Most families coming to France for their summer holiday want to be near the beach. But knowing which beach - or coastline - to choose can be tricky.
Get it right and your days at the beach will be happy, relaxing and full of great memories; get it wrong and it will be hard work and stressful – no-one’s idea of a holiday!
The web today is full of opinions and ratings of hotels, restaurants and attractions but it’s harder to find advice and guidance on the best beaches for young families.
Of course, what constitutes the ‘best’ beach will depend on what you need. In my experience, families with younger kids will be looking for:
So, on this basis I’ve picked out my Top 5 beaches in south west France, best for families with young kids. My three kids are not so young these days but I do remember those days fondly - on those days when we found a good beach!
1) Plage du Parc, Lac Marin d’Hossegor, Hossegor
Where? About 40 minutes’ drive north of Biarritz is the ‘upmarket’ resort of Hossegor. It’s actually famous for its surfing beaches but the tidal lagoon, in the heart of the town, is a gem for young families.
Why? It’s a lagoon so it’s completely protected from the Atlantic surf. The shoreline is mostly sandy and kids can walk into the shallow water without fear of being knocked over by a wave or pulled off your feet by a strong current. The water is beautifully blue and reaches 23 degrees in summer.
There are four sandy beaches around the lagoon. In the summer season two of them feature: lifeguard surveillance; kids’ play area plus summer activity club; cafes and snack bars; local parking. (They also offer leisure activities such as sailing and stand-up paddle-boarding).
I’ve chosen Plage du Parc, though, because it’s the shortest walk to the town centre for the compulsory afternoon ice cream run, there are public toilets nearby, plus the adjacent park has a play area and offers some valuable shade too.
Tip: bring a shrimping net and bucket. And look out for the retro smoothie & juice truck for natural and cooling refreshments.
2) La Grande Plage, St Jean de Luz
Where? The culinary capital of French Basque Country, St Jean de Luz is a pretty fishing port and holiday resort, 20 minutes south of Biarritz and a similar distance from the border with Spain.
Why? Ironically, just a short hike along the coast path takes you to Belharra Reef – one of the Big Wave surf spots of the world and where winter swells can generate 20m waves! However, back in St Jean de Luz, a breakwater protects the bay and the result is several gorgeous curves of safe, golden sand – bucket & spade heaven for kids!
The Bay of St Jean de Luz is divided in two by the port. On the southern side is the quieter Plage Socoa where parking is easier and there are several excellent seafood restaurants – not that you will be patronising them with your young family in tow!
I prefer La Grande Plage in St Jean de Luz. Sure, it’s a lot busier but there’s 700m of shore so you can find your own patch of sand. There are multiple surveillance points and, of course, you have the town’s beautiful boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants a short stroll away.
Tip: arrive early to find a precious parking place by the port.
St Jean de Luz beaches
Alternative Aquitaine is a regional holiday rental specialist offering a wide selection of self-catering accommodation in St Jean de Luz. There is a choice of options for accommodation in St Jean de Luz including villas, luxury villas and villas with pools.
3) Plage des Abatilles, Arcachon
Where? One of the west coast’s best-known resorts, elegant Arcachon lies due west of Bordeaux not far from the famous Dune de Pilat - kids just love this amazing sand dune!
Why? By virtue of its position, Arcachon in fact has a host of beaches that are child-friendly; the Bassin d’Arcachon is a rare break in the ruler-straight 150 km of sand that makes up the Côte d’Argent. It’s here where the Atlantic waters are broken up by the stunning Banc d’Arguin sandbanks before entering the tidal Arcachon Bay. There’s no surf here, just calm waters lapping beautiful sandy beaches.
I’ve chosen Plage des Abatilles because it’s outside the hustle-and-bustle of Arcachon which is busy in peak season (the town beaches work better for teenagers who need a bit more action). Step away from the resort centre and the coastline south offers a string of stunning white and golden sand beaches popular with young families – Abatilles is one of these.
The kids will love playing in the shallow tidal pools. Mums and Dads will appreciate the ‘chic-ness’ of Arcachon with its sophisticated yet unpretentious shops, restaurants and cafes.
Tip: walk a few metres south then you’ll discover delightful Parc Pereire for a shady retreat.
Alternative Aquitaine is a regional holiday rental specialist offering a wide selection of accommodation in Arcachon including holiday apartment rentals and villas, as well as accommodation near Arcachon.
4) Plage Navarrosse, Lac de Biscarrosse, Biscarrosse
Where? Just an hour south west of Bordeaux is Biscarrosse, a resort with the unique advantage of offering 3 different places in one destination: le bourg, l’ccéan, le lac (the town, the ocean, the lake).
Why? South west France – and Aquitaine specifically – is blessed with a series of stunning freshwater lakes that lie just a few kms inland from the coast. Now, normally when you think of a lake, your mind conjures an image of mountains, deep, cold water and not a great deal of sand.
Think again! The 'Great Lakes of Aquitaine' are just the opposite. These vast and beautiful natural landscapes feature gorgeous sandy beaches and coves with shallow and warm water. With a backdrop of shady, fragrant pine forests and a host of leisure pursuits for more active types, the Great Lakes are simply perfect for young families.
There are many lakes to choose from south and north of Arcachon Bay. One of my favourites is Plage Navarrosse at Lac de Biscarrosse.
This lake is still less than 1m deep at 100m from the shore, which makes it perfect for young children. What’s more, because the lake is so shallow, the temperature of the water reaches up to 28 degrees. That’s pretty much a heated pool! With plenty of parking nearby you won’t need any Sherpas to haul your gear for miles. The other great benefit with Navarrosse is the adjacent pine forest which provides shade, delightful picnic spots as well as lovely cycle paths. I love it here.
Tip: Navarrosse divides into 3 separate beaches; two of them are by the marina and campgrounds and are busier - choose the other one for a more tranquil experience as that’s really what the lakes are about.
5) Plage de Bertic, Clàouey, Cap Ferret
Where? La presqu’ile – nearly an island. Beautiful and natural Cap Ferret, Aquitaine’s Ile de Re, France’s Cape Cod. Call it what you will. Cap Ferret is the narrow peninsula of land across the bay from Arcachon and less than an hour’s drive from Bordeaux.
Why? The west coast is Atlantic-facing and picks up some excellent surf. Meanwhile, on the protected bay side (and in some parts of the peninsula barely a kilometre separates the two) you will find sheltered sandy coves against a backdrop of colourful, authentic fishermen’s villages. It's summer heaven!
Bay-side, there’s a dozen or so beaches from which to choose. Of all these beaches, Plage de Bertic is the best-known locally as the choice for families with younger age kids. The most fun is had at low tide when the retreating sea reveals a channel of water in the sand where kids love to play.
In the summer months there’s an excellent kids’ activity club – Baloo – with swimming pool, trampolines and games. There’s a handy snack bar too. If your kids are still awake after an active day at the beach, an open-air cinema plays films in July and August. What more can you ask for?!
Tip: holiday indulgence is guaranteed at Crêperie du Port.
Cap Ferret beaches
And so, in a nutshell:
Have you visited one of these beaches – or can you recommend another beach in south west France perfect for young families?
For further information and advice on toddler-friendly beaches in south west France and where to stay, call Justin, Alex or Bethan in our UK office +44 (0)1395 576655, contact us via the website or live chat with us during office hours.
Justin Ashby https://www.alternative-aquitaine.co.uk/about-us
Justin is a founder of Alternative Aquitaine and when he’s not in the office you’ll probably find him running or cycling the hills of East Devon. He also knows the best beach in England for young families - why don't you ask him...?
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