow needle. This magnificent route takes around 3h30 to complete;
  • Rouen: this city, which rivals Venice according to Picasso, is definitely worth a visit if you have an extra day or two to devote to your Normandy road trip. Discover it, in particular, by following in the footsteps of the Impressionists: Monet, Turner, Corot, Pissarro and Gauguin. Along the way, don’t miss the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral: a Gothic masterpiece of unprecedented richness in terms of composition and sculpted decoration. Then, escape into the old town of Rouen, join the broom of strollers along the Seine and finally end up on rue du Gros Horloge. Finally, if you still have a little time, discover the Musée des Beaux-Arts or the story of Joan of Arc;
  • Les Andelys and Giverchy: even more time to spend on your Normandy road trip? Lucky you! Visit Les Andelys, the town of Richard the Lionheart, overlooked by the ruins of a great castle and immortalized by great painters. Climb up to the hanging house near Château Gaillard for a breathtaking panorama of the Seine valley. Follow the trail to Giverny and explore the town along its cultural trail. Here again, the main attractions revolve around Impressionism, and even more so around Claude Monet. In particular, you can discover his pink-clad house and intimate gardens: the birthplace of the Water Lilies.

Our tips for a successful road trip in Normandy

The basics of a road trip in Normandy

You only have one week for your trip? There’s plenty to see and do in Normandy. But don’t overdo it, or you’ll end up spending more time in the car than visiting.

Travelling in July/August? Plan your itinerary in advance and book your accommodation, as places can get expensive at this time of year.

Finally, on your Normandy road trip, even in the middle of summer, chances are you’ll have to deal with fickle weather. Be flexible, and don’t hesitate to work out plan Bs in case of bad weather.

How do I get to Normandy by car?

Here is the journey time to Caen (central position in the region) from several major French cities:

  • Paris to Caen = 2h
  • Lyon to Caen = 7h
  • Lille to Caen = 4h
  • Strasbourg to Caen = 7h
  • Nantes to Caen = 3h
  • Bordeaux to Caen = 6h

Rent a car

Don’t want to take your Normandy road trip in your own car? You’ll have no trouble renting a car near airports, train stations, ferry terminals and even within Normandy’s major cities. You don’t need a 4×4 in Normandy. On the other hand, roads can be narrow and winding, especially in villages and the countryside. Smaller vehicles are preferable.

On board your vehicle

During your road trip in Normandy, you won’t be surprised by the rules of the road and driving conditions. However, going on a road trip is not the same as going shopping. On board your car, don’t forget :

  • Your driver’s license ;
  • Vehicle documents ;
  • A spare wheel;
  • Spare bulbs for headlights;
  • A reflective vest;
  • Two emergency triangles ;
  • Breathalyzer;
  • A GPS.