In June/July 2006 we had a 9 day driving holiday in France. We caught a car ferry from Dover to Calais, drove down through Normandy, popped into Brittany and then caught the ferry back to Dover from Boulogne-sur-Mer.
We chose to take our own car over, as the cost of the ferry and petrol was significantly cheaper than flying from London and hiring a car in France. I also feel a lot more comfortable travelling in our own car as opposed to a hire car.
The only negative thing about driving our car in France is that it is a right hand drive car, and French cars are left hand drive, which means that tolls/tickets machines etc are on the wrong side of the car for the driver to operate…luckily I was able to assist in these duties from the passenger seat, but I do feel sorry for the solo traveller in these situations.
Driving in France is great. The roads are good and the sign posting is excellent. You can hoon along on the wide tollways/freeways, or travel along pretty coastal roads, soaking up the atmosphere of the French countryside. Just remember which side of the road you have to drive on if you come over from the UK.
Being a key port on the Channel, it's no surprise to find that the there are plenty of opportunities of getting to and from the town by ferry. From Cherbourg you can get ferries across to England, with departures for Poole and Portsmouth, but also longer journeys to Cork in Ireland. From Portsmouth there are three kinds of ferries available. On the more traditional ferry, there is the five hour day journey, and eight hour night journey. Or you can take the Portsmouth Express, which gets you to Cherbourg in just under three hours. From Poole there are two options the standard ferry, which takes just over four hours, and the Fastcraft, which takes just over two hours. The Poole trip tends to be more expensive than Portsmouth.
Check the link below for more details on times and ticket prices.
Cherbourg is at the end of one of the many rail axes that spread out from Paris, which means you can reach the capital direct in less than three hours. Another option, if coming from the UK, is Eurostar, which often has deals to this part of France for as little as 60 pounds return, which can make it a cheaper option than the ferry or plane, especially if you live in London. For more information on booking French trains see SNCF, and for England see the Eurostar site.
Rather than taking the ferry, it might be more convenient to take a bus, especially if you are coming from somewhere other than Poole or Portsmouth. Buses will include the ferry journey in the price, which can make life easier than booking tickets to the port and then the ferry separately. Unfortunately they don't tend to run very often. The best place to look for tickets is the French or British sites on Eurolines.
Cherbourg rail station is located in the center of town and about 15 minutes walk from Cite de la Mare, the main tourist destination. If you are coming off the ferry head for the harbour and find Carrefore supermarket, the rail station is located just beyond across a main road. Trains from here run along the Normandy line toward Paris, and Caen, the main interchange is about 75 minutes away.
Cherbourg is easily reached by ferries from the United Kingdom, departing from such ports as Poole, Portsmouth and Southampton. There is an airport here, and I imagine that it is served by flights from at least some of the UK airports
From Cherbourg many ferry boats leave daily towards English and Irish harbours, as well as to the closer by Channel islands. Here is one of the main connections with France (besides Calais) with the islands and many ENglish tourist arrive here on the mainland of Europe to start their holiday.
Ferries travel from both the UK and Ireland to Cherbourg.
Several centres are served by fast trains from Paris and the town even has its own airport!