The Bay of Arcachon is first of all a geomorphologic curiosity: a bay of 1500 hectares fed both by the ocean and a large number of waterways, producing an inland sea with the colours of a lagoon, bordered on one side by a blond crown of fine sand culminating at 104 metres: the Dune du Pilat. From its summit you can also see the beautiful Landes forest.
The Bay of Arcachon is also home to the eponymous town and its famous winter district. The site of the first ever healthcare holidays, Arcachon later became – when it was officially founded on 2 May 1857 – a luxury resort where Spanish royalty, Russian dukes, and all sorts of artists came to stay…
The other towns in the bay are like pearls arranged around the diamond. Each has its own history: in Andernos, there are Gallo-Roman ruins, souvenirs of Sarah Bernhardt and a jazz festival. Each town also has its own view of the Bay, like a lagoon at low tide in Arès or Gujan-Mestras.
The towns all have in common the traditional culture of oysters, already a subject of Ausonius in the 4th century. The stakes – called pignots – which protect the oyster beds and mark out the boundaries of each farm are a typical feature of the Bay’s landscape. And everywhere you go you will find oyster-fishing ports where you can taste a dozen oysters.
To visit this fabulous natural reserve on the forest side, the cycling tracks are perfect. On the water, a “pinasse”, a traditional local boat, is certainly the best way of getting around.
Aboard this craft you can admire the famous cabanes tchanquées (shacks on stilts), go to Bird Island – the Bay is a stopping-place for many migratory birds – and then sail on to Arguin Sandbank, close to the navigable channels which fluctuate according to the tide, and which is the point where the Bay meets the ocean.
On the subject of the ocean, the peninsula of Cap Ferret, with its village l’Herbe, its Algerian chapel and its dirt tracks, offers a different variety of beautiful sights. If you have the energy, you can climb the 275 steps of the lighthouse to get a unique view over the Bay. And to rest your legs, the ocean beach of Grand Crohot and its fourteen dunes are just a few yards away…
To find out the quality of the water in all swimming areas (ocean and
freshwater) in this département, visit the website of the Ministry of