The Arcachon bay is one of the most popular destinations in the southwest of France. Its beautiful beaches and cute resort towns attract many tourists and locals from the Bordeaux region. There is plenty of stuff to do there and I have already written two guides about visiting Arcachon: The guide to Arcachon city and the best places to visit on the Arcachon Bay. But I have yet to talk about the fact that it’s one of the best vacation destinations to do with kids. Plenty of family-friendly beaches, sports activities, parks and interactive tours are some of the things you can do with kids in Arcachon. In this article, I gathered a list of 15 fun things to do with kids around the Arcachon Bay, both in the southern part and the Cap Ferret Peninsula. If you’re also visiting Bordeaux on your trip, please read my article about 30 things to do with kids in Bordeaux.
COVID 19 warning – although most sites in the region are now open to the public, please remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. It means that in all the places on this list you’ll need to keep a distance from other visitors, groups of over 10 people are not yet allowed and some sites recommend adults to wear masks (see info on their websites before going). And most importantly, as the situation is quite dynamic the information about the opening hours as well as the reservation requirements may change by the time you read this article. I strongly encourage you to contact Arcachon’s tourist office or the websites of the places you’re planning to visit when planning your trip to Arcachon Bay.
Before we start, here are a few other articles you might want to read when you’re traveling around Bordeaux:
The best beaches around Bordeaux
Day trips around Bordeaux – wine, beaches and villages
10 day trips from Bordeaux by Public transport
A weekend in Medoc – Bordeaux wine tours
What to do and eat in Saint Emilion
You can also join my Facebook group “Travel in the southwest of France” where many enthusiasts of the region share their recommendations for places to visit and things to do in the southwest of France.
Now let’s dive into the list of the most fun things to do with kids on Bassin d’Arcachon.
Beaches and nature in the Arcachon Bay
Go to one of the kids-friendly beaches in Arcachon
My first item on the list is quite obvious, isn’t it? Which kid doesn’t love to splash in the water and build castles in the sand? In that regard, Bassin d’Arcachon is heaven for families and that’s because the water in the bay is very calm due to its shape. Many of the beaches are also quite easily accessible and don’t require a long walk from the parking lot, which we all know can be a real hustle with little kids.
Here are just a few kids-friendly beaches around the Arcachon Bay:
Plage Pereire, which starts right after the pedestrian promenade (bordered by Jetée de la Chapelle). It’s a beautiful three km beach with white sand and a view of the Cap Ferret peninsula on the other side of the bay. You can also reach this beach by public transport from the center of Arcachon.
Petit Nice – one of my favorite beaches on the bay, located just in front of the Le banc d’Arguin which protects the beach from the ocean waves and creates a very calm and family-friendly beach.
Plage de la Hume in Gujan Mestras is definitely one of the safest beaches on the bay. Its location on the bay makes the water very calm and easy to swim in. However, this beach is only fun when the tide is high so if you want to swim, you should check the tide hours first. They are changing daily and in some hours of the day, you can barely see any water. Click here for the daily tide hours.
Cap Ferret – You can also go to Lege Cap Ferret where many of the beaches turning towards the bay are kids friendly. Two of my favorite beaches on the peninsula are the Plage de la pres de la pointe and the little beach of L’herbe.
Climb the dune du Pilat
Dune du Pilat needs no introduction! If you’re planning to go to Arcachon, most chances are you have already heard about the dune before. Dune du Pilat is Europe’s tallest sand dune, rising to an impressive 110 m high. It’s also 500 meters wide and 2.7 km long so you’ll have plenty of room to wander. I had to include the dune on this list as kids absolutely love climbing it. It’s an amazing activity with the kids and more so gliding back down on the sand from the top of the dune.
VIsiting dune du Pilat is a bit tough if your kids are very small. However, during the touristic season when the stairs are installed, you can easily get to the top of the dune and enjoy the incredible view from the top! There is a huge (paid) parking lot right next to the dune.
Go to le Lac de Cazaux
While I love the ocean, I usually prefer taking my kids to the lake as it feels safer and it’s easier to handle them there. The Arcachon region is home to Lac de Cazaux, one of the biggest freshwater lakes in France. The big lake is wind-sheltered by the pine forest around it and is known for its tranquil and beautiful beaches. The most popular beach on the lake is the Plage de Cazaux Lac, with plenty of summer water activities and easy access for handicaps. My favorite beach on the lake is Plage de Laouga, it feels a bit wilder and very tranquil.
A boat trip to Iles aux Oiseaux and the Cabanes Tchanquées
A great way to explore the landscapes and biodiversity of the Arcachon Bay is by boat. There are quite a few boat operators offering different boat tours across the Bassin. The best one to do with kids in my opinion is the “ Grand Tour d’Iles aux Oiseaux”. It’s a two hours boat tour that takes you to two of the most notorious places on the bay: Les Cabanes Tchanquées and L’Ile aux Oiseaux. Les Cabanes Tchanquées, the two wooden huts decorating almost every postcard in Arcachon, are one of the most emblematic symbols of the bay. You can take the tour from Jetée Thiers, located on the main beach of Arcachon but also from other ports on the Arcachon bay such as Gujan Mestras, Cap Ferret, Le Canon, Le Moulleau and Andernos les Bains.
You can choose the hours you’re interested in and the port you want to take the tour from on this site.
Bird Watching at the Teich Ornithological Reserve
The Teich Ornithological Reserve is a protected nature reserve located some 50km from Bordeaux, where you can watch thousands of wild birds from up-close. 110 hectares of wooded areas, saltmarsh, reed beds and meadows stretch out between the mainland and the Bassin d’Arcachon coastline, offering a perfect habitat for many birds. Some stay here permanently and some just pass by. A visit to the reserve can be a fun and educative day for both kids and adults. If your family is in shape you can do the 6km tour of the whole reserve. If your kids are too small for 6km, the reserve also has a 2km path for families. In any case, the path is accessible with strollers in case your toddler doesn’t want to walk. The Teich Ornithological Reserve has a great website with a lot of info, even giving you the approximate bird’s arrival schedule so you can plan your visit according to that. Consult all the info here.
Amusement parks and sports activities
Kayaking on the Leyre river
No list of activities for kids can be complete without kayaking or a canoeing experience (mine are too small so I’m really waiting for that). There are quite a few places for kayaking on the bay, one of the best is on the Leyre river. The tropical river, that got the nickname La Petite Amazone (little Amazon) flows through three towns on the Bassin d’Archachon: Le Teich, Biganos, and Mios. There are many operators that offer kayaking and canoeing in that area, one of them is located on the colorful little port of Biganos. You can do this activity with kids older than 6yo and there are several routes to choose, among them, there are morning/afternoon tours or whole day excursions. You can see all the info here.
Pay attention to the starting location as it changes depending on the tour you want to take. You should also know that the hours may change depending on the tide so always call a day in advance to know what hours are best to arrive.
Where: Canoe-kayak Courant D Eyre Location de canoë sur Leyre, 88 Rue du Port, 33380 Biganos
Tree Climbing at Bassin Aventure
Another super fun sportive activity in Arcachon is accrobranche (tree climbing) that is offered by Bassin Aventure in Gujan Mestras. It’s one of the only sports activities that you can do with little kids (starting from 3 yo). The place has 22 different tree-climbing circuits and 250 different games on and around the trees. Reservations are recommended, you can see all the prices here. Please read carefully about all the restrictions related to COVID 19 on the website of Bassin Aventure.
Where: Avenue des Loisirs, 33470 Gujan-Mestras
Parc de la Coccinelle
This cute amusement park in Gujan-Mestras is perfect for a day out with kids. It has everything from water slides, roller coasters, trampolines, and even an animal farm where you can feed baby goats. If you’re traveling with more than one kid it’s not always obvious to find a park that both little ones and bigger kids can enjoy. And that’s why the Parc de la Coccinelle is so fun! See the time schedule and tariffs here.
Where: Parc de loisirs, La Hume, 33470 Gujan-Mestras
Cycling along the Arcachon Bay
The Arcachon bay has some of the prettiest and easiest cycling paths in our region and this can be a great way to discover the bay with kids. With more than 220km of cycling lanes stretching from Cap Ferret to the south of Arcachon, you have plenty to discover. Start your circuit from the center of Arcachon and continue to Dune du Pilat, through le Moulleau and Pyla sur Mer. To follow the path see the map here. There are also several cycling routes in Cap Ferret, choose a circuit from this site or just follow the path that starts from the center of Cap Ferret.
There are many bike rental places in Arcachon where you can rent a bike for a few hours or for the whole day, see their details here.
Your kids can learn surfing in Arcachon
Arcachon is located on the famous Côte d’Argent known as a paradise for surfers. If your kids are over 8 yo they can go to a surfing school. The surfing school for kids is located on the Plage du Grand Crohot at the top of the Cap Ferret Peninsula. They offer a five-day course for kids as well as a first-time discovery session. You have to reserve in advance. All the details, tariffs and registration forms are on the website of the school.
Put the following coordinates in your GPS to arrive at the right location: Latitude: 44° 48′ 9,12” Nord, Longitude : 1° 13′ 33,60” Ouest
Educational activities and games
The Oysters museum
Arcachon is well known globally for its oyster farming. The capital of oyster farming in Arcachon is definitely Gujan-Mestras which is a very nice destination for a day trip. You can bike along the 7 oyster ports of Gujan, stop in one of the oyster cabanes for tastings, and go to the beach (la Hume which I mentioned earlier). But if you want to turn it into a nice and educational experience for kids take them to La Maison de l’Huitre. The oyster museum is an interactive museum where you’ll discover everything about oyster farming. See more details about their opening hours and tariffs here.
Where: La Maison de l’Huitre, Rue du Port de Larros, 33470 Gujan-Mestras
Go to the Zoo
The Arcachon zoo is located in the middle of the great pine forest, Forêt des Landes. The zoo is spread over 22 hectares and inhabits more than 800 animals from all over the world. The zoo is opening its doors this Saturday (June 6) and masks are obligatory from 11yo and up – please read all other instructions here before going to the zoo. The tariffs are 16 euros for kids aged 3-11 and 23 euros for everyone older than 12yo (it’s one euro less if you book the tickets online). See all the info here.
Where: Boulevard de Cazaux, 33260 La Teste-de-Buch
Discover the winter city of Arcachon by train
Ville d’hiver in Arcachon city is a beautiful neighborhood with extraordinary architecture that is well worth a visit. However, taking a walking tour there could be a bit dull for kids, instead, take the little train that goes through the most beautiful villas of Arcachon as well as to the Periere beach where you can see an amazing view of the Bassin. You can buy the tickets directly from the driver, see the tariffs and time schedule here.
Where: the train leaves from the tourist office- MA.AT Esplanade Pompidou, 22 Boulevard du Général Leclerc, 33120 Arcachon.
Eat ice cream at Le Moulleau
Le Moulleau, located in the far west, is officially a part of the city of Arcachon. However, in reality, it feels like a completely separate little resort town with its own center, beaches and restaurants. Le Moulleau is built around the beautiful Notre Dame des Passes square and its pier. If you’re traveling with kids, this neighborhood is well worth a visit. It has one of the prettiest and most kid-friendly beaches on the bay and also several good ice cream shops on the main street 🙂
Find the treasure with Terra Aventura
Terra Aventura is a fun activity you can do with your kids in many locations in Nouvelle Aquitaine. Terra Aventura organizes geocaching games in which children try to find characters well hidden around monuments and nature by answering different riddles. All you have to do is download the free app of Terra Aventura to start treasure hunting with your kids.
The Bassin d’Arcachon offers five different games located in: Arès, Biganos , Andernos, Gujan-Mestras and Mios. You can find all the details about the starting points here.
That’s it for today, but before we go let me ask you an important question!
Are you subscribed to my email list? Every Thursday/Friday I’m sending a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend, everything from day trips, hiking paths, markets, activities for kids and other secret gems in the region. So if you want to receive cool plans for the weekend be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!