Arcachon is one of the most popular destinations in France. Beautiful beaches, cute villages, amazing oysters, and the proximity to Bordeaux make it the perfect place for a summer vacation. While there are manygoodhotels in Arcachon, many people prefer to go to camping sites which offer plenty of activities, especially for kids. Here are some of the best camping sites in Arcachon (in Cap Ferret and next to Dune du Pilat), recommended by me and my avid traveler friends in my Travel in the Southwest of France group. Before going there be sure to read my articles about What to do and eat in Arcachon and the best places to visit in Arcachon and Cap Ferret.
Camping sites in Cap Ferret
Camping Aux Couleurs du ferret
This is one of the nicest campsites around Arcachon Bay, located in the northern part of the Cap Ferret peninsula, close to the port towns of Ares and Andernos les Bains. Camping Aux Couleurs du ferret is very family-friendly, with a big playground and a bike rental service, which is the perfect way to discover some of the beaches in Cap Ferret. This is a great camping site for people looking for a quiet holiday close to the beach. If you’re looking for more entertainment, go on to the other options on this list. Book your stay here.
Where: 101 Avenue du Médoc, 33950 Lège-Cap-Ferret
Camping Village Sublu Les Viviers – Maeva
If you want to have the full Cap Ferret experience this is the place for you. The Les Viviers camping site is located at the heart of the Cap Ferret peninsula, next to the le Four village, surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches of Arcachon Bay. The Camping has a private beach and offers a lot of different sports activities and a huge outdoor pool. It’s located just next to the cycling path of Cap Ferret which allows you to get to the ocean beach in 15 minutes. Book your stay here.
This camping is located just a few steps from one of the best ocean beaches in Cap Ferret, le Truc Vert. It’s set up in the midst of a beautiful pine forest, which makes it one of the most idyllic locations on our list. Camping le Truc Vert offers many amenities like restaurants, shops, a play area for kids, different events and more. This is a perfect place for campers but offers no mobile houses like some other camping sites on this list so you need to bring your own camper van or tent. Book your stay here.
Where: Route du Truc-Vert – 33950 Lège-Cap-Ferret Ocean
Best Camping sites near la Dune du Pilat(the Dune of Pilat)
Camping Panorama du Pyla
One of the most popular groups of camping sites in France, the Yelloh campsites, has a great site just at the foot of the Dune du Pilat. Camping Panorama runs a kids club during the summer for kids over 5yo. They offer plenty of services such as bike rentals and a restaurant with a beautiful view of the beach.
Book your stay here. Where: Route de Biscarrosse, 33115 La Teste-de-Buch
Camping La Forêt (Camping La Forêt du Pilat Tohapi)
Another fun place right at the base of Dune du Pyla is Camping La Forêt. The campsite has several types of accommodations such as air-conditioned cabins, mobile homes, parking for camping cars, and more. They offer plenty of entertainment options such as free activities for kids over 4 years old and disco nights and concerts for adults.
Book your night here. Where: Route d’Arcachon À Biscarrosse, 33115 La Teste-de-Buch
Another good option just next to the famous dune is Pyla Camping which offers several accommodation options: mobile homes, furnished lodge tents or pitches for camper vans, caravans, and tents. Pyla Camping is one of the best places in terms of entertainment with activities such as sports tournaments, mountain biking, horse riding, and karaoke nights. The facilities are not as good as some of the other campings on this list, but the prices are very affordable and it’s generally a fun experience. If you bring your own tent the price is less than 20 euros a night. Book your night here.
*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂
In the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a lot about places in Gironde, rather than Bordeaux itself and that’s because I really want to encourage you to discover the amazing area we live in. Gironde is the biggest department in France and one of the most varied ones in terms of what you can see and do. In my previous articles, I’ve written about the beautiful beaches surrounding Bordeaux, the best parks around Bordeaux, and some great hiking trails in Gironde. Now that you know all about the magnificent nature we’re surrounded by, it’s time to explore some of the most charming villages in France! So today, I am taking a short break from nature to invite you on a journey to discover Gironde’s beautiful architecture and heritage. In this article, I gathered some of the most beautiful villages in Gironde. If you follow my articles, you know that I really like variety and that’s why I included towns and villages from all over the department. Beach towns on the Atlantic coast, beautiful villages in the middle of Bordeaux’s wine routes, and plenty of medieval towns in the South of Gironde.
*Note – most villages on this list require a car to get to, in case you don’t have one, click here to get a rental car in Bordeaux.
If you take my advice and visit these beautiful villages, I’d love it if you could use the hashtag #lostinbordeaux so I can share your photos on my stories on my Instagram page Lost_in_bordeaux. Also, come and share your experiences and get plenty of new ideas for day trips in Nouvelle Aquitaine in my Facebook group – Travel in the southwest of France.
*Before we start I have an important announcement! I am upgrading my newsletter and from now on I will send a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend. The email will be sent on Friday! So if you want to receive cool plans for the weekend (especially during this period without obvious events taking place in Bordeaux) be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
Now let’s hit the road and discover the most beautiful villages in Gironde.
Entre deux mers and South Gironde
I decided to start my list with the Entre Deux Mers region and the South of Gironde as they’re usually my go-to places when I’m in a mood for beautiful medieval towns. This is one of the most beautiful parts in the southwest of France, embodying the historic and cultural richness of this region. Most of the villages on my list are located close to one another so you can visit them all in one weekend. Public transport is not extremely developed in this part of Gironde so it’s better to travel by car or bike if you like cycling a lot. I did, however, add public transport routes to these places just for completeness.
First on my list is Saint Macaire, a little medieval town located on the banks of the Garonne river, about 50km from Bordeaux. Saint Macaire is a very attractive destination for those interested in history and beautiful architecture. What today seems like a sleepy town in the Entre Deux Mers wine appellation was once an important city under British rule and was declared the “Ville royale d’Angleterre” (An English royal city) in 1341. During the 13th and 14th centuries, it was one of the most prosperous cities in Aquitaine due to its significant agricultural and trade activities.
Visiting Saint Macaire can be a great half-day trip if you take the time to discover its rich heritage, the narrow streets, and beautiful old houses and monuments. Place Mercadiou, surrounded by beautiful medieval houses is the main square of the village, where the market takes place every Thursday morning. Another monument not to miss is Porte de la Benauge, the main gate to the old city whose historic center is surrounded by ramparts. Probably the most important monument of Saint Macaire is its Eglise de Saint Sauveur et Saint-Martin. The big church, built in the 12th and 15th centuries has impressive murals that are really worth seeing. Every year at the end of August, Saint Macaire hosts one of the best medieval festivals in the region.
How to get there: It’s a bit complicated to get to Saint Macaire without a car as there’s no regular direct public transportation going there from Bordeaux (there’s one train a day to Saint Macaire). However, you can take a train to Langon and then cross the Garonne to the other side and bike or even go for a nice hike along the river until you reach Saint Macaire.
Cadillac is a little town located on the right bank of the Garonne river at the Entre Deux Mers wine region. It’s quite a popular destination attracting many tourists, especially during summer. Cadillac is hard to miss when driving the D10 route to the south of Gironde. You will be greeted by a big defensive wall and the main gate into the old medieval center built in the 13th century. However, its undeniably most famous monument is the Château des Ducs d’Épernon, built by the Duke of Épernon in the 17th century. The chateau is very impressive and is best known for being a women’s prison starting from the French revolution and up until 1950. It now serves as a museum that mostly displays the life of the royals who were occupying the estate before it became a prison. However, on the last floor, you can actually still see the cells and a small exhibition about the prison.
The town is also known for its wine, the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. You can visit the Maison des vins of Cadillac in order to learn about the wine of this region and taste it of course 🙂
How to get there: You can get there by bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
About 5km from Cadillac you will find Rions, a small medieval town located on the banks of the Garonne river. Like other towns in this region, Rions is also characterized by cute narrow streets and medieval houses. During medieval times it was an important town which was greatly affected by the Hundred years war between France and England. In 1295, Rions, which was at the time under British rule, was conquered by the French Charles of Valois who took down its defensive walls. In 1313, England was able to take the city back and surround it with ramparts, making it one of the Fortified English cities of British ruled southwest of France (Guyenne). It went back into French hands right before the end of the long war and, despite all the turmoil, was left with its impressive architecture and charm, perfect for a few hours trip. If you want to make the best of your day trip to the region, you can go on a 5km hike and see the beautiful surroundings of this medieval town. Read more about the hiking trail from Rions, in my article about hiking around Bordeaux.
How to get there: You can take bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
Castelmoron d’Albret is the smallest village in France and in my opinion one of the most charming ones in the southwest of France. This tiny medieval village is brimming with charm! Almost every house here is covered with colorful roses and other beautiful flowers spilling from eclectic pottery that is made here in the village. No house here looks the same, every window and door has its own particularity. There are almost no signs of modern life here, no cars, no sidewalks, just a beautiful village frozen in time. There are only about 50 people living here and only three businesses operating in the 3.5 hectares village so the atmosphere is incredibly relaxing. I think my kids were the loudest thing this village has experienced in a while.
It will take you about an hour of a scenic drive over the hills and along the vineyards of Entre Deux Mers to reach the little town from Bordeaux. If you want to combine the visit with any other activity, I recommend visiting the impressive bastide town of Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, which is located just a few minutes drive from Castelmoron d’Albret. There are also several hiking and cycling routes you can do in this part of Entre deux Mers. In this link you can find two great hiking trails that start from the village itself.
How to get there: Getting there by bus is fairly complicated and I would advise going only by car. The closest train station tho this village in La Reole but the bus from there to Castelmoron d’Albret is not very regular.
La Réole is a small hilly town situated on the banks of the Garonne river about 50 km from Bordeaux. Although the town developed around a monastery founded in the 7th or 8th century, it’s golden era was in medieval times when it became the second largest city in the region after Bordeaux. Still today, it’s one of the biggest towns in the south of the Gironde department with plenty of interesting events and a very lively weekly market on Saturdays. There are quite a few impressive houses and monuments to see in this little town, among them is the historic 12th century Town Hall, the Saint Pierre church and the Benedictine abbey, the old remparts of the city and more. Get lost in the narrow charming streets of the historic center of La Réole and let the beautiful architecture take you back in time. If you happen to arrive in La Reole when the tourist office is open, be sure to take a map of all the monuments in the city.
How to get there: This is a great destination for those who don’t own a car. You can get to La Réole in 40 minutes by train from Bordeaux. The train leaves from Gare Saint Jean every two hours.
Bazas is one of my favorite towns in the south of Gironde not only because it’s a beautiful place but also due to its rich heritage embodying the Gascony culture. It’s located at the eastern edge of the Gascon Landes forest, about 65 km from Bordeaux. A stroll in the historic center will allow you to discover the impressive architecture of the city and its past role as an important bishopric. At the main square of the town you will find its famous gothic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste which appears on the UNESCO world heritage list. When strolling the historic center don’t miss the charming old houses on the smaller streets as well as the gardens.
Architecture is not the only attraction of Bazas which is actually quite famous for its gastronomy, especially its meat. You can enjoy the Bazadaise meat in one of the restaurants located on the main square. True meat lovers could also buy meat in one of the many butcher shops in the center. If you’re looking for a full gastronomic experience to discover the cuisine of the region, there’s one tour you shouldn’t miss. Anne, an American living in Bazas is an expert on everything related to food in the region. She knows all the farmers and chefs around Bazas and her guided farm to table tours are an unforgettable experience. Check out her website.
How to get there This is the most complicated place on my list to get to by public transport and I wouldn’t recommend doing it. If you still want to go there by public transport you can take a train from Bordeaux to Langon and then bus number 512 to Bazas.
Before we continue to our next region I just wanted to remind you that I also share plenty of day trips ideas on my Facebook/Instagram pages, so if you’re not there yet, what are you waiting for? Like/follow me on social media and you will never be bored on a weekend again 🙂
The right bank – Saint Emilion and Pays Blayais
You can’t really do a list about villages around Bordeaux without including Saint Emilion in it, can you? This medieval village is known all around the world for its splendid wine but it’s also undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages around Bordeaux.
Important historical monuments can be found in abundance in this medieval town, some of which date back as far as the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the famous monuments is the 11th-century Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff, it’s the largest underground church in Europe. Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent attraction for tourists in the area. If you’re visiting Saint Emilion in the high season of July-August beware that you need to book everything in advance, it gets very busy!
Blaye is one of the most interesting places in the Bordeaux area, located only about 50 km north to Bordeaux center. This little town has a long military and strategic history and is mostly known for its remarkable Citadel. The Citadel and city walls are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can easily spend half a day discovering them. The entrance to the Citadel is free and you can explore the streets and ramparts admiring the view of the Gironde estuary which can be seen from the top.
Blaye is also well known for its red wine which honestly is really excellent and very reasonably priced. You can visit the Maison du Vin on the main street (12 Cours Vauban), where they would gladly introduce you to the wines of the region and the chateaux you can visit around Blaye.
How to get there? The easiest way to get there is by car or by ferry if you’re coming from the other side of the Gironde estuary. The ferry is leaving from Lamarque, you can see all the details about the tariffs and hours in this link. Beware that masks are currently required onboard the ferry. There are also several bus lines going to Blaye – check all the info here.
Bourg (Previously called Bourg sur Gironde) is a picturesque village at the heart of the wine appellation of Côtes de Bourg located at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers. Bourg has played a key role in the region’s history, it was built in Roman times, fortified by the English and visited by several kings, such as Louis XIV in 1650. Just like its neighboring town of Blaye, Bourg too has a very impressive citadel called Château de la Citadelle. While it’s not one of the main tourist destinations in the Medoc area, those who do get to visit this beautiful place, quickly fall in love with it. Apart from the citadel, the historic part of the city also has a cute central square with restaurants and shops, the market takes place every Sunday.
Bourg is however quite known for its great Côtes de Bourg wine! Don’t miss a visit to the Maison des Vins des Côtes de Bourg, a 19th century former residence with a warm atmosphere that acts as a venue for exhibitions, talks, receptions, tasting classes, meetings with winegrowers and more. You can also see the map of all the wineries here, it’s better to call them prior to your visit.
How to get there: Two bus lines of TransGironde (201, 202) from Lormont pass through Bourg. However, unless you live or stay on rive droite of the Garonne it will take you some time to get to Lormont from the center of Bordeaux. So here too, going by car is recommended.
Arcachon and Medoc
L’herbe is a traditional oyster farming village located on the Cap Ferret Peninsula. Here you won’t find the characteristics of a typical French village, no central square with a bakery, no old houses or medieval gates. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most beautiful villages in the southwest of France, in my opinion at least.
There’s something raw and authentic about L’herbe. You get to walk between the colorful cabins of oyster farmers and see them in action on their special workboats. If you like oysters, you’re going to love this place. Plenty of oyster restaurants are spread along the beach serving only the freshest oysters, pork paté and white wine. This is a perfect destination for a sunny half-day trip from Bordeaux, or a full day trip if you add a visit to the beach as well.
How to get from Bordeaux to L’herbe: by car is the best way to get here as the bus is not a direct one and it takes almost two hours to get to L’herbe from Bordeaux. But if you have no choice take bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
Cap Ferret is a little town located on the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon and has been traditionally known as a summer getaway for the French upper class. Although it’s been recently gaining popularity among tourists visiting the south of France, it has yet to lose its relaxing beach village atmosphere, especially if compared to Arcachon city.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches on the Atlantic ocean and a view of the eastern side of the Bassin. Apart from its dreamy beaches it’s also known for its ostréiculture industry, which produces some of the best oysters in France. Dozens of oyster cabins and restaurants with a view on the Bassin give Cap-Ferret a unique character that’s worth a visit. If you want to really profit from the day, rent a bike and cycle along the beaches and through the pine forest that covers a large part of the Cap Ferret peninsula. There are plenty of bike rentals in Cap Ferret, one of them is Bike rental Cap Gyro (7 Boulevard de la Plage, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret).
How to get there: Bus 601 will bring you to Cap Ferret but it’ll take you at least two hours to get there, so a car is definitely a better option here. You can also take a ferry from Arcachon or le Moulleau beach, you can see the schedule here.
Soulac Sur Mer
This charming little town is one of the highlights of the Medoc region. It’s located on the very top of the Medoc Atlantique, about 90 km from Bordeaux. If you ever had the chance to visit the town of Arcachon, you will find Soulac sur Mer a bit familiar, and many actually call it “little Arcachon”. Its city center resembles Ville d’été while the northern part of the town with its charming 18th-century villas is similar in style to the impressive villas of Ville d’Hiver in Arcachon. Soulac has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast, attracting many French tourists to the area. There are plenty of cute little restaurants both in the center and on the promenade. Seafood is a very important part of the local cuisine and so many restaurants will serve oysters and large shrimps.
Every year Soulac hosts one of my favorite events in Gironde, called Soulac 1900. A celebration of music, dance, ancient cars and costumes from the beginning of the 20th century.
We came to the end of my list of the most beautiful villages in the Southwest of France, Gironde (at least until I find another treasure that has a place on this exclusive list :)). There are of course more charming villages around Bordeaux such as le Canon in the Cap Ferret Peninsula or Monsegur in Entre deux mers, but I narrowed down the list to the ones I find most special.
If you missed my announcement from the beginning of the post I will repeat it again because I think it’s so cool 🙂 I am upgrading my newsletter and from now on I will send a weekly email with suggestions of things to do every weekend. The email will be sent on Friday mornings! So if you want to recieve cool plans for the weekend (especially during this period without obvious events taking place in Bordeaux) be sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
The Bassin d’Arcachon or the Arcachon Bay has become one of the most popular destinations in France with more than half a million visitors heading there during July and August alone. While some people rent a house close to the beach, most tourists go there for day trips from Bordeaux, which is located about an hour’s drive from the bay.If you look at the map you’ll see that the Arcachon bay is quite a big place with plenty of villages and activities so how do you choose where to go? That’s what I’m here for! In this article I’m going to introduce you to some of the best destinations for a day trip or a weekend on Bassin D’Arcachon. The places with the most unique atmosphere, the best beaches, interesting activities for you and your kids and spots where you can enjoy the famous Arcachon oysters.
We can roughly divide the bay into two parts, the north and south of the Bassin. When I’m in the mood for a beautiful village or an unspoilt beach I tend to go to the northern part of Arcachon bay. There, you have the most charming villages on the Arcachon Bay like L’herbe, Le Canon, Andernos les Bains and others. However, if I’m in a more active mood, I’d usually go to the southern part of the bay where you can climb the incredible dune de Pilat, visit the oysters museum, spend a day in a huge birds reserve and kayak on the Eyre river.
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 start discovering some of the most beautiful and interesting places to visit on the Arcachon Bay!
Andernos les Bains – a perfect day trip to the Arcachon Bay
Andernos les Bains is not a prime tourist destination like some of its better-known neighbors on the Bassin d’Arcachon and that, in a way, makes it even more attractive. With an old prehistoric site, 19th-century villas and a long sandy beach overlooking the Bassin, it’s not hard to spend a pleasant day in this seaside resort. Like other towns on the Arcachon bay, Andernos les Bains is also known for oyster farming, and a wealth of restaurants serving delicious oysters and seafood garnish its shores. Most restaurants are located next to the port from which you can take a nice promenade on the longest pier in France. My favorite spot for oysters is Cabane 21 Station des Gus, which is also very kids friendly. But mind you, it’s a spot for real seafood lovers as you won’t find anything else on the menu (except wine of course). Andernos les Bains is also known for its fun events and festivals such as the Festival Cabanes en Fête (an oysters and wine celebration) in December and the Andernos Jazz Festival in July.
How to get from Bordeaux to Andernos les Bains: The best way to get there is by car but if you have no other choice you can also take Bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
L’Herbe – the best-hidden gem on the Arcachon bay
L’herbe is a traditional oyster farming village located on the Cap Ferret Peninsula. Here you won’t find the characteristics of a typical French village, there’s no church nor a central square with a bakery and a restaurant. Nonetheless, you can easily say that it is one of the most beautiful villages in the southwest of France.
There’s something raw and authentic about L’herbe. You get to walk between the colorful cabins of oyster farmers and see them in action on their special workboat. If you like oysters, you’re going to love this place. Plenty of oyster restaurants are spread along the beach serving only the freshest oysters, pork paté and white wine. This is a perfect destination for a sunny half-day trip from Bordeaux, or a full day trip if you add a visit to the beach as well.
How to get from Bordeaux to L’herbe: Same as with Andernos les Bains, a car is the best way to get here as the bus is not a direct one and it takes almost two hours to get to L’herbe. But if you have no choice you can also take Bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
Cap Ferret – dreamy beaches and the best oysters on the Arcachon bay
Cap Ferret is a little town located on the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon and has been traditionally known as a summer getaway for the French upper class. Although it’s been recently gaining popularity among tourists visiting the south of France, it has yet to lose its relaxing beach village atmosphere, especially if compared to the more southern towns of Arcachon bay.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches on the Atlantic ocean and a view of the eastern side of the Bassin. Apart from its dreamy beaches it’s also known for its ostréiculture industry, which produces some of the best oysters in France. Dozens of oyster cabins and restaurants with a view on the Bassin give Cap-Ferret a unique character that’s worth a visit and a taste.
Another fun thing to do in Cap Ferret is to bike along the beaches and through the pine forest that covers a large part of the Cap Ferret peninsula. There are plenty of bike rentals in Cap Ferret, one of them is Bike rental Cap Gyro (7 Boulevard de la Plage, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret).
How to get from Bordeaux to Cap Ferret: The same 601 bus can take you to Cap Ferret but it’ll take you at least two hours to get there, so a car is definitely a better option here. If you’re near Arcachon or le Moulleau, you can see the schedule here.
Arcachon – the city
It’s not my favorite destination on the bay mostly due to it being a town rather than a village. Having said that there are plenty of great things to do in and around the town of Arcachon and if you have the time it’s worth a visit.
The town of Arcachon is divided into four districts, named after the seasons of the year. Ville d’Été, covering the touristic center, main beach, restaurants and boutiques. Ville d’Hiver – the historic center adorned with glamorous 19th-century villas. Ville de Printemps in the west is closer to the most beautiful and less crowded beaches of Arcachon and Ville d’Automne is the beautiful port area packed with great fish restaurants. A visit to Arcachon can easily take the whole day but many tend to combine it with a visit to the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe and one of the most popular destinations in France.
Another reason to go to Arcachon is the beautiful beaches located on the south part of the bay. Two that I particularly like are petit Nice and La Corniche where you can also grab a drink at the fancy La corniche hotel /restaurant. A fun way to discover that part of the bay is by bike. You can hire one in the center of Arcachon city and just follow the cycling route along the beach.
In my guide to Arcachon city, you can find all the details about things to do, places to eat, where to hire a bike and what beaches are the best ones to go to in Arcachon.
How to get from Bordeaux to Arcachon: Arcachon is the easiest one to get to by train directly from Bordeaux. A train leaves almost every hour from the main station in Bordeaux and the station of Pessac centre. Beware that if you come by car, free parking is not easy to find, so taking the train is advisable during the touristic season. You have more details about parking in my article about Arcachon.
The Magnificent dune du Pilat in Teste de Buch
If there’s one thing in this list I consider a “must” it’s definitely this one. The gigantic sand dune is one of the wonders of the area, with its 60 million metric cubes of sand it’s quite astonishing the first time you see it. 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. You can climb the dune by stairs that are installed from the end of May to early November. If you come during the low season or just feel energetic, you can just climb straight up the sandy slopes.
Once you reach the top, a stunning panoramic view will be revealed with the Cap Ferret peninsula on one side, a huge pine forest on the other and the magnificent Banc d’Arguin nature reserve just in front. After working so hard climbing the dune, you can slide to the other side (when the sand is not too hot of course) and go straight to the beach. If you’re not in a rush you can easily spend the day here, have a nice picnic and swim in the crystal clear water. It’s hard to describe the beauty of this site in words, you really must see it for yourself.
How to get from Bordeaux to dune du Pilat: If you’re coming by public transport, line 1 (Baia company) will take you from the Arcachon train station to Dune to Pilat. Otherwise, you can get there by car and park in the paid parking of the site.
Lanton – a beautiful promenade
If you’re looking for a beautiful quiet place for a long walk, Lanton is the perfect spot for you. You can start your walk from plage de Suzette, which is a little port with a few restaurants on it and just follow the trail that starts next to the boats. If you’ve ever been to the Bassin d’Arcachon you know that the view changes a lot depending on the tide. This trail goes along the bay and that’s why, depending on the time you arrive, it may feel like walking along the beach or in an apocalyptic desert. If you want to escape the crowds in the summer head to Lanton as the scenery and tranquility are just magical.
The birds’ reserve in Teich
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.
The Teich Bird Reserve is explored on foot along a 6 km long circular path (with a shorter route proposed to visitors with young kids). The path goes through a rich diversity of natural habitats, giving a great overall picture of the site and its surrounding areas. I would highly advise taking a binocular with you. Many of the birds stay quite far from the designated Viewpoints and are just too distant to observe. Doing the same route with a binocular made the visit much more interesting in my view.
The Reserve Ornithologique du Teich is open all year long except on December 25, and can even be reached by train (the Teich train station is located about 15 minutes walk from the reserve). For more info see the website of the reserve: https://www.reserve-ornithologique-duteich.com/en/
Gujan Mestras – the capital of oysters
Gujan-Mestras is a little town known as the capital of oyster farming on the Bassin d’Arcachon. It has seven oyster ports which you can visit and watch oyster farmers’ work. You can even join one of the farmers and take part in their work for a few hours. Find the list of farmers providing that experience on the tourist office website.
You can also visit the “Maison de Huitre”, an interactive museum where you discover everything about oyster farming. And finally, don’t forget to taste the freshest oysters in one of the cabanes along the coastline, many of which are located at the famous Port de Larros. Gujan-Mestras also has a beautiful beach called Plage de la Hume. Due to its interior position on the Arcachon bay, there are almost no waves and it feels more like a lake than a sea beach, which makes it very kids friendly.
The town hall of Gujan-Mestras is quite active and hosts plenty of nice events for kids and adults in the summer, you can find them all on their site: https://www.gujanmestras.com
How to get to Gujan Mestras? The same train that goes to Arcachon also stops in Gujan Mestras so you can easily get there by train if you don’t want to drive.
These are some of my favorite spots on the Arcachon bay, and I hope it will encourage you to get out and spend at least one day in this magical place.
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.
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!