Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2010-08-09
Cap Ferret has beaches with 25km of fine sands stretching out between the ocean and the immense Dune du Pilat. Here you can ride bikes in the pine forests, bathe in the sea, sample oysters outdoors and visit fishermen’s villages where each one is more charming than the last. However owing to the threat of erosion Cap Ferret is a treasure which must be preserved at all costs.
The Lands End Point at Cap Ferret
This destination is a favourite for the Bordelais and enthusiasts of surfing, sunbathing or camping and they all rush here in droves as soon as the sun makes the slightest appearance!
My advice is to leave the D106 from Bordeaux to avoid the weekend traffic jams. Instead take the forest road that was built by the first Gascon colonists. This way you will be driving through the first pine forest planted during the reign of Napoleon III (covering 7500 hectares of the peninsula’s 10000 hectare surface.) The 25km of coastal beaches are accessible along this route at any point.
Viewed from the lands end point, the panorama of the ocean entering into the Arcachon Bay is absolutely sublime. The currents here are overwhelmingly strong and the peninsular is being eroded as a result. The Atlantic wall blockhouses which are now all immersed in the sand are testimonies of this fact.
For this reason the peninsular is protected by the Conservatoire du Littoral et des Rivages Lacustres – the Coastal Protection Trust which is working to preserve the dune by maintaining it with plantations, whilst waiting for a huge protection plan financed by the EU.
The beach has lifeguard surveillance throughout the summer so children can play and swim there in complete safety (but keep an eye out all the same!) At low tide take a stroll out to the oyster beds for a sample tasting of the oysters and a little glass of white Entre Deux Mers Bordeaux in this wonderful open air setting.
Walking on the dune is made easier by wooden duckboards and lockers are available where you can deposit car keys, motorbike helmets and any other objects in complete safety.
The beach is also highly prized by surfers and naturists.
Watch out for the traffic jams when leaving the car parks at the end of the day! This is a place where you can take your time and admire the sunset, take a drink on La Madrague’s terrace or by the pool or even put up your tent and spend the night at the Brémontier campsite.
Lastly don’t forget to bring water, sun cream and a beach umbrella – there is very little shade here!
Two places you must see!
In the early afternoon a ferry links Cap Ferret with l'île aux Oiseaux (the Island of Birds.) This secret and unusual island gets its name from the multitude of herons, black geese, terns and other water fowl that live there. It has a surface area of 1000 hectares at low tide, 225 hectares at high tide and it is home to around 40 oyster-farming huts. Two of these huts are particularly striking as they are mounted on stilts, and one of them is over 100 years old. Rising above the water they watch over the whole oyster farming area. The visit including the return journey takes approximately 2 hours.
Listed in the inventory of scenic spots since 1981, the oyster village of l'Herbe is famous for its brightly coloured 4 by 6 metre wooden huts, which are covered in tiles, have one storey and are separated by 2m wide alleyways. The older huts were built on boats in the 19th century. Every day the fishermen and oyster farmers wander through this maze of narrow alleyways on their way to the beach. This is a little gem of a place!
Places to eat
There are two Michelin Guide featured restaurants in Cap Ferret - Pinasse Café and La Frégate, the former has the feel of a bistro and the latter has a maritime décor. However since the 1920s the exclusive establishment has nevertheless been Chez Hortense. The maisonette restaurant was engulfed by the sea and is now submerged at a depth of 18 metres. An identical replacement has now been built a little higher up on the dune. Its homemade moules-frites are just as renowned as they ever were!
Lège-Cap Ferret Tourist Office
Tel: +33 (0)5 56 03 94 49
La Gironde Tourism Committee
+33 (0)5 56 52 61 40
The Paris to Bordeaux TGV high speed train takes three hours.
Cap Ferret is to the North-West of Arcachon Bay, 65km from Bordeaux.
Taking the D106 road from Bordeaux the Lège-Cap-Ferret peninsula is reached by car in 45 minutes. Another option is to take a ferry from Arcachon and hire a bike at Cap Ferret. You need a minimum of 2 days to visit the area.