The coast of the Pas De Calais, stretching from the border with Belgium to the Bay of the Somme, is known as the Opal Coast. It was the painter Edouard Leveque who, impressed by the pearly and iridescent colours he saw in its long flat beaches marshy estuaries and high dunes, first named it Cote d’Opale.
In Victorian times the railways brought city dwellers from the industrial towns around Lille and from Paris and its suburbs to enjoy the fabulous beaches and the good weather. The British, too were responsible for a good deal of investment and development, particularly in the smart resorts of Le Touquet and Hardelot, where they created some of the best golf courses in Europe.
The fishing ports of Boulogne and Etaples still rank among the among the largest in France in terms of tonnage of catch. You can buy fish direct from the fishing boats on the quay at Etaples.
The coast is a paradise for family holidays. The small resort towns like Fort Mahon, Merlimont, Stella Plage, Le Touquet, Hardelot, Wimereux and Wissant provide every kind of facility for all ages. As well as golf there are riding stables, sailing clubs and schools, sand-yachting, windsurfing, kite-surfing, tennis, sea-angling, kite flying and a multitude of other activities. Restaurants in the coastal resorts welcome children and provide meals for all budgets. Moules frites is the coast’s signature dish, simple, cheap, delicious and filling, but at the other end of the scale you’ll find salmon, monkfish, skate, crab and lobster on the menu too.