Soulac offers a variety of activities and attractions for the holiday visitor.
Soulac is a fun place to spend a family summer holiday. The beaches of white sand are clean and provideexcellent surf for novices and body-boarders. [In Autumn and Winter it's a little more dramatic].
There are surf lessons for children from 6yrs and up, from the school on the main town beach, or at le Gurp (to the South of the main town beach). Other derivatives of surfing are also popular here - particularly sand-yachting and skim-boarding.
The town's four main beaches are all supervised in the high season. Keep to the supervised beaches as the currents and rips can be strong, especially when the waves are breaking right on the beach.
The warm, shallow beach pools are just North of the town centre - walking along the beach towards le Verdon. There are plenty to choose from, so keep walking until you find your own private one. There is no point looking for these at high tide, but they are exciting places to play as the sea is coming in, gushing in over the sides.
Just south of the main beach is also wonderful for children as the tide is coming in - small lakes develop leaving sand banks and islands to jump between.
Being France, there are designated naturist beaches to the North and South of Soulac, including Montalivet.
The surf doesn't touch the beach at le Verdon-sur-Mer, a calmer alternative to the Atlantic, as it is situated on the lee-side of the peninsula. This is the mouth of the huge Gironde river that serves Bordeaux, and it is an ideal spot for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and other watersports. This is a popular sailing spot, and there is also a marina here where boats can be hired.
And if the surf of the Atlantic gets a bit overpowering, you can head to the tranquil fine sand lake beachesat Hourtin.
Activities Away from the Beach
There is wonderful safe cycling using bike trails through the freshly-scented pine forests.
Back in Soulac, there is a permanent activity centre, Cap33, featuring tennis, volleyball, rollerblading anddiving for over-15s. There's also a swimming pool in the town.
For something more adventurous, try Cordouan Air Club for scenic flights across this amazing landscape. Also based at the aerodrome is the local parachuting club.
Children’s Tourist Attractions
Perfect for children is the tiny fair in the heart of town - with traditional stalls, dodgems, candy-floss and doughnuts. There is also a small arcade with perennial classics like Air Hockey, pinball machines and Sega Rally.
To add to the wealth of sports available, there is also mini-golf, a skate park and a cinema in Soulac. There is bike hire available at several locations, including some weird and wonderful machines.
Right on the town beach are two children's play areas, where you can leave your children, supervised, from half an hour to the best part of a day. Activities on offer include outdoor pools and bouncy castles.
The town has a good range of independent shops including all the staples of French life. There are severaljewellery shops largely specialising in silver, a sprinkling of boutiques and surf shops, a good sized supermarket, a wonderful indoor market for foodies, and a weekly antiques market (in the car park behind the food market).
St Vivien (Wednesday) and Lesperre are good options for traditional markets. In the summer, Soulac and Montalivet (the next town down the coast) hold daily markets.
Lesperre is your best stop for a hypermarket en-route to Soulac from Bordeaux, you'll see this on the side of the main road.
There are a few more boutiques at the Marina in le Verdon, but if you're serious about boutique shopping, you'll probably head into Bordeaux!
A great option is to buy tapas-type snacks in the food market and enjoy these on the beach, but you can also eat from the excellent snack bars and ice-cream bars along the main drag in the town, or enjoy traditional fairground food of doughnuts, candy floss and big marshmallow sweets.
There is a good choice of bars and restaurants in Soulac - fish obviously a speciality - most with outdoor and terrace eating, perfect for watching the world idle by.
Le Nautilus offers beachfront pizzas to all ages, in a relaxed setting.
2 rue de la Plage, 05-56-09-90-38
Le California, again on the seafront, offers good portions of Tex-Mex and paella.
2 esplanade des Girondins, 05-56-73-65-43
Le Pavillon de la Mer is a bit more sophisticated, offering good seafood in a pleasant outdoor setting.
19 rue de la Plage, 05-56-09-80-82
The Café le Rallye offers giant sports screens, if the panoramic views of watersports on the Atlantic beach aren’t good enough.
70 rue de la Plage, 05-56-09-71-49
The above list has been compiled from feedback by visitors.
Soulac is relaxed and European in the evening - you can walk around the small town and the adjoining sea frton dipping in and out of bars, or enjoying table service on the terrace. A few bars are that bit louder, catering for the more surf-oriented crowd. Try to catch sunset over the beach if you can.......
Soulac’s Casino offers slot machines, roulette, and also boasts a nightclub.
Arts and Culture
Soulac has a good Musée d'Art et Archéologie Museum of Art and Archeology displaying items from Neolithic and Bronze Ages, as well as the Gallo-Roman period. This museum also contains the Fondation Soulac-Médoc, displaying paintings and sculptures by contemporary local artists.
Soulac is the site of an ambitious Romanesque Benedictine abbey. The Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Fin-des-Terres (Our Lady at the End of the Earth) originates from the 12th Century, and is on the World Heritage list.
The Moulin de Vensac 19th Century Windmill is now working again. Erected in 1858, it's one of the oldest in the country, and still able to produce flour in the old fashioned way.
The Gironde river mouth was a location of immense startegic importance in during WWII. Verdon was one of the last places in France occupied by the Germans, and asite of some of the fiercest battles. Pill-boxes pepper the coastline, providing an extra exciting dimension to the landscape.
The lighthouse at Pointe de Grave makes a worthwhile destination - the 10km is suprisingly easy even for youngsters, given the flat terrain. There is a small museum at the lighthouse, a great view from the top, and several local bars and restaurants to choose from. If you're lucky your arrival might also coincide with the arrival or departure of the Royan-le Verdon Ferry.
But a more exciting excursion is a boat trip to the lighthouse ‘Phare de Cordouan’ – once part of the mainland, but now separated by the moving coastline. During your time in Soulac you will become attached to Cardouan, as it is an integral part of the skyline, particularly at sunset. The lighthouse is said to be the world's oldest still standing. Its stone structure dates back to the 16th Century. It was updated in neo-classical style in the 18th Century and once contained a royal apartment and chapel.
Wine-tasting in the Médoc
Naturally, a major draw of the Médoc is wine. The steep-sided valleys, gravel soils and gentle climate all combine to create ideal growing conditions - something the viticulteurs have exploited here for hundreds of years. You may be surprised to learn that the Médoc's wines are exclusively red, made principally from the Cabernet grape. The most highly-rated labels are household names - Château Lafite, Château Margaux, Château Latour and Château Mouton. Pauillac on the Gironde coast is a place to head for - this lovely market town and marina has a great market, some fine restaurants and an appealing, laid-back ambience. There are several possibilities for wine-tours whether it be by bike or organised tour.
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).
City culture in Bordeaux - the big city is just over an hour away and is a good option for a day-trip, whether it’s boutique shopping, sight-seeing or museums. The town has been revitalised by its forward-thinking mayor who has overseen the new tram system and a big clean up of the city's many fine monuments and buildings. Walking around the 18th century old town centre (Quartier St. Pierre), you can begin to imagine the city’s commercial and maritime past. Leave the car in Soulac and take the train all the way - far more civilised.
A day at the lakes - Aquitaine is well-known for its colossal lakes which lie just inland from the Atlantic. Lac de Hourtin-Carcans is the largest of them all. You can reach Hourtin-Port (the lake's Northern base) in 45 minutes for a day of beach activities, watersports, cycle rides, nature walks and picnic-ing. The lakes have natural sandy beaches which can be quite a bonus on days when the Atlantic surf is high.
Visit Royan and la Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime
Royan took a bit of a battering during Word War II as the Germans retreated. However, some of its older buildings remain and the town is a popular, very French resort. Royan is easily reached by ferry from the Pointe de Grave. You can even do this trip by bike. However, if you want to head on up to the lovely fishing port of La Rochelle, we recommend you put your car on the ferry!
For further tourist information about the local areas beyond Soulac, please browse our region guides:
» Medoc Coast
» Bordeaux Countryside
» Arcachon Bay
For some pre-holiday research, we propose the Lonely Planet Guide (South West France), The Green Guide (Atlantic Coast) and the Cadogan Guides – always an excellent and informative read. “Gascony and the Pyrenees” is the one to buy to cover the Medoc Coast.
Bordeaux airport is the closest and is approximately 100 kms south east. If you are driving, try taking the ferry from Royan to the Pointe de Grave; it shortens the route dramatically as you avoid circumnavigating Bordeaux, although in peak season the queues for the ferry do build up. Try this link for further information about crossings: Royan - Le Verdon Ferry
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