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La Teste de Buch salt flats visitor guide

Photo of La Teste de Buch salt flats

Visit La Teste de Buch salt flats, France

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On the edge of the town of Arcachon in the comune of La Teste de Buch is an area of salt flats which has a 2km path around it that is open to bikes and walkers. The salt flats are next to the pretty oyster fishing port of La Teste.

Explore the western salt flats of La Teste (Prés salés ouest)

France This Way comment: A walk around the pretty landscape of the salt flats followed by a walk in the neighbouring oyster village where you can enjoy a glass of wine and oysters sat on the edge of the attractive fishing port is a great way to spend a couple of hours when visiting the area.

The salt flats at La-Teste-de-Buch cover 114 hectares spread over two sites; the Prés Salés Ouest (42 hectares) and the Prés Salés Est ( 72 hectares). The Prés Salés Ouest or western salt flats have been redeveloped in recent years and paths created so that it is possible to easily appreciate the area.

La Teste pres salés

To get to the salt flats take the Avenue du General Leclerc out of Arcachon heading south towards the train station of La Teste de Buch. On the way you will notice signs for the Port of La Teste de Buch and a large car park at the side of the road. This is the parking for both the western salt flats and the oyster port.

In the 1970s dykes were built to block the link between the sea and the salt flats. Without its regular flow of salt water from the sea blocked the area degenerated over the next 35 years and was colonised by invading plant species such as Baccharis hamilifolia also known as 'false cotton' for its cotton-wool like filaments.

In 2007 the commune of La Teste won a court battle to take over the area and over the following years part of the site was opened back up to the sea to allow the area to be subject to the tides again. Another part was dedicated to retention of the fresh water thus creating two different habitats.

A path has been created circling the site and the path crosses the area dividing the two habitats and so at the southern part of the walk you can see  the area which is regularly irrigated by the tides on one side of the path and the area which is rarely covered by sea water on the other.

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The two areas are known as 'la vasière' or 'la slikke' which is the area subject to tides and the 'prés salés' or 'le schorre' which is rarely submerged.

La slikke is the larger area of the 'Prés salés ouest' and has relatively little vegetation. This area which looks visually quite muddy, especially at low tide, is actually full of nutrients and marine invertebrates and quite a number of different species of fish. At low tide lots of birds can be seen feeding at the slikke.

The area known as 'le schorre' has within it three zones depending on how often it is submerged. The higher parts are rarely submerged and the lower parts more often submerged and the vegetation varies accordingly. Salicornes, sarcocornes and obiones are the main plants found in the zones suited to them.

One of the plants you will notice in the prés salés is Suaeda maritima which is green in colour turning red at the end of summer. Soda extracted from the plant was once used in the making of glass and soap.

The salt marshes have become very popular with families walking and cycling and with people bird watching or just enjoying the peace and nature. Picnic benches and information panels have been placed around the circuit.

La Teste pres salés

Attractions nearby

Whilst you are here be sure to visit the oyster park next to the salt marsh. The small huts and inlet full of fishing boats is very attractive and is a great place to sample local oysters, thought to be some of the best quality in France.

The car park for the oyster port and salt marsh is often used for 'vide greniers' on a Sunday. These are similar to a car boot sale and you can often pick up a good bargain.

Of course if you are here you will be sure to be visiting Arcachon with its great beaches and beautiful Ville d'Hiver (winter town). The nearby Dune du Pilat is the biggest in Europe and the views from the top are magnificent.

You can find more travel ideas in the Gironde guide and the Aquitaine guide.

See also: 

Photos of La Teste de Buch salt flats

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Map of La Teste de Buch salt flats and places nearby

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Visit near La Teste de Buch salt flats with France This Way reviews

La Teste de Buch port ostreicole

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The French version of this page is at La Teste de Buch salt flats (Francais)

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