We are going to be in Caen, Bayeux and Rouen this May. We'd like to know if the beaches are accessible (Juno, Omaha, etc.) at any time and can you walk them without a tour group?
We were at Omaha Beach in April 2012, and they were completely open to the public. No tour group needed! We had a lovely, moving stroll along the beach imagining what it must have been like that day.
I assume you're going to be using a rental car? The beaches are accessible but they're quite spread out so a car is a necessity. The front covered a distance of about 50 miles and extended some distance inland, so it's a huge area.
If you want a really good view of the history, I'd highly recommend taking one of the excellent local tours, even a half-day version. The guides are excellent and they can provide many facts that aren't well know (which they often learn from touring with veterans who were actually there). Are you interested in visiting any particular sites, or just having a general look at the area?
when i was there in 2012, they were open.
just a recommendation. When you go to Omaha, go during low tide to see how far and big that killing field was. Gave me goosebumps standing on the beach and seeing how far those soldiers had to go w/o any cover.
Thank you for the responses. We will be using a car and are spending a couple of nights at both Caen and Bayeux. I think these will make good starting points. Although we will walk all the beaches, being Canadians will make Juno the most special to us.
Which Canadian sites are you planning to visit in that area besides Juno Beach?
There are several other significant locations that I'd recommend seeing, including the Canadian cemetery at Beny sur Mer (which is actually inland and not close to the ocean as the name implies) and of course the Abbaye d' Ardenne. There are a number of other places that were important battle sites such as Authie, Putot en Bessin, Bretteville-L’Orgueilleuse, Le Mesnil Patry and Carpiquet but there's not really much point in visiting those without a Guide as you won't know what you're looking at.
Although it doesn't focus completely on the D-Day landings, Juno Beach Centre is worth at least a short look.
Don't miss the WWII museum in Caen, one of the best we've seen. It covers the war in Europe as a whole, with special attention to the Normandy landings including an excellent film. They recently opened up the German headquarters bunker below the museum, with exhibits about the defense. There's a separate Cold War section of the museum that was interesting but not as worthwhile we thought.
The beaches themselves are fully accessible. The cemeteries and museums, of course, have opening and closing hours.