A resort of ports, fishing and beaches
As the name suggests, Saint-Quay-Portrieux is all about the sea and the boats that sail on it - and that’s obvious when you see all the evidence of the shellfish trade here. Thanks to its coast, beaches and offshore islands, it has also been a popular seaside resort since the 19th century, sheltering against the rocky shores of Saint-Brieuc Bay.
Two ports and hundreds of boats
It was the schooners of the so-called ‘terre-neuvas’ – the fishermen that set off to fish the Newfoundland waters every year – that really carved out the town’s character as a port back in the 18th century. The dry harbour, known as Portrieux, or Vieux Port (Old Port), and the charming little alleyways tightly packed with cottages, are typical of an authentic Breton harbour. If they don’t want to wait for the tide, fishing and pleasure boats can moor at Saint Quay Port d’Armor – northern Brittany’s biggest deep-water harbour, accessible all day and all night. Meanwhile, holidaymakers can wander along the sea wall to the sound of the lapping water and gently clinking halyards of the boats. You might also want to take a trip on a vintage sailboat to the isle of Bréhat, or see the high cliff-faces of Plouha.
The kingdom of the scallop!
The quays are a hive of activity when the shellfish, mackerel and sea-bass are being unloaded. It’s particularly busy between November and April, during the coquille Saint-Jacques (king scallop) fishing season - this mollusc, that goes by the Latin name ofpecten maximus, is the star of both the fish market auction and the local restaurants. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy this pearl of the bay, brought to you by fishermen and chefs straight from sea to plate. There’s even a festival in its honour in April, and it includes sea trips, tasting sessions and concerts: make the most of it!
Beaches of many colours
As well as being a port town, Saint-Quay is also a pretty seaside resort with beautiful beaches and peaceful shores. Plage du Casino beach deserves its reputation. It has a floating diving board and a seawater swimming pool. Plage du Châtelet beach is in a sheltered spot right behind a rocky headland, and the views from Plage de la Comtesse beach across to the boats and yachts sailing towards the port is something really special. The sand on the beaches changes colour depending on the tide and the sunshine – this is due to the presence of black ilmenite crystals in the sand: a unique and stunning sight!
Conquer the land on foot or by paddle
On the Isle of La Comtesse, anchored opposite the beach of the same name, you’ll find gardens and the remains of a manor house. It’s easily reached at low tide, and really worth a visit. On the mainland, the GR34 coastal path rises up to the top of the Pointe du Sémaphore, opening out onto a panoramic view across the bay. The trail continues towards Portrieux in one direction and the beaches and shores of Grève Saint-Marc in the other. The azure-blue waves are dotted with little islets that are great fun to explore by kayak or boat, and Harbour island is crowned by a lighthouse. The islands off St Quay are heaven for collecting shellfish during the famous spring tides – so get across there and enjoy the atmosphere and the fauna and flora!