First and foremost beaches are associated with swimming and sunbathing. Quite a few of them are scenic or outstanding at a special time. Share your favorite beach which you already experienced.
The white cliffs of Etretat are one of the most popular sights in Normandy and famous for Monet’s paintings. The impressive three rock arches “falaises” created by incredible forces of nature over thousands of years ago are a must to visit. It’s breath-taking to watch the waves crashing against the arches. They are accessible during low tide. When I walked through the arches; I felt tiny. The two arches Porte d'Aval and Falaise d'Amont can be already seen from the promenade in Etretat.
Come here and spend at least a day around Etretat. Regarding the weather, mid-June to mid-September are the best months to visit Etretat. Continue reading to get detailed information about the weather, crowds, parking, history, hiking, accommodations, and camping.
Highlights and Tips
- Watch the arches during high tide from the different viewpoints from the top of the white cliffs.
- Walk to and through the arches during low tide; between two hours before and one hour afterwards. Check the tides properly; otherwise, you may get trapped in the cave, but it is safe to stay in there. There is one ladder and a steep trail up at the end of the arches to escape the flood. Tide Times Etretat
The afternoon light is the best time of the day for perfect shots of this fascinating piece of nature. In addition the crowds thin out at this time of the day.
Weather and Crowds (Season Details)
The climate at Etretat and the coast of the Normandy is mild influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Weather is unpredictable. Rain occurs throughout the year. Summer is the driest time and November the wettest month. Strong winds often occur at the coast. It’s frequently partly cloudy or overcast.
Falaise d'Aval during high tide
Comfortable temps from April to June; 15°C to 21°C. Night temps are usually below 10°C. Busy during easter and especially in May at Labour Day, Victory Day, and Ascension Day.
Chemin Des Douaniers at low tide
Day temps are pleasant around 20°C and ranging between 13°C to 15°C during the night. The water temp is quite cold from 15°C to 19°C from July to October. June to September are the driest months. July and August; the summer holidays are the best months and the busiest at the same time. However, there is plenty of space and you get away from the crowds when you hike through the arches or to the clifftops. Weekends, the Bastille Day in July, and Assumption Day in August are the worst during summer.
Falaise d'Aval and Chemin Des Douaniers
September is still pleasant, with almost 20°C. It’s getting cooler in October and November is cold and the wettest month with temps around 12°C. Increasing precipitation from the end of September. September is still busy but bearable. From October onwards fewer people come to Etretat. Weather is unpredictable and very windy.
It can be pretty chilly during this time of the year although the temps are slightly below 10°C. Storm occurs often. However, night temps are rarely below 0°C. Decreasing rainfall from February onwards. Despite the weather the scenery is spectacular and impressive pictures can be taken.
Accommodations and Camping in Etretat
Lots of holiday homes are available, but if you plan to stay here for a night or two, we highly recommend the 400 years old half-timbered Hotel La Residence. The rooms and bathrooms got modernized; however, it still has the cosy charm of the former time. The hotel is fantastically located just a two minutes walk to the famous beach. The staff is very lovely. The food in the restaurant (moules normande – steamed mussels in a calvados and wine cream) was excellent, and the cidre as well.
If you plan to camp in Etretat we only recommend the shoulder season but not the summer months. There is just one campground next to the road. Camping Municipal d'Étretat (Google Maps) Usually, it is super busy from June to September. The sites in the back are nice located but next to the road all campervans and tents were packed together without any privacy. We chose a campgound next to the river Seine. It took us some time to get to Etretat, but it was quiet with lots of privacy. So, it depends on what you want; staying close or quiet with space.
Nazare, Praia do Norte became famous for the biggest waves ever surfed at the Big Wave Awards Contest with world records between 80-100 feet. Usually, the highest chance for watching these waves occurs between November to January. The waves can be seen from Praia do Norte close to the clifftop ford and lighthouse.
It’s a unique experience to see surfers among the waves. It’s one of the most difficult places to predict the conditions. The annual surf event with the best surfers from all over the world takes part between mid-October to late February. If “Giant Waves” are predicted, and the surfers arrive at Praia do Norte it’s an exciting spectacle to watch the surfers getting towed with the jet ski into the next monster wave.
The tuned jet skis have 300 hp for this kind of sport "Tow Surfing". These waves are so powerful and fast that paddling is impossible. To figure out how to increase the chance to catch a day where surfers riding those massive waves continue reading for details. You’d like to know the real story about the world record in January 2018 and the 100 million times clicked video? Continue reading in our description.
When Do These Waves Occur
The Big and Giant Waves appear between October and March but are most likely to happen from November to January. These waves are not predictable far in advance on short notice only with the current technology for forecasting conditions. Predictions are accurate for three days only. To experience the big waves, you have to monitor the forecast. Either you are flexible, or you spend your vacation in Portugal as we did. We spent some time in Porto and north of Spain in Galicia to visit the popular Cathedral Beach. We monitored the waves forecast each day, and when we figured out there is a high chance for giant waves, we drove the entire way from Galicia to Nazare back. Such a big event does not often happen, so we took the chance. When we arrived in the Zulla Nazaré`s Surf Village (Highly recommended, as it's outside the crowded area! Tip: Bookmark the link, as you save money with the booking.com price guarantee. IMPORTANT: Book in advance!) popular among surfers in walking distance to Praia do Norte, we got told that several surfers from Brazil arrived the day before.
At this moment we’d known it was the right decision to come here. Another opportunity spend your vacation in Lisbon, Sintra and the surroundings and monitor the forecast. Big Waves Surf Forecast It’s just 1.5 hours drive north of Lisbon. Even if all accommodations are fully booked, it doesn’t take so long to come to Nazare from the Lisbon surroundings.
What Causes and Indicates These Huge Waves
The north, deep water canyon of Nazare reaches a depth of 5000 m and is 230 km long. This canyon generates and amplifies such waves up to 100 feet / 30 meters height. There are 4 key factors in particular which indicate these enormous waves:
- Wave size > 3 meters
- Wave period > 13 seconds
- North Atlantic storms during autumn and winter bring swells to the canyon
- Incoming tide makes the conditions even better
Our Personal Guesthouse Tips
Portugal is my second home country due to my family living around Lisbon and Estoril. If you’ve never been to Portugal before here are our recommendations on how to get the most out of your stay. First of all traveling through Portugal is more convinient by car. Rental cars are much cheaper in the winter season. You'll save money by booking with the rental cars search engine (bookmark the link to save time and money):
Choose one of our favourite casas “guesthouses” located in a truly beautiful landscape close to Nazare but Lisbon and Sintra as well. Stay here the entire vacation to explore the fantastic country. Monitor the forecast for giant waves and in the meantime visit Praia da Ursa, Montserrat Palace, and Torre de Belem to mention just a view of the many outstanding locations nearby.
- Casa Artelena The guesthouse is peacefully located in the countryside. It’s just half an hour drive to Nazare. Your host Artur is looking after you with a warm personal touch. He prepares a delicious breakfast each morning. It is spotless clean here and very nicely furnished. You couldn’t wish for better.
- Azen Cool House This guesthouse has an excellent location in close proximity to Lisbon, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Praia da Ursa, and Praia da Adraga. It’s a stunning place with a great view of the ocean. Your fresh and tasty prepared breakfast is included. It’s a huge guesthouse with a winter garden, game room, and even a tennis and padel court. Have you ever played padel? It’s a mixture of tennis and squash. An excellent restaurant and also the beach is just a short stroll from Azen. Sam and Tiago are fantastic hosts.
Despite the weather, it‘s a breathtaking beach where you walk between huge rock stacks for almost two kilometers at low tide. At high tide, the sea covers the entire beach up to the steps. The tidal range can be up to 7 meters during the big spring tides. The tides are coming in pretty fast. You need to enter a gate to get to the 120 steps down to the beach.
From November to February the gate is closed due to severe weather and surf and also during periods of bad weather. This spectacular beach is best visited up to two hours before low tide to maximise your time here. Plan at least 3-4 hours for a visit. Tide Times Bedruthan Steps
Often only the main car park is open. At low tide and around midday cars are queuing for space. If you arrive one or two hours before low tide, you increase your chance for a parking lot. The Café is popular for jacket potatoes, cream tea, and homemade scones; the reason that it gets busy at midday especially at weekends.
The coast experiences a mild climate throughout the year. The average temps in the summer are around 20°C, but 30°C are possible in July and August. Autumn is slightly colder on average 13°C to 18°C. The spring temps are around 11°C to 15°C. Due to drizzle, fog, and wind which occurs throughout the year, it may feel pretty chilly. Usually, the driest months are April, May, and August. The water temp is quite cold even in the summer maximum of 17°C.
Stay nearby in Padstow for a couple of days to visit Bedruthan, Tintagel Castle, Lanhydrock House. Bodmin Moor to mention a view of the many highlights.
Our favorite hike is the coastal path from Carnewas at Bedruthan to Padstow. The rugged scenery is just mind-blowing. We highly recommend staying in the luxury Padstow Townhouse B&B. The only issue you may have afterward is that you don't want to leave this awesome house and this high-level service. Another option for low budget travelers is the Hostel YHA Treyarnon Bay north of Bedruthan Steps.
Kynance Cove situated on the Lizard Peninsula is an unspoilt Cornish gem with lovely beaches at low tide and a brilliant clear turquoise sea. Rocky islands, stacks, and arches attract tourists, artists, and poets as well for hundreds of years. But words will not justice it’s beauty. The cove and coastal path to Lizard Point are always worth to visit no matter what kind of weather occurs. Though during summer it’s packed with hundreds of people each day.
More than 250.000 visitors come to explore this beautiful stretch of coastline each year. Kynance Cove is packed with tourists and locals alike during summer and lovely sunny weekends. To enjoy the truly magnificent cove and the coastal path as well come here either during the week or in the shoulder season. During July and August, it’s hard to enjoy this magnificent piece of mother nature and the spectacular views. You are queuing at the car park, the climb down and at the café as well. Hundreds of people try to get a glimpse of this beautiful stretch of beach at the same time. Winter can be nice as well but colder. There is limited parking. The main car park fills up pretty soon during the busy time of the year. There is an overflow parking nowadays which takes an additional 30 minutes to walk. So, if you like to visit Kynance during summer or at an awesome weekend, you should come early (before 9 am!!) or late in the day.
The tides are coming in fast. So, check out the tides before you visit Kynance Cove. The best time for heading down is when the tide is going out without any left footprints. Explore the arches and caves around, There are several small tidal islands and rare serpentinite rocks here. Some of them got eroded by the sea. One of the islands is Asparagus Island which is accessible at low tide. Tide times Kynance Cove
Weather and Crowds by Season
The Lizard Peninsula experiences a very mild climate due to the Gulf Stream and mainly warm winds from the west. The water temperature is pretty cold even in summer usually below 18°C / 64°F. The sea is often quite rough – not safe for swimming - no lifeguards on duty.
March and April are still pretty chilly with daily temps around 11°C / 52°F. Rain decreases in May and daily temps rise up to 15°C / 59°F. March and April are the low season except for Easter. May is already a favourite month for visitors but still a good time for a vacation. Days are often pleasant and sunny. Wildflowers and orchids are in bloom in May and June.
That’s the driest time of the year although be always prepared for a rain shower. Daily temps on average are almost 20°C / 68°F and can sometimes even reach 30°C / 86°F. Most cottages and hotels are fully booked and prices are on a high level. If visiting Kynance Cove during summer holidays in July and August, you won’t enjoy this remarkable place. It’s utterly overrun, no space for a towel just queuing. Too many visitors will spoil your visit at the cove.
September is one of the most beautiful months for Cornwall and often remains warm. Average daily temps are still around 17°C / 63°F and 14°C / 57°F during the night. Fewer people visit Cornwall in September. October and November are quiet. It’s easy to find a beautiful cottage to stay. Precipitation increases in October. Temps drop to 12°C / 54°F in November. Bring a snack in October and November; the café could be closed.
Photo by John Such on Unsplash
Most rainfall in winter however beautiful blue skies can occur as well. Winter is mild daily mean temp around 10°C / 50°F. Except for Christmas Holidays, it’s peaceful and quiet here. Many cafes and shops are closed. Bring your own picnic to the cove. Plenty of accommodations are available.
Things to Know and Opening Hours
- Facilities are available at the car park opened from Easter to the end of October, at Kynance Cove throughout the year.
- The Polpeor Cafe is open between Easter and late October.
- Dogs are prohibited at the busiest time of the year from Easter Sunday to the end of September from 7 to 7, but most people ignore that.
- Lizard Point Lighthouse is usually open from Easter to the end of the summer. You can either walk from Kynance Cove to Lizard Point or get here by car. Parking fee is requested if not National Trust member.
If you plan to walk the circular trail you can also park the car in Lizard village. Facilities are availble here.
Where to Stay on Lizard Peninsula
The Lizard Peninsula is such a quiet and beautiful part of Cornwall that we decided to stay here for three nights. We explored much of this area by feet. There are some hotels and accommodations around. Hotels Lizard Peninsula
We'd chosen the lovely Top House Inn with Pub. We spent each evening in the pub enjoying the excellent food and fresh Cornish fish as well while drinking cider. They have eight comfy en-suite rooms in the centre of the village. Take your full English breakfast and walk the 3 km to Kynance Cove.
Praia da Ursa is still a hidden gem and not overrun. The beach is not easily accessible, and the trail is not well marked. If you come here bring a picnic and enjoy this secluded beach. Praia da Ursa is not far from Cabo da Roca roughly 45 minutes to one hour hike. You can visit Ursa throughout the year though summer can be pretty hot. During winter after rain, the trail is more slippery. Continue reading to get a detailed trail description.
We shared Ursa Beach with just two other hikers
Most pleasant seasons for this hike are spring and autumn. During spring flower carpets are along the path. During summer it's often boiling hot winter can be rainy but beautiful as well. We'd been here at each season, and except summer we always love to come back to this exceptional piece of nature.
Weather Ursa Beach and Cabo da Roca
Lisbon and the surroundings are a great travel destination throughout the year.
Day temps in spring are pleasant almost 20°C. Nights are a bit chilly 10°-15°C. We love this season; not hot but warm and almost always sunny. Showers can occur occasionally.
Summer temps are around 25°C – 30°C but consider the powerful sun. July and August are the busiest months with tourists and Portuguese spending their vacation in their home country. These are the driest months of the year.
September is a great month for Ursa; still warm but not any longer too hot, nights are cool on average 16°C. October day temps are still above 20°C and November around 18°C. Rain increases in October, however, the maximum is 80 mm in November. That’s not much.
In winter the day temps are on average around 15°C, one-digit temps during the night. Precipitation occurs more often, but it’s rare to experience rain the entire day. We’d been here several times in December and January. Usually, you can even walk barefoot at the beach.
The “Praia das Catedrais Beach” is the most popular beach in Galicia and a photographer’s dream. During Easter, the summer months, and on long bank holiday weekends a permit is required. In the winter you may enjoy your walk at the beach almost alone. The beach and in particular the arches and the cathedral are accessible around low tide only!
Accessible during low tide only. This is particularly the case for the end of the beach where the three well-known arches are located. These arches are accessible during a short time frame roughly one hour before low tide and one hour afterwards. Furthermore, the sea level has a relevant impact on how far you can get and how long you can enjoy your visit.
- Tide Times Cathedral Beach for the upcoming two weeks
Tide Times and permit booking; open the booking system and select a date to get the low tide for your visit. It doesn't exist any other website for low tide data for the entire year.
Avoiding the Crowds
Peak Season (Easter - Summer)
Due to the popularity; well-known from social media, a permit is required since 2015 for Easter and from July to September now to preserve this extraordinary place. August is the worst month of the year. In July 2014 75 thousand visitors came here each week. The reason for the permit system. However, the limit of 5000 people per day is still quite high. To gain access, you even may queue before entering the beach. Cathedral Beach can get quickly crowded during low tide depending on the time of the day. Early morning is much quieter than the rest of the day. If you arrive at the end of the low tide in the peak season signs are put up, and you don’t get access to the furthest part, which is the most stunning and picturesque. It's such an amazing place in winter that it is hard to believe having thousands of visitors here in summer. Consider that booking of at least 30 days in advance is mandatory. The permit is free and easy to book. Tickets Booking Cathedral Beach – Praia das Catedrais
Accommodation rates are the highest, and mostly there isn’t anything available on short notice.
Shoulder Season (Spring - Autumn)
Cathedral Beach is accessible without a permit except for Easter. Though the beach can get a little busy early morning or late in the evening it’s quiet and peaceful. Accommodations are available on short notice although the best rated are already fully booked. The weather can be capricious, therefore, carry a raincoat.
Low Season (Winter)
During winter very few people visit the beach in the morning and also midday is bearable. It’s quiet and peaceful, and you take back home unforgettable memories of this outstanding piece of nature. In our opinion the best time to enjoy this marvellous place in Galicia. You can book a cottage last minute for lower fares. Consider it frequently rains in the winter but you can't get disappointed at this time of the year.
The Cathedral Beach and its famous rock arches and bridges are located towards the north. Getting the right light for a shot may be challenging, but if you come here at sunrise during the wintertime, an atmospheric shot is almost guaranteed.
The north of Spain experiences much more rain than the south. The driest and warmest months are from June to September. Usually, pleasant day temps around 20°C not hot as you would expect in Spain. Night temps can be chilly. Mostly one-digit day temps from November to April. Even if it is cold, foggy or rainy, Cathedral Beach does not disappoint,
Where to Stay
Our favourite cottages are the Villas las Catedrales; fully equipped also with heating which is essential during winter. These villas are newly built, super clean, and Maria is taking care of you. She lives just 100 m before the self-catering cottages. You can park your car right in front of your rental home. Leave your car at your accommodation and take their offered bikes to get to the nearby Cathedral Beach. Especially during the peak season or long bank holiday weekends the parking might be full.
Praia de Illas nearby
There is a variety of self-catering cottages, holiday homes, and hotels nearby. All available accommodations around Cathedral Beach. Bookmark the link for the lowest fares at booking.com. During the summer, advanced booking is necessary. In the winter check the weather forecast first and then book your accommodation last minute as we did. Cathedral Beach is exceptional. We loved to explore this mind-blowing beach and watched the incoming tide afterwards from the cliffs. Stay at least one night to enjoy this place without being in a rush. We spent two nights here and went twice to Cathedral Beach. This place is too amazing to be in a hurry. We enjoyed walking along the beach in both directions, watching the incoming tide. There are more scenic beaches around where we also had a closer look too.