There are numerous options depending on where you are starting from, where you are going, time, costs, sailing vs driving etc:

Dover – Calais/Dunkerque

the shortest sea crossing at 90 minutes or less – (slightly longer to Dunkerque) – frequent daily crossings – motorway access on both sides of the Channel:


a slightly longer crossing (4 hours). Dieppe is an ideal gateway into Normandy and central France. Dieppe is the closest French port to Paris and the Alabaster Coast is famous for its beauty (see our article on Dieppe)

Western Channel – Portsmouth/Plymouth

longer (6-7 hours) (and more expensive) crossings but more facilities onboard and good for western France and Brittany and avoid the need to drive around London. It also feels more like your holiday has begun already and the ports of arrival feel more “French”

  • Brittany Ferries (Portsmouth/Poole/Plymouth to Le Havre/Caen/Cherbourg/St Malo/Roscoff
  • DFDS (Portsmouth-Le Havre)

Western Channel – via Spain (for southwest France)

crossing takes 24 hours or more – with easy access to the Basque country and across the Pyrenees into S W France, Aquitaine, Biarritz etc, saving the long drive down through France and the need for overnight accommodation en route! (e.g. Calais to Biarritz is over 1000km!)

Brittany Ferries

  • Portsmouth/Plymouth to Santander/Bilbao – although you will land in Spain, this route can still cut driving times considerably if you are heading for Bordeaux and Southwest France!

For eastern or central France, especially from the North and East of the UK:

  • Hull – Zeebrugge or Rotterdam with P&O Ferries – although Zeebrugge is in Belgium and Rotterdam is in the Netherlands, with fast motorway links Zeebrugge is still only about 3.5 hours to Paris (306km), whereas Calais – Paris is 288km! and you avoid the M25 around London! And if you are heading to Eastern France if makes even more sense, avoiding both London and Paris!

or as an alternative try the Channel Tunnel

Frequent departures and no weather problems or delays – just 25 minutes in your own vehicle with no luggage restrictions, but can be more expensive than the ferry.

  • Eurotunnel (this is the tunnel train for vehicles) -Folkestone – Calais
  • for passenger trains from London and Ashford to Paris/Brussels and beyond see Eurostar
  • see our map of Gateways to France

other articles about cross-channel ferries:

reasons to choose a ferry rather than a flight (courtesy of Brittany Ferries)

Is the hassle of flying putting you off booking your next holiday? If you swap the skies for the sea there’s a raft of benefits to enjoy during your journey, as well as on holiday. Here are eight reasons why sailing with Brittany Ferries puts air travel in the shade.
Forget the endless queues, huge crowds, and labyrinthine check-in and security procedures. After showing Brittany Ferries boarding staff the tickets and passports – which doesn’t usually involve getting out of your car – simply drive on board.
Luggage restrictions
Most airlines restrict passengers to one piece of hold luggage (which has to be 23kg or less – expect additional fees if you’re over) and one piece of hand luggage. When you travel on a ferry there are no baggage restrictions, so you can take everything that fits into your car.
You could strap yourself into a rigid airline seat – leg-room on an economy flight seat averages a measly 12 inches – or stretch your legs and explore the ship. Accommodation for overnight crossings ranges from standard two- and four-berth cabins to Commodore cabins – complete with a flat-screen TV, twin beds, a sofa bed and complimentary continental breakfast, served in your cabin.
Time can really drag when you’re stuck in the same aeroplane seat, with limited views and free in-flight entertainment only available on long-haul flights. By contrast, as soon as you board Brittany Ferries your holiday starts. On-board entertainment includes live performances, stylish bars and movie theatres showing recent releases.
Food and Drink
As hard as they try to make meals tasty and exciting, airlines’ food is understandably limited. On board Brittany Ferries, French chefs create cuisine from fresh produce, much of it sourced locally from Brittany. Passengers can choose to dine in the a la carte or self-service restaurants, snack outlets or cafes, making their journey as smart or casual as they want … and not a tray table in sight.
Things to do
The reality of being stuck on a flight can soon take the edge off the kids’ excitement. Once the boredom threshold has been crossed, you could be in for a bumpy ride. On a ferry, they can explore play areas, games rooms, live entertainment and cinemas – and if you’re sailing on Brittany Ferries’ Pont-Aven or Cap Finistère, they can enjoy a splash in the onboard swimming pool.
Once a flight has finally touched down, there’s always further faffing with waiting for luggage, hire cars, taxis or a crowded transfer coach. Having your own car on a Brittany Ferries journey means you can travel onwards, rested and relaxed, all the way to your final destination in comfort.
Flying with pets is usually not an option. Brittany Ferries, however, offers its PETS travel scheme so you can holiday with your four-legged friends. As long as your pet has the relevant travel documentation, your dog can sail with you on any Brittany Ferries route to France or Spain (for a charge) Brittany Ferries

see our Top 30 vineyard B&Bs in France

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