This slice of French land incorporating the Channel port of Calais, the Cote d'Opale (the Opal Coast), several important battlefields and France's largest fishing port, Boulogne, is often overlooked by families speeding south for the regions more traditionally associated with family holidays.
But beyond the day-trip shopping frenzy of Calais lie 40km of beaches stretching west along the coast, with views back to the white cliffs of Dover, and some classic French seaside towns full of child-friendly accommodation and amenities. Inland, meanwhile, are charming villages and towns, excellent restaurants and fascinating battlefields.
Best of all, perhaps, Pas-de-Calais, part of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, is just a short ferry hop (or Eurotunnel trip) from the UK, making it perfect for parents who appreciate short, hassle-free, more environmentally friendly journeys.
Things to do with kids in Pas-de-Calais
Explore the Opal Coast, a fabulous swathe of beach dotted with fun little towns and offering masses of entertainment for little ones. Le Touquet-Paris-Plage is very popular with the French – it got its name after becoming a playground for wealthy Parisians. As well as interesting architecture, including 1920s and 1930s villas commissioned by the likes of Noel Coward, it has such family-friendly amenities and activities as water-parks, sand-yachting, sailing, aqua-boarding and horse-riding. Like a slightly more stylish Bournemouth, Le Touquet offers good, clean fun for kids, very good restaurants and some hip nightlife for those who feel like getting a babysitter.
Le Touquet holds the Famille Plus label, meaning it's been singled out as particularly child-friendly. The same goes for Neufchâtel Hardelot.
Follow Les Sept Vallées or Seven Valleys, a charming meander through the countryside starting just north of Le Touquet and following the rivers Ternoise and Course. The route takes you through beautiful little villages, fields, woods and historical sites, by car or by bike, with trail maps available at local tourist offices. Children's attractions on the way include castles, medieval labyrinths and open farms.
Check out Boulogne with its markets, cobbled squares, cathedral and castle. The big draw here is Nausicaa, the 'National Sea Centre', a state-of-the-art aquarium complete with a sea-lion reserve, a penguin beach and giant Seychelles turtles.
Venture inland to atmospheric Azincourt, better known as Agincourt, where Henry V beat the French Army in the decisive battle of The Hundred Years' War, despite being vastly outnumbered. The good museum/centre has plenty to interest and occupy children, and you can re-enact the battle with some wooden bows picked up in the shop. Discover too the little-known World War II site of La Coupole, at St-Omer.
Lille Christmas Market
As everywhere in France, you can eat well here, although for those on family holidays with small children, choosing some form of self-catering accommodation helps you circumvent the problem of late/inflexible restaurant opening hours.
Local specialities to look out for in restaurants and markets include smoked garlic, chicken and turkey terrines and chitterling sausage. Beer, mussels and waffles show the influence of nearby Belgium.
When to go to Pas-de-Calais
With the seaside one of the focal points of the Pas de Calais, summer is the most favourable time for family holidays here.
Its ease of access makes Pas de Calais a prime spot for budget-friendly family holidays, as does the presence of plenty of good self-catering accommodation.
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Flying time1.5hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint0 CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
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