The Emerald Coast is one of the most beautiful areas in Northern Brittany. I’ve had the chance to spend many of my vacations there as a child, and continue to explore this beautiful region now that my parents live there.
In this article, you will find all the information you need to know about the Emerald Coast and my tips for making the most of it.
We will start by learning more about this beautiful coast. But most importantly, I will introduce you to 8 must-see places to fully experience the Emerald Coast. Finally, we’ll talk about the best way to explore the coast.
Where is the Emerald Coast?
The Emerald Coast is located in the north of Brittany, in France, spanning the Ille-et-Vilaine and Côte d’Armor regions. It stretches from Pointe du Grouin, in Cancale, to Cap Fréhel, in Plévenon, covering nearly 40 kilometers.
To the east, you’ll find the stunning bay of Mont Saint-Michel, and to the west, it’s the bay of Saint-Brieuc that borders the Emerald Coast.
A historian from Saint-Malo, Eugène Herpin, nicknamed this part of the Breton coast “Emerald Coast” in reference to the Emerald green colors that the sea takes on at certain times.
The entire section of the Emerald Coast from the district of Paramé in Saint-Malo to Cancale is classified as a Natura 2000 site, recognizing it at the European level for its biodiversity.
8 Must-See Places on the Emerald Coast
To fully enjoy the exploration of this portion of Northern Brittany, there are places you must not miss under any circumstances. Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, of the most beautiful spots to see to discover the coast.
Cancale and Pointe du Grouin
To discover the Emerald Coast in its entirety, you must start by visiting Cancale, a small Breton fishing village.
Located in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, facing the Marvel, the village is known for its oyster beds. In fact, enthusiasts love to taste their oysters right in the harbor, after buying them directly from the fishermen.
But Cancale is also a very pleasant seaside resort that we love to explore on a stroll. You can wander along the quays in the shops of artisans and souvenirs or take a well-deserved break in one of the cafes and restaurants facing the sea.
The city center of Cancale is also steeped in history. It stands out from afar thanks to its church, named after Saint-Méen, which dominates the landscape. It is also listed as a Historical Monument.
To discover more about Cancale, I invite you to read my article on the 16 things to do in Cancale.
Pointe du Grouin
A little further up the coast, still in the town of Cancale, is the Pointe du Grouin. This rocky spur marks the boundary between the bay of Mont Saint-Michel and that of Saint-Malo. It is a natural observatory where you can observe dolphins and various birds.
It offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of the Emerald Coast. In fact, when the weather is clear, you can even see Cap Fréhel and its lighthouse.
Saint-Malo, the Corsair City
Do I even need to introduce Saint-Malo? The Corsair City is probably the heart of the emerald coast. It’s the ideal place to take a break and appreciate the Breton atmosphere.
You’ll love savoring a good galette in one of the restaurants in Saint-Malo. If you plan to spend several days in Saint-Malo (which I highly recommend!), the Hôtel des Abers, a small family hotel in the heart of the Intra-Muros, will make your stay more enjoyable (it’s run by my parents, so it’s tested and doubly approved!). But you can also choose to stay for a shorter time. I still recommend dedicating a whole day to exploring the city.
Feel free to follow my list of 24 things to do in Saint-Malo! Start by taking a walk along the ramparts to appreciate the beauty of the old town, then stroll through its cobbled streets to discover the Malouin atmosphere.
If you’re lucky, you can also witness the high tides (once a month) and see the beaches disappear under the sea, only to completely reappear 6 hours later! But rest assured, if you miss the high tides, know that the tides occur every day!
Otherwise, don’t hesitate to discover the must-see sights of Saint-Malo, such as Grand Bé, the National Fort, or the City of Alet.
Saint-Suliac, Authentic Village
How can you visit the Emerald Coast without taking a break in one of the most beautiful villages in France?
Saint-Suliac is the quintessential Breton village. It’s a place to stroll through the heart of the village, enjoy its narrow streets, and admire its old stone houses. Far from being a “tourist trap,” Saint-Suliac is a small village full of authenticity.
If you enjoy the maritime atmosphere of Brittany, you’ll love the waterfront. Saint-Suliac is located on the banks of the Rance, but it also benefits from the lovely green shades that we cherish in the region.
You won’t find a lot of shops in Saint-Suliac, except for some restaurants or a bakery. However, you’ll love wandering through the heart of the small village, observing the facades of the fishermen’s houses covered with fishing nets.
By gaining a bit of height on Mont Garrot, which rises to 73 meters, you can see the remains of stone foundations that only appear at low tide. Legend has it that it was a former Viking camp, tasked with accommodating longships.
Dinan, an Ancient Medieval Town
If you decide to venture a little away from the coast and head inland, you’ll easily reach Dinan. This medieval town, often confused with Dinard, is entirely surrounded by ramparts.
If you’re a history enthusiast, you’ll love discovering this village with its medieval architecture. The cobbled streets of Rue du Jerzual add tremendous charm to the place. It’s in this lovely street that many artisans have set up their shops.
By gaining a bit of height, perhaps by visiting the castle, you’ll discover a breathtaking view of the Rance Valley! This little escapade in the heart of the Breton countryside will certainly leave a lasting impression on you!
Check out my article on Dinan for even more tips!
Dinard, the Seaside Resort of the Belle Époque
Located across from Saint-Malo, on the other side of the Rance dam, Dinard is a seaside resort known for its Belle Époque villas and its English influences. In fact, over 400 villas in Dinard are classified! The town reached its peak in the 19th century when British aristocrats came on vacation to Dinard.
Today, you can discover this rich historical past by strolling along the “Promenade du Clair de Lune,” which passes by the most beautiful buildings in the town. I recommend stopping a little longer in front of the most beautiful residences, such as the villa of Empress Eugénie or the House of the Black Prince.
In summer, the beaches are occupied by the famous blue and white striped tents. In winter, it’s the Dinard casino that draws visitors. Regardless of the season, there’s always something to do! Every year, the town hosts the British Film Festival. You can also find a statue of Alfred Hitchcock next to the casino. But if you visit Dinard during the festival, you might run into one of its guests.
For more information on things to see in the town, I invite you to read my dedicated article on Dinard.
In Saint-Cast-le-Guildo, you discover another aspect of the Emerald Coast. You leave Ille-et-Vilaine to enter Côtes d’Armor. You will appreciate its rugged coastline and magnificent cliffs. If you like ruins, be sure to visit the Feudal Castle of Guildo.
If, on the contrary, it’s the coast that interests you, you can go to the peninsula of Saint-Jacut-de-la-mer where it’s nice to stroll through the small streets of the village.
In the summer, no hesitation about the activities to do: relax on one of the 7 beaches of Saint-Cast!
Cap Fréhel and Fort La Latte
Arriving at Cap Fréhel, you finally reach the ultimate goal: the end of the Emerald Coast.
Cap Fréhel is known for its pink sandstone cliffs. It is indeed the beginning of the Pink Granite Coast, another paradise to see in Brittany. There is also another superb panorama of the Emerald Coast from Cap Fréhel, which dominates at more than 70m in height.
But when you arrive at Cap Fréhel, take the time to discover its lighthouse, which dominates the coast. Located in an exceptional site that houses a bird reserve, the lighthouse is a landmark on the horizon. Take the time to take a break to observe the seabirds that live there. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of one of the razorbills that inhabit the area.
Fort La Latte
Impressive fortress perched on Cap Fréhel, Fort La Latte is the most visited castle in Brittany!
Former fortress defending the Breton coast, the fort has been classified as a Historical Monument since 1925. It is possible to visit it to admire all its arsenal: drawbridge, walls, dungeon, and other military tools. Moreover, every August, medieval merchants, falconers, and jousting tournaments enliven the place.
The Archipelago of the Chausey Islands is known to be the largest archipelago in Europe with its 365 islets at low tide and nearly 7 times less (52 to be exact) when the sea rises.
I’m cheating a bit by mentioning them in this article about the Emerald Coast because in reality, these islands are Norman. But their location and the beauty of the landscapes allow them to be part of the list!
The Chausey Islands can only be reached by boat and it is probably for this reason that it is such a beautiful place. Completely preserved and still very wild, you’ll find a postcard-worthy landscape that would overshadow the Caribbean!
Its main island, simply called “Grande Ile,” is easily accessible by sea shuttle, especially from Saint-Malo. You’ll find only one hotel on site and a few lodges, but rest assured, you can also go for the day only. The round trips with the mainland are quite regular.
5 Reasons to Travel Along the Emerald Coast
The Emerald Coast stretches for about forty kilometers. The most athletic discover it on foot by taking the famous Customs Officers’ Path, better known as GR34 (I talk about it a little later in the article). But you can also go for horseback rides or bike rides to visit this beautiful part of Brittany. Rest assured, the majority of travelers visit the Emerald Coast by car and make stops along the way.
But if I haven’t convinced you yet, here are 5 good reasons to discover the Emerald Coast, at least once!
Admire Natural and Wild Landscapes
Being from Brittany, I may not be very objective, but the beauty of the landscapes on the Emerald Coast takes my breath away. The green hues of the sea, the cut of the coast in the rock, and the charm of the villages you find there are magical. Nature is generous on the Emerald Coast, and the must-see sights are plentiful. The ideal place for holidays that prioritize relaxation and the desire to take your time.
What’s magical is that the landscapes change with the weather. Whether it’s sunny or the sky is gray, the colors are not the same. But no matter the weather, the result is always magical!
Try Various Marine Activities
Depending on the final destination, you can do various outdoor activities like kite surfing or land sailing. Some beaches, like Hoguette Beach in Saint-Malo, are entirely dedicated to this type of sport, for example.
Discover Beautiful Beaches
Beach lovers, and especially those who love coastal landscapes, will take great pleasure in discovering the succession of beaches on the coast. The Sillon Beach in Saint-Malo was even voted the most beautiful beach in France in 2018 and 2023 by Trip Advisor!
Whether you take the time for a long break on one of the beaches on the coast, or just take a short break by the roadside, you will not be disappointed by what you see. I strongly recommend taking the time to stop, you might come across beautiful little coves!
Witnessing the High Tides
If there’s one thing not to miss when strolling along the Emerald Coast, it’s the phenomenon of high tides.
Ideally, Saint-Malo is the chosen place to enjoy it, but any small seaside resort along the coast allows you to witness this magical spectacle. However, it’s from the Corsair City that you’ll have the best view of this unique phenomenon in Europe.
Twice a day, every 6 hours, the tide comes in, either high or low. When it recedes, the sea gives way to a vast expanse of sand where shells and crustaceans become kings, much to the delight of beachcombers!
On the contrary, during the highest tides, the sea covers everything in its path, leaving only a vast expanse of water. It’s an impressive sight when you least expect it.
Tasting Local Gastronomy
The gastronomic heritage of the Emerald Coast is diverse! Seafood lovers will take great pleasure in tasting freshly caught shellfish and oysters. If that’s not your cup of tea, know that fish has never been so fresh and affordable!
But let’s not forget the traditional Breton crepes and galettes. And finally, I’m not talking about the mountains of salted butter caramels, kouign amann, and other sweets of all kinds that can be easily tasted.
How to Discover the Emerald Coast?
There are different ways to visit the Emerald Coast, it’s up to you to choose which one you prefer.
Discovering the Emerald Coast via the GR 34
The most athletic choose to take the GR34. Affectionately nicknamed the “Customs Officers’ Path” in Brittany, it was voted the most beautiful GR in France in 2018. And for good reason, it hugs the coast, even closer than the road reserved for cars. Passing through spots like Pointe du Grouin, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the Emerald Coast while being closest to nature.
Also, know that there are many other hiking trails on the Emerald Coast. More than 350 kilometers are said to be marked! Plenty of ideas for walks 😉
The Emerald Coast by Bike
If you’re a fan of bikes, know that there are many dedicated paths to discover the region on two wheels. Cycling tourism is highly developed on the Emerald Coast and while the GR 34 is reserved for pedestrians, more than 15 circuits are dedicated to two-wheeled enthusiasts. But to truly enjoy the Emerald Coast, I recommend following the route proposed by France Vélo Tourisme, which covers the entire North coast of Brittany, from Mont Saint-Michel to Roscoff in Finistère.
You can rent a bike at one of the agencies in the region if you’re not properly equipped.
My advice? Don't hesitate to contact the tourist offices to find the best spots to rent a bike and get route suggestions.
Visiting by Road
The most common way to do it is by car. There is indeed a lovely road that runs along the coast and allows you to pass by all the points of interest of the Emerald Coast. If you don’t want to make stops, you can simply enjoy the scenery: the sea view is magnificent, even from a car.
With a Private Driver
Sometimes, you just want to be driven! With Blackemroad, it’s possible 🙂 This private chauffeur company offers excursions on the Emerald Coast.
I had the opportunity to test it as part of a partnership and I really enjoyed the experience.
Take a Cruise
Why not discover the Emerald Coast from the sea? Whether you choose Saint-Malo, Cancale, or another small town as your starting port, the options are numerous.
If you don’t get seasick easily, you can also choose to take a slightly longer cruise during which you can dine. Otherwise, you can also choose to discover the Emerald Coast on an old rig!
Finally, if the “water” option appeals to you, but a boat cruise is a bit too much for you, you can always try sea kayaking! You may not go as far, but the activity is just as enjoyable. 😉
Ready to discover the Emerald Coast? Feel free to tell me which place you liked the most!