After diving into the details of the two spots I explored underwater along the Lighthouse Road, Saint-Pabu and Camaret-Sur-Mer, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to let you know everything that happened in between.
While considering my options for this long-awaited scuba diving adventure in Brittany, I stumbled upon the itinerary of the Lighthouse Road. I had one of these lightbulb moments (ok, pun intended). First, I dreamt about the numerous opportunities to photograph the most densely covered area with lighthouses in Europe. Then I realised lighthouses embody something quite inspiring and relieving given our current circumstances: they guide you in the dark.
In the first kilometre of my road trip, I was surprised to feel rusted and anxious about travelling solo again, even in my own country. However, this diving trip in Finistère quickly reminded me why I fell with travel in the first place: refreshing your mind with the beauty of nature and the excitement of the unknown.
Map of my itinerary in Finistere, Brittany
I started my trip in my home region of the Guérande Peninsula, where I could borrow my dad’s car. If you don’t have family or friends living in Brittany, the best is to reach Brest by TGV high-speed train and rent a car. It should save you a day of driving.
In my case, I chose to drive all the way to the northernmost point of the Lighthouse Road and then slowly go back south step by step. I featured on the map below the different lighthouses and scuba diving sites of my itinerary.
Days 1/2 – Brignogan & Plougerneau
Lighthouses: Pontusval, Île Vierge, Île Wrac’h
After a cloudy-rainy-windy 3-hour drive, the weather suddenly cleared up as I approached Brignogan-Les-Plages. It was the first time I ever heard of this charming seaside resort town. With adorable family holiday homes and a white sand beach, I promised myself to return. Just the time to take a few pictures near the Café du Port, I would soon reach the official start of the Lighthouse Road, only 5 minutes driving away.
I didn’t know it yet, but thanks to its photogenic setting, including large granite boulders and a long sandy beach, the Pontusval Lighthouse would become my favourite one of the entire itinerary. It might not be the tallest, only 14,5 m, but this 1869 lighthouse which became a national monument in 2011, offers a fabulous spectacle at sunset.
Thanks to the quiet location of the parking space next to the lighthouse, equipped with picnic tables and dry toilets, I decided to sleep that night in the car. Such commodities wouldn’t be available near the other lighthouses for free; I had to seize the moment. I could then enjoy the lighthouse from dusk to dawn.
While I can’t say I had the best night of my life, all I want to remember is the fun I had a camera in hand or on my tripod to capture all the light variations around the Pontusval Lighthouse. After coffee at 8 am, I was already making my way to the next lighthouse, the Virgin Island Lighthouse (Phare de l’Île Vierge), with a few memorable stops along the Coast of Legends:
- The Meneham Village, an 18th-century kelp harvesting village abandoned in the 1970s and recently rehabilitated into a museum, a restaurant and a guesthouse.
- The Enez Croz-Hent Peninsula, with the first view from afar of the Virgin Island Lighthouse and a small megalithic site in the middle.
- The Penlouch Beach, a surfers’ paradise beyond its pristine dunes.
To enjoy the view of the Virgin Island Lighthouse, there are a few places you can go. Indeed, since 1845, it has been the tallest lighthouse in Europe, with a height of 82,5 m, it can be seen from afar. It became a national monument in 2011.
The weather was sunny with such a perfectly blue sky that I could barely believe it. Thanks to the white sands and these perfect conditions, the area around the lighthouse looked like a tropical lagoon at low tide. Was I still in Brittany?
I went to three locations to check the different viewpoints:
- In Porz Grac’h, next to the Phare de l’Île Vierge campsite, the closest but also the most natural viewpoint is you prefer to stay away from the crowd. With moderate climbing, you’ll get a breath-taking view just for yourself. The light is the best in the morning.
- Still, in Porz Grac’h, next to the Hoalen Ocean Store where you can get a cup of coffee while enjoying the view.
- In Kastell Ac’h, the main viewpoint is where you can board the boat taking you to the island where the lighthouse stands. In my case, I arrived between the high tide and low tide, so I couldn’t take the boat, and it would have been too risky to start the walk. I decided instead to go tasting the delicious oysters of Maison Legris on their wide terrace facing the ocean.
Before driving to my next stop, I took the time for a last walk to photograph the Wrac’h Island Lighthouse. The best viewpoint of this small lighthouse is from the GR34 hiking trail. You can park at the Saint-Cava beach and walk for 15 minutes to find the viewpoint among pine trees. Note you can also see the Virgin Lighthouse from there on the right; it’s the ideal spot with the afternoon light.
Days 3/4 – Saint-Pabu & Portsall
No lighthouse, but scuba diving!
On Day 3, thanks to having my full dry suit diving gear in the back of the car, I was fully ready for 2 days of diving in Saint-Pabu, my very first dives in Finistère. Beyond the scenic dives with lots of sea anemones and spider crabs, the Stellac’h harbour sheltered inside the aber (a sort of fjord) and the wilderness of the dunes of the Corn-ar-Gazel beach bordering its mouth left a big impression on me.
On Day 4, despite the rain (who cares when you dive in a drysuit), I scuba dived in the morning and headed to Portsall Harbour for lunch.
The harbour is infamously known for the sinking of the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker. I warmed up first with delicious fish & chips and a cup of milk tea. Then, I had a look at the anchor of the boat, which created the first catastrophic oil spill in Brittany in the 1970s. A free museum next to it allows going through what happened and the consequences from a regulation and conservation point of view. It is indeed possible to wreck dive there but I personally didn’t feel like it.
On my way to the touristic road leading to Porspoder, I stopped at the Guilliguy viewpoint. On the green hill covered in ferns, you can find a well-conserved dolmen and a stunning view of the harbour of Portsall. It was mesmerising to watch the rising tide flooding the harbour at an incredible speed, even in the rain.
The views from the road to Porspoder are supposed to be stunning, but I couldn’t see much, unfortunately. I decided then to check where the best viewpoint of my next lighthouse was before finding a spot to spend the night.
I found it on the Saint-Laurent Peninsula among the rocks, the thistles and the ferns. As expected, the lighthouse located in the open ocean was hiding in the mist. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast app on my phone, I had good hope the weather would clear up the following day. Luckily, I found the public campsite of Saint-Gonvel, just a 5-minute drive away. Not only it was incredibly cheap (8€ for the night) but ideally located above a lovely beach.
The reception wasn’t yet opened at my arrival, so I searched for a place to drink something warm in the meantime. Once again, I was lucky to find the Fleur des thés team room aboard a boat in the harbour of Argenton. With a cosy atmosphere and friendly service, nothing could make me happier than a cup of Earl Grey milk tea, a chocolate sardine and a mini kouign amann (the #1 Breton pastry mostly made of salted butter and sugar).
When I returned to the campsite, the weather had already started to clear up. I could then set up camp with a ray of sun and even enjoy the most beautiful sunset of my trip.
Day 5 – Porspoder & Le Conquet
Lighthouses: Four, Trezien, St-Matthieu, Kermorvan
I woke up early the next morning to find half cloudy, half sunny weather. As the weather forecast wasn’t necessarily good for the coming days, I decided to cover as many lighthouses as possible that day.
So, after packing up, I returned to the Saint-Laurent Peninsula. Here it was, finally perfectly clear, the Phare du Four! The Four Lighthouse is classified as one of the “hell lighthouses” of Brittany due to its remote location in the rough open sea. This is one of the rare “hell” lighthouses you can see from the shore (when the weather allows, obviously).
This 28 m lighthouse was built in 1874 and automated in 1993. Today it is remotely controlled from the Virgin Island Lighthouse. Its range is up to 45 km (or 24,5 nautical miles) and also uses a sound alarm in case of fog. It became a national monument in 2017.
Before my next step, I stopped for an early lunch in Lampaul-Plouarzel to eat a goat cheese-tomato galette (galettes are buckwheat crepes filled with savoury ingredients). I highly recommend the Auberge du Môle for the quality of their food and service. From there, I could drive to the Trezien Lighthouse in about 5 minutes.
Located on top of a small hill 500 m from the shore, it is the only inland lighthouse of the itinerary. Built in 1894, it is 37 m high and has a range of 40 km. Unfortunately, it was closed at the time of my visit (you can climb up at the top in the afternoon from 2 pm). However, its hydrangea alley in front of its entrance gate allowed me to take lovely pictures.
Just across the road, you can check the Corsen Point, the westernmost point of continental France. I liked checking most of the lighthouses of my itinerary on the viewpoint indicator. It would have been worth extending my visit with a short hike above the surrounding cliffs covered in wildflowers, but I had to get back to the car if I wanted to beat the weather forecast and finish my program of the day.
20 km south later, after crossing the ria (flooded river bed) of the charming town of Le Conquet, I arrived at the Saint-Matthieu Lighthouse. This popular spot of Finistère is both a lighthouse, an ancient abbey and a military control station. It is indeed located at the entrance of Brest Bay, where the French Navy has one of its major bases.
You can pay an entrance fee of 3,50€ to climb its 163 steps to the top of its 37 m, but I found a fabulous viewpoint by walking down the trail (on the left when facing the ocean). Built in 1835, the St-Matthieu Lighthouse has a range of 45 km and became a national monument in 2011.
As I liked what I saw when crossing Le Conquet and having in mind taking the ferry to Ouessant Island, I decided to book 2 nights at a campsite near the Blancs Sablons beach. I set up camp, prepared dinner and since we were in June with a late sunset time, I decided to go check my last lighthouse of the day around 9 pm.
Even in my wildest dreams, I would have never asked for so much. I can’t believe I had almost decided to skip the Kermorvan Lighthouse at some point. Not only the lighthouse, located at the end of a fortress, was photogenic (contrary to what the pictures I saw let me believe first), but I had the dolphin time of my life!
Right there, in the sunset light, behind the lighthouse, I watched the largest pod of dolphins I have ever seen (30? 50? More?) jumping and hunting in the current for a full hour. Obviously, after such a day, my camera battery died… Oh whale, I just decided to enjoy the moment!
Day 6 – Ouessant Island
Lighthouses: Stiff, Creac’h, Nividic, Jument
I hesitated a long time before booking my return ferry ticket to Ouessant Island. I was looking at the ever-changing weather forecast every two hours. I then realised that due to its location right in the heart of the Iroise Sea, the weather on Ouessant would change all the time anyway. So, at midnight, in my tent, I took a leap of faith and accepted the fact I would undoubtedly get wet as my plan was to ride a bicycle to explore the island.
The following day, thanks to the footbridge over Le Conquet’s ria, I could leave the car at the campsite and walk in 30 minutes to the ferry terminal with my photo backpack, my coffee tumbler and my bicycle helmet. I boarded the ferry at 9.30 am to spend enough time on the island before taking it back at 7.30 pm.
The crossing takes about an hour, and if the weather is clear, you can get fantastic views of the Finistere shore, the Molène Islands and the Stiff Lighthouse. And guess who was there again? Yes, the dolphins!
At the arrival at the Stiff harbour on the east coast, there are plenty of options to explore the island since you can’t board the ferry with your car:
- A bus goes to the main village of Lampaul
- Private guided tours on shuttle buses
- Rental cars
- Rental bicycles
I took the bicycle option for 14€ a day. There are 3 companies renting bicycles, but they all offer the same price. If you imagine the Breton island to be flat, I can tell my legs felt otherwise. The road to Lampaul has a few slopes to climb. Note, for a few more euros, you can rent an electric bicycle.
I had a quick look at the restaurants in Lampaul to consider my options for lunch and headed directly to Pern Point to find some of the best views of Ouessant lighthouses:
- Creac’h Lighthouse is the most iconic lighthouse of the island with its black and white stripes. Unfortunately, it is currently in rehabilitation for a year, so scaffolding is covering it.
- Nividic Lighthouse, not the prettiest of the entire Lighthouse Road but interesting to know it was the first automated lighthouse in the world after 24 years of construction!
- Jument Lighthouse, one of the most famous lighthouses of Brittany, is known for impressive photographs featuring giant waves crashing against it during storms.
I passed lovely stone-walled houses with flower gardens and black sheep fields on my way. As I approached Pern Point, the landscape dramatically changed to craggy granite rocks. The time to take a few shots of the three lighthouses, I felt a drop, then two. Rain was coming. This was when I remembered there was the lighthouse museum inside the Creac’h Lighthouse.
The time I arrived at the lighthouse museum, I was soaked. Visiting the museum seemed like the best idea to dry up. To my greatest surprise, I stayed 2 hours, fascinated by what I saw and what I learnt.
I had no idea that most lighthouses in the world today use the technology created by French engineers for the Breton lighthouses built in the 19th century. For instance, the Fresnel lens, designed by the same name engineer, is still how all lighthouses today concentrate light to maximise their range. The collection of Fresnel lenses of the museum is art in itself. Even if you are not a fan of science and technology, I can bet you’ll be mesmerised too by how pretty they look with their shimmering reflections.
The museum also acts as the memory of the lighthouse keepers and their lifestyle. At the beginning of the exhibition, there is an enthralling movie mixing images of the beginning of the 20th century and the 1970s. Today, lighthouse keepers belong to the past in France since the last lighthouse was automated in 2004.
When I got out of the museum, the sun was shining again. It was already 1 pm. I realised it was more than time to go for lunch. When I made it back to Lampaul, all the 12€ lobster sandwiches were sold out. Attracted by the prices of the lobster dishes at Ty Korn restaurant (22-24€ whereas it is usually more than 40€ on the mainland), I decided to splurge a bit and celebrate my discovery of my first Breton island.
Day 7 – Le Conquet & Plouzané
Lighthouse: Petit Minou
It was time to pack up my camping gear for the last time. Nevertheless, before leaving, I decided to spend half a day in the charming centre of Le Conquet while getting a few work assignments done and sipping coffee at a terrace. It also gave me time to photograph its flowered harbour and eat at the best creperie of my trip, Crêperie Louise de Bretagne. For the first time ever, I was asked how I wanted my “crêpe beurre-sucre” (butter & sugar): soft, half-cooked or double-crispy? Curious, I tried the latter and loved it!
To drive from Le Conquet to my following stop, Camaret-Sur-Mer, you need to go around Brest. Boats are crossing the bay, but none takes vehicles. While half of this ride wasn’t incredibly scenic, there were two highlights on the road: the Petit Minou Lighthouse and the Terenez Bridge.
The Phare du Petit Minou is maybe the most famous Breton lighthouse in France due to its photogenic undulating bridge. On a clear day, you can see Camaret-Sur-Mer in the background. Playing hide and seek with the sun, I waited for a ray of sun to get a perfect shot. From there, it takes about an hour to drive to Camaret.
Days 8/12 – Camaret-Sur-Mer
Scuba diving & Lighthouses: Toulinguet, Kador
I already wrote in detail my week of scuba diving in Camaret, but as a quick summary, here were the best moments of my stay:
- Rocky reefs with a dozen of shades of jewel anemones
- An exciting 1918 shipwreck at 30 m deep
- Breath-taking viewpoints on the GR34 hiking trail, especially from Pen-Hir and Dinan Points.
- An artist village on the harbour of Camaret, all inspired by the ocean
- And last but not least, two more lighthouses for my photo scavenger hunt!
Among these last lighthouses of my photo scavenger hunt, the first one, the Toulinguet Lighthouse, was easy to find. The Pen-Hat Beach is accessible by car, and it was straightforward to understand where the best viewpoint was on its left side. I took the opportunity to spend time at Pen-Hir Point and eat the best crepe of the Crozon Peninsula at Chez Germaine café.
However, it was trickier with the Kador Lighthouse in Morgat. You need first to park the car in the parking space of the harbour and then walk on the GR34 trail for 15 minutes; hidden among the trees, it was only at the last minute I could finally see it. Finding a spot to take a picture from a distance wasn’t easy either. I discovered Postolomec Beach by studying the map, but the lighthouse was too far away, even with my 200mm zoom lens.
Anyway, my mission for this trip was accomplished with 14 lighthouses photographed. Sometimes, all you need to cheer up is a goal!
How to prepare a scuba diving & camping road trip in Brittany?
I had a second goal for this trip: could I make drysuit diving work with a camping road trip? Without going all the way to van life with my own converted van, I wanted to experience what it takes and what I would really need to make it work in my situation.
The experience of just sleeping one night in the car showed me that it was feasible thanks to the low height of the Renault Scenic I was driving to enter some parking spaces. However, being able to fully blind the back windows is critical to spend a quiet night.
Even by travelling on my own, my scuba diving gear, especially my drysuit and my underwater camera, took a lot of space on top of the camping gear. Hopefully, I had removed all the back seats of the car.
Once on the road, I realised that finding a quiet spot to spend the night with a view, toilets and drinking water is easier said than done, even by checking the Park4night app. I understood that, basically, you need to be fully autonomous to make it work in the long run.
Besides, depending on the area, it can be more or less complicated due to local regulations. On the French western coastline, the number of camping cars and camper vans surged in recent years and even more since the pandemic. Many towns have taken decrees to make it illegal to sleep on parking lots near the sea in Brittany. I met a few vanlifers telling me they sometimes got fined. In any case, discretion is key even if not forbidden.
From an accommodation point of view, I used a mix of sleeping in the car, campsite and mobile homes. I finally found that, in my case, going to a campsite was the right fit. Knowing I can find beautiful public campsites for only 8€ the night, it will definitely be my go-to solution for my next scuba diving adventure in Brittany. Given that I won’t go on this kind of trip full time, a camper van investment won’t work for me.
Getting the services (water, toilets & showers) and the security of a campsite was, in the end, the best solution, especially when I was spreading my diving gear all over to make it dip dry. However, I can improve a thing or two to get better comfort in my tent.
Talking about scuba diving gear, having a large plastic tray in the back of the car proved extremely useful when moving to the following location right after a dive. I maintained the car clean, dry and organised this way.
To sum up, here are the main items I brought with me on the Lighthouse Road:
- 1 backpacking tent
- 1 self-inflating mattress
- 1 sleeping bag
- 1 memory foam travel pillow
- 1 portable gas stove
- 1 moka coffee maker
- 1 camping cookware kit
- 2 coolers (incl. an electric cooler I could plug to the car)
- 3 thermos bottles to always have enough water with me
- 1 car power inverter that I could either plug on the cigarette lighter plug while driving or on the car battery when parked to charge all my batteries (cameras, dive lights, laptop)
- 2 Seaflare dive lights by Aqualung that can be used outside of the water (extremely useful when camping)
Fun anecdote: while the weather was warm and sunny most of the days in June, the cool temperature and humidity at night made my sleeping bag not warm enough to the point of making me shiver. Well, I decided to sleep with my drysuit undersuit, and it worked wonders!
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