Boat travel and camping are 2 of the most budget-friendly ways to enjoy a break in Europe and never is this more popular than in the beautiful country of France.
With regular ferries running from England and campsites in French being plentiful, there are limitless combinations available to you if this sounds like your sort of summer holiday.
Super for family adventures, trips with friends or just a chance to get away from it all, I’ve looked at all the different options you have in terms of catching the ferry and pitching your tent.
And, I’m delighted to say I’ve found some real winners, so here are the 5 best destinations you should definitely check out when combining sailing on the ferry and camping in France.
Why the Ferry?
Catching the ferry to France, rather than flying, means the journey becomes part of the adventure in itself.
Indeed, sailing across the Channel has to be the perfect way to begin your next camping holiday in France – the wind whistling through your hair as you wave goodbye to the ever-smaller world of work and everyday life on the horizon!
Catching the ferry from the UK to France is also a lot cheaper as you can take your vehicle, cram everyone and everything in, and not have to worry about public transport or baggage allowances!
But, of course, there is more than one ferry to choose from when sailing from the UK to France and many different routes open to you as well.
So, what are your choices?
Ferry Routes //
The classic route, complete with white cliffs and faint renditions of Vera Lynn songs, is the quintessential way to set sail and leave dear old Blighty behind you!
Dover to Calais is the fastest and cheapest ferry to France – just a 90-minute crossing time and you’ll be tucking into a croissant before you know it!
Also, if you choose this route, you’ll be hard pressed to miss the boat too – P&O Ferries alone have over 20 daily sailings.
If you plan to catch the ferry and camp near the historic area of Dunkirk in Northern France, then you’re probably best to cross from Dover with DFDS Seaways.
The ferry terminal in Dover is only about a 15 minute drive from the centre of town and the crossing will only take you around 2 hours.
There’s no baggage restrictions on this one either and with 24 crossings a day, you have plenty to choose from!
You must, however make this crossing with a vehicle as foot passengers are not permitted.
The best option if you are coming down from London, Portsmouth is just a 2 hour drive south of the capital, making this trip with Brittany Ferries one of the most convenient.
The Portsmouth to Le Harve channel crossing is also a no-frills service, which makes it perfect for budget travellers.
In addition to this, the voyage takes you closer to Paris and eastern France than any other channel sailing and with both Portsmouth and Le Havre being busy port cities, there are plenty of amenities and excellent road network links from the two.
And once you arrive in Normandy of course, you won’t be disappointed by the famous beaches and La Havre itself, which is also a great destination.
Being only 2 hours away from Paris, if you want to couple catching the ferry and camping in France with a city break, Le Havre may be the perfect destination for you.
One of the most under-rated towns in Normandy, Cherbourg is a delightful place to visit and there are plenty of campsites nearby.
The good news is that, with the high-speed crossing from Poole on Brittany Ferries, you can be in Cherbourg within just 4.5 hours – one of the fastest options around.
You’ll also be glad to know that this service operates daily, giving you plenty of flexibility in terms of your departure date.
Other UK – France Ferry Options
In addition to the above, I would also recommend the crossings to St Malo, Roscoff and Caen if you want to combine sailing on a ferry and camping in France.
Again Brittany Ferries provide a great choice of services here departing from both Plymouth and Portsmouth.
Camping Options //
Whichever ferry route between France and the UK you choose, you’ll also have an outstanding choice of campsites when you get there!
Here are five sites you should seriously consider if you are taking the ferry and camping in France:
If you are sailing to Calais, this beautiful site is just over an hour’s drive away from the ferry port.
In the grounds of a wonderful chateau, it has the requisite swimming pools and a beach within easy reach.
There are bars, restaurants, and takeaways all within the complex, making it an ideal base for families to explore this historic area of France.
The campsite is open from mid-April until mid-September.
Only 14km from Calais, this campground is another one that’s very easy to reach if you’re catching the ferry.
In fact, you could leave Dover and be at the site in a couple of hours!
This also makes the campsite an ideal spot for an overnight stop before heading further into France.
La Bien Assise has pools and bars, but the nearest beach is around 15km away.
That said, if you like exploring and hiking, it is a wonderful base for all the family, set within wooded grounds and offering very spacious pitches.
Around 50km from Le Havre, Château Le Brevedent is highly recommended for families.
There is so much to do onsite here, including a kids clubs and plenty of sports such as volleyball, badminton, football, mini golf and even boules, that it’s quite astounding.
There is also a well-stocked fishing lake.
For culture vultures the historic town of Bayeaux and its famous tapestry is also close by.
Again, this campsite is open from April to September.
A mere ten minutes away from Cherbourg, this five-star campsite is so easy to reach if you are taking the ferry and camping in France.
Located right on the coast with a beautiful sandy beach, I can’t say how fantastic this campsite is.
Set in 17 hectares and surrounded by a forest with stunning views of the coastline, it begs the question, what more do you need?
If you are new to camping in France, this place is an ideal introduction.
The site has excellent facilities including pools, sport grounds, restaurants and is a great base from which to explore the area.
Why not try a new experience while you are here like canoeing, horseback riding or sailing? There really is something for everyone.
#5 Camping du Golf, Saint-Jean-de-la-Rivière
Easily reachable from Cherbourg, this site is much smaller than others on this list.
Though small, it still has all the facilities you need however, including pools, golf (duh!) and activities for the kids. It also has an on-site bakery.
If you don’t mind a drive, the amazing Mont St Michel is about 100km away.
It really is well worth the effort to go and see this UNESCO World Heritage site, which is one of France’s most spectacular attractions.
The campsite is open from the end of March until the beginning of November.
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So there you have it, 5 fantastic destinations you should definitely check out when combining sailing on the ferry and camping in France.
Have you made this sort of trip before? Where did you stay and what ferry did you catch?
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This article was written by Andy, chief explorer at Exploringthisrock – a website dedicated to helping you explore the world and experience new cultures. Andy is a father to two wonderful children, husband to a beautiful wife and a camping geek. Following his tented adventures via Facebook and Instagram.