Hardelot is a small, elegant and charming seaside town that never seems to be over crowded – it has the best of both world’s – the lovely beach and sea front shops and hotels and just minutes inland – beautiful verdant countryside with wonderful walks through forests and dunes. It is an ideal get-away-from-it-all place with beach, forests, dunes, numerous sports facilities and iodized air.
There are 12km of pristine, sandy beach, several smart hotels, restaurants and some very nice shops including several artists’ galleries. Hardelot is not as glamorous as its more well-known neighbour Le Touquet, but it is very stylish and has a lot to offer the day tripper, weekender or holiday maker.
Hardelot was at the height of its popularity in the early 1900s due to Sir John Whitney – then owner of the Château of Hardelot. A keen sportsman and proponent of the outdoor life, he loved the area with its dunes and forests and made the most of the facilities inviting his wealthy friends to stay – including King George V.
Along with wealthy French friends Sir John bought 900 acres of land around Hardelot and promoted it as place for hunting – there were deer, boar, hare and pheasant galore. To cater for visitors Sir John persuaded his friend the architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier to design unique villas which can still be seen today. The famous aviator Louis Blériot had a villa built there and is said to have landed his plane on the beach at low tide! Living next door to Blériot were the Tata family (the very wealthy Indian Tata family) and clearly the great Blériot had an influence on the young JRD Tata next door who later became the first man to fly a plane in India and who started Tata Air which became Air India. The famous American Harriet Quimby, the first woman to be issued a pilot’s licence visited Blériot in Hardelot, borrowed a plane and became the first woman to fly across the English Channel from Dover landing just off mark – two miles outside Hardelot.
These days the Château is a monument to French/British Entente Cordiale and a cultural centre with a programme promoting British culture, across all art forms (music, visual arts, cinema, literature and heritage). It is an important monument in the area and is built in the Tudor style as a little piece of England in France. Further evidence of the area’s special relationship with its close neighbour can be seen in the municipal coat of arms for Hardelot which features a Union Jack.
There is plenty of beach sport to be had here – year round sailing, canoeing and wind surfing plus sand yachting and it’s an idea spot for those with children with its “Kid “ resort classification denoting that the resort focuses on providing activities, equipment and an environment especially safe for children. There’s an all year round tennis club with teaching courses from 5 year old upwards with in house competitions and national tournaments regularly held.
The area is an equestrian’s delight with a great riding school and pony club and the rides through the pine forests and trails to the beach are very popular and attract many visitors year round. There are several arenas, tracks, an international jumping competition and amateur and professional jumping competitions throughout the year.
Hardelot is very popular with city dwellers from Lille and visitors from Belgium in particular thanks to the great golf courses. Les Pins (18 holes) is immaculate and said to be the most technical in Europe and Les Dunes (also 18 holes) which is very attractive. Both courses take in the pine forests with their gentle and appealing scent and attract players at all levels from professional to beginner.
There are plenty of places to eat in Hardelot from smart restaurants like La Terrasse to braseries and creperies. A supermarket, boulangerie with fresh baked bread, chacuterie and epicerie specialising in local produce is great for the self-catering crowd – you certainly won’t want for great products while you’re in Hardelot – especially recommended are the local Samer strawberries!
There are plenty of places to stay – from fine hotels like Les Jardins de Hardelot to gites rureaux, chamber d’hôtes, self-catering villas and caravan and camping sites.
Things to do in Hardelot
Sit on the beach, swim in the sea, ride horses, sail sand yachts, surf, play golf or play tennis at the country club.
In high season and at other busy times (Christmas, Easter) there is usually a market on the main road on Sundays.
Also in high season there are arts and music festivals held in both the castle grounds and the country club.
Viist the Château d’Hardelot – there are regular events held here – see the Chateau website for the full programme.
Play golf at Les Pins or Les Dunes
Hike through the Dunes on the Mount St Frieux Trail
Hardelot is situated just off the A16 road between Calais and Boulogne around 30 minutes from Calais Port.