It's quite understandable that after the long ferry crossing to St Malo, UK visitors are tempted to hop in their cars and be on their way. It's a great shame, though, because St Malo is an attractive walled town and an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area. It is well worth tagging a few days on to the beginning or end of your holiday - doing this could even save you money, as mid-week travel tends to be cheaper. For ideas of where to stay in St Malo, see www.saint-malo.com
A good introduction to St Malo is to walk the circumference of the ramparts which will give you excellent views of the bay, the small islands, machicolated towers, merchants' houses with extravagant chimney pots and cobbled streets. Sadly much of the town was destroyed during the Allied bombing raids of World War II but most of the Renaissance buildings have been painstakingly and successfully restored.
The best views are from Bastion St Phillipe and Bastion de la Hollande. The Porte St Pierre allows access to the small but usually quiet beach, Plage du Bon Secours. The Grande Plage, to the east of the ramparts, is a magnificent stretch of sand but can be crowded in the summer. At low tide it is possible to walk out to the islet, Ile du Grand Be (a half hour stroll), but once the tide is in you will be stranded out there for six hours! Be sure to check tide times before you set off and do not be tempted to risk wading ashore - the water is extremely deep.
The Musée du Château, housed in the 15th century castle built by the Dukes of Brittany, gives an interesting insight into maritime life. If pirates are your thing you will enjoy a trip to the Maison de Corsaire, although be aware that there are no guided tours in English. Children will enjoy the excellent Grand Aquarium, a couple of miles south of St Malo, where there are touch pools, underwater rides in a Nautibus and a shipwreck display.
The Cathedral of St Vincent dates from the 12th century and often has organ recitals and choral concerts. Check with the Tourist Office for details.
From St Malo, the beach resort of Dinard is just a short ferry ride away. Alternatively, visit the beautiful little medieval town of Dinan, 20 miles to the South.