There are so many great things to do on a day trip to Calais, but our very favourite of these will always be to spend 12 hours in Boulogne playing on the beach and practicing our French!
Heading over to France for the day during school holidays has been something we’ve done for the past few years now, yet until last April we hadn’t ever ventured further than Calais.
However with the good weather arriving, and family friends joining us on the trip, we decided to be brave, drive a little further round the coast, and enjoy 12 hours in Boulogne.
12 hours in Boulogne
8.30am – Set Sail
P&O are our ferry company of choice the fares are always reasonable, even for peak crossings, plus there are many great deals to be had. This Easter holidays crossing cost us just £24 return for the car and up to 5 passengers, plus they threw in a voucher for 6 bottles of wine for free onboard.
An early start is essential for making the most of your 12 hours in Boulogne as the ferry crossing takes 1.5 hours each way, however we have our breakfast on the boat to save time when arriving in France and so that we can hang on a little later for lunch.
For a quicker crossing you could take the Le Shuttle, but with speed comes the lack of views and excitement that a ferry crossing brings!
11am (French Time) – Remember To Drive On The Right
After leaving the Ferry you have two choices. You can take the A16 and drive direct to Boulogne in around half hour, or enjoy the, hour long, more scenic route along the coast taking in some quaint French towns and breathtaking sea views along the way.
12noon – Hit The Beach
Even after spending just 12 hours in Boulogne its clear this town has a lot to offer its visitors, from fresh fish to old town charm, but its crowning glory for us will always be the beach. Little O squealed when she saw it appear, all that open sand just for us!
There is a free car park available right by the beach, the water is clear and shallow and the sand goes on for miles making it the perfect place to stretch those legs after a good few hours of travelling.
12.45pm – Stroll Into Town
The walk from the beach heading into the town centre passes some wonderful fresh fish stalls (at such great prices), a play park and crazy golf centre before turning away from the sea wall uphill into town.
From here you can wind your way though the streets towards Place Dalton, the old-town cobbled square, where you find the main cafes and restaurants, plus two open air markets each week on Wednesday and Saturdays.
1.15pm – Eat In The Old Town Square
With so much fun being had, bellies will be rumbling loudly by now! Place Dalton is lined with lovely places to eat (Le Welsh is my particular favourite), but if you can’t choose a restaurant then a picnic on the steps of the old town church with a feast from Lestienne is always a winner on a warm day.
2.30pm – Visit Europe’s Biggest Aquarium
Boulogne is home to Naussica, Europe’s largest aquarium. The perfect after lunch treat for the children.
4pm – Head To Wine Warehouses
No 12 hours in Boulogne would be complete without a trip to the Calais Wine Superstore. This place is like a grown-up sweet shop, plus there is the bonus of trying before you buy!
Sadly I was driving so could only have a sip of the wines we were looking to buy, but other members of the party got stuck in to discovering new wines for their basket.
If wine isn’t your thing, there is a more electric mix of shops to be found just down the road at Cite Europe.
7pm – Return To The Port
Check-in for your crossing normally closes 30 to 45 minutes before departure so be sure to check what time you need to arrive at port.
8pm – Dinner On The Boat
Most ferry companies offer a hot buffet service on their crossings, but we much prefer to grab some french bread, cheese and cold meats before leaving Boulogne to create our own picnic dinner onboard.
8.30pm (English Time) Say Hello Once Again To Those Iconic White Cliffs
Vera Lyn did have a point…those cliff are rather magical to see as the sun is setting over the English Channel!
Spending 12 hours in Boulogne is a wonderful, albeit tiring, way to enjoy a quick trip to France…..it sure beat spending the school holidays at soft play!