This guide to Cancale covers the port town, how to get there and things to see nearby.
Ask any local in Brittany about Cancale and it won’t be long before the conversation steers onto one subject. Oysters. These molluscs are the raison d’etre of this fishing port/resort and bring thousands flocking to the excellent seafood restaurants found in the town.
Cancale has an ancient association with oysters dating back to the Roman era. Famous figures with a past predilection include Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Travel east along the coast from St-Malo and the Bay of St-Michel opens up beyond the rocky Pointe du Grouin. Cancale is the first town encountered on the Bay at just under 15 km from St-Malo.
There are no trains to the town so non-car drivers must make use of the bus service from St-Malo. These arrive in the church square above the port.
Cancale has an enviable setting looking westward across the Bay of Mont St-Michel with the famous Mont a tiny speck on the horizon when visibility is good. It divides neatly in two with the old Upper Town on the hill and the Port de la Houle down below consisting of a single line of houses, hotels and restaurants arranged along the waterfront.
The oyster beds are located at the northern end of the town immediately beyond the main jetty with each farmer owning a framed section of the seabed. These vary in size and are clearly visible at low tide.
As well as sampling this delicacy in the numerous port and town restaurants it is also possible to buy from the oyster stalls located on the jetty. Here, a dozen will cost around 7 EUR.
For those with a thirst for knowledge about oysters in addition to the usual appetite, a trip to Ferme Marine, a working oyster farm, is recommended. Situated around 500m to the south of Cancale, visitors can take a guided tour of the farm. There is also an exhibition and shop.
The church of St Meen, on the hill, has been converted into the Musee des Arts et Traditions Populaires. Apart from the topic of oyster farming this also covers the maritime history of the town, including the long range fishing expeditions to Newfoundland.
The Rocher de Cancale and Ile des Rimains are two distinctive rocky islets just to the north of Cancale. The latter was fortified after Cancale was attacked by the British Navy in the late 18th century.
A couple of miles further north, the craggy Pointe du Grouin gives splendid views to both the east and west. The area is a haven for wildlife and as well as the appearance of dolphins in the summer there is a bird sanctuary on the Ile des Landes, a short distance offshore.
Just before Pointe du Grouin, the sandy cove at Port-Mer hosts a smattering of bars and restaurants.