Destination Europe

Our Visit to the D-Day Beaches

Posted on
June 17, 2016

It has been a poignant few weeks with the anniversary of the D-Day Landings on 6th June 1944.
Back in February we visited Normandy, staying at a gorgeous family friendly gite, which was the perfect base for exploring all the sites that were hugely significant during World War II. Top of Hubby’s wishlist to visit were all the beaches where the landings took place and I have to admit that even though the kids didn’t really understand the significance of where we were, they were happy to play whilst we looked at memorials etc.
The first beach we visited was Utah Beach, which was the first of the two American landing zones on D-Day. As soon as we arrived we were struck by the importance of the location as it had several memorials to those lost, as well as the Utah Beach D-Day Museum.
Utah Beach
The children loved exploring the memorial of the landing craft before running up and down the sand dunes to burn off some energy.
Utah Beach
I can imagine it must be a stunning beach to use in the summer, with a huge area of sand to sit, take in the view and enjoy a picnic.
Utah Beach
Between Utah Beach and Omaha beach is Point De Hoc, which although not a beach is the home of a significant landing area and has probably the most visual signs of battle of all the coastal areas we visited. Pointe du Hoc is a promontory with a 100 ft cliff overlooking the English Channel and is the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east.
Point Du Hoc
This landscape is covered with deep craters from the bombardments on D-day as well as lots of bunker clamber inside and see what life was really like for the troops that served.
Point Du Hoc
Our next stop was Omaha beach which is the second beach from the west among the five landing areas and probably the most famous as it was depicted in the film Saving Private Ryan.
Omaha Beach
Omaha is beach is also home to the most modern of the memorials we saw, which was commissioned by the French government to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion Of Normandy. It represents three elements: The Wings of Hope, Rise Freedom, and the Wings Of Fraternity. In the centre there are seven stainless steel columns and a group of five columns that curve upwards, two columns stand upright, with the tallest reaching 30 feet and stainless steel wings gracefully stand on both sides.
Omaha Beach
You can even book a guided tour of this beach and the long promenade but there was enough information around to please my curious husband and teen. The kids just enjoyed the beach for what is was and were soon collecting mermaid purses shells and seaweed, some of which came home with us.
Omaha Beach
The third beach along from the West is Gold Beach and five miles wide and a British landing site. At the western end of the beach was Arromanches, the site for the Mulberry Harbour which even now is one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen.
Gold Beach
Mulberry Harbours were artificial harbours made up of about 6 miles of flexible steel roadways that floated on steel or concrete pontoons. The roadways were codenamed “Whales” and the pontoons “Beetles”. The ‘Whales’ ended at giant pier heads that had ‘legs’ that rested on the seabed. The whole structure was protected from the force of the sea by scuttled ships, sunken caissons and a line of floating breakwaters some of which can still be seen today.
Caisson
Just being stood by a gigantic caisson made you understand just what a huge feat of engineering this had been.
Mulberry Harbour
The next beach along was Juno which was the responsibility of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division to take. Here you find bunkers to explore, sadly only open in the summer, as well as a huge Canadian memorial and a museum.
Juno Beach
The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day.
Juno Beach
The final beach of our tour saw us visit Sword Beach which is farthest to the east of the landing beaches and about nine miles to the north-east of the vital city of Caen and was less than ten miles from Gold Beach and four miles from the start of Juno Beach.
Sword Beach
Although each beach had memorials on different scales, this was probably the one that had the least, although driving along the coastal road there are memorials every few hundred yards. This was the kids favourite beach as it had a small pier under which they found literally hundreds of shells of all different shapes and sizes.
Pier
I arranged this visit for Hubby and Kian, who are really interested in this period of history and came away with a new-found respect for all those who fought in the war all those years ago, including my own relatives. The younger ones were full of questions and really enjoyed the visit, although I am sure that being able to run around on a huge sandy beach probably helped too.
If you are thinking about taking the kids to visit Normandy with a young family, don’t be worried they will be bored – simply allow time for them to explore too and you will have a happy medium. We found out so much about our local area too and suddenly all those place names and memorials that we drive past every day make sense!

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30 Comments
  1. Reply

    Sabrina @ The Mummy Stylist

    June 17, 2016

    The beaches look beautiful but it is sad when you think of what happened the past. That’s good that you are educating your children on this subject, and it will be really useful when they study History at school x

  2. Reply

    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault

    June 17, 2016

    Thanks for the mention 🙂
    I have a blog I need to write detailing all the D-Day places our guests went to when they stayed at Eco-Gites of Lenault for the D-Day Week. Did you also see I wrote a piece about the dogs who also parachuted in to Normandy? http://www.eco-gites.eu/blog/post/dogs-and-d-day

    • Reply

      Kara

      June 17, 2016

      I didn’t, will pop over and have a look

  3. Reply

    Emma

    June 17, 2016

    I have heard so much about these beaches, yet we have never visited them. They are stunning aren’t they?

  4. Reply

    Fozia S

    June 17, 2016

    So important to remember the past and the sacrifices and its great to be able to visit and reflect back. The beaches look amazing

  5. Reply

    Nayna Kanabar

    June 17, 2016

    It must have been very interesting to visit such a historical sight right on the beach. Lovely photos of the beach too.

  6. Reply

    Kate Fever

    June 17, 2016

    What incredible places to explore, and a great chance to talk to the children about their history.

  7. Reply

    nessjibberjabberuk

    June 17, 2016

    Even with the memorials there now you can’t really imagine the horror of what happened during the war.

  8. Reply

    Erica Price

    June 18, 2016

    I would love to visit – it looks really interesting.

  9. Reply

    Cass@frugalfamily

    June 18, 2016

    My husband would absolutely love to do this – I keep thinking that I’m going to surprise him one of these days x

  10. Reply

    Keely

    June 18, 2016

    I have never visited these beaches, so really appreciated your photos and blog post. Thank you.

  11. Reply

    Angela Milnes

    June 18, 2016

    The pictures are amazing and what an incredible trip. I really think its great to travel to places which have such significance to us as a people and as part of our history. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Reply

    Baby Isabella

    June 18, 2016

    So poignant, not so sure I could bring myself to visit, it would be so sad and I’m sure my mummy would be very emotional. Beautiful photographs X

  13. Reply

    Claire at Tin Box Traveller

    June 18, 2016

    Great advice about visiting the beaches with young kids. This is the type of thing I would enjoy but shy away from with our girls. I would certainly rethink that now as they love running/crawling around in sand! You pictures are beautiful #myfavouritetrip

  14. Reply

    clairejustine

    June 19, 2016

    I’ve never been here before. .. Such beautiful family pictures Kara 🙂

  15. Reply

    Rachel

    June 19, 2016

    This is still something and somewhere I hope to visit one day, it looks so beautiful x

  16. Reply

    Kerry Norris

    June 19, 2016

    The beach is surprisingly beautiful especially when you think of what happened there in the last. Lovely photos x

  17. Reply

    Fashion and Style Police

    June 19, 2016

    It must have been fun to visit. Loving your pictures.

  18. Reply

    Marie Barber

    June 19, 2016

    That looks like such an amazing trip and your photos are beautiful, I can’t wait till we get to go there when our two are a bit older, it looks nice and quiet, I would imagine in the summer it would be quite busy, I will have to remember that, thanks for all the great info.

  19. Reply

    Alina

    June 20, 2016

    So much history in that place. I’d love to visit one day. I know a friend who would love to go too as he’s super interested in that side of things too so will be sure to recommend 🙂
    Alina from DIY blog

  20. Reply

    Mel

    June 20, 2016

    So so much happened around there. We used to take our Y8 students to the beaches and trenches and every year, we’d think of the people who fought and those who died for our freedom. I agree with you, poignant is the best way to describe the beaches.

  21. Reply

    Michelle

    June 20, 2016

    What a fascinating, and interesting place to visit – such beautiful beaches, but so historic too. The picture of the kids in the bunker actually freaked me out a bit! I don’t think I’d be brave enough to go down there!!

  22. Reply

    Nisbah (Five Adventurers)

    June 20, 2016

    I love hands on history travels. Looks an amazing place to visit and its very much on my wish list. Nothing reinforces the sadness of these events then actually going and being in the very same spots. Gorgeous photos, the beaches look amazing!

  23. Reply

    laura dove

    June 20, 2016

    I have visited the D-day beaches and they are so beautiful but such an emotional visit too. The thought of all that happened there is mind blowing, it’s impossible to look at them without feeling the fear and the sadness. Poignant is the perfect word for them, thank you for sharing. xx

  24. Reply

    Hannah Budding Smiles

    June 20, 2016

    What an incredible place to visit and brilliant that your kids are getting to know more about our country’s and world’s history xx

  25. Reply

    Victoria Marden

    June 20, 2016

    This place looks so peaceful, shame at one point it wasn’t. I am so glad that they have added memorials x

  26. Reply

    Jen Walshaw

    June 21, 2016

    Visiting the beaches really puts things into perspective. it is hard to imagine that ALL those men died and I find them quite a haunting place.
    My GrandDad was a shipbuilder and helped build Mulberry

  27. Reply

    JuggleMum, Nadine Hill

    June 21, 2016

    Visiting the beaches must have been quite moving but also great for the kids to say they have been when they cover this in history at school.

  28. Reply

    Our Seaside Baby

    June 30, 2016

    Gosh, I had no idea there were so many memorials and remains from the war in Normandy. It looks like a very poignant place to visit. I can see how both the younger kids and older members would both enjoy it for different reasons. Lovely photos. Thanks for joining in with #MyFavouriteTrip. Polly 🙂

  29. Reply

    Colette

    June 30, 2016

    What a fabulous place to visit – your pictures are fantastic.

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KARA GUPPY
Bournemouth

Are we nearly there yet? is a new online blog run by me, Kara Guppy, and is named as such thanks to my daughter Eliza who always asks that very question when we are less than 5 minutes up the road heading off on our adventures. You may know me from my other family blog chelseamamma.co.uk