A past packed full of salt and sardines!
The sea and legend come together at Douarnenez: the town is said to have sprung from the city of Ys, the domain of King Gradlon, whose treacherous daughter Dahut caused it to be swallowed up by the waters of the bay. But it was also a very real commercial port, exporting cloth produced in the region in around the 16th century. Its greatest period of prosperity was in the 19th century, when Douarnenez became one of the major centres of the sardine industry. Traces of these epic days still remain, in the old houses, the churches in Pouldavid and, above Rosmeur harbour, the workshops and the little houses where the fishermen lived. These colourful quaysides, that were once buzzing with the activities of fishing boats and canning factories, are now lined with cafés and restaurant terraces.
Traditional boats to visit
The best place to go to see authentic boats and tall ships from all over the world is the Port-Musée (maritime museum)! You’ll find it right next to Port-Rhu, the town’s oldest harbour. Five boats are at anchor in the wet dock and open to the public. There’s a lobster boat, a flat-bottomed freighter, a British tug, a barge and a Norwegian coaster. The kids will just love playing at being skipper!
It’s Treasure Island!
Opposite the maritime museum and the marina is the Isle of Tristan, an island that’s full of surprises. At low tide you can join a guided tour to discover this scrap of land that’s home to exotic botanical gardens, unexpected orchards, the remains of fortifications and a princesses’ house. It’s said that booty is still buried there! Your guide has lots of facts and funny anecdotes to tell you, and will show you the very best views of Douarnenez and the bay.
Head for Les Plomarch
Another place that specialises in panoramic views is the tiny village of Les Plomarch. Situated up on the cliffs, it has inspired many an artist and continues to attract walkers. The area around Plomarch, with its rocks, pine forests and mountain ridges, offers plenty of natural and architectural heritage. Its prettily-restored low cottages used to be the homes of fishermen. Your walk will take you to Roman remains and finally to the superb beach at Le Ris.
Beaches and bathing spots of all shapes and sizes!
The vast expanse of fine sand at Le Ris beach makes this the largest of Douarnenez’s four beaches. The Plage des Dames (Ladies’ Beach) is in the middle and is the most family-friendly. In the Tréboul district you have the Plage des Sables Blancs (White Sand beach), which is a good place for windsurfing and sailing catamarans or dinghies. Along the coastal path from there is Saint-Jean beach, which has a wilder aspect. Or if you fancy topping up the feel-good factor of your dip in the sea with the tonic effects of seawater heated to 31°C, head for the spa! You’ll find it just opposite the bay, and its large pool, water jets, wading river, sauna and hammam will definitely float your boat!