If you fancy a holiday home where you can enjoy the surfing thrills of Cornwall but the lifestyle of France, you don’t need to travel far from France’s Channel ports. There are plenty of locations along the coasts of Normandy and Brittany where you’ll find a winning combination of big waves, empty beaches, pretty fishing villages and wild countryside. Just strap the surfboard to the roof of your car and roll onto that ferry…
Those who were limited to a holiday in Cornwall or Wales this summer and developed a love of surfing may be wondering where you could buy a property in France within striking distance of some good waves.
The good news is that you won’t have to travel far from a Channel port. Because while the south-west of France may have the most famous surfing locations, France’s Normandy and Brittany coasts offer well over 2,000 miles of surfing and property-buying opportunity too. Even better, even in high summer you can usually find an empty-enough beach, with space to catch some waves while more southerly beaches are packed.
For holiday home owners, being able to offer a property to rent out to the surfing community offers rentals beyond the usual school holidays. Because don’t imagine that surfing is all about the kids. A 2013 survey found that the average surfer is around 35 years old. There are as many surfers over the age of 45 as there under the age of 24, and they’re wealthy too. The majority have a university degree and a professional career.
The sport is attracting more women. A report this year in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighted the huge rise in women surfing, especially at older ages. They’ve been helped by specialist holiday companies offering women-only surf lessons and improvements in wetsuit technology. No-one needs to be cold in the water any more, even in more northerly waters.
Surfing can feel a natural and more exciting extension from the wild swimming craze that swept the nation while the swimming pools were closed in the lockdown.
So, where to find your surf spot, without needing to get on a plane?
Normandy and northern Brittany
In Normandy, the resorts and towns of Le Havre, Ètretat and Trouville-sur-Mer all offer the chance of good waves, barely an hour’s drive from Dieppe. Le Havre’s left-hand beach break in particular will, with the right wind, offer a powerful ride.
Property prices are lower in this part of Normandy than almost anywhere in France. According to the latest price report from French notaires, the average house in this area is around €180,000. However, that will include the more rural areas inland. For property in a town or village with “sur-Mer” in the title you’ll be in competition with Parisian second-home buyers too, and may find you’re paying double that for an attractive house.
While the waves here are unlikely to impress the true adrenalin-junkie, a lifestyle here offers all the pleasures of rural and village France just a short hop from England. The ferry ride to Cherbourg or Dieppe in just three to four hours from Portsmouth or Newhaven.
The weather here isn’t as hot as the south of France, of course, but many will enjoy that. Moreover, for those who like to swim all year, the Channel waters are a little warmer than the north Atlantic. In Normandy in July, for example, you can expect a sea temperature of 18-19C, whereas in Brittany it will be 16-17C.
Western and southern Brittany
Travel a hundred miles or so west in Brittany and the waves tend to get bigger. Property price are more or less the same, at an average of €204,000 for a house (not new build).
Like in the UK, the pandemic and move to home-working has inspired French families to buy properties by the seaside. The notaires of France have recorded a 10% rise in prices over the past year in western Brittany, whereas the northern Normandy coast only saw 2-6% price rises.
Round the peninsula and the beaches between Quimper and Quiberon offer yet more surfing opportunities, with a beautifully rural backdrop. The town of Quimper – population 65,000 – has attractive half-timbered houses and bridges over the many rivers.
One great benefit of the far end of Brittany is the budget flights to Brest via Ryanair, and the fast train from Paris that takes three and a half hours.
Further south in Brittany, la Torche has proven the most popular spot in recent years. It’s a long and wide sandy beach, backed by a pretty village with the ubiquitous creperies and surf shops. Another option is Port Blanc, known for the quality of its waves in September and October.
Indeed, one of the many things that make popular surf spots such good options for holiday homes – even a complete relocation – is that the season lasts well beyond August.
Written by Overseas Guides Company.
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