Arcachon travel guide

Cities and towns

About Arcachon

Arcachon in Aquitaine is a beautiful coastal town inside the inspiring inland sea of the bay of Arcachon. 

Given it's birth certificate by Napoleon III only 150 years ago, Arcachon is a luxury resort that was once the destination of choice for Spanish royalty and Russian dukes as well as a whole host of artists who have found inspiration here. The site of the first healthcare holidays, thalassotherapy took off in the town, especially with the Bordeaux bourgeoisie. In the Victorian era many villas were built in a distinctive style known locally as Arcachonnaise. In the famous Ville d'Hiver (winter town), you'll discover gorgeous Moorish and Gothic villas hidden away in the centre of the forest, looking down on the bay - an especially great view can be had from Mauresque Park which was once the site of a casino.

The bay of Arcachon is a spectacular 1500 hectare inland sea that is perfect for oyster farming. Why not take ad oyster tour around the ports of the bay with a stop at the Oyster House in Hume and ending in an oyster tasting and glass of wine with one of the farmers? If you're more interested in admiring the wildlife then take a trip out to Île aux Oiseaux (Bird Island) which is a nature reserve for thousands of migratory birds. Just 15 minutes down the coast is the amazing Dune de Pyla (sometimes known as Dune de Pilat) the largest dune in Europe. Climb to the top for great views and a good workout! If you'd rather be cooling off in the sea then there are plenty of gently sloping sandy beaches with pools appearing at low tide that are great for swimming. There is some great cycling to be had in the forest where you'll also find the Lac de Cazaux, the second largest lake in France at 5,800 acres and is excellent for swimming, fishing and boating.

The Musée Aquarium is the second oldest in the world (after London) and was built in 1863. In the tanks of the aquarium you'll meet species from the bay as well as being able to explore the history of oyster farming in the 19th and early 20th century with other exhibits on marine animals and local archaeology. You'll find delicious food on offer at the local markets with chocolates and caviar also local specialities along with the fantastic oysters caught in the bay. Enjoy with a good Bordeaux wine or perhaps try some mineral water from the source of Sainte Anne des Abatilles (sold as Water of Abatilles) - a spring discovered in 1923 whose warm and slightly sulphurous water is drawn from 472m below ground and is said to have curative properties.

Why visit Arcachon?

  • The Bay of Arcachon
  • Bird Island
  • Food and Drink
  • Ville d'Hiver

Overview

  • Country: France
  • Region: Aquitaine
  • Department : Gironde
  • Population: 11,750
  • Coordinates: 44.662243,-1.170645

Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.

Nearby attractions

Sail to the uninhabited Île aux Oiseaux in the middle of the Bay of Arcachon where terns, curlews, redshanks and many other species of birds can be found.

1.5km east of the Jetée d'Eyrac at the Port de Plaisance (Pleasure Boat Port) is the Centre Nautique d'Arcachon where you can rent lots of different types of water sports equipment including surf kayaks, diving equipment and...

Enjoy a traditional boat trip around the Bay of Arcachon in a locally-built boat that is specially designed for the shallow waters.

Take all the family out for some great fun at Aqualand - Bassin d'Arcachon, one of France's best waterparks!

Places to visit nearby

Bordeaux in Aquitaine is the region's capital and the home of French wine-making, recognised world-wide for its excellent wines, and is beautifully situated on the River Garonne.

Saint-Émilion in Aquitaine is the oldest wine area in the Bordeaux region and is a pretty medieval town with magnificent underground catacombs.

Saintes in Poitou-Charentes is the second largest city in Charente-Maritime and has an historical heritage dating back to Gallo-Roman times with some excellent ruins of Roman baths and an amphitheatre.