coastal,  europe

exploring the alabaster coast | étretat

I had two full days to explore neighboring towns to Paris and this is the first of two blogs that are coming! Having studied abroad in France, I had some sense of what I wanted to see. I knew that I didn’t need to explore too much of Paris, though I could never tire of Parisian food. From my past travels, I also knew that I wanted to see more of the country side, perhaps castles, wine country, or even the natural landscapes. Unfortunately the French Alps would be too far of a trek. So we went the opposite direction and headed north to the beautiful Alabaster Coast, stretching 120km and including the larger town of Étretat.

Beach town

How to get there

From Paris, it’s a 3 hour drive by car. There is obviously freedom to driving, exploring more of the coast and spending more time there. But for a single day, it was great to take the train.

By train, Étretat is just over 3 hours, so you don’t save much by driving unless you have a friend with a car already or if you’re trying to hit obscure areas without public transportation. I was surprised to find the train system quite easy. We booked on the local French train network, SNCF. They might change the schedule from when you visit, but we took a TER train, which is express but not high speed. We got at Gare Saint-Lazare. It dropped us off at the Bréauté-Beuzeville train station where we all waited for a bus to pick us up to our final destination. Be careful, there can be multiple busses for various destinations. Ask, if you’re not sure! Then it was a simple bus ride to the Étretat bus station, just outside of city center.

Another option if you can’t find the SNCF bus option to Étretat is to take the train all the way to Le Havre, a larger coastal town. Then take bus 13 directly to Étretat.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to leave yourself enough time to catch the bus back to the train station. Don’t get stranded accidentally!

Getting around

I highly recommend just walking around, though there are bike rentals available. I think it’s the best way to fully enjoy the area. There’s only a few streets in town and it’s super easy to walk it all. And then the best part is hiking up to the top of the cliffs, only 200 ft in elevation gain for each side. Given more time, I think trail running or biking the road along the coast would be super fun.

A Étretat building

What is Étretat like? What can you do?


Town is a short walk 5 minute walk. And town itself is about 3×3 streets. There’s plenty of great food, but nothing will be open early in the  morning. Keep walking straight and you’ll be right along the beach where you can get a great view of the famous Falaise d’Aval, literally translating to the “downstream cliff”. And you guessed it, there’s also an “upstream cliff” named Falaise d’Amont. It’s not quite as impressive as the Falaise d’Aval, which is known for how delicate it looks. It reminded of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park (Utah), but made with chalkstone.

If you only have one time to head one direction, head towards Falaise d’Aval. There’s more arches along the way to see. There’s even a fun little rock cave to play around.

Heading northeast, it’s a bit less crowded and depending on tides, you can walk down a set of stairs all the way down to the beach and find a secret post-WWI tunnel to pass back through the Étretat beach. It’s reminiscent of the via ferrata routes in Italy! This way, you’ll find plenty of cliffs and crashing waves, as far as you want to go.

I think that staying for sunset would beautiful if you could swing that. The town opens up slightly north west, so the it’ll be better than sunrise over the land!

Entering the cave

Les Jardins d’Étretat

If you’re looking for an attraction, Les Jardins d’Étretat was worth visiting! It’s sort of an outdoor garden art exhibit. It’s been around for over 100 years but only recently did it get renovated and created to look reminiscent of the 17th century with a heavy dose of modern art. It costs €12 for adults.


If the weather is nice, you can rent stand up paddle boards or kayaks for €15-30 per hour. The only place you can rent is through the Voiles et Galets d’Etretat school. You can request a guide as well.


They’re e-bikes available to rent, but it seemed like you can only book them for minimum of 2 days because they have to deliver them. A great option if you’re staying overnight here! Book through Location Vélos for €26/day.

Treasure Hunt

We thought about this, but decided to wander instead. But if you want more direction and fun with exploring Étretat, this would be a great way to discover the whole town. It’s run by the same company that rents bikes, Panda Motion.

Côte d’Albâtre

What to eat

While I only ate at one restaurant and stopped a couple more times for snacks and train food, there were several I was eyeing had I the time to stay for dinner. La Flotille was truly a great choice for crepes. And they’re not like the ones you find in the US. They’re really filled with an entire meal. Go early, or risk waiting in a long line and not getting seated before they close.

I really wanted to go to Le Clos Lupin or La Courtine for slightly elevated french fare. Bel Ami looked a little less crowded than La Flotilla, but it would have been just as good for upscale French-Mediterranean food. Another creperie worth checking out is Le Lann-Bihoué.

Surprisingly there are few bakeries here. I enjoyed the Boulangerie “Le Petit Accent”. They have plenty of sweet and plain breads. My friend got a nice charcuterie set from La Rose des Vents that pack it up for you to go, like a picnic. You can even choose what cheese and meats you get! Plus a cider all for some reasonable price like under €20, I can’t recall.

If you’re looking for more European travels, check out my other blogs here.

For another French day trip out of Paris, check out champagne problems | épernay

Photos shot on Canon 5D Mark IV and iPhone 13 mini

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