Arcachon – the cradle of oyster culture.
Admire the beautiful town of Arcachon; its scenery, beaches, and delicious seafood restaurants. Arcachon is located near the city of Bordeaux, and a wildly sought-after destination, especially during the summer. If you are a fan of oysters, the town’s main attraction is its oyster farming! Now, not everybody is a fan, nevertheless, Arcachon is a French gem that you must visit. Here are the six reasons, I hope will persuade you to take a little trip down to the bay of the Atlantic Ocean.
A few tips you might find useful when visiting Arcachon:
- Rent a bicycle! Arcachon and its surroundings will be much more enjoyable!
- The most coveted sights (ie: la Dune du Pilat) are wildly visited, that is why we suggest visiting them in the morning if you wish to avoid the crowd. The view will be rewarding!
- If you are visiting Arcachon in the summer, do not forget to reserve your hotel or bed-and-breakfast in advance!
HOW TO GET THERE
To reach Arcachon from Paris, there are many options. By car, it is approximately a six-hour drive, but the trip will be beautiful as you will pass by Orleans, Tours, and Bordeaux.
If you want to take the train, the bay of the Atlantic is only four hours away. There is a direct line between Paris and Arcachon, and the price points are very reasonable. On site, if you wish to visit the surroundings, it is, nevertheless, essential to have a car.
La Dune du Pilat
Between the sea and the forest, lies this impressive sand mountain. More than 106 meters high, 2,900 meters long, and 600 meters wide; la Dune du Pilat is considered to be the highest dune in all of Europe. This famous dune is constantly changing with the tides and the winds. Climbing 160 steps will be worth it! You will be rewarded with a mind-blowing view on the Atlantic Ocean, and the Landes forest. Bring a picnic and walk on 55m² of soft sand. Climbing, paragliding, swimming…anything is possible! La Dune du Pilat is a must-see if you are in the region, since it’s the perfect spot for an aperitif at sunset!
L’île aux Oiseaux
Located in the middle of the bay, the Isle of birds is only accessible by boat or canoe. So why is it named the Isle of birds? This wild island was -originally a breeding place for horses, and cows. After a terrible storm, the island became a fishing and a hunting ground (very well controlled.) Still today, the isle is a refuge for the migratory birds, as well as a protected site. The two stilted and colored houses are the island’s second claim to fame. You cannot visit the interior, however, you can climb on the decks to admire the view. At high tide, the houses are surrounded by water, and at low tide, on the sand. It all depends! By yourself or with friends and family, take a tour of this unique island, dedicated to the preservation of wilderness !
A little tip: Be sure to check the tidal calendar before your trip!
Ville d’Hiver, or Winter Town
La Ville d’Hiver is a distinct neighborhood in Arcachon. Overlooking a stunning view on the bay, the district is composed of numerous 19th century villas associated to a picturesque architecture. Many styles can be recognized, such as: neo-Classic, neo-Gothic, etc. Situated on the heights of the town, more than 300 villas are at your disposition. The most famous ones are: Villa Teresa, Villa Dumas, Villa Toledo, and Villa Carmen. Pay close attention to the architectural details, as they are the district’s jewels. Originally, this part of town was built as a Tuberculosis Treatment Center. The illness came to rest in this serene seaside district. Come and discover this 10-hectare architectural wonderland!
As previously mentioned, Arcachon is notorious for its oyster farming. It is therefore obvious to visit one of the many oyster farms in the bay. Boat masters organize one-hour boat tours along the farms. The boat ride will reveal all the secrets of oyster farming. You will learn all about the different techniques used to produce them, their evolution, the tools used, etc.… In the harbor, you will also be offered the possibility to taste the locally grown oysters. Either by foot or boat, discover the rich story behind Arcachon’s famous oyster farming.
La Réserve Naturelle Nationale du Banc d’Arguin
When passing through Arcachon, the national reserve is a must-do! Located between la Dune du Pilat and le Cap Ferret, the 4,500-hectare reserve is truly a wild paradise on Earth (for birds and humans.) This place was classified as a national reserve in 1972 because of its unique vegetation, including: the Oyat, the maritime mugworth, the maritime cashew tree, and many more plant species. Furthermore, the reserve is a true sanctuary for migratory birds as more than 200 protected bird species take refuge there. Accessible only by boat, and preserved from civilization, the reserve offers white-sand beaches, turquoise water, as well as a breathtaking view on the bay. The spot and the absence of activity will give you a sense of serenity you did not know you longed for. You, birds, and the sound of the waves crashing; how does that sound?
La Basilique Notre-Dame
33120 Arcachon, France
This basilica is one of Arcachon’s treasure, and a protected site. Built in 1860, this monument is a testament to neo-Gothic architecture. The basilica is situated on the heights of the town, overhanging the beautiful beach. More than 50 feet long, the edifice has many symbols that the inhabitants of Arcachon are proud of, especially: La Vierge d’albâtre. The statue represents the Virgin Mary with her son and has an interesting backstory. Indeed, the founder of the basilica – Father Thomas Illyricus – was a witness to a terrible storm and prayed that it would calm down before the two ships collide. Miraculously, the storm subsided, and the two ships were able to return to the sea. As he was still standing on the beach, the statue magically landed at his feet. The chapel, inside the basilica, suffered many undesirable tragedies, such as: a pirate attack, a pillage, and an arson case. Despite these fates, the chapel became a true symbol of Arcachon and its bay.
Today, the basilica, and the chapel welcome many admirers of the statue, and the architecture.