The decor changes as you move south to the Basque Coast. The straight Landes beaches are replaced by alternating sand, rocks, cliffs, creeks and bays …
From the Adour Estuary to that of the Bidassoa, the Basque coastal resorts offer landscapes, architecture, traditions , flavours and sports activities that you will find nowhere else – all in a the space of 40 km!
Bayonne, the capital of Labourd (the three French Basque provinces touching the sea), is the jewel in the crown of Basque urban heritage. The white houses with red or green timber standing on the banks of the Nive, the narrow streets of Petit Bayonne and their lively night-time activity, the shopping streets where you can find THE chocolate, not forgetting the Bonnat Museum and the recently opened Basque Museum… these are a few things not to be missed.
The same diversity can be found in Biarritz, the “king of beaches and the beach of kings”, ever since Eugenie de Montijo and her husband Napoleon III made it the favourite resort of the European aristocracy. The most diverse of architectural styles combine here, much in the same way as quiet families mingle with festive surfers on the beaches. Because surfing, which hit the Basque coast in 1956 with an incredibly rejuvenating effect, rapidly became a tradition here in its own right, on level terms with the fandango (a dance) or the sardinade (a delicacy).
In Saint-Jean-de-Luz like in Biarritz, fishing is a thriving tradition. Obviously, sailors no longer hunt whales or sail to Newfoundland, but the ports are still full of colour and activity… Saint-Jean-de-Luz has some beautiful architectural pieces, notably the Maison Louis XIV and the Maison de l’Infante, which provide a reminder of the period spent by the Sun King in the town when he married Maria-Theresa, the Spanish Infanta in 1660. And to find out more about the Basque world (from the pelota game to linen craft via history and legends), just go to the Eco-museum of Basque Tradition.
Lying between these three leading towns of the Basque coast, Anglet, the nearest beach to Bayonne, is a resort that lives all year round. Golf, surfing, thalassotherapy, traditional fêtes and a variety of sightseeing attractions are on the menu.
Finally, Bidart, Guéthary, Ciboure, Socoa and Hendaye all provide welcoming resorts, botanical gardens, fishing ports, boating harbours, and sites to visit.
Hendaye faces Spain across the bay of Txingudi, where the Bidassoa flows into the Atlantic. A shuttle boat service runs between the two countries. With a marina, surfing schools and canoeing, there are plenty of nautical pleasures for a perfect family holiday. Not to forget the Serge Blanco spa centre and the many delights of nature to be discovered at Domaine d’Abbadia.
To find out the quality of the water in all swimming areas (ocean and
freshwater) in the départements of Aquitaine, visit the website of the
Ministry of Health: http://baignades.sante.gouv.fr