I am a fan of beaches. I’m not the type to sit under an umbrella with a book and a drink, no siree. I get my enjoyment out of playing in the waves, searching for seashells, and building sandcastles. Beaches turn me into a 10 year old, and I love it.
Before I visited Marc’s cousins in Bordeaux, France, I had no idea that the surrounding region is famous for having some of the best surfing in Europe. In the week I spent in Bordeaux and the surrounding department of Gironde, I went to four different beaches: Pilat, Arcachon, Le Porge, and Cap Ferret.
I was universally impressed by the quality of all four beaches. At all four, the sand was clean and white, it wasn’t overcrowded despite being peak season, the water was blue and very clear, and the waves were great. As an added bonus, there were no fees for using the beach, either.
Before I get to the photos, let me give a few mini-reviews of each of the four beaches I went to:
Pilat: Everyone at Pilat is there for the giant sand dune (which I will write about in more detail at a later date), but the beach there isn’t bad either. Most of the beaches in the Gironde are not protected by sand bars, so the waves can get pretty big. The beach at Pilat has a sand bar about a mile out, making it one of the better beaches around for folks with small children, or those who prefer their water to be calmer. Pros: less populated, good for kids. Cons: have to climb over the Pilat dune, which is quite an ordeal.
Arcachon: Tourists have been sunning themselves on the beaches at Arcachon since the 19th century, and this little seaside town has retained much of the charm of its earlier heyday. The beaches at Arcachon are good for families due to the surrounding infrastructure and the protective influence of the Bassin d’Arcachon which keeps the waters calm, but it is also extremely popular, and suffers a bit from that. Pros: right next to town, calm waters, lots of stuff for kids. Cons: can have a bit of a trash problem, water not as clear, lots of people.
Le Porge: If you want to surf, this beach or Lacanau are where you need to be. There are huge waves here, and I took my first (and last) surfing lesson here. There is a tiny little strip of about 10 restaurants about 400 meters from the beach, so you can eat and buy your sunscreen without feeling like you’re swimming next to a city. The water is clear and blue, and though there are only lifeguards in the immediate vicinity of the “official” beach, the beach spans for miles and people swim up and down the coast. Pros: good waves for surfing and playing in, clean beach, clear water, not overly built-up. Cons: waves can be too much for smaller folks, not as easily accessible.
Cap Ferret: This was my favourite of the beaches I went to, and is where most of the photos in this set are from, since it is one of the only two beaches I took my camera to (Pilat was the other). Cap Ferret is less of a beach, per se, and more of an entire peninsula of awesomeness. The actual “Cap” refers to the tip of the peninsula, but there are great beaches, with great waves and sand all along the peninsula. Marc’s cousin and I went to Cap Ferret for a day in the sun, and we ended up having a great day including a few hours of playing in the waves, a visit to the top of a lighthouse, and some tasty crepes from a beachside cafe. Pros: great little town, huge and uncrowded white sand beaches, good waves but still kid-friendly, good restaurants. Cons: you have to take a ferry from Arcachon or drive down the peninsula, so it can be difficult to get to.