Brittany is blessed with islands and islets–over 800 of them–big, small, inhabited, isolated and everything in between. While Belle-Ile is probably the best known, northern Brittany also has its jewels! The Ile de Bréhat is a gem worth visiting and a great day trip! Located off the Côte de Granite Rose (the Pink Granite Coastline), Bréhat is close to Paimpol and visible from the coast. In order to get to the island, you need to take the ferry from Pointe de l’Arcouest in Paimpol. Be forwarned that the free parking lot fills up very quickly; three other lots exist but you will be paying for the honor of leaving your car for the day. It’s a quick 10-minute trip to Port Clos and a perfect introduction to a ferry ride for small children. Les Vedettes de Bréhat offers regular ferry service year round. Adults are 9€, children 3 and under are free (yay!), while those 4-11 pay 7.50€. If you’re coming with small children, bring your stroller–the island is stroller-friendly. While you might have to carry it briefly to get on and off the ferry especially depending on the tides, this is a minor inconvenience compared to carrying your sleepy child for half the afternoon. A beach towel (or two) is also worth adding to your backpack–remember you’re going to an island and there’s always a beach somewhere!
Bréhat is car-free and all your exploring will be done on foot or by bike. Even the best little walker will eventually tire out and while baby-carriers are nice, I’ve found that my kids take longer naps in a stroller. You can also bring your bike along for 15€ if you leave before 9:30 a.m. and come back by 4 p.m. Bike rental is also available on the island for a reasonable price. Not all routes are open to bicycles and I found exploring on foot a better option. There are over 30 km worth of paths to follow although most people end up doing a loop from the bottom to the top. This island is only 3.5km by 1.5 km long. Spending the day gives you plenty of time to explore the entire island without feeling rushed. Don’t go to Bréhat expecting lots of must-see sights–come for the stunning views, beautiful gardens and a chance to get some fresh air. As you can guess, Bréhat is a popular summer destination. We’ve always gone slightly off-season in the spring or in early fall–nice weather and no crowds.
Le Bourg is Bréhat’s little town–basically a small square where you can find the post office, cash machine, a couple of café/restaurants and the tourist office. Pick up a copy of the island map. Bréhat is too small to truly get lost but the map will still help you decide which footpaths to follow. Also, take advantage of the bathrooms here. Walking around the island, you will not easily find public restrooms, a slight problem when traveling with a toddler. (Bring a changing pad and you can easily change a baby just about anywhere.) That said, there are a number of little crêperies and tea rooms on the island and, if you plan a little, you can avoid any unpleasant moments. You can picnic in Bréhat but we chose to eat at a local crêperie and only brought snacks with us.
Bréhat is actually made up of two islands that are linked with a bridge. I have to admit that I didn’t even notice the moment when we crossed from the southern to the northern island. Vauban, France’s great 17th century military engineer, is responsible for the bridge (Pont ar Prad). The Phare du Paon (Paon lighthouse) is at the northernmost part of the island. The original lighthouse was built in 1855. It was destroyed by the Germans during WWII. The current lighthouse, built in 1952, is an automated copy of the original. While you can’t visit the inside, the views are great and it makes a nice goal for a morning walk. Stop and admire the beautiful pink granite that gives its name to the area. The rock formations are lovely and climbing on the boulders is always popular with children and adults alike. We walked from the port to the lighthouse in about 2.5 hours. This allowed Laura and Elise to walk when the wanted to and stop to admire flowers, cows, and anything that caught their attention along the way. Adults without children or those traveling with teenagers should be able to walk from one end of the island to the other in about 2 hours without feeling rushed. Lighthouse fans can also visit the Phare du Rosedo on their way back to Le Bourg. Like Paon lighthouse, it was destroyed and then rebuilt after the war.
Bréhat is also home to a glass-maker–La Verrerie du Fort. While I didn’t let them go into the boutique, Laura and Elise enjoyed watching the artisans at work. Admission is free outside of the main tourist season and nominal during the summer. Their glasswork is modern, impressive and a unique souvenir to take home for the more fortunate. We ended our day on the Plage du Guerzido on the southern half of the island. A quiet day, an easy day, but a nice change from our day to day life–the perfect walking daytrip!