The cliffs and 13 communes are included in the area that is now a member of the RGSF (RÃ©seau des Grands Sites de France) which means it will be protected from development and benefit from a programme of sustainable tourism.
It joins 39 other sites deemed to be of outstanding natural beauty such as the Bay of Mont Saint Michel, the Tarn gorges, Carcassonne, Europeâ€™s highest dune at Pilat in the south west of France and the Pointe de Raz in Brittany on the RGDF list.
The site covers 120 kilometres of the Alabaster coastline on the channel coast of Normandy just north of Le Havre. The famous cliffs already have between one and two million visitors a year and the move will help to preserve the landscape.
The steep cliffs and the large arch of rock that juts out into the sea at Etretat are world famous and the landscape and countryside was painted by the Impressionist painters including Claude Monet. French novelist Guy de Maupassant spent most of his childhood in Etretat and one of his short stories is called The Englishman of Etretat. He later built a Mediterranean style home near the sea where he wrote one of his most famous novels Pierre and Jean. Gustave Flaubert also spent time on the coast and was inspired by the beaches and cliffs.
A spokesman for the Seine Maritime council, which put the site forward for membership of the RGSF, said that it will help the region to address some serious issues such as parking for visitors and traffic management. There are some pretty villages and valleys where current visitor numbers overwhelm the countryside at the height of the tourist season. Other issues revolve around coastal erosion and fishing.
The Great Sites are protected by the French law of May 1930 which protects natural monuments and sites of artistic, historic, legendary or picturesque character. When the RGDF was created in 2000 it has just 17 sites but now has 40 and they are entitled to use the RGDF logo which is handed out officially by the Ministry for Ecology and Sustainable Development.
Membership guarantees that the site is conserved and managed following sustainable development principles and the spirit of the site is protected while enhancing the visiting experience.