Friday, 29 July 2022

A Weekend in Calais

Just a 30 minute drive from the port of Calais, along the opal coast, past the rolling green hills is the village of Ambleteuse.  Picture French shutters on the windows, well looked after paths with vibrant flowers in every colour and a hut serving ice cream and beer on the beach that is still busy at 10pm with people watching the sun set over the sea.  Having always associated Calais with a ferry port I was curious to see another side of the area and our weekend away did just that.

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse

We picked the children up from school and drove down to Dover where we could get a DFDS ferry across to the port of Calais.  The ferry was quiet and modern and we grabbed some dinner (they even had a vegan option for me) on the 1.5 hour sailing.  The port of Calais is familiar to me, having grown up in Kent, the ferry has always been the easiest option to get across the channel and a pathway to exploring the rest of France.  This was the first time we have stopped in Calais though to explore the area and we were excited to see more.  The ferry was clean and modern and had a space for children to play as well as plenty of comfy seating and huge windows to watch the coast getting closer.

Visit calais, calais with kids, DFDS ferries

Visit calais, calais with kids, DFDS ferries

Visit calais, calais with kids, DFDS ferries

It took just under half an hour to drive to our holiday home in the village of Ambleteuse and our apartment had stunning views over the sea as well as plenty of space for the seven us.  We were only in there for moments before we had to head down to the sea though.  It was a warm evening and we had spotted the fort out on the sand which was just calling to be explored.  The beach had a bit of everything, smooth sand for building sandcastles and paddling in as well as mossy rocks perfect for finding crabs and then the fort and the surrounding rocks which you can't help but climb on.  The fort seems to be open briefly over the summer to see inside but we enjoyed the exterior, We had dinner in a little restaurant up the road that served burgers and pizzas and grabbed ice creams at the hut on the beach, which still had deck chairs out and plenty of business at 10pm.  This is the ideal situation for us, somewhere with space to run free and get out the last of the day's energy before bed.

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse

Visit calais, calais with kids, Ambleteuse


We had a whole itinerary planned for our weekend but the weather and children's temperaments meant we had to slow down a bit and change our plans.  I will include a list at the bottom of some of the things to do in the area that we couldn't fit in our weekend agenda.

On Saturday we drove to Bourlogne-Sur-Mer, less than half an hour from Ambleteuse and a charming seaside town which is home to the most incredible sea life centre we have ever visited called Nausicaa.  Before we went inside however, we made the most of the beautiful weather and spent time walking along the sandy beaches, playing in the playgrounds both on the sand and on the grass outside the aquarium and exploring the town which was lined with colourfully painted bollards.  We even found the street art team painting some and stopped to watch.  There were lots of pubs and restaurants serving lunch and lots of colourful street art to explore.  

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids


Nausicaa is the kind of aquarium you could easily spend all day in and I would recommend allowing a minimum of three hours to walk around.  Split over several levels, it is buggy and wheelchair friendly and has seals, penguins and crocodiles as well as the biggest viewing wall I have ever seen.  I will write another post about our visit later but I don't think you can come to Calais without visiting Nausicaa and if you are Kent based it could easily be done as a day trip. (Look out for a post about Nausicaa coming soon!).

Visit calais, calais with kids, Nausicaa

On the Sunday we had planned to explore the beautiful coastline and lighthouses but the weather wasn't on our side so after a very short walk, we found some indoor entertainment.  We spent the afternoon in Calais, checking out the incredible street art, discovering what a 'Welsh' is after seeing it all over the menus (a Calais dish, worth a try if you like a lot of cheese!) and finally seeing the Calais Dragon.

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids

I had heard of the Calais dragon a couple of years ago and I just loved the idea.  The dragon is 12 metres high and 25 metres long and you can pay to ride on his back as he patrols the seafront area, roaring, blowing water over onlookers and even breathing fire.  Designed by the artist Fran├žois Delaroziere, the dragon is both a work of art and incredible machinery and we all thought that the person who rides on his head controlling where it blows water has the very best job!  The children could have spent all day with the dragon and it is definitely an experience not to be missed on a visit to this area in France.  

Visit calais, calais with kids, calais dragon

Visit calais, calais with kids, calais dragon

The dragon is right next to the port so it wasn't long before we were back on board our DFDS ferry to Dover and heading home for a good night's sleep before Monday morning.  Calais is a fantastic destination for a weekend adventure with the ferry sailing only 1.5 hours and so much to do and see along the stunning Opal Coast.  For kids that can't travel far in a car or if you need a weekend getaway and fancy somewhere a bit different, check out what Calais has to offer! There is so much more than we were able to see and we can't wait to visit again to check out more attractions and some of the incredible coastline.

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids

Visit calais, calais with kids


Visit calais, calais with kids




Other ideas for family adventures in Calais:



The cliffs and beaches at  Cap Gris-Nez, Wissant and Cap Blanc-Ne


Land of Giants

Berck Sur Mer








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