1. Urville-Nacqueville, Normandy
A short drive or cycle from Cherbourg brings you swiftly to idyllic coastal countryside and sweeping expanses of fine sand. Just west of Urville-Nacqueville, itself 10km west of the ferry port and a popular bathing station a century ago, the veteran Hôtel Landemer reopened last year following a stunning restoration. Bright, up-to-the-minute rooms with polished-oak floors look out over the Channel, and you can dine outside on a decked terrace. There’s surfing, windsurfing, sailing and diving nearby, as well as horse riding, and the long-distance GR223 footpath passes the hotel as it circles the Cotentin peninsula.
2. Étretat, Normandy
Quirky little Étretat, the most scenic spot on Normandy’s chalky northern coastline, is sandwiched between spectacularly eroded cliffs. With its gingerbread architecture and stately promenade, it oozes Belle-Époque charm; you half-expect to find horse-drawn bathing huts on its shingle beach, though in fact it offers 21st-century activities such as paddleboarding. Choose from two contrasting hotels: at the Domaine Saint-Clair, an opulent Anglo-Norman castle, rooms named after the likes of Marcel Proust and Sarah Bernhardt are swathed in rich draperies, while those at the cheaper, eco-friendly Détective in town pay humorous tribute to assorted fictional investigators, from Hercule Poirot to Inspector Clouseau and even Charlie’s Angels.