With 47 miles (76 kilometers) of seafront and lakeside beaches, idyllic resort towns fringed with pine forests and marshlands, and Europe’s tallest sand dune, the Bay of Arcachon is the retreat of choice for nature lovers heading to France’s Atlantic Coast.
Just an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, the Bay of Arcachon is perfect for day-trippers looking to climb the famous Pyla Sand Dune (Dune du Pyla) and gastronomes eager to sample delicious fresh oysters. You can gaze out across the Atlantic on a half-day tour from the city (perhaps combined with a wine tasting tour of Bordeaux), but to fully experience the bay, opt to spend a couple of days here. Stay overnight at the resort town of Arcachon or journey along the peninsula to Cap Ferret, taking plenty of beach breaks along the way.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The best swimming beaches are those facing the Arcachon Basin, which are known for their calmer waters.
- The big waves of the Atlantic Coast beaches are great for surfing.
- Most towns around the Arcachon Bay follow standard French opening hours. Expect shops to be closed from noon to 2pm and restaurants to be open from noon to 2.30pm for lunch, and from 7pm to 10pm for dinner.
How to Get There
Arcachon Bay is located along the southwest coast of France in the region of Aquitaine and Gironde, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Bordeaux. The closest international airport is the Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport, and regular buses and trains run between Bordeaux and the town of Arcachon. Getting around the peninsula is best done by car, but ferries also connect the resorts of Arcachon, Cap Ferret, Moulleau, Andernos, and Le Canon.
When to Get There
The most popular time to visit the Bay of Arcachon is in summer, but resorts can book up quickly during July and August. To escape the crowds but still enjoy the sunshine, visit during shoulder season (May to June or Sept to Oct), when prices for hotels and tours tend to be low.. Visiting in winter can be a bargain, but be aware that many hotels, restaurants, and tourist facilities are closed in the low season.
Arcachon Bay’s Outdoor Activities
Along with swimming and water sports, adventurous travelers can hike and bike in the Landes forest, set sail for a fishing cruise around Lac de Cazaux, take a horseback ride along the beach, or tee off at one of the Arcachon Bay’s three golf courses. Bird watchers can also visit the Teich Bird Reserve or cruise out to the L'île aux Oiseaux (Bird Island).