When we think of Medoc, we immediately think of the vineyard and its exceptional wines, the vision of a wine region with a worldwide reputation with 60 Grands Crus Classés. But it is also for all nature lovers, the smell of maritime pines, the ocean and its beautiful wild beaches, the great lakes and the Gironde estuary. These entities: Medoc Viticole with its limestone lands and Medoc maritime, with the Atlantic coast and the Verdon which marks the limit with the Gironde estuary, come together to form a territory where the preservation of the environment and natural spaces dominate.
The Médoc occupies the northwest of the department of Gironde. Lesparre-Medoc, sub-prefecture of the Gironde is in a way its administrative capital and an ideal place, because it is quite central, which will allow you to criss-cross the region towards the estuary, the ocean and the hinterland of Haut-Médoc and of its vineyards. The town hosts a Médoc wine fair the first week of August. From Bordeaux to Soulac, the Médoc produces eight prestigious appellations (Haut-Médoc, Margaux, Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien), reading a land of vineyards. Wine tourism has developed, many family properties and castles are open to visitors all year round or on dedicated days.
On the banks of the Gironde estuary, you can discover picturesque little towns whose history is largely linked to the river that feeds it. Port Macau, dates from Gallo-Roman times. Its marshes, its port, its islands and its beautiful residences constitute a unique heritage, as does its small 12th century church, remodeled in the 19th century and listed for its fortified bell tower. The small port of Issan offers a lovely view over the vineyards of Margaux, Premier Grands Crus Classés and its small village.
Port de Lamarque is considered the gateway to the Médoc. The ferry transports passengers, bicycles and cars from one bank of the Gironde to the other, from Lamarque to Blaye. In the village, the Saint Seurin church, with its dome, rehabilitated in 2005, its four large bull's eye windows opening onto the estuary and the Médoc is quite original, as is its Escher-style staircase, reminiscent of at the staircase leading to the library of the monastery in the film "The name of the rose", based on the work of Umberto Eco.
The Gironde estuary has a whole string of islands, between the Médoc and the Blayais, deserted or long inhabited, visitable or secret, havens of peace, planted with vines, paradise of fauna and flora, these are privileged stopping places, now mostly belonging to the Conservatoire du Littoral. Their names are Ile verte (born from the merger of the islands of Cazeau, Ile du Nord and Ile verte), Ile Nouvelle (born from the union of Ile Bouchaud and Ile Sans-Pain), Ile Patiras and its lighthouse, Ile de Margaux, or even Ile Pâté (private property) sheltering the fort of the same name which constitutes with Fort-médoc and the Citadel of Blaye, the famous defensive triptych of Bordeaux, "the lock of the estuary" registered in the heritage UNESCO World since 2008.
Built in 1691 by Vauban, the fort has been owned by the municipality of Cussac-Fort-Médoc since 1930, located between the vineyards (Saint Julien) and the estuary.
Pauillac, a small town on the river, is the capital of the Médoc wine region. It is known worldwide for being home to three prestigious Premiers Crus Classés: Mouton-Rothschild, Latour and Lafite-Rothschild. It is home to a hundred wine properties. It also hosts a fishing port and a small marina. Along the shore, squares, typical huts with huge rectangular nets are just waiting for fishermen.
From Pauillac, you can go to the Ile de Patiras, sail between the islands of the Gironde and go to the "lock Vauban". The small Saint-Martin church has the particularity of being surmounted by a pediment inspired by Greek art. By stopping off at La maison du tourisme et du vin, you will discover the 8 Médoc appellations and 300 references available for sale. In July and August, several activities and meetings are offered by winegrowers who will let you taste their productions.
Near Pauillac, in the small hamlet of Artigues , a replica of the Lourdes grotto has become a place of pilgrimage. Another curiosity, the small hamlet of Bages, entirely restored by the Cazes family, owners of Château Lynch Bages, has come back to life. It houses the Château Cordeillan-Bages, a relay and castle, a bakery. Also near Pauillac, the abbey church of Vertheuil is a jewel of Romanesque art.
Moulis en Médoc attests to the human presence since the 1st century. Remains of a Gallo-Roman villa have been found. Its Saint Saturnin church is a fine example of Romanesque art. From the village, you can take a 12 km walk winding through the vineyards. Château Maucaillou houses a museum of vine and wine arts and crafts.
Saint Estèphe is both facing the estuary and is home to prestigious châteaux including 5 Grands Crus Classés. Fishing is a real institution. You can admire the carrelets from the water – an emblematic heritage of the estuary – the church of Saint Estèphe is the only Baroque church in Gironde.
All along the Médoc territory, there are beautiful beaches that have kept their wild and preserved character.
The Verdon is located at the mouth of the estuary. On the shore opposite, it is the Pointe de Grave where the Cordouan lighthouse is erected, nicknamed the Versailles of the seas, located in the department of Charente-Maritime and which can be reached by speedboat. The Verdon has been home to a huge Port-Médoc marina since 2004. During the Second World War, the Verdon was at the center of the Atlantic Wall system, as evidenced today by the many blockhouses (more than 350 up to Soulac). Between marshes, beaches and ocean, Le Verdon-sur-mer is an ideal place for family holidays.
Picturesque with its charming little villas from the beginning of the 20th century, and its 7 kilometers of beach, Soulac is one of the first seaside towns to have instituted sea bathing. It has also been a center of pilgrimage since the 14th century. with the Notre-dame-de-la-fin-des-terres church, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the Ways of Saint James. A small tourist train ensures, in summer, the connection from the Pointe de Grave to Soulac - les Arros. 7 km long, this railway line offers lovely views of the forest, the Atlantic Ocean and the Cordouan lighthouse offshore.
Between forests (6000 hectares), beaches (12 km), marshes and ocean, it is a natural protected site. Montalivet is home to several naturist beaches . On the edge of the forest, the La Grange du Patrimoine museum presents the Médoc over 100,000 years of history.
Carcans-Océan , seduces wave and surf lovers with its 15 kilometers of beach. Quieter Carcans-Maubouisson, on the edge of the Hourtin-Carcans lake, the largest freshwater lake in France, 18 km long by 4 km wide, in the heart of a pine forest, is popular with families and lovers of sailing, water sports or nature sports. In the heart of the Hourtin nature reserve, the Contaut lagoon invites you to discover exceptional fauna and flora, with unique biodiversity. 120 kilometers of cycle paths have something to seduce all lovers of the little queen. You can also surf at the edge of the ocean at Hourtin-plage.
Initially a small seaside resort whose first villas appeared in 1906, Lacanau has become today, with its legendary waves, the Mecca of European surfing. In mid-August, the world championships in the discipline take place.
Surrounded by pines and dunes, with 16 kilometers of beaches, it is also a very natural place, populated by immense forests, and where several kilometers of cycle paths have been laid out. Lacanau-lac, and its stretch of water of 21 km2 is very popular with boating enthusiasts and fishermen. With its lush vegetation, it is a paradise for migratory birds and many animal species, a place conducive to the observation of fauna and flora. After the Étang de Cousseau and the marshes of Hourtin, the Lac de Lacanau biological reserve is the third Médoc site classified as a nature reserve.
Its coastline, preserved from buildings, offers a wilder environment and a playground conducive to outdoor sports.
Many hiking trails allow you to radiate through the 10,000 hectares of pine forests or near the dunes. With its 13 kilometers of ocean beaches, it is a quiet, peaceful place for holidays close to nature.