The most beautiful villages on the edge of the Gironde estuary

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The meeting between the river and the Atlantic Ocean creates an original and unique environment. A specific flora and fauna have managed to adapt to this natural space. Men too were attracted by this fascinating universe, a little magical and steeped in mysteries ... The villages which are established there have a particular charm, marked by this union. We take you to discover these towns and cities, and their inhabitants ...

Mouth, estuary, delta… we'll explain everything to you!

This place of union between a river and the ocean is called " mouth ". Under the impulse of the tide, the waves penetrate the land and mix with the fresh water course. From this fusion of the sea and the river results a semi-fresh, semi-salty water. After that, everything is a question of the balance of power between the two ... When the river is dominant, the mouth is called a " delta ". When it is the ocean that is, it is an “ estuary ”.

These so-called “ brackishwaters create a very rich but atypical natural space , which is suitable only for certain species. Rare are the fish or crustaceans that manage to live in salt water, as in fresh water. The aquatic fauna and flora is therefore very specific, because each mouth is unique. Depending on the salinity of the ocean, the geography of the place and the conditions of this meeting, each environment is unique. Here, the estuary is shared by two rivers: the Garonne and the Dordogne , which meet at Bec d'Ambès . It ends with Pointe de Coubre in Charente-Maritime and on the other side, with Pointe de la Négade , in Gironde.

It is a fertile and nourishing land which allowed the construction of bastides and cities . It is the largest estuary in Europe and two departments share it: Gironde and Charente-Maritime . In Gironde , it is located on three territories which frame the mouth: the Médoc and Haut-Médoc for the Atlantic coast , the Blayais facing the hinterland, and the Bordelais at the junction, extended by the " Entre- deux-Mers ”, a sweet name that leaves you dreaming!

This meeting gives rise to extraordinary natural events : the Tidal Bores . This spectacular phenomenon is a water wave that occurs when the rising tide is thwarted by fresh water currents, during high tides of full moons or new moons. This is an opportunity not to be missed for a unique surfing course or simply to be admired.

Tidal bore

Surf on the Tidal Bore source: PicsofDay CC BY NC ND 2.0

On the right bank, Blaye and its citadel


Blaye was a Gallic oppidum , probably bearing the name Blavia. An occasional royal residence in the Merovingian era , it was a city of troubadours with a very lively atmosphere surely appreciated by kings! The city was completely transformed into a fortress by Vauban in the 17th century by order of Louis XIV, and integrated into a defensive triptych to counter the English threat. Free or guided visit, here is an overview of what you can see there .

The territory of Blayais is an ideal place for a stroll to appreciate all the facets of the estuary . The Écuries de l'Oasis take you on a horseback ride . The ornithological park " Land of birds " welcomes you for a discovery on foot. Or from the ocean, take a boat cruise from Blaye, to the island of Patiras, with a lunch at the refuge or a stopover at the Lighthouse .

Citadel of Blaye

Citadel of Blaye

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Plassac, the " Village of Mosaics "


In Plassac, the remains of three Gallo-Roman villas have been found. Their mosaic decorations made him famous and inspired contemporary artists . During the visit, you will be able to admire the works of Émilie Baudrais . The port offers a nice view of the estuary and is bordered by beautiful stone houses . On site, visit the Museum of the Villa Romaine to better understand this “ Village of Mosaics ”. On the Côtes de Blaye vineyard , you can taste Blayais wines at Domaine de Monconseil-Gazin . They also offer an escape game on the theme of oenology .

Monconseil Gazin vineyard

Vineyard in Plassac Source: Domaine de Monconseil-Gazin

Bourg-sur-Gironde, an ancient village


Bourg-sur-Gironde is a hilltop village . We can really qualify it as ancient because its origin is Gallo-Roman . Moving from the English to the French, it is a witness to the Hundred Years War . It must be said that between its dominant geographical location and its wine-growing region , it is a coveted city . There remains a rich and interesting heritage from the time of its fortification : gates and ramparts . Built on the side of a cliff, during its economic development, it had to grow in height. Climbing its narrow streets and stairways gives you access to the “ Upper Town ”, with the ruins of its castle and its beautiful panoramas over the Bec d'Ambès .

Bourg-sur-Gironde

Bourg-sur-Gironde

Before crossing over to the other bank, do not hesitate to make a small detour through Bordeaux and its agglomeration and go down in “ Entre-deux-Mers” .

Read our article on the hikes to do in Gironde: It's a good way to explore this immense estuary and to take the measure.

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Macau, on the left bank of the estuary


Macau was built by the Gallo-Romans . The village has seen its share of destruction. First by the Normans in the 9th century. Then he was attacked in the Hundred Years War . It is said that his castle was painted with the blood of the English. Unfortunately, only a few ruins remain which cannot confirm this story. The new Gironville castle was painted red in homage to this legend. If you walk in the port on a high tide day, you can observe the Tidal Bore there .

Macau

Macau

Margaux, in the Médoc vineyards


Margaux is renowned for its châteaux and its internationally recognized vineyards. A list of Margaux producers can be found on this page . It is not, however, the only delicacy resulting from the vine shoots. Do you know the “ Sarments du Médoc ” and the “ Guinettes ”? Mademoiselle de Margaux will tell you this pretty story and will make you discover these pieces of Aquitaine gastronomic heritage .

At the port of Issan, you will also have a magnificent view of Margaux Island . There are many activities nearby, including: The “Ranch des Lamberts” equestrian center , the Garden Golf of Margaux , or visits and walks in the vineyards … There is something for everyone!

Bec d'Ambès

Vineyard on the estuary at Bec d'Ambès

Cussac Fort-Médoc, a fort of Vauban


Fort Médoc in Cussac is part of the “ Lock of the Estuary ”. It is a defensive unit , imagined and designed by Vauban , to protect the estuary from the English. It is classified " World Heritage of Unesco ", just like Blaye and Fort Pâté . For a guided tour of the fort, go to the Porte Royale . Nearby, Château Lanessan offers tours, tastings and its Horse Museum by reservation .

Pauillac, capital of the wine-growing Médoc


Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Lafite-Rothschild… Do these names make you dream? It is therefore in Pauillac that you must go. This small town is home to no less than a hundred properties… But in order not to get lost, we can only recommend the Maison du Tourisme et du Vin , which will help you organize your visit.

The city has other assets than its exceptional vineyard. You can see: the Grotte d'Artigues , a replica of the Grotte de Lourdes ; the Hameau de Bages on “ the art of hospitality in the Médoc ”; or the Abbey Church of Vertheuil , its small fishing and yachting ports or its “ carrelets ”, fishermen's huts .

Chateau Lafite

Lafite Rothschild castle

Saint Estephe


Renowned for its vineyard, Saint-Estèphe is also a good starting point for hikes. You can do the Phare Richard loop, which walks you in the middle of nature and allows you to see the squares. The lighthouse tour is also very interesting, with its museum about life in the estuary in the 19th century and the business of oyster farming . Just next door you can walk on the charming port of St Christoly .

Carrelet

The Carrelets

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The verdon sur mer


At the Pointe de Grave , at the end of the Gironde estuary , is Verdon-sur-Mer . It is a very pleasant seaside resort . From the tip, take a stroll along the ocean to enjoy the invigorating air. You can also board a shuttle to go to Cordouan lighthouse , the only lighthouse at sea open to visitors ! And don't forget your swimsuit, the beaches deserve to settle there for a little break, especially since there is a nautical base with lots of activities.

A little further on the ocean, Soulac-sur-Mer is one of the resorts where sea bathing originates. It is therefore very popular and has been nicknamed the " resort of 500 villas ". You can also visit the authentic German battery of Arros .

The Verdon

Verdon-sur-Mer

The islands of the Gironde estuary


Finally, the islands are essential for understanding the geography of the estuary . Changing, moving, they evolve with time and currents. Here are the different islands and their points of interest: Bouchaud Island; Patiras with its lighthouse and its vineyards ; Île Nouvelle and its nature reserve ; Margaux Island, considered the most beautiful in the estuary ; Macau; Pâté Island which is opposite the Fort ; the green island forms a group with the northern islands and Cazeau. They can be visited during cruises or observed during the ferry crossing .

estuary

The estuary and its islands Source: Blaye - Côtes de Bordeaux - CC BY-ND-2.0

Keep in mind, useful links

And here is our selection of the beautiful villages of the mouth of the Gironde which ends. You will surely find, on site, other nuggets to visit. We hope we have inspired you for an upcoming getaway or family vacation to the area.

If you want to know more, here is our page on Bordeaux and the Gironde : its geography, its history ...

To organize your stay more easily, discover our “Around me” option: Our geolocation service helps you find nearby tours and activities, a restaurant, or your accommodation .

Did you like our article? Find more on our Blog . Follow us on the Bordeaux Gironde Guide Facebook page and on Instagram @guidebordeauxgironde.

Article written by Stéphanie Tempier for the Bordeaux Gironde Guide.


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