Reaching the top of the Pilat dune, the highest sand dune in Europe, offers one of the most beautiful panoramas, of the blue of the Ocean, the blond of its islands, the green of its pine forest…A magical and preserved place. An exceptional viewpoint of the Arcachon Bay, the Cap Ferret point, the Bench of Arguin, the Tchanquées wooden cabins and the Ile aux oiseaux (Birds Island), a land which has been immortalised in the songs of the popular French singer Pascal Obispo.
Located only 50 km from Bordeaux, in the heart of Landes de Gascogne, the Arcachon Basin is a large bay where the fresh waters of the Leyre River mix with the tumultuous waters of the Ocean. The Bassin has a microclimate. From Springtime the mimosas distil their delicate perfume andthe first sunrays give an earlytaste of the summer turning the water a turquoise blue colour. Formerly called« la petite mer de Buch » (the little sea of Buch, the Arcachon Basin inherited a true maritime culture. The waters of the Basin were a plentiful fishing area for the many fishermen of the Pays de Buch.
The navigation was made with “pinasses”, boats with flat hulls facilitating the navigation in the canals. The Arcachon Basin has also maintained its oyster farm tradition. This beautiful nature landscape can be enjoyed by boat, by bike thanks to its 150 kilometres of cycling paths which goes round the basin, on foot, and even in a delta-plane, paragliding or helicopter.
Auriane’s top tip: Discover the ile aux oiseaux (Birds Island) with the Union des Bateliers Arcachonnais and their boat rides. Many options are available to the public, just pick the one you want.! The tickets are on sale on the two jetties of Arcachon, in the Tourist Offices as well as on the internet (no booking by phone available). Read Auriane’s article here.
Arcachon was born along with the first sea bathing. On 2nd May 1857, Arcachon was declared a commune by Napoléon III and the railway line between Bordeaux and La Teste was extended to the seaside resort. The brothers Emile and Isaac Pereire, rich bankers, shareholders of the company Chemins de Fer du Midi, bought some land and built a sanatorium, villas and casino…the winter town was born.
The wide spread commune, is composed of many quarters, each with a peculiar charm and its own identity.
The winter town (a listed Historic Monument since 1985) houses 19th century elegant and sumptuous villas, from neo gothic style or neo classic style which are sometimes hidden in huge parks where the Bordeaux inhabitants like coming on holiday. Today, 73 residences are registered.
It is also here that a Moorish style casino was built, destroyed by the fire in 1977only a beautiful 4 hectares park complemented by an arboretum with many plant species, rare species and hundred year old trees. Nearby the Observatoire Sainte-Cécile, built in 1863 offers a breath-taking panorama on the basin. Be warned though if you suffer from vertigo, you need to climb a very narrow spiral metallic staircase suspended by metallic cables 15 metres above the ground
A funicular transformed in a lift connects the park to the summer town, the modern town where small properties were established on the seaside. Some quarters, like the one around the new Place des Marquises, close to the brand new covered market, became very lively and many shops have opened. The neo gothic style Notre-Dame Basilica overlooks the town and houses an alabaster statue, which legend has it was a gift from the sea to a priest who saved many boats from a storm.
The autumn town stretches around the fishing harbours and marinas, and the growing town was established close to the spring Sainte-Anne des Abatilles, discovered randomly while looking for petrol in 1923. Beautiful beaches (Pereire Beach and Moulleau Beach), appeal to families.
A surprising Orthodox Greek style church erected on a promontory overlooks the quarter and houses the unique centre of thalassotherapy in Gironde. The Aquarium Museum invites to the discovery of the species of the basin, but also tropical fishes, it gathers on 14 hectares hundreds of sea creatures that can be seen from a suspended bridge.
Auriane’s top tip: The Grande Roue on Place Peynau, close to the Eyrac jetty. An amazing view overlooking the Ocean is waits you. The Grande Roue also operates at night, until 11pm. The ticket costs €5.Read Auriane’s article here.
The Pilat dune steals the show in this small homophone seaside resort housing the Daniel Meller and Corniche beaches, due to its impressive dimensions: 110 metres high, 500 metres width, 2,700 metres long and 8,000 years old. The panorama offered at the top is breath-taking: oaks and maritime pine forests; the Arguin Bench, the largest sandbank of the coastline; the Atlantic Ocean; the Ile aux oiseaux (Birds Island) which surface varies with the tides and shelters many bird species; the tchanquées wooden cabins peeking up like lookouts (they take their name from the Gascony term describing the stilts used by the shepherds of Les Landes); the Cap Ferret Point.
In a perpetual movement between sand, wind and tides, the dune moves by 1 to 5 metres each year.
Auriane’s best tip: There is a paying car park and the prices vary depending on time spent: €4 for 4hours and €6 for the day (during the summer period). You can only pay by credit card. It is also possible to come to the dune by bus or by bike to avoid the car park fees. The bus timetable can be found on internet on in the Tourist Offices of Arcachon. Read Auriane’s article here.
It is the largest commune of the basin with 26,000 hectares including 10,000 hectares of maritime pines. La Teste de Buch is home to the most emblematic heritage of the basin: the Pilat Dune with the Prés salés (Salt meadows) and the Cazaux-Sanguinet Lake, second largest freshwater lake in France, connected by a canal to the Arcachon Basin.
It is the ideal place for many outdoor sports in the heart of a beautiful forest.
The commune has conserved all its authenticity and has seven harbours (La Hume, Meyran, Gujan, Larros, Le Canal, La Barbotière, La Mole) that are dedicated to oyster farming. Meet the oyster farmers; learn from their experience and share their passion. You can visit their farms and taste their products in a friendly atmosphere. Beaches, Golf, cycling paths, animal and fun park, bowling, casino, disco…Gujan-Mestras has many attractions to appeal to sports enthusiasts and partygoers.
In Larros harbour, the Oyster House is a museum created by the oyster farmersshare their history and their profession. Gujan-Mestras produces half of the oysters of the Arcachon Basin. The Hume Beach, near the little marina is ideal for families, offering a beautiful view of the Basin.
A paradise on earth and in the air for all things ornithological. Located in the heart of the Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park, on the Leyre delta and on one of the most important migratory routes of Europe, this 110 hectare nature reserve, with marshlands and forest shelter an exceptional fauna and flora.
There are many hiking paths, 12 km of cycling paths, as well as canoe or Kayak rides. A 6km marked trail, with 20 hides crossing all the zones was especially created for bird watching.
The small harbour of Audenge is typical, like its small colourful wooden cabins along it. The small commune has a basin of 50 metres of seawater, renewing at each tide, an open-air swimming pool created by a swimming fanatic.
At the north exit of Audenge, in Lanton, discover the typical vegetation and the poultry fauna of the Domain of Certes-Graveyron, sensitive natural areas, property of the coastal conservatory.
Located in the heart of the Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park, this commune is defined by its rural, aquatic and forest landscapes, crossed by many rivers; four lakes: Green Lake, Lambert Lake, Pont Neau Lake and Trous des Tuileries Lake, two harbours; the port of Biganos and the Port des Tuiles and one island: the Island of Malprat (located between two arms of the Leyre delta, non accessible to the public) which houses a flora and fauna ecosystem.
Just outside Biganos, off the main road between Bordeaux and Arcachon, lies the Moulin de la Cassadotte, home to one of three Girondin producers of a luxury delicacy: caviar.
The Saint-Gervais church and the Comprian priory both dating from the 9th century were a stopover for the pilgrims of the route of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle.
The small seaside resort, closer to nature, is rich with a Gallo-Roman heritage which many vestiges are still visible today. Good living, the oyster port, cabins, Quinconces Beach bordered by pine trees, Tamarisk and its eponymous nature site, the longest jetty in France (at 232 metres), many events and particularly the Jazz Festival, will seduce the visitors. Also, like in many communes of the basin, it is possible to board a boat with a fisherman or an oyster farmer for a morning and learning about the sea and their profession.
During the Middle Ages, Arès traded the wines of Médoc with the British Islands. During the 19th century, the commune had five mills, today only the tower of one of them remains. What characterised today the seaside resort, is its extraordinary natural heritage, the flora and the fauna evolve on the Quinconces site, the middle of the forest, marshlands and salt meadows which can be visited with a nature guide,.
We can also walk along the coastal footpath, make a stop in Conche de Saint-Brice with its pine forest and three freshwater lakes, and a supervised beach from June to September.
Like Arcachon, Lege-cap-Ferrat is the posh seaside resort of Gironde, but which has preserved its wild side thanks to its preserved nature. It stretches on 25 kilometres with small villages and hamlets: Lège and its town centre, the Grand Crohot (Lège-océan), Claouey, les Jacquets, Petit Piquey, Grand Piquey, Piraillan, Le Canon, l’Herbe, La Vigne and the Cap Ferret.
The peninsula is half made of a huge estate forest of 7,500 hectares offering a variety of walks, on foot, by horse or by bike on the many cycling paths. For bathing, you have the choice between the tumultuous waters of the Atlantic Ocean, or the calmer ones of the Arcachon Basin.
The lighthouse situated at the Cap Ferret Point offers at 50 metres high, after climbing 2580 steps, a unique view on the île aux oiseaux (Birds Island), the Pilat Dune and the basin. The Ferret Point is a place of wild nature where the Ocean enters in the basin and where the waves, the winds, the tides, and the streams make the landscapes.