The Calais area of north east France is much more than just the cross-Channel ferry ports and Eurotunnel. Did you know that the region has 90km of beaches, sand dunes and cliffs which stretch from Calais down to Berck-sur-Mer? This is the Opal Coast or la Côte Opale in French.
The coastal towns are the region's highlights. Calais, 'the most English town in France', lies just 40km across the coast from England whilst other seaside spots to explore include nostalgic Le Touquet, a throwback to the 1920s, the fishing village of Etaples and windswept Wimereux. The historic beaches of Dunkerque and Boulogne-sur-Mer, with its appetising fish restaurants and attractive medieval quarter, also deserve a trip.
Away from the coast, Arras is one of the most beautiful towns in northern France, with a towering cathedral, arcaded central squares and the ornate Hotel de Ville. Here, the underground system of tunnels and rooms, some of which date back to the 10th century were used most memorably in the 1st World War when more than 10 thousand British soldiers used the system of caves and galleries. They were also used as a means of shelter during the Second World War. Tours of these tunnels and galleries are possible and last 35 to 50 minutes. Just 8km north of Arras is the Vimy Ridge, site of some of the most desperate WW1 trench combat - preserved as a stark reminder of the tragic loss of life suffered.
The Historial de la Grande Guerre in Peronne is unmissable. It covers the historical, sociological and human aspects of the First World War. The historial is complemented by an 80km long remembrance trail which will take you to cemetries, war memorials and a number of still visible witnesses to the World Wars such as the trenches and mine holes.
At St Omer (off exit 3 of the A26 autoroute) - La Coupole. With the help of modern technology and faithful reconstructions, you will discover what life was like during the German occupation of Northern France as well as Hitler's secret weapons and the first steps in the conquest of space with the V2 rocket. The centre is open all year. Family rates are available
Visit the sea life centre in Boulogne - a great day out for all the family
Also worth a day out is Aqualud at Le Touquet, a water park which is fun for all the family in summer months
Another attraction for the whole family is Bagatelle an attraction park with water rides, animal enclosures and much more, located close to Montreuil off junction 25 of the A16.
Visit the brewery in St Pol-sur-Ternoise and buy some of their excellent beer!
Visit the glass factory and factory shop at Arc International just off the A26 2km from St Omer for some excellent bargain priced glass items
For the younger children - 'Dennlys Parc' is a fun amusement park that will occupy them for a day!
Take a trip on the little tourist steam train in the Upper Somme, running from Froissy-Cappy-Dompierre (just West of Peronne close to the A1), it will take you through hills and woods and along the banks of the River Somme. The fare also includes a visit to the Museum of Military and Industrial railways. Runs May to September on Sundays and holidays plus also Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays mid-July to late August.
Visit the gardens and former Cistercian abbey at Valloires, with its magnificent rococo chapel and the 17 acre landscaped botanical park which offers a unique collection of roses and rare flower shrubs
Accommodation in France perfect for garden lovers from grand chateau to homely B&Bs
A personal selection of accommodation for a mountain holiday in France including the Pyrenees, Alps and the Vosges