If you enjoy frolicking in the sand, then the Dune du Pyla (often also spelled Dune du Pilat) is the place to be! An estimated 60,000,000 m3 of sand, 108m high, more than 2,700m long and 500m wide make the dune the biggest in Europe. Naturally, this attracts tourists en masse, so that more than 1,000,000 people visit the dune every year. You therefore do well to be there early or outside the main season in order to avoid the masses and enjoy the peaceful landscape. On the other hand, the sheer size of the dune allows the people to disperse and even during the high season you only have to walk a bit further to be surrounded by nothing but sand.
It's quite a strenuous ascent, even if you take the stairs that were constructed to help people get up. More fun, though, is the direct ascent on sand. I spent a long time trying that myself and later having a laugh while watching people attempting to run up as quickly as possible (and failing...). Once on top of the dune, enjoy the view in all directions: to the east and the south the vast forest of Les Landes, to the west the endless Atlantic Ocean, to the north the town of Arcachon and Cap-Ferret.
At the bottom of the dune, you can find a number of cafes and souvenir shops, but fortunately these are neither too aggressively vying for tourists nor are they allowed to set up booths or the like on top of the dune. On the other hand, this means you have to carry food, water and sunscreen with you when ascending the dune.
... is not exactly a beautiful place. You'll find a lot of boring concrete buildings without charm as well as some more beautiful villas that are, however, in most cases private property and therefore inaccessible. Strolling through the streets of Arcachon is not much fun, so you better go back to one of the beaches and enjoy life there. If you want to see more of the town, there is a little belvedere just south of the centre. It's unfortunately a little tricky to find as there are no signs leading to it, but you can see it over the treetops.
The no.1 reason to come to Arcachon or Cap-Ferret are their beaches. The whole shore is one long stretch of fine sandy beaches. Being familiar with the English pebbly beaches, I had almost forgotten how nice it is to walk through fine sand or to enjoy a bath without teetering to the water like a stork.
Cap-Ferret's most beautiful and most easily accessible beach is the one at the very tip of the cape. The bus from Bordeaux ends there and you only have to walk for 200m to be able to jump into the ocean. It's particularly beautiful as you can see both Arcachon and the Dune du Pyla from there. I suppose the other beaches must be nice, too, but we didn't have time to visit them.
Arcachon has many smaller beaches in the town centre, each of which is separated from the next by a few buildings or private property. Those in the centre get very crowded in summer, but if you follow Boulevard de l'Océan and Boulevard de la Mer towards the west, you'll find some less crowded one's. On the other hand, you are closer to the bars and restaurants of the centre if you stay there - and there's certainly more entertainment.
You can also go for a swim at the Dune du Pyla - but be aware that it's a long descent from the top of the dune, and walking in masses of sand isn't too convenient for a long time.
There are beautiful pine forests in the area of Arcachon.
The Landes forest (La forêt des Landes in French) or the Landes of Gascony (las Lanas de Gasconha in the Gascon language), in the historic Gascony natural region of southwestern France now known as Aquitaine, is the largest maritime-pine forest in Europe. The French word, landes and Gascon lanas, mean 'moors' or 'heaths'.
You can watch my 1 min 59 sec Video Arcachon out of my Youtube channel.
An excursion to Atlantic coast was waiting for us after Bordeaux. I never heard earlier about such a place as Arcachon.
At the tenth day of our travel we had already been tired enough by various impressions, therefore a prospect simply to be expiated in the sea seemed us very tempting. However the reality has beaten all my expectations.
I have taken advantage of this circumstance, have passed about kilometer from the central part of a beach, and I appeared practically in loneliness. When up to the nearest person remains more than 100 meters, I have took off swimming trunks and rushed into an ocean wave! I was almost stunned! The purest sea water has absorbed me, and I for some time have grown dumb with delight! For the sake of it is necessary to live and come here through almost four thousand kilometers! I tested such a pleasure last time almost twenty years ago on a deserted beach of Pizunda.
Arcachon Bay (Bassin d'Arcachon), is a bay of the Atlantic Ocean on the southwest coast of France. The bay covers an area of 150 km² at high tide and 40 km² at low tide. Some of its geological features are natural preservation areas.
The dune du Pyla is one of the most exciting and stunning places I have ever seen. I had seen already sandy dunes on the beach (in Sardinia, for example) but this is really huge, large and long (3km more or less). Go there in the late afternoon to enjoy an outstand sunset, you won't regret.
Arcachon is a beautiful atlantic sea village. I regret not having spent more time there. You can enjoy the large and sandy beaches, the ocean with huge waves, shopping or you can take the ferry for the opposite side of the bay, Cap Ferret. In Cap Ferret beaches are very long as well and the sea is really calm (pay attention to the tides). A ferry ride last half an hour and you can travel with your bike as well. Dont forget to eat oysters!
The big sand dune of Pilat is said to be the highest of its kind in Europe. The brochures which I got from the tourist office in Arcachon state an elevation of 117m, but that varies of course. The dune is not only quite high, but also long (2,7km) and wide (500m).
Access to the dune is not restricted and you can climb it from any point. It's a bit of an effort to go up, but the view is definitely rewarding.
During the summer months some staircases are build into the dune which makes it a lot easier to get up there.
If you continue past the Dune du Pilat towards Biscarosse you'll come to some great beaches which are very popular with surgers. Due to their length you'll be able to find a stretch just for yourself. Some of the beaches have bars/restaurants and toilet/shower facilities.
Some of the beaches can be reached by the baia (no.1) bus in July/August.
Le Moulleau is très chic quarter of Arcachon. Here you'll find lots of expensive shops and restaurants. The beach is great aswell!
It can be reached easily by walking along the beach for about 45 minutes or take the free electric bus from the train station.
The Banc d'Arguin is a sand bank located right in the entrance of the Bassin d'Arcachon. It's a nature reserve and a nesting and hiberanation place for many birds.
During the summer months you've got a ferry connection from the Dune du Pilat to the Banc d'Arguin, at other times you'll need your own boat.
The tallest in Europe. It is worth a trip. I took a bus leaving from the train station (in Arcachon). Since it is off-season, the bus did not go all the way to the park. It was supposed to stop at the Pyla Plage, where everyone will walk up to the dune and the park. But the driver was nice enough (French hospitality!!) to go out of her way to give the passengers a quick tour of the area.
The view on the top was magnificient. Good thing I brought a windbreaker because the weather was much cooler at the top. For lunch, I had a chicken panini at the park. If I come back again, I would try the restaurant at the hotel right on Pyla Plage. Their menu looks interesting!
Those few days that I stayed in Arcachon, I was tempted to take a boat ride. I didn't think the waves would be too rough, afterall, it is in a basin, but I was wrong, it does get very windy. After a hearty lunch with a few glasses of wine, I just can't see myself getting on one of those boats. Well, maybe next time....
The Great Dune of Pyla (French: la dune du Pyla) is the largest sand dune in Europe. It is located in La Teste-de-Buch in the Arcachon bassin area, France. It is a famous tourist attraction.
The dune is about 60,000,000 m³, measuring around 500m wide (from East to West) by 3km long (from North to South). Its height varies from 100 to 117 metres above sea level.