Cap Ferret is a superb choice for beach lovers, but there's a lot more to this stunning peninsula than sand dunes and Atlantic rollers.
The Bassin d'Arcachon beach at Cap Ferret village has amazing views over to the Dune de Pyla, the largest sand dune in Europe. The Atlantic beaches are popular with surfers, but be warned of the powerful currents especially when the tide is going out. Always follow local advice - beaches are normally supervised in July & August only.
The bay itself offers year-round sailing and windsurfing with spectacular views. There are beautiful beaches all around the Bassin d'Arcachon, separating the oyster farming villages.
From the village débarcadère (Cap Ferret's jetty, also the location of an excellent brasserie) you can take a ferry over to Arcachon, Le Moulleau, or catch a trip to the Dune de Pyla (infinitely easier than driving around the bay!) Or try a boat tour spotting the oyster beds and bird life of the Bassin d'Arcachon.
Heading on down to the Pointe is a must, stopping to climb to the top of the famous Cap Ferret lighthouseon the way. The lighthouse gives views across the bassin to the sandy wildlife reserve of the Banc d'Arguin, and over to the Dune de Pyla (Europe's highest sand dune), which are breathtaking. This is a stunning setting.
Another must is visiting one of the peninsula's oyster farming districts at l'Herbe, le Canon or Piraillan. Here the careful raising of these exquisite delicacies has continued for over 150 years. Can oysters ever have tasted better than here, at the edge of the waters where they grew?
You might like to try fishing for yourselves, in the mudflats uncovered at low tide around the Bassin d’Arcachon. They deliver generous amounts of cockles, clams and winkles. The beaches reveal green crabs at low tide, and there are plenty of shrimps to catch with nets. Take care on the sticky mud-flats.
With an extensive network of cycle paths, hiring bikes is a great way to explore the peninsula. Local tourist offices have maps with suggested itineraries.
Claouey - AutoLoc > bike hire in Claoey Cap Ferret
Children’s Tourist Attractions
There's a charming 'petit train' that runs from the jetty on the bassin side, over the dunes at the Atlantic beach on the other side of the pensinsula. The trip takes 10-15 minutes and is a delight, even if you don't have children.
Aqualand at Gujan Mestras on the Arcachon side of the Bay, does what it says on the tin – with every kind of waterslide you can imagine, plus a pool with waves.
The Village Médiéval features a reconstructed medieval Landais village, showing traditional arts and crafts in action. The Musée de la Maquette Marine is a museum of exquisitely made model ships.
At the Parc Animalier la Coccinelle children can feed baby lambs and goats.
Cap Ferret village has a good selection of boutiques. Across the bay in Arcachon, Quartier du Moulleau(Av Notre Dame des Passes) has boutiques open late. If you need yet more choice, Bordeaux is within an hour of Cap Ferret.
Chez Hortense is laid back (what else could it be here?) and popular with France's VIPs
Fredelian is a salon de thé renowned for its patisseries, especially the local favourite (and ours), cannelés
Maison du Bassin 5 rue des Pionniers, Lège Cap Ferret 05 56 03 72 46 "Excellent" Thanks to the Colemans for their feedback.
The Pinasse Café overlooking the Bassin and the oyster pools, this original brasserie (named after the pine oyster-fishing boats) offers home-made local cuisine. The wood panelled walls are decorated with paintings of boats and fish. 2 bis av de l’Océan, 05-56-03-77-87 "Expensive but worth it. Lovely food and child friendly." Jackie Neale 2010
Le Bouchon de Ferret - waterfront bistrot in Cap Ferret village facing the Dune du Pilat.
Sailfish - a cap Ferret institution on the west side of the peninsula near the village.
Canfouine - lovely location in the oyster village of Le Canon. Good seafood & shellfish reputation.
This list has been compiled with the help of local property owners we work with, client feedback as well as these helpful guides: the Lonely Planet Guide (South West France); The Green Guide (Atlantic Coast); theCadogan Guides – always an excellent and informative read. “Gascony and the Pyrenees” is the one that includes the Arcachon Bay.
It's worth stopping for a drink the stylish Tchanquee bar of the Hôtel Maison du Bassin (so named after the famous houses on stilts close to the Ile aux Oiseaux) - the address for an 'apéro'.
Arts and Culture
Across the bay in Arcachon, the Ville d'Hiver (winter town) is well worth strolling around, to see the quirkyarchitecture of its many 19th century villas. At the heart of the Ville d’Hiver, the Parc Mauresque has a wonderful observatory designed by Eiffel, reached by a 19th Century lift. This observatory offers great views of the Ville d’Hiver, and of the entire Bassin d’Arcachon (lagoon).
Arcachon is great for festivals: classical music in April (‘Festival Jeunes Solistes’); a parachuting competition in June; a Street Festival (Not’Ambules) and sailing competition (les 18 heures d’Arcachon) in July; Fêtes de la Mer (festival of the sea) in August; and an International Women’s Film Festival in September.
On the Eastern rim of the Bassin d’Arcachon, Le Teich is a river delta for the Leyre river. This provides ideal marshland for migratory birds stopping on their long journeys between Scandinavia and Africa. This rare environment of salt-water and fresh-water has been designated a Parc Ornithologique, and is the nesting ground for several species: grey herons, black cormorants, white storks, oystercatchers, egrets, kingfishers, spoon-billed shovelers and many more.
Also at Le Teich you’ll find Le Jardin des Papillons – the biggest collection of exotic butterflies and moths in France. Hundreds of brightly coloured butterflies flutter around tropical plants and waterfalls in complete freedom. Playground and picnic area within.
Look out for bottle-nosed dolphins and porpoises playing off the Atlantic coast – they are often seen around Dune de Pilat, south of Arcachon.
If you feel the urge to leave the Cap - and many don't while they are here - the famous appellations ofPauillac and Margaux north in the médoc rouge are not far away. There are many vineyards where you can visit and taste some of the famous wines. Two very approachable châteaux are the under-rated (and relatively inexpensive) Château Maucaillou, a medium-sized, family-run estate in Moulis-en-Médoc; there is an interesting museum exhibiting some of the history of wine-making. Or for a very special visit, Château Giscours in the Margaux region organises tastings of various vintages of its grand crus classés, hosted by a particularly engaging, unpretentious and plain-speaking 'oenologue' (Master of Wine).
South of Arcachon is the famous Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe, standing at over 100 metres. A journey to the summit (try it without the staircase provided!) is a must; sunrise and sunset are the best times. Don’t be surprised to see schools of bottlenose dolphins and porpoises, playing just offshore.
If you're feeling beached out, Bordeaux is well under an hour away and is a good option for a day-trip, whether it’s boutique shopping, sight-seeing or culture. Walking around the 18th century old town centre (Quartier St. Pierre), you can begin to imagine the city’s commercial and maritime past.
Medieval gems of the Gironde east of Bordeaux are also wonderful days out; St Emilion, with its 11th century basilica, is the best known but can be busy; St Macaire and La Réole are also enjoyable.
Obviously there are more chateaux over here but an altogether different wine experience can be had atCaudalie Vinotherapie Spa, in the middle of the Château Smith Haut Lafitte, vineyards, just south of Bordeaux. The spa offers unique beauty treatments derived from grand cru grapes of the Graves appellation renowned for their anti-ageing and micro-circulation improving properties - in short, visitors apparently come out feeling good!
Up and down the coast from Arcachon, South West France offers the best surf in Europe.
For further tourist information about the local areas beyond Arcachon, please browse these region guides:
» Arcachon Bay
» Landes Coast
» Bordeaux Countryside
In August, the Cap is very busy and it's best to get around by bike (several bike hire shops are here) and boat (frequent trips to Arcachon, le Moulleau and Pilat dune). It can take hours to drive around the Bassin in the summer and it's best avoided.
Even in a place as popular as Cap Ferret (and Arcachon too, for that matter), the coastal resorts are seasonal and some restaurants, shops and amenities will shut down during September.