The Marais du Cotentin
et du Bessin
Regional Nature Park

Wetland walks in the middle of the marshes
Photo, © Xavier Lachenaud

These marshes change with the seasons and the tides, providing unique experiences for anyone that loves nature, flora and fauna. Cycling, boat trips, horse-riding, bird and seal watching, hiking, and much more. Different activities are on offer to help visitors to understand this unspoilt natural area and the need to protect it. The Regional Nature Park is increasingly turning towards responsible tourism and informing its visitors about the importance of environmental conservation.

Responsible activities and outings: take your pick!

The Marais du Bessin et du Cotentin Regional Nature Park stretches over two of the Normandy departments, Manche and Calvados. These wetlands are home to numerous plant and animal species, and encompass 30 000 hectares and 150 municipalities. Five rivers cross the marshes: the Douve, the Taute and the Vire, as well as the Aure, which flows into the bay of Les Veys, and the Ay, which empties into the tidal inlet at Saint-Germain-sur-Ay. There’s something for everyone in this vast area!
Discover the marshes from the water. You can enjoy different watersports on the rivers that flow through the Regional Nature Park, including canoeing and boat trips.

Canoeing and kayaking in the marshes

Different experiences are available for canoe and kayak enthusiasts: the perfect way to explore the heart of the marshes and to appreciate the tranquillity of the place. The outdoor leisure park in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte organises trips on the river Douve. You can choose between different options: one hour, a half day or a full day trip. The watersports club in Carentan-les-Marais also organises trips, ranging from 5 to 15 km. You can try stand up paddling on the river Douve with Kaya Pic, based in Picauville. Sunset outings are organised in summer. Enjoy a unique outdoor experience at the heart of the marshes!

Photo, © Xavier Lachenaud

The marshes by boat

If you fancy a river boat tour, head to the Bateliers des Marais du Cotentin. On board the “Rosée du Soleil”, different excursions are available: an evening aperitif cruise, a lunch cruise with local specialities, or a commented cruise.

To see the flora and fauna up close, you can hire an electric boat and explore the river Douve at your own pace (according to the water level, accessible from April to late October).


Photo, © Withaxie

The Belle de Carentan

Hop on board the “Belle de Carentan” for a boat tour in the bay of Les Veys. If you’re lucky, you might spot some harbour seals, which are often found in the marshes. You can also enjoy a sea excursion on the same boat. You’ll head to Utah Beach, famous for the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944. Both tours are available from May to October.

Walking in the heart of the marshes 

Whether you’re on foot, bike or horseback, soft mobility is the ideal way to enjoy the Marais du Bessin et du Cotentin. In total, there are 19 different trails for visitors to explore, ranging from 1 to 7 km, each with its own unique features. Several of the voies vertes (greenway routes) in La Manche go through the Marais du Bessin et du Cotentin. Follow the towpaths and the old railway lines to feel at one with nature. These paths are used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

By bike, various routes ranging from 10 to 35 km give you a different view of the marshes. These circular routes are fairly easy and are perfect for family bike rides or beginners. If you don’t have a bike, don’t worry, you can hire one from the Maison du Parc. Mountain bikes and e-bikes are available for hire from mid-June to mid-September. For the sportier visitors, two major cycling routes go through the Regional Nature Park: the Véloroute from the Normandy landing beaches to Mont Saint-Michel, and the Vélomaritime (the French part of the EuroVelo 4 trail).

The Maison du Parc

the wetland discovery centre

The Maison du Parc in Carentan-les-Marais is the perfect place to explore the history of the Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin Regional Nature Park. You’ll also find information about all the activities and excursions available in the marshes for groups or families.

The Maison du Parc regularly holds exhibitions to raise awareness about climate change and eco-citizenship.

From the Maison du Parc, walk to the Jardin des Têtards (tadpole garden) and discover the Espace Naturel Sensible des Marais des Ponts d’Ouve (Ponts d’Ouve protected marsh area). Designed for young children, this area has several observation points and four discovery trails to explore the changing landscapes of the marshes.

The Maison du Parc

Photo, © S. Mahaux

Do you fancy a treat?

The Guingette des Marais, situated at the Port Jourdan landing dock (opposite the Maison du Parc) is open from April to September.

On the menu: local products, outdoor cooking and a great atmosphere! Be sure to try the charcuterie board, or enjoy a cocktail with your toes in the water (or almost!).

The Regional Park through the seasons

Depending on the season and the weather, the natural landscapes of the park have different facets for you to enjoy, and every season has its own special quality.

The white marshes

In winter, the marshes turn “white”, with the autumn and winter rains making the water level rise. It then covers everything in its path and the marshes are transformed in a fabulous show that changes as the waters rise and recede. Admire the magical sunsets that set the marshes aglow on winter evenings. Go boating on the white marshes and watch the winter migrating birds, including northern lapwings, common snipes, Eurasian teals and ducks. A special experience!

Photo, © Xavier Lachenaud


In spring and summer, the cows and horses come back to peacefully graze the fields, and the marshes turn “green” again.

The migrating birds return to the marshes and nesting birds settle in. Grab your binoculars and head into the marshes to see all the different species: ruffs, wood sandpipers, green sandpipers, wagtails, sedge warblers, garganeys, bluethroats and Eurasian bitterns.

In this season, you might also see white storks. The best place in the Manche to spot these birds is the Château de la Rivière in Saint-Fromond.

The autumn colours completely transform the Regional Nature Park. We recommend this season if you want to feast your eyes as you walk in the marshes!

Photo, © Caroline Groud

Looking for harbour seals

In autumn, we recommend you head to the Bay of Les Veys, the estuary where the four main rivers meet. This area is home to harbour seals that settle on the sandbanks exposed at low tide. They sleep, groom and give birth on these resting sites, which they use mainly from May to October. Be careful not to go near the seals or to disturb them, as this could threaten their survival.

Photo, © Marin N Fillol - PNRMCB

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