Étretat is best known for its cliffs, including 3 natural arches and the pointed “needle”. These cliffs and the associated resort beach attracted artists including Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet, and were featured prominently in the 1909 Arsène Lupin novel The Hollow Needle by Maurice Leblanc.
Two of the three famous arches seen from the town are the Porte d’Aval, and the Porte d’Amont. The Manneporte is the third and the biggest one which cannot be seen from the town.
The GR 21 long-distance hiking path (Le Havre to Le Tréport) passes through the town.
Étretat was the birthplace of Élie Halévy (1870–1937), philosopher and historian.
Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) spent most of his childhood in Étretat, at “Les Verguies”. In 1882 he wrote a short story for Le Gaulois entitled “The Englishman of Étretat” (L’Anglais d’Étretat), based on encounters in 1868, as a house guest of G. E. J. Powell, with the English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, whom he had helped save from drowning. The dried human hand displayed on one of the tables was later acquired by Maupassant to adorn his Paris apartment; it inspired another short story, “The Flayed Hand” (La Main Écorchée). In 1883 he built his own house in Étretat, “La Guillette”, in the Mediterranean style in “Le Grand Val”, since renamed rue Guy-de-Maupassant. Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830–1914), the great French operatic baritone whose career centred on Paris and London, also owned a villa there. A friend of the artist Edouard Manet and a keen collector of art, Faure did amateur paintings of the local area, including the scenic cliffs.
The White Bird
Étretat is known for being the last place in France from which the 1927 biplane The White Bird (L’Oiseau Blanc) was seen. French WWI war heroes Charles Nungesser and François Coli had been attempting to make the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York, but after the plane’s 8 May 1927 departure, it disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic. It is considered one of the great unexplained mysteries of aviation. A monument to the flight was established in Étretat, but then destroyed during World War II, during the German occupation. A new and taller monument was constructed in 1963, along with a nearby museum.