“Le bassin” as connoisseurs calls it, is located only 1 hour away from Bordeaux, is a bay on the Atlantic Ocean. Very famous for the Great Dune of Pilat, Arcachon bay has many other treasures to offer. We have spent many summers there and we will gladly share with you Arcachon’s secrets and (not so) hidden gems!
Where to sleep in Arcachon bay?
This one will really depends on what you are looking for and… you budget. Arcachon bay is very famous, especially in France, and prices are a little crazy during summertime. Plan your visit to Arcachon early, as everything is fully booked in summer.
Where to sleep in Arcachon bay for young people
For young people, we would advice the city of Arcachon and especially le Moulleau. You will find many young people wandering around, and all the nice bars and clubs are located in the area. For the ones without cars, it’s also very convenient from Bordeaux station: less than an hour by train, then a bus to reach Le Moulleau. The area is super trendy, so you may not get a villa by the beach, but a small appartement will do, as you will probably spend most of your time outside anyway.
Where to sleep in Arcachon bay for a family
Our best advice would be to rent a villa in Pyla-sur-Mer, not far from the train station if you need to pick up your oldest kids, Bordeaux is not far away, la Teste-de-Buch (a real city, with everything you might need available there) is just near-by. Beaches are a little less crowded than in Arcachon and the Great Dune of Pilat is hundred of meters away. You can send your kids to surf lessons at la Salie and even enjoy an afternoon all by yourself.
Where to sleep in Arcachon bay to enjoy it at its best
This one will really, really, depends on your budget. But if you are ready to spend a little fortune for a villa for 8 to 10 people for a week, you should definitely stay at Cap Ferret. A little further than Arcachon (you can go by boat from Arcachon center or by car all the way along the bay), it will be as well a little wilder, and more expensive. You may come across some French celebrities as well, but you will enjoy amazing landscape. If you are bored of the beach on the bay, just cross le Cap, and here you will find the ocean!
Where to eat in Arcachon and Pyla-sur-Mer ?
Most of the time we spent in Arcachon bay, we stayed around the area of le Moulleau and Pyla-sur-Mer, so most of our advices will be centralised around there.
Le Royal Moulleau
Le Royal Moulleau is one of the must-go place in the Bassin d’Arcachon! Located in the Moulleau, in front in the Bassin, it offers a terace with an incredible view over the Bassin and the Cap Ferret.
The restaurant is separated in two side: one pizzeria and one traditional restaurant. Both have excellent food and amazing view, so it is only a matter of taste to decide which side you prefer!
46 avenue Louis Gaume 33115 Pyla-sur-Mer
+33(0)5 56 22 72 11 firstname.lastname@example.org
If you wish to have dinner there, make sure to call them to book before.
More informations on the Co(o)rniche website
You really cannot miss la Co(o)rniche, an hotel designed by Philippe Starck, has become the place to be of the local jet-set. While not everyone could afford a night, or even a dinner there, we definitely think you should at least have a drink there to admire the sunset on the bay. It’s a view you cannot have anywhere else in le Bassin and it is really an extraordinary one. Just make sure to wear something smart casual, not too feel too odd having a martini in your flip flops while the table next to you – a famous producer – is having dinner with his date wearing a cocktail dress. And of course, make sure to ask for a table outside (and bring a sweater! Even during the warmest days in the summer, the evenings are always cold).
La vie en Rose1 Avenue Louis Gaume, 33115 Pyla sur Mer
+33 (0) 5 56 22 06 06 http://haaitza.com/
The Haaïtza is an hotel which was fully renovated and reopened in 2016 with a restaurant with two Michelin stars (Le Skiff Club), a casual restaurant, a salon de thé and a brunch option on week-ends. The restaurant étoilé is still on our list “to try (and to save for)”, but we have been many times already to the casual restaurant, and we love it! When you will be there, don’t forget to look everywhere, as the interior is quite something and – guess what – once again designed by Philippe Starck. Go for the meat if you are a carnivore, so far it was always excellent!
Bord Ô Pyla
218 Boulevard de la Côte d’argent / Le Moulleau 33120 ARCACHON
A bar à vin/caves à vin. Bord Ô Pyla is our favourite place in le Moulleau. The two owners are very kind and helpful and always offer great and fresh products. Only a few tables are available outside and inside but if it’s already full, you can always grab a bottle for an apéritif on the beach.
Arcachon during the Covid pandemic
What to do in Arcachon during Covid ?
Stay safe, and limit social interactions of course, but it is possible to stay busy during this third lockdown in France (April 2021): Tennis courts are open (we usually go to the Tennis de la Source des Abatilles), do some bike (and go to the Dune du Pilat, or to Cap Ferret for the day!).
If the weather gets bad, you can buy some board games at the Cabane des Jeux, in la Teste, only 20 minutes away by bike from the Moulleau. They stay open during lockdown, they have some great games, and will give you some really good advices.
Where to eat in Arcachon during lockdown ?
Though times for restaurants with all these lockdowns and restrictions… We are very lucky, in le Moulleau, many restaurants will stay open for take away. Our favourite addresses ? Le Royal Moulleau, for a delicious pizzas or a beef carpaccio, l’Oubli: unique menu, very original cuisine and good products and Le Jardin, some more typical French food, like a beef tartare or a foie gras. All delicious! Our restaurants need us, don’t hesitate to take away if you can afford it!
What to do in Arcachon ?
Go to the beach
You probably had this one in mind already, but here are our favorite beaches near Arcachon: Choose to go around the beach between le Moulleau pier and Pyla-sur-Mer. It will be a little less crowded there, with many great options for lunch or for a drink at l’Oubli (234, boulevard de la Côte d’Argent 33120 Arcachon) after a day well spent at the beach.
For the ones who are not so much about laying down on a towel for hours, head up to la Salie beach, a surf spot, where you will enjoy the waves, as the Salie beach is not within the bay but on the ocean. You will not find much there, so do not forget some water and your sunscreen!
To reach la Salie beach, take the bus BAIA 1 all the way until Plage de la Salie
With Alexandra and her family, we usually book surf lessons through Ocean Root, Arcachon surf Club. They can whether pick you up directly near their shop or you can meet them at the Salie. They have a very friendly team and will take care of providing you with a board and a websuit.
Jet-ski tour in Arcachon bay
If you can afford it, this one is definitely a must: ArcaJetMarine is offering different jet skis tours in the bay.
Our favourite is definitely “Autour du bassin”, where you will visit see l’Iles aux Oiseaux and the Tchanquées cabanes, the Cap Ferret and its lighthouse. You will then stop at the fishing village l’Herbe for local products dégustation. Follows the banc d’Arguin, the Great Dune of Pilat where you will stop for a swim. On the way back, you will see the beaches from le Moulleau and Arcachon port. Count 3 hours for 55km.
Price: 220 euros per jet-ski, up to 2 people per jet-skis. Boat licence is not needed as you will be accompanied by a guide.
If you have a boat licence, it is also possible to rent a jet-ski for few hours or for the day, but we would not recommend you to do so if you do not know the capricious and sometimes tricky bassin.
Climb the Great Dune of Pilat
You cannot miss the tallest sand dune in Europe, even if you would not be alone on the top, with more than a million of tourists visiting it every year.
The climb is not hard but can be a little hot during a warm afternoon, don’t forget to wear a hat ! On top, you will find a beautiful view over the bay and on the other side, the pines forest.
Fun fact: The dune moves every year from 3 to 4 meters towards the pine forest!
Spend a day biking in Cap Ferret
Arcachon bay has more than 220 kilometers of bicycle path, it would be a shame not to rent a bike for a day to enjoy it!
Our top tip is to take the boat (around 6 trips per day) from Arcachon center pier or from le Moulleau pier to Cap Ferret. The trip takes between 20 to 30 minutes, costs 7 euros per adult (5 euros for kids and is free for babies). Check prices and timetable here.
The cycling itinerary we advice in Cap Ferret is the one advised by the official website of the Bassin d’Arcachon:
We recommend to do this itinerary of 13,5 kilometers from 3 hours to a full day, to make sure to take the time to stop everywhere you want to, for a beautiful sightseeing, an ice-cream and to take a swim from time to time! Once again, hat and sunscreen are mandatory.
Watch a sunset in le Moulleau
A family tradition has been established every time we visit Arcachon: after dinner, we go to le Moulleau to have an ice-cream at le Sorbet d’amour (they have so many options, you will not believe it! Try grapefruit and yogurt, some of our favourite flavours) and watch the sunset (if not too late).
Boat rental in Arcachon bay
Arcachon bay is a paradise for boat lovers. If a pinasse, the traditional boat from the bay, is too expensive, you can rent a regular motor boat for the day and sail around the bay, from l’Ile aux Oiseaux to Cap Ferret, and to the Banc d’Arguin, with quite a view over the Great Dune of Pilat.
For a regular normal boat up to 10 people, the cost is around 300 euros for a day. Many agencies in Arcachon where you can rent them, you can check Sam boat.
Boat licence are mandatory to rent a boat in the bay and you will be asked to pay a deposit.
Extra for the drone pilots: Arcachon bay is so beautiful from the sky, don’t forget to bring your baby along! We have not been able to shot our video from Arcachon yet due to technical issue… But I have no doubt it is possible to shot something as great as our video of Brittany!
What to do in Arcachon when it rains ?
Visit the bookstore la Librairie Générale in Arcachon
49 cours Lamarque de Plaisance33120 ARCACHON
Winter time: Monday 14h30-19h15, Tue-Sat 9h30-12h15 et 14h30-19h15. Summertime: (from 01/07 to 31/08): Mon-Sat 9h30-19h30 and Sunday 10h00-13h00.
Every year, we do not buy any book before the summer has started because we love to see and check the Selection at the Librairie Générale in the center of Arcachon. They have a kind staff and a great selection and always tag their favourite books with some personal reviews. How many great books we have found there during summer rainy days in Arcachon!
Best part of it? They have many books available in English (not so common in France)!
Go to the cinema in Arcachon
We will not lie, rains in Arcachon happens… So one advise, do not waste any sunny afternoon at the cinema, but run to the movies when it rains! You will find one cinema in the city center of Arcachon. For more movies, you can also check the cinema complex in la Teste-de-Buch.
Get ready for your trip in Arcachon bay
Listen to Tombé pour elle – Pascal Obispo
An old -but gold- French song about a man falling in love for the bassin and its incredible sceneries.
Watch the movie Les Petits Mouchoirs
Les petits mouchoirs (2010), a famous and beautiful French movie by Guillaume Canet, about friendship and adulthood, shot in Arcachon bay, starring Marion Cotillard and Jean Dujardin. The landscapes of the bay are astonishing and the soundtracks are prodigious!
Follow le bassin on Instagram
Vivre le bassin is reposting daily some amazing pictures of every corners of the bay.
Le bassin d’Arcachon officiel not to miss anything – including some beautiful views- about le bassin.
Get your boat licence!
It was on our bucket list for almost ten year now, and finally François got his boat licence with Alizée 33 during a long week-end last year in Arcachon. So convenient to rent boat during our week-ends and holidays, as we did in Greece, back in September.
You will need a boat licence to rent a boat in Arcachon or if you want to rent a jet ski and visit the bay without a guide.
We really love Arcachon and it is one of our favourite place to relax between the longer summer holidays! While expensive, it is a must-see in a lifetime. If you are an oyster-eater, it is guaranteed to become one of your favourite place in the world!