We are spending one day and night in Dinan, per Rick's recommendation. I checked Maps and it is only about 45 minutes from Dinan to Saint-Malo. Is there enough to see and do in St. Malo to justify an overnight stay after such a short drive, or should we just pass through? Our next destination is Mont St-Michel. Thanks for your input.
I loved Saint-Malo and spent 3 nights there on a Road Scholar tour. We only spend a few hours in Dinan but I liked Saint-Malo much better. I loved watching the tides ebb and flow...they are so big there. I loved walking out to the small islets when the tide receded as well as walking the walls of the town. The cathedral there holds the remains of Jacques Cartier, the explorer, who's Dad used to go fish the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in the late 1400s (per the local guide). There were a number of things I did not get to during my visit.
From Saint-Malo, drive thru Cancale to MSM. If you enjoy oysters this is apparently the place to eat them. We went to a stall on the edge of the shore where several seafood purveyors set up. One member of our group was actually an oyster farmer from the NE and he approved of the oysters. I'm vegan so not my thing.
I'm not sure what you're asking. Are you considering staying in St.-Malo instead of Dinan, or are you thinking of adding a night in St-Malo, for a total of two in that area? I would certainly not switch hotels to stay in two towns so very close together, creating back-to-back one-night stops, but then I don't travel by car, so I don't face parking issues.
I stayed in St-Malo, sort of on the outskirts, because I was heading out by early-morning ferry. During my time there I visited both Dinan and Dinard, which is right across the river from St.-Malo. St-Malo was the most touristy of the three by a considerable margin at the time of my visit (July 2017). It is picturesque, but I'd find one of the other two places more congenial as a place to stay. Personally, I liked Dinan the most, but walking the wall at St-Malo is a fun experience.
I also liked Rennes and the smaller Fougeres and Vitres, but they are not on the path from Dinan to Mont-St-Michel.
We stopped in St Malo and spent a few hours there on the way to MSM. Spending the night there really depends on how it would fit into your itinerary. We got there in time for lunch, galettes of course, then spent a couple of hours walking on the walls and walking out to the islets. We also made sure to stop and get ice cream at Sanchez which our Normandy guide highly recommended and which we definitely approved of! Parking is very easy if you follow the RS guide. We then drove to MSM via the scenic route through Cancale (RS guide again) but didn’t stop for oysters since neither of us are oyster fans. We wanted to arrive in MSM with enough time to walk around the island when the daytrippers were gone and then visited the island again in the morning for the Abbey. Shuttles run till midnight so that’s not a problem.
Since St Malo is only 45 minutes from Dinan, you can easily spend the day there before heading out to MSM in the late afternoon/early evening. This will save you the hassle of the packing/unpacking of one night stays.
Ideas for seeing as much as possible in the area without a car. We have done rural travel with cars in the past but my husband is no longer able to drive and I don't want to. We will head for St. Malo for a few nights probably and would like to visit some other areas. Dinard and Dinan we can do by bus easily, but what about other places? Has anyone done Carnac without a car for the archeological sites? We don't need MSM as we have done that before, but would be interested in other interesting stops. Should we build in Rennes? We are doing this as a side trip from Paris. Should we. plan a day in Rennes on the train back? Would appreciate any ideas for any of this from people who have done this.
Janet--yes, do Rennes. As for Carnac, I checked rome2rio and found the following for Carnac from Rennes. Hope this helps others who are without a car in the area.
Take the train from Rennes to Auray, where you'd need a taxi or Uber to get to Carnac site, 8.7 km away. Be sure to go on line and reserve the taxi for your arrival since it's such a small train station.
Returning by taxi to Auray, you could take the train back to Rennes or go on to Vannes, which is much closer to Auray and has TVG service back to Paris, as well. Or, if train service is spotty, you could take a taxi from Carnac to Vannes, 26 km.
In addition to basing in St.-Malo (Dinard, Dinan), I also stayed in Rennes, side-tripping to Fougeres and Vitre. Each side-trip was on a separate day. All were done by train or bus. Fougeres and Vitre do get tourists, but they are much less visited than St-Malo/Dinard/Dinan. The folks on the streets in the Rennes historic district mostly seemed to be French.
I stayed in Dinan for 2 nites, great town! Leaving town I drove to St. Malo in the morning, walked around for a couple of hours, on to Cancale for lunch, and then to MSM. Arrived about 3pm just as crowds were starting to thin, which is what Rick suggests. I did not think I missed anything by not staying the nite in St. Malo although of course preferences differ.
As I said earlier in an other topic, I spend 2 weeks in Brittany with my wife a year ago. We choose to stay in Dol de Bretagne, which is a pretty little town, medieval looking and close to everything.
You're at 20 minutes from MSM by bus, Dinan and Saint Malo by train, and 30-40 minutes from Rennes by train too. Combourg is close to Dol and it could be a nice visit too (Chateaubriands castle stands here). You're pretty close to Normandie by car or bus as well.
In my opinion it's the better junction to base in if you want to see a lot of things in Brittany.
I went the other way. After MSM I slept in Cancale. I arrived in St. Malo about 9 am before continuing on to Dinan. I stayed roughly four or five hours in St. Malo - walked the walls, ate lunch and did a short stroll through town stopping at a few shops that looked interesting. I also took off my shoes and waded in the water on the beach a little bit. I didn't see the museum because I didn't feel I had time. The tide wasn't out so I didn't walk out to the little fortified islands (which I would have really liked).
How much time to spend really depends on you. Do you like shopping? If so, you could spend a lot of time in town. It's packed with various boutiques. Are you interested in history? You could spend several hours at the museum. Do you want to enjoy the beach? St. Malo has one of the nicest beaches I found in the area, a rare sandy beach where most are pebbles. If you won't see the tides anywhere else, you may want to see both high and low tides while you're in St. Malo. I thought I was going to be at Mt. St. Michel because the tides were especially big with a large moon. I was there for a high tide that closed the road, but the low tide I planned was after dark and cloud cover precluded being able to see anything - so I settled for seeing some of the tide change from a restaurant with a nice view in Cancale (until it got too dark). Many of the ports are upriver and have underwater damns (at high tide) to keep the water at a decent level for boats at anchor.