Encompassing not just a magnificent stretch of the Atlantic coast, but also some of France’s most ancient historic sites, Gascony and the Gironde offer a wealth of contrasts and experiences for those camping in France’s beautiful south west.
Gironde, to the North is bounded by mile upon mile of golden beaches, where huge Atlantic breakers roll in day after day to thrill the surfers and bodyboarders who flock here.
As if that wasn’t enough for watersports enthusiasts, there are also several calm, inland lakes to enjoy in the popular Southern France holiday destination of Gironde, caught behind giant dunes such as the Dune de Pilat, which spread and shift all along the Côte d’Argent.
Yet the Gironde offers more than simply natural wonders, it also brings you gems such as the picture perfect Ile de Ré to the north, as well as Royan, a seaside resort with five superb beaches and a sparkling, glamorous appeal.
While Gascony to the south also offers a fine stretch of coastline characterised more by sleepy villages, vineyards, maize and sunflower fields, it has largely remained a rural retreat, unspoilt by changing times. Life is slow and relaxed here, and it is little wonder that locals are reputed to enjoy the longest life expectancy in France.
There are also many fine towns and cities here, though if you can only drag yourselves away from the beach to see one, the port of Bordeaux, with its splendid architecture and extensive wine trade must surely be the place to go.
The fare of both regions is rich and diverse, though the Oysters of the Gironde and the goats cheeses and cured meats of Gascony both come highly recommended.
Why not take a look at campsites in France before choosing your campsite?
With everything from the Atlantic surf to the High Pyrenees on your doorstep, these two neighbouring regions offer Eurocampers a massive choice of things to do and places that you simply must see:
Just a simple fishing village before it took the fancy of the Empress Eugenie, Biarritz offers wonderful beaches, great surfing, and a delightful town full of good but affordable restaurants and a wonderful lighthouse.
A major port since Roman times, Bordeaux is one of Europe’s grandest cities, full of 18th century architecture such as the elegant Palais de la Bourse, the lovely Esplanade des Quinconces, and of course, a thousand opportunities to enjoy fine wine.
Best-known as a place of pilgrimage, Lourdes deserves to be visited; because besides the many tourist shops here, it offers the vast and beautiful Basilica of the Rosary, and of course, the famous Grotto.
Bayonne’s architecture is more Gothic than Romanesque, as illustrated by the lovely 13th century Cathedral of St Marie. Also look for the Musée Bonnat, where there are fine works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Goya and Rembrandt, to name just a few.
The second largest of the French islands, Ile d’Oleron is a picturesque and fascinating place in its own right, with a number of pretty towns and villages. It is also worth visiting the Le Marais bird sanctuary and the Chateau d’Oleron while you are here.
With its lovely old harbour, arcaded streets and attractive 18th century Cathedral, La Rochelle is a delightful place for simply wandering around. Though if you tire of the sometimes crowded streets, the Natural History Museum is an absolute gem.
Ile de Ré
Adjoining La Rochelle, Ile de Ré is an island of chalky cliffs and sand dunes that attracts a host of birdlife. Its main village of St Martin de Ré is also rich in history, not to mention being a great place to sample the island’s famous oysters.
St Jean de Luz
With its natural harbour, St Jean de Luz is one of the finest swimming beaches on the Atlantic coast. While it can be busy, it is also worth the trip if only to see the Eglise St Jean Baptiste, where Louis XIV, the Sun King, was married.
La Palmyre Zoo
Located in Les Mathes, the zoo here features more than 130 species, many of which are quite rare. So in addition to enjoying the animals, including a sea lion display, young visitors can learn all about conservation.
Musée de la Mer, Biarritz
Overlooking the sea, this fine aquarium is home to more than 120 species of sealife that are native to the Bay of Biscay. Captivating for young children, the open-air sea lion show up on the roof is particularly enjoyable.
This 400m long indoor kart track close to Biarritz offers high performance karts as well as big screens to display lap times and race positions. Open every day from 4pm till midnight, it’s a big favourite with teenagers.
As if the sea wasn’t exciting enough here, this large aqua park at Seignosse offers a host of pools, slides, tubes and toboggans, including the fearsome 9m high Super Kamikaze. A restaurant and bar are also available here.
The entire Atlantic coast is a surfer’s paradise, with schools and hire shops in most resorts. For the best choice of beaches that can accommodate all standards, head for Biarritz, or if you want big waves guaranteed, try Hossegor.
Walking & Cycling
This is great hiking and cycling country, though a particular favourite is the area around Biscarrosse, where there are 120 km of hiking paths and 20km of cycling tracks that go from the Atlantic to the Landes de Gascon Nature Park.
While the whole, wild Atlantic coast is dotted with golf courses, Biarritz is a favourite destination, with no less then eight high quality golf courses, four of which are in the top 100 European courses. Bring a waterproof though, as it can rain here.
Surf-casting is practised along all 250km of the Atlantic coastline, often with excellent results. Or you can also head for ports such as Capbreton or Arachon to join a fishing boat for the day, or try your luck at the lakes of Biscarrosse and Soustons.
Big Festival, Biarritz - Mid-July
From humble beginnings a few years ago, the Big Festival is now attracting headline acts like Moby and Iggy Pop to its intimate village alongside the fabulous Cote des Basques surfing beach.
Bordeaux River Festival
Every June, the city’s splendid waterfront is brought to life by a host of visiting ships, floating parades, light shows and concerts, creating even more reasons to visit this beautiful city.
The capital of the French Basque country has held a five-day party at the end of June every year since 1932, where locals and visitors alike are expected to wear white with a red scarf, traditional Basque costume, in order to join the festivities.
Surfing World Championships, Hossegor
As the undisputed surf capital of France, Hossegor hosts a number of surfing competitions, most notably the Rip Curl pro world championships, usually at the end of August.
As you might expect in such a large area, there are different cuisines to be enjoyed here; Basque in the South and more traditional French to the North:
Interlude offers good facilities and also makes a great base from which to discover the lovely towns, oyster beds and beaches of the Il de Ré.
While the parc offers a quiet and peaceful location, there is much to enjoy here, from the famous fort off the main beach to the picturesque town of St Georges nearby.
A small and friendly parc that lets you enjoy the water sports of the Ile de Ré as well as its interior along the miles of track that connect the delightful villages and beaches.
With its fabulous lakeside beach, this is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Yet the pool complex on parc is also superb, and ideal for young families.
With a superb pool complex and even horse riding on parc, Le Vieux Port is always popular. Yet the adjacent beach with its huge Atlantic rollers is also unmissable.
The pool complex and waterpark at Sylvamar are a delight for all ages. Yet the sand and surf of the Atlantic coast are also just a short walk from this lively parc.
With the surfing beaches and beauty of Biarritz close by, this is a very popular choice. Yet the excellent pool complex, toddler area and entertainment on parc are also a big attraction.
Offering a fantastic location on a great sandy beach, close to France's biggest fresh water lake, plus a superb pool complex, this parc is also ideal for discovering the Bordeaux wine region.
Bordaberry is one of the Bay of Biscay's best placed destinations. A charming resort in its own right with connections to great golf courses and restaurants, a soft, sandy beach, and horse riding schools.
For those who like to take the air, or even take to the waters, in relative peace and tranquillity, Ciboure offers all the exhilaration, without too much of the adrenalin.
Aquitaine's soft and attractive countryside is all warm, wooded valleys and sun-dappled villages. At the coast, the pulse quickens slightly, with surfing, cycle tracks and swimming – in the sea, or the sheltered freshwater lake at Lacanau - on offer.
Moliets is to French golf what St Andrews is to Scottish – an internationally renowned course offers a sea-splashed round or two for the golfer who loves a challenge.
Located near the famous seaside resort of Biscarrosse, Le Domaine de Gascogne resort offers a superb 18 hole golf course, activities including horse riding for all levels and a stunning beach just 300m away.
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