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Fort des Dunes © JL Burnod

Dunkirk and the dunes of Flanders

An enchanting world of dunes ⏳

Set out on a fascinating journey from Dunkirk to Bray-Dunes, on the Belgium-France border, and watch nature unveil its most well-kept secrets along the way. Just imagine 15 kilometres of sandy beaches, over 1,000 hectares of preserved natural environment and an exceptional dune ecosystem, unique in France. As well as being one of nature’s remarkable wonders, the dunes of Flanders also bear the hallmarks of history, with numerous military vestiges dotted along the coast.

To preserve the unique spirit of this place, the Grand Site des Dunes de Flandre project was launched in 2012. Its goal? To obtain the prestigious Grand Site de France label and stand alongside the other iconic sites on the Vélomaritime cycle route, such as Grand Site de la Baie de Somme, Grand Site des Deux-Caps, Grand Site Cap d'Erquy - Cap Fréhel.

Find out more about the Grand Site des Dunes de Flandre project

Protected coastal dunes – Dewulf, Marchand and Perroquet

The coastal dunes of Flanders form a unique ecosystem, home to a wide variety of protected fauna and flora, including the natterjack toad, the grayling butterfly and several species of orchid. The coastal area here is also on an important migratory route used by birds from the north-west of Europe. Lend your ear and see if you can hear the call of the nightingale carried on the springtime breeze. And why not take your binoculars to spot a flock of common terns on the shoreline? These birds flying from Africa stop over in the North Sea before flying on to the Arctic circle.  

This exceptional place is also home to almost 400 species of plant - what a paradise for botanical enthusiasts! Marram grass and sea-buckthorn thrive here, adding vibrant touches of colour and life to this preserved natural landscape. If you are passionate about plants, outings are organised by a local nature association, Centre Permanent d'Initiatives pour l'Environnement de la Flandre Maritime, inviting you to discover the secret life of edible and medicinal wild dune plants.

A place marked by major historical events

A walk through the dunes is also a journey back in time. The yellow buoys out at sea mark the resting places of shipwrecks from the Second World War, silently bearing witness to Operation Dynamo. The Museum of Dunkirk 1940 - Operation Dynamo, Fort des Dunes, Ferme Nord, Zuydcoote battery in Leffrinckoucke and other blockhouses, bunkers and shipwrecks dotted along the shore, as well as the military cemeteries, are all well-preserved vestiges, waiting to tell the fascinating story of times gone by. These places are a unique window to the past, inviting you to delve into the heroic yet tragic events that have marked this coastal region


Parcours à la carte

Must-visit places around Dunkirk and the dunes of Flanders:

  • The dunes of Dewulf (Leffrinckoucke), Perroquet (Bray-Dunes) and Marchand – the only national nature reserve in northern France
  • The seaside resort of Malo-les-Bains and its villas from the Belle Époque
  • The Zuydcoote battery and the Fort des Dunes museum and memorial in Leffrinckoucke
  • The shipwrecks at Bray-Dunes
  • The blockhouses along the shore between Leffrinckoucke and Zuydcoote
  • The Museum of Dunkirk 1940 – Operation Dynamo 

✅ Things to do as you pedal around Dunkirk and the dunes of Flanders

☐ Go back in time to 1940 and Operation Dynamo in the Museum of Dunkirk
☐ Hoist your sails and try out kite surfing or land yachting
☐ Explore the shipwrecks with an expert guide
☐ Visit Dunkirk’s contemporary art centre
☐ Walk through the dunes and savour the show of colours as you gaze towards the beautiful northern skyline

ℹ️ Practical information

Locating Dunkirk and the dunes of Flanders on the map
Nestling on the northernmost tip of France, Dunkirk, Flanders and the Opal Coast are at the heart of Europe, only 3-5 hours by train from five major European capitals (London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Luxembourg).

Towns near the dunes of the Flanders
The main towns are Bray-Dunes, Dunkirk, Leffrinckoucke and Zuydcoote.

Staying in the area around Dunkirk and the dunes of Flanders.
There are plenty of places to stay around Dunkirk and the dunes of Flanders Campsites, hotels, B&Bs, gîtes or private rentals – the choice is yours.

🔗 Find cycle friendly accommodation near Dunkirk and the dunes of Flanders