Summer Vacation: The Arcachon Basin


With Summer in full swing and the sun beating down it’s only natural that we’re all dreaming of Summer vacation. As part of the Savoir Faire Paris team I’m playing vacation correspondent from a lesser known area of France that I currently call home. The Arcachon Basin is a large natural bay of the Atlantic Ocean situated 60 kilometers south of Bordeaux in Aquitaine region. Small villages surround the basin, the largest of which is the Arcachon. Other hotspots in the area include Pyla, Andernos and the Cap Ferret.

The Pyla Dune

One of the natural attractions of the area is the Dune de Pyla, the largest dune in all of Europe. A climb to the top gives you a spectacular view of the bay, the Atlantic and the surrounding forests.

The Île aux Oiseaux

The “Island of Birds” is a natural reserve home to birds and vacationers ready to embrace the tranquility of this secluded spot. Old fisherman’s cabins scatter the sandy shores and visitors can view the island by a boat leaving from Arcachon. On the same trip you can get a taste of some of the iconic architecture of the basin, two stilted cabins remain present just offshore.


If you’re an oyster lover you have found your mecca. The shelled delicacy is a symbol of the region and you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant here where the oyster isn’t one of the stars of the menu. Oyster ports and raisers scatter the basin and play an integral role in the development and esthetic of this water-worshipping society. The oyster has also defined another icon of the area, the Pinasse. This long, flat boat was in the past used by oyster raisers and for the most part today is used for pleasurable afternoons on the peaceful waves of the bay.

While Arcachon may today resemble many of France’s smaller cities by the sea, with a large commercial and touristic development, other places around the bay remain more remote and thus more authentic to tradition. Many of the tiny beach villages, like L’Herbe are well-worth the visit, just to get a feel for a culture that is so connected to the water.

The Cap Ferret is known for it’s laid-back beach chic. The charming village across the bay from Arcachon is a favorite for many French celebrities who find the Côte d’Azure way too hype and touristic to be interesting or relaxing. One of the favorite restaurants of the town is Chez Hortense, it also happens to be where you can find me in the kitchen at any given time this July or August, stop by (or better yet make a reservation) for the fries and mussels!

Chez Hortense
Avenue du sémaphore, Lège Cap Ferret
For reservations:


  1. Dreamy. Thank you for the coverage of this area I knew very little about and would love to get to know! Chez Hortense here I come!

  2. […] of the wonderful things about the beaches in this region of Southwest France is that you have the choice of the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. […]

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