6 Reasons To Visit Arcachon & Its Beautiful Bay

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.

Photo by Bet Osten on Unsplash

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!


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

An overview of la Dune du Pilat
An overview of la Dune du Pilat. FACEBOOK Dune du Pilat Officiel

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!

La Dune du Pilat at sunset
La Dune du Pilat at sunset. FACEBOOK Dune du Pilat Officiel

L’île aux Oiseaux

The island’s stilted houses
The island’s stilted houses. FACEBOOK Ile 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

The breathtaking view on the bay from the district
The breathtaking view on the bay from the district. PHOTO bassin-arcachon.com

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!

One of the numerous villas in the neighborhood
One of the numerous villas in the neighborhood. PHOTO bassin-arcachon.com

Oyster Farms

The oyster farms in the bay
The oyster farms in the bay. FACEBOOK Les Huîtres Arcachon – Cap Ferret

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.

The local oysters
The local oysters. FACEBOOK Les Huîtres Arcachon – Cap Ferret

La Réserve Naturelle Nationale du Banc d’Arguin

The national reserve near Arcachon
The national reserve near Arcachon. FACEBOOK 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?

The maritime cashew tree, one of the numerous plant species on the reserve
The maritime cashew tree, one of the many plant species on the reserve. FACEBOOK Réserve Naturelle Nationale du Banc d’Arguin

La Basilique Notre-Dame

33120 Arcachon, France

La Basilique Notre-Dame in Arcachon
La Basilique Notre-Dame in Arcachon. PHOTO Arcachon.com

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.

Eve McGuardian


Eve was born and raised in NYC and later on, moved to Paris. She grew up in an international home and is fluent in both French and English. Every chance she gets, she travels; either to discover a new culture or as a volunteer in an organization. The most memorable cities she has been to are: Ischia, a little island off the coast of Naples for the people, Istanbul for the culture, and Paris for the architecture.

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