Many come for the remembrance tourism, but Northern France’s flora and fauna attractions are superb too
Related article: Enjoying the High Life on the Northern Coast
At low tide, and in the company of a local guide, you can walk across the Baie de Somme in a morning or an afternoon. At the head of the southern bank is the Hourdel, which is the place to start from if you want to see France’s largest seal colony.
Dive into unknown waters at the largest aquarium in Europe. Both fun and educational, it features 1,600 species of marine life, along with a gentle message that the ocean is not just a source of marvels but an integral part of our species’ own future.
This extensive nature reserve is laid out on land that was originally reclaimed from the sea to grow tulips. Today it is a refuge for important populations of migrating and breeding birds and, as such, offers ornithological opportunities throughout the year.
Located in the heart of the Vallée de l’Authie, the five gardens of Valloire Abbey have been designed to present new views with every turn, with every season, with every time of the day. More than 5,000 species of plant over eight hectares of living landscape.
The 3,700 hectares of the Audomarois Marshes extend around Saint-Omer, inland from Calais in the general direction of Lens. Here you can walk – or ride aboard a traditional wooden boat – through this UNESCO-listed maze of farmed wetlands.
This amazingly varied garden site at Marck (just east of Calais) includes a bird and butterfly enclosure, a greenhouse for Australian and New Zealand flora, and a special area where they grow edible plants.
A Henson is a modern breed of horse from the Baie de Somme area. You’ll find them aplenty at the Equestrian Centre Henson-Marquenterre. Activities include beach rides, camping trips and cart rides through the forest.
This attraction doesn’t compare with its mighty neighbour in Boulogne, but they appreciate this and the entry prices (€3 for adults, €1.50 for children) are an ocean away from those of Nausicaá – and there is still plenty to see and learn about.
This aquarium-museum at Étaples presents sea life from the perspective of the fisherman rather than the conservationist. Working fishermen are your guides. So don’t be shocked when the talk turns to eating the exhibits, like the roe of this lumpfish.
Discover your inner ape at this tree-climbing adventure park at Sainte- Cécile (between Hardelot and Le Touquet). All ages are catered for, from toddlers to adults, and the owners ensure that everything is perfectly safe – for you and for the trees.
‘Âne’ means ‘donkey’ and you can celebrate all things asinine – and be entertained with donkey-related puns – at this donkey sanctuary in Frelinghien. Donkey rides (naturally), donkey orientation classes, donkey therapy and… Âne’niversaire parties.
One of 11 national botanical conservatories in France, this 25-hectare site on the Belgian border is gardening at its most scientifically serious. People come from far and wide just for the seed bank.
From France Today magazine