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Rouen to Caen by car?

Hi there! My boyfriend and I are renting a car in Rouen and hoping to take a scenic route to Caen on Monday, June 16th. I was thinking of driving to Etretat and working our way down the coast by Le Havre, Honfleur, and Deauville before dropping our car off in Caen that evening. Would you recommend this route or something different? What things would you plan to stop and see throughout the day? We will be taking a full D Day tour the next day from Bayeux.

Posted by
9110 posts

You're looking at a good four hours mainly caused by Etretat. You don't want to nose around in Le Havre unless you're wild about industrial cities. You could get held up by traffic getting onto the Normandy Bridge.

Maybe cross the river coming out of Rouen and scoot on down to Honfleur which is a good food stop and worth a couple or three hours of wandering. It'd cut the total driving time to a bit less than two hours.

Unless you want to see Rouen and Honfleur, and assuming you're taking the train up to Rouen from Paris, the whole project seems a pain in the tail - - but, it's certainly the only practical way to see both. The drives aren't that scenic - - it's mostly freeway.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for the help! We really want to see Etretat, even though it is a bit out of the way. On the map, it looks like road d513 starting in Honfleur would be more scenic but I wasn't sure if we would miss things going this route.

Posted by
6353 posts

I drove a similar route (from Amiens to Bayeux) with stops in Etretat and Honfleur but bypassing Le Havre (as Ed mentioned a very industrial city). I enjoyed my stop in Etretat a lot, climbed the cliffs and had a picnic lunch on the beach watching the sailboats and dinghies going out to the rock, I thought it was well worth the detour. And Honfleur was amazing! A must for any fan of the Impressionists.

Posted by
9110 posts

Then have at it. There's nothing wrong with Etretat at all, in fact it's pretty nice. It just seemed a bit out of the way.

Keep the 513 in your hip pocket until you see how you're doing for time coming out of Honlfleur. It'd be easy to burn another three hours in some of the smaller villages, but it sure beats the freeway.

Posted by
6 posts

Good idea. Thanks! We can take the quickest route from Etretat to Honfleur and see how much time we end up spending from there.

Posted by
266 posts

The trouble with visiting Etretat is that you will not want to leave! You'll get to the beach and then will have to decide which trail you want to hike. You can drive up to the top of the one with the Chapelle Notre Dame and hike along there, which my husband and I did a few years back, but I always wondered what the other trail near the golf course would be like. Honfleur is worth stopping - perhaps for lunch - so I would take the quickest route from Etretat to Honfleur. From Honfleur we drove through the country roads stopping at Pierre Huet in Cambremer for a calvados tasting and English tour. Somewhat scenic drive but you will enjoy Etretat and Honfleur so much more. We did not go to Deauville as we were driving from Honfleur to Bayeux that day.

Posted by
1547 posts

Including Étretat in your itinerary is not a bad idea, north of Le Havre are the white cliffs along the sea coast with spectacular (some places are really dangerous) views, it's worth the detour. Can’t recommend a scenic route to Le Havre as I stayed in 2005 north of Étretat.
Le Havre is an industrial place, but nevertheless the city centre is UNESCO listed, if modern urban architecture interests you, consider a visit.
Pont de Normandie offers great views of the bay of the Seine, as the hills just south of it for overlooking the estuary. I have followed the D315 from Deauville to Honfleur a few years back and it’s absolutely gorgeous. This direction is best for views of the estuary, so you will have to make a few stops.
On the way further to Caen is Beuvron-en-Auge certainly worth a visit. Best is to explore the area for finding hidden places, there is always a surprise around the corner is my experience, so make use of the car as much as possible.

Posted by
16866 posts

Sounds like you have some good advice. Happy driving!

Posted by
1547 posts

A good help to plan the scenic itineraries are the Michelin Departements France maps in this case nr. 303 Calvados, Manche with lots of touristic info. For scenic routes follow the green lined roads. Maps are easy to get at petrol sations and supermarkets, scale is 1/150.000 and costs around 6 euro's. Best to get one at home and practise a bit with google streetview.