Dunkirk (written as Dunkerque in French) is another well known ferry port on France’s northern coast. It’s just a stone’s throw from Calais (about 30 miles) and as such, offers a good alternative to the busy Dover to Calais crossing. Dunkirk lies just 9 miles from the Belgium border, which also makes it a good option for anyone with an onward journey into Belgium, Holland or even Germany.

Details

Crossing
Frequency
Journey Time
Operator
 
 
Dover to Dunkirk12 per day2 hoursDFDSDFDS Seaways
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Dover to Dunkirk – FAQs

So which is best: Calais or Dunkirk?
Well, the Dover to Calais crossing is half an hour quicker. But you might find Dunkirk more convenient for your onward journey, with it being just a little further east. Bruges, Brussels and Lille are all very easy to get to. But as far as times and distances go, there’s not much in it. Some might say the road connections from Calais are better, certainly to get onto the major road networks south. But if you are travelling east, then that’s not a great consideration. So all in all, think of the Dover to Dunkirk crossing as a handy, extra option in the choice for getting across the Channel. Considering using Dunkirk means you have that bit of extra choice and flexibility, and therefore stand a better chance of getting any cheap deals on offer.

Which ferry company runs the route?
Historically, Norfolkline Ferries ran the Dover to Dunkirk ferry crossing. However, they were recently taken over by DFDS Seaways, so you might see either company name while you are booking. DFDS Seaways also now run the Dover to Calais crossing, having over some of the capacity from SeaFrance, who are no longer in operation.

The fact that the Dover to Dunkirk route is operated by DFDS Seaways could well be enough to persuade people that this is the right route for them DFDS offer a great service, and have been voted Europe’s Best Ferry Operator for sevral years running. There’s plenty to do onboard including a 1st class lounge, cafes and restaurants, shops and kids activities (see beow for more). The Dover to Dunkirk crossing is often less busy, or certainly less hectic, than the Calais options.

Ferry Crossing from Dover to Dunkirk

Ferry Crossing from Dover to Dunkirk with DFDS Seaways

What is it like on-board?
Well, the crossing from DOver to Dunkirk is only 2 hours, but there’s still plenty to do. There are of course the usual cafes and restaurants – a bistro, a self-service restaurant, and a fast food restaurant – plus a kids’ play area (called Little Nippers). There’s also a chance to upgrade to the First Class travel, where you can use executive lounges and enjoy priority boarding and disembarkation.

Does the ferry sail overnight?
Crossings go regularly every 2 hours throughout the day. Although departures aren’t as frequent late at night, there are some crossings through the night, departing at 2.00, for example.

Moving on from Dunkirk

Belgium is very easy to reach from Dunkirk, with Brussels 100 miles, and Bruges only 50 miles. You’ll also find Lille within easy reach (and a very simple drive) at 50 miles away. Paris is 185 miles (around 3 and a half hours’ drive from Dunkirk), and Disneyland Paris is also about a 3.5 hour drive, and around 195 miles away.

Map

Should I stay in Dunkirk?
Dunkirk has quite a lot to offer the traveller, although it’s fair to say it isn’t the primary destination of those travelling to France. It’s probably most famous and most appreciated in Britain for its part in World War II history (see here), where the British Expeditionary Force were cut off from the rest of the Allied forces and had to make a hasty retreat across the English Channel with the help of 700 private boats that sailed from Ramsgate, known as the “Little Ships of Dunkirk”.

But Dunkirk appeals to more than just the World War II enthusiast. It’s history goes back to the Middle Ages, and from the 1500s it had strong connections with smuggling and pirates. In fact there’s a nice little museum in the town – the Musée Portuaire – whihc has an exhibit about the long and colourful history of the port. Today it has a long beach and promenade to enjoy, and plenty of cafes and restaurants.

Below is a video of what it’s like onboard the DFDS ferries:

Alternative Routes

The most obvious alternative to the Dover-Dunkirk ferry crossing is the Dover-Calais route. Currently there’s a choice of 3 ferry companies operating this busy route, so you should find plenty of choice.

Crossing
Frequency
Journey Time
Operator
 
 
Dover to Calais23 per day1.5 hoursP&OP & O Ferries
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Dover to CalaisUp to 8 per day1.5 hoursMy Ferry LinkMy
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Dover to Calais10 per day1.5 hoursDFDSDFDS Seaways
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