Brittany has beaches, aquariums, theme parks, nature reserves and historical sites which will appeal to younger travellers…
The coastline is pristine and most beaches have public toilets and restaurants in close proximity. Camp sites offer reasonably priced, modern mobile homes with Wi-Fi, cookers, microwaves and showers. You can generally hire a travel cot for around €10 per night. The larger 4 star campsites sell food on site and offer indoor and outdoor play areas, swimming pools, paddling pools and splash zones. There are plenty of family friendly restaurants and the bakeries and creperies will be very popular with kids.
Brittany is made up of four departments or regions – Finistere, Cotes D’armor, Ille et Vilaine and Morbihan.
Brest Oceanopolis (Brest, Finistere)
At Océanopolis, (00 33 2 98 34 40 40; oceanopolis.com; €16.50 adult, €11.50 child) opened in 2000 and has had over 4 million visitors. The three themed exhibition buildings are each devoted each to a different ecosystem: polar, tropical or temperate, and the content is constantly updated by a team of scientists (60% of French oceanographers and related research scientists work here Brest).With 8000m2 of exhibition space, 50 different aquariums to see, and a thousand different species, you’ll need the whole day to take it all in.
Quimper s Brittany’s oldest city which lies in the southwestern corner of Finistère. It began life as the capital of the myth-shrouded kingdom of Cornouaille. Despite the presence of a huge Gothic cathedral, and an art museum, it still feels like a pretty provincial market town, stretching along the banks of the river Odet, which is criss-crossed by flower-bedecked little footbridges. For most of the year, it’s a pleasant place to stroll, snack and shop – especially for the local glazed, hand-painted faience pottery and for a week each July it comes alive during the Festival de Cornouaille, a celebration of Breton music and traditions.
The Récré des Trois Curés amusement park (Milizac)
This amusement park is located near to Breast and is the perfect family day out. There are plenty of attractions to choose from with the slides, giant trampolines, 1900s merry-go-round, Niagara ride, boat rides, mini farm, Pirate ship and teacups. The 25 metre high Big Wheel opened in 2008 provides a breathtaking view over the entire park. What’s more, it’s popular with young and old alike. Once you’re in the gondola, you’ll be softly cradled upwards on a peaceful ride. Spend a whole day at the park to really make the most of the place. You’ll find many picnic areas as well as wooded areas offering a stroll in the shade.
The Aquashow: Aquarium & Bird Display (Audierne)
The whole family can explore the deep blue seas of Brittany here at the aquarium, with tanks which include sharks, shellfish, conger eel, cuttlefish and octopus. There are 160 species to see in over 50 tanks and there are also touch-tanks, giant aquarium tanks and exhibitions. The Aquashow is also a great way to see the world of birds in an amazing 45 minute experience that’s unique in Brittany. It includes estuary birds, nocturnal birds of prey and daytime birds that fly past you just inches from your head! The highlight of the show is the underwater hunt of the great cormorant. After your visit, enjoy a drink and a bite to eat on the terrace on stilts right by the water’s edge. The Aquashow is a two and a half hour visit that’s fun and educational. It’s ideal for all the family and is located a short distance from the Pointe Du Raz on the banks of the River Goyen.
Amoripark Amusement Park (Bégard)
This amusement park offers all sorts of attractions which toddlers will love. Toddlers should try the “Jumping House”, and all the family will enjoy the pedal-karts, go-karts and mini-golf. 7 to 12 year-olds will love the “Vertigo” playground and the “Luge d’été” (summer sledges) which are lots of fun. There are also pedal boats, bumper boats, human table-football, bouncy castles, the Aquacenter, Pentogliss (six 25 metre slides) Not to mention the farm animals including donkeys, cows and goats.
Aquarium des Curieux de Nature (Belle-Isle-en-Terre)
This aquarium will certainly not disappoint. Conceived by the environmental protection organisation ‘Eaux et Rivières de Bretagne’, it’s been designed with families and children in mind. The flora and fauna of Brittany’s rivers can be viewed in 10 aquariums spread across an area of more than 200 square metres. See watchful pikes and massive carp, striped perches and wriggling eels, gleaming silver salmon. The aquarium also has games, films and a host of other fun and educational activities.
Corbac Park, Amusement & Water Park (Lanhélin, Ille et Vilaine)
Cobac Park, near Saint-Malo, provides around thirty different including a roller-coaster ride, merry-go-round, train, rope bridge and more for all the family to enjoy. And for those who enjoy water, Aqua’Fun Park has no fewer than 10 water-chutes. And for those who are really brave there are slides with two-seater rubber-rings, the giant wave chute, the river rapids and the new Super Crater which will blow your mind. Toddlers can play in the water-games area with its coloured chutes, water-jets and cascades. There is also a bouncy castle and 12 hectares of greenery where toddlers can run around.
Fort La Latte
Cap Fréhel, a windswept peninsula with views over the Emerald Coast and Channel Islands. Here you can cross a drawbridge to the 14th-century Fort-la-Latte and explore the fort with its turrets.
The Tregastel Aquarium
The Tregastel Aquarium (Trégastel, Côtes-d’Armor) is located on the Cote de Granit Rose and displays not only the wonderful diversity of marine life, but also the phenomenon of the tides. It is housed in an exceptional location, among pink granite rocks, in a place which has been used over the years as a chapel, an arms depot during the war, for human habitation and as a museum. Using an interactive terminal the visit takes on the rhythm of the tides. At the end of the visit, after you have found your way through the maze of natural rocks, you will arrive at the top of the site, under the “Père Éternel” rock, from whence you will have a simply stunning view of the Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast).
The wonderful walled town of Dinan, just 25km south of Dinard and close to St Malo has managed to preserve many of its charms intact. Stroll along the ramparts, meander down its cobbled streets with their exquisite 15th-century timber-frame houses, and savour a glass of wine by its pretty river port. Every second July Dinan hosts the famous Fête des Remparts, when locals don medieval garb and hold banquets.
The walled city of St-Malo boasts a great array of hotels and restaurants, a profusion of history and charm along with a wonderful sandy beach. Simply step through the ancient gateways piercing its ramparts, and you’re on a huge expanse of golden sand, with shallow sheltered swimming. Older babies and toddlers will love the Petit Train. The circuit takes 30 minutes, and a full commentary is provided telling you all about the French East India Company and famous corsairs, pirates and explorers of the region. Board the train opposite the Porte Saint-Vincent gate, right by the tourist office at the foot of the castle and its ramparts. The St Malo Aquarium is great for toddlers and they will be able to discover life under the ocean waves in total immersion. In the Underwater viewing tunnel you will be surrounded by sharks and giant turtles.
Branfere Animal Park and Botanical Garden (Le Guerno)
This park has over 1,000 animals, originating from all five continents and roaming freely: giraffes, zebras, oryx, hippopotamus, otters, lemurs, wolves, red pandas, primates and many more, in an outstanding landscaped setting. Explore the parcabout®, an innovative ecological concept consisting of a high-level walkway with more than 17,000 square metres of netting up in the trees. Don’t miss the aerial ballet, a unique bird display. Lots of other presentations are provided by the Nicolas Hulot School to help you gain a better understanding and respect for the natural world. And when the time comes for a little break for something to eat, you have the choice between the Nature Restaurant with its panoramic views, the Plane Tree Bar or else the African Plains Crêperie.
Castle of the Dukes of Brittany – Nantes History Museum (Nantes, Loire Atlantique)
This Breton monument has 5 centuries of history and is the last château on the banks of the Loire before the ocean. Its wonderful buildings, dating from the 15th and 17th centuries, will take you on a truly magical voyage through the history of Brittany. The fortress contains a residential palace with fine façades and Renaissance loggias. Inside the ducal palace is the historical museum, with its very contemporary decor. The 850 exhibits, together with many multimedia items, invite you to immerse yourself in the extraordinary history of Nantes, the capital of the Dukes of Brittany, the place where the Edict of Nantes was signed under Henri IV, a major Atlantic port for trade with the colonies and the slave trade from the 17th century onwards, a flourishing industrial city in the 19th and 20th centuries, and today a cultural and artistic metropolis. Toddlers will love the gardens but bring a baby carrier if you can for touring the inside of the castle. There is a restaurant located in the tower known as the Vieux Donjon (the old keep) and there is also a souvenir shop and bookshop.
Carnac may look like a perfectly ordinary little Breton village, but amazingly enough archeologists consider it to be the oldest inhabited settlement in Europe. Head to the rolling heathlands immediately north where you will see long, mysterious rows of standing stones, which were erected in lines long before the pyramids of Egypt. Tucked away in the woods are ancient burial mounds. Carnac also boasts magnificent beaches, making it a prime destination for families.
Vannes is located to the South of the region and is worth visiting for its history and its ancient buildings and fortress. The historic centre, ramparts, Place Henri IV and jardin de ramparts are all worth seeing. Cornleau Beach is also in the town and is a lovely sandy beach, safe for swimming. At the Aquarium & Amusement Park (Morbihan) you can enjoy the company of clown fish, sea horses, surgeonfish, seahorses from the Gulf of Morbihan, crocodiles from the Nile, electric eels , piranhas from the Amazon, sharks, turtles from the coral reefs. From the Gulf of Morbihan to the Red Sea, passing through the Amazon and the Pacific Ocean, you plunge into three different aquatic worlds to discover these treasures of nature.
Golfe de Morbihan
There’s said to be an island for every day of the year in the Golfe de Morbihan, the almost entirely landlocked “little sea” that eats into Brittany’s southern coast. This is a wonderful place to explore by boat. The walled town of Vannes, at the inland end of the gulf, is worth visiting in its own right, home to lively bars and restaurants as well as a modern aquarium, but it’s also the home port for a wide array of boat trips both around the gulf and out into the open sea beyond. Prime destinations include minuscule Gavrinis, topped by a megalithic step-pyramid that conceals an ancient tomb, and the largest of the islands, the Île aux Moines, which holds a couple of hotels and some fantastic beaches.
The Butterfly Garden (Vannes)
Let the humid heat of the tropical climate sweep you away, the heady scent of exotic flowers go to your head and watch the amazing sight of butterflies flying freely around you. Here you’ll discover the lives of these marvellous creatures in their dense jungle of plants and orchids. What could be more magical than seeing a caterpillar metamorphosing into a chrysalis and finally turning into a magnificent butterfly? You can watch the transformation right before your eyes in the hatching unit. You’ll also see butterflies mate and lay their eggs on the stalks of tropical plants, eggs which will become caterpillars in their turn.
Ille de Vilaine
Haute Bretagne Floral Garden (Le Chatellier)
Originally designed in 1847, it is, according to the Michelin Guide, “one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens in France”. This park has 21 themed gardens and as many different worlds: from prehistoric to contemporary, there is something for everyone. The Persian garden, the antique city, starry nights garden, garden of the setting sun, to name but a few. This is an amazing botanical universe where the kids can discover a prehistoric garden complete with its own T-Rex, three mazes and a Minotaur, and just across the hanging bridge, the lair of the carnivorous plants. If you want to have time to see everything you’ll need at least three hours. The park is accessible for strollers.
Fôret de Paimpont
At the heart of this woods was said to lay the enchanted forest of Brocéliande, home to Merlin the magician and supposed site of the Fountain of Eternal Youth. What’s left of that mythic landscape is now the Forest of Paimpont, southwest of Rennes. It’s considerably less wild these days, but from the lakeside village of Paimpont itself you can still enjoy some superb walking routes.
Labyrinth Gardens at La Ballue Chateaux (Bazouges-la-Perouse)
Several kilometers from the Mont-Saint-Michel, this Baroque garden holds a number of surprises for visitors. Situated between Antrain and Bazouges-La-Pérouse, the Jardin de La Ballue is in fact a huge labyrinth with enchanted gardens filled with surprises including grove to musical grove, the fragranced grove and the open air theatre or ‘the temple of Diana. The different green rooms create a variety of surprising scenes further enhanced by the visual effects of the ever changing light. The gardens were created by the architects François-Hébert Stevens and Paul Maymont in the pure mannerist style, a Renaissance movement that aimed to inspire emotions in the visitor.
Mont Saint Michel
Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights. Set in the mesmerising bay where Normandy and Brittany merge, the island draws the eye from great distances. The staggering location has long inspired awe and the imagination. Aubert, bishop of the nearby hilltop town of Avranches early in the 8th century, claimed that the Archangel Michael himself pressured him into having a church built atop the island just out to sea. If you are travelling there with babies or toddlers, you can park at the Mont car park and walk across the causeway into the town. There are a lot of hills and steps however so bring a fold up stroller if possible or take a baby carrier, older toddlers will love the labyrinth of streets and won’t even notice the climb. There are a lot of tourists around in the summer months, so make sure you bring a harness or keep a close eye on little ones.
The Bourbansais Estate Zoo (Pleugueneuc, Ille et Vilaine)
Babies and toddlers alike will love the Bourbansais Estate. As well as the usual zoo animals – lions, panthers, tigers and parrots – you’ll discover some rare and unusual animals at La Bourbansais, like meerkats, wallabies, marabou stork, anteaters and even Watusi cattle. What’s more, this year the zoo launched a new walk through 4000 sq. metres of woodland where you can observe three species of lemurs, Madagascar’s emblematic animal. There are also two shows to see at the park: hunting with birds of prey and the “Fidèle meute”, or faithful hounds, a demonstration in which 50 French tricolour hounds take part. And if you have time, make sure you visit the château. Built in the 16th century on the site of a former Gallo-Roman villa, this former residence of members of the Parliament of Brittany – renovated in the 18th century – is one of the region’s most beautiful chateaux.
You need not venture far from the ferry to find the best family friendly beaches. Brittany has endless stretches of sandy beaches which are perfect for babies and toddlers. You can swim in the water from June to September and many of the beaches have plenty of cafes and shops nearby where you can buy food for a picnic or enjoy lunch. Finistiere is dotted with child friendly, sheltered beaches with changing areas and restairants a plenty. Most of the campsites in this region will be a short drive to a beach.
Other great beach options in Brittany include the Plage du Prieuré (Ile de Vilaine, Dinard) where there is a special kids beach. The beach is nestled at the end of Port-Breton Bay and offers a great view of Saint-Malo’s walled town (‘Ville Clos’). When the tide is out you can use the open-air swimming pool so you don’t have to walk too far for a swim. The Plage de L’Ecluse (Dinard) is close to the town centre and is Dinard’s main beach. It is very popular throughout the year and is close to shops, the Olympic-sized swimming pool and lots of café terraces. Plage de Rockroum (Roscoff) faces west and has a wide range of facilities. There is a diving platform, showers, amphibious chairs and a paddling pool. The nearby shops and bars help to make it a lively place in summer. Plage de Bon Secours is located in St Malo and is probably the area’s most popular beach, with its open-air, seawater swimming pool and its exceptional, panoramic views over the cliffs of Grand Bé and Petit Bé, Dinard and Cap Fréhel.
Rainy Day Attractions
Océanopolis (above), near Brest, is one of the region’s best-loved attractions and is ideal for a rainy day. It is stroller friendly and has a restaurant offering high chairs and kid friendly dishes. The emphasis is on education, with four ocean pavilions covering Temperate, Polar, Tropical and Biodiversity.
In and around the pretty village of Lizio are fabulous family attractions. Top of the list is the Scrap Metal Poet in La Ville Stéphant, a collection of magical, moving sculptures. At the Insect Museum, kids can meet the Black Widow spider that bit Spider-Man.
For a more family focused activity, why not visit the largest of the Breton islands, Belle-Île, which is readily accessible by ferry (high-speed, in summer) from Quiberon and other south-coast ports. The main town and port, Le Palais, stands on the sheltered land-facing side, guarded by a mighty star-shaped fortress, while smaller Sauzon is a few miles west. Rent a bike or car and you can explore the whole island in a day and visit its secluded sandy beaches in the north to the wild and rugged southern coastline.
Ile de Sein
An hour out to sea from Audierne in Southern Brittany, you come to a tiny sliver of land, home to a low huddled village and a solitary lighthouse. At high tide, this gloriously isolated spot, so far from the mainstream that it’s said to have been the last outpost of pre-Roman paganism in France, seems in danger of disappearing altogether. Visit for a day, and you’ll get a real sense of its ongoing traditions; better still, spend a night here, and leave modern Europe far behind.