The French Opal coastline, located just 20 minutes away from the Calais crossing, is a great stretch of coastline in which you can discover amazing landmarks such as Cap Gris-Nez and Cap Blanc-Nez. The ten-kilometre stretch of coastline has been awarded the prestigious label of “Grand Site des Deux Caps”, which made us want to discover the sights on a daytrip.
Less than 200 kilometers from these cliffs, the French car manufacturer Renault built its retro-inspired sports car Alpine A110, so nothing seemed more suitable for a roadtrip along the coast than in this legendary sports car.
During this adventure, we explored the many fishing villages, religious statues, World War II remnants, and sandy beaches which the French Opal coast has to offer between Escalles to Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Our road trip along the Opal Coast mapped out
Our stops between Escalles and Boulogne-sur-Mer listed
Seeing an amazing natural phenomena as the Cap Blanc-Nez is one thing, but understanding it’s history and how it has formed is just as impressive and important. That’s why we’ve decided to list our stops below and dig a bit deeper in their history.
What’s a better way to start an sightseeing trip, than at one of the most famous sights of Northern France? We couldn’t find anything to compete! 🙂
The reason why we started our trip at Cap Blanc-Nez was not only because of its name, but also because we wanted to avoid the crowds. The earlier in the day that we pass here, the better the chance that we can find a decent parking spot and have a more relaxed hike to the top of the cliffs.
Tip: In clear weather you’ll be able to see the White Cliffs of Dover in England from the top of the cliffs and from the beach around the cliffs.
About Cap Blanc-Nez
The bright white chalk cliffs of the Cap Blanc-Nez might remind you of the very similar white cliffs of Dover which can be found on the other side of the Channel in Dover.
According to an ancient legend, it is not even a coincidence that these cliffs look alike; the cliffs would apparently have arisen over 7000 years BC, when an earthquake that split and tore England off from mainland Europe. The void between the two cliffs then became flooded by the sea.
This cliff has – because of its important strategic location – had several military functions, precisely it is a perfect place for a natural observation point. It will certainly not come as a surprise that the Cap Blanc-Nez played an important role during WWII, but that the cliff was already an important lookout point during Roman times might shock you.
Le Mont de Calais
After visiting this legendary cliff, we actually accidentally stumbled upon a huge christian monument that, according to google maps, was located on “Mont de Calais”.
Thanks to the beautiful landscape, we stopped here for a while to shoot a few snapshots of the surrounding landscape.
Something we did notice during our trip, is how many huge Christian references and statues can be found in the region. None of them have a description or names to explain or inform the people interested in them.
La ferme St Pô à Wissant
Another strange but accidental stop on our trip alongside the Opal Coast was La ferme St Pô à Wissant.
The farm specializes in “Charolais” cow meat, which has grown and fed in a traditional way on the edge of the Cap Blanc-Nez. The animals are slaughtered in a neighboring village, to be cut and subsequently sold in the farm where the cows were nurtured.
According to the farm and confirmed by several restaurants in the neighborhood, this process ensures high-quality meat with a tender, aromatic and juicy taste.
But what makes it special? Well, except for the fact that the farm has its own butcher shop, it also has a 24/7 vending machine in which it sells its meat! Beyond the fact that the farm has its own meat vending machine, there was still a long queue of clients when we visited the farm… which we believe is the best sign of quality meat!
The cliffs of the cap Gris-Nez is the closest point between France to England, with it’s 34 km as the crow flies from the White cliffs of Dover in England.
Just as the Cap Blanc-Nez, the top of the cliffs are the perfect vantage point to see hundreds of ships, from oil tankers to little sailboats.
Because the cap Gris-Nez is even closer to England than the Cap Blanc-Nez, this cliff has an even richer history with passages from Henry VIII, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Germans during WWII.
In 1944, during WWII the original lighthouse on top of the cliffs was destroyed, so in 1958 it was decided to build a new concrete lighthouse, reaching 31 meters high. The lighthouse is accompanied by a radar station, which guides the ships that are passing by the cape.
Tip: The Cap Gris-Nez is known as a great place to collect fossils during low tide. Most fossils found here can be dated back to the Jurassic period.
The role of Cap Gris-Nez during various wars
During the 16th century, various battles between England and France destroyed the village of Audinghen, and caused the ruling King of England, Henry VIII, to build a fortress called Blackness.
The ruins of the fort were later used by Napoleon Bonaparte to install a military base, meant to fight the British fleet. Something which happened successfully in 1805, when he battled the Brits with over 300 cannons and forced them to withdraw.
The fort, which was built to look out to sea rather than to defend the Opal Coast against a landward attack, was also used by the Germans for the same reason: they used the ditches of the fort to build extra bunkers which they used as an observation point.
Restaurant La Sirène
Located in a side street down the road from the cliff, you’ll find the restaurant la Sirène.
The restaurant has an astonishing view on the Opal coast and both cliffs, and is known by the locals for it’s delicious seafood.
Museum of the Atlantic Wall
On our way to Wimereux Beach, we stopped by the Musée du Mur de l’Atlantique to commemorate the events of WWII.
About Museum of the Atlantic Wall
During WWII, Musée du Mur de l’Atlantique functioned as a battery of coastal artillery, built by Nazi Germany and originally named ‘Batterie Todt’ in honor to the Gemeran engineer Fritz Todt.
The battery was originally built for an offensive purpose in which they hoped to build cover for the German fleet, in case they wanted to invade Great Britain. In a later phase, the battery moved into a defensive role, making it part of the Atlantic Wall.
After the war, ‘Batterie Todt’ was disarmed and left in heavy decline until a private owner bought up the land, renovated the bunker and repurposed it into Musée du Mur de l’Atlantique which opened its doors in 1972.
The museum today exhibits different military hardware, posters and uniforms remembering the Atlantic Wall. It also contains one of only two remaining German K5 railway guns, parked alongside the bunker.
Wimereux ferris wheel
What’s a better way to end a road trip around the Opal Coast, than a ride on a ferris wheel?
Wimereux is a coastal town situated on the banks of the river Wimereux, which has a rich history starting with Louis XIV.
Vauban, the military engineer of the Sun King (Louis XIV), built a coastal fort at the mouth of the river, of which the ruins were visible at low-tide until the 1940s.
Napoleon Bonaparte also saw a strategic use in the location of Wimereux, which led him to commission the building of a port there.
In the First World War Wimereux formed an important hospital centre until 1918, when the city housed the general headquarters of the British army. During the Second World War, the German Naval Headquarters were also situated in this town.
About our pictures
Automotive and Landscape photography might seem like black magic for some of our adventurous readers and aspiring photographers, so we decided to break down the technical details behind the shots we took during this trip.
This is a list of the hardware we used during our trip:
Tip: Bring extra batteries and SD cards (in case it is full or gets corrupted).
The settings we used to shoot our cover shot:
- ISO: 200
- Shutter Speed: 1/1200
- Aperture: 5,6
More tips and tricks?
What have we learned during our trip, photography wise?
Sometimes you’ll come across a setback, so the most important part is to never let setbacks get to your head – instead, use them as opportunities to learn.
During our trip, we learned:
- Always look at your surroundings during a road trip, you never know what’s around the corner! Who knows what unexpected treasure you’ll find.
- The importance of neutral-density filter (ND filter) and polarizing filter. They highly affect the reflections on the car, the color of the windshield and effect of the sky.