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Photo of Arcachon Atlantic beaches

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Although the Atlantic coast south of Arcachon is more or less an unbroken line of beaches that continues about 200 kilometres south to Biarritz and beyond, the beaches are not always easily accessible and they often have different characteristics...

Here we are exploring the beaches along the coast south of Arcachon and north of Biscarrosse, because they are easily reached from both of these two resorts and provide a chance to escape the crowds and see a different environment, much more natutal than the beaches in the town centres.

Explore the Atlantic beaches of south-west France

France This Way comment: among the beaches south of Arcachon there is something for everyone, whether you want a bustling beach with cafes and sports, or a quiet beach with few other visitors, calm gentle waves or larger Atlantic waves...

We are exploring from north to south in the information below, starting from the centre of Arcachon which has a large sandy beach with very gentle waves as well as lots of activities and is a very popular beach during the summer.

About one kilometre south of Arcachon you reach Pereire beach, our favourite beach in the town because it is less busy than the beach in the centre and has a very lovely promenade with pine trees on the large sand dune behind the beach.

Pereire is a very long sandy beach, protected from the Atlantic waves because it is inside the Bassin d'Arcachon, so very safe for children and an easy place to swim in the sea.

Plage de Petit Nice

At the southern end of Pereire beach you reach the resort of Le Moulleau which has an interesting church and several cafes and shops but is a very small resort when compared with Arcachon.

Beyond here you can visit the Dune de Pyla, the largest sand dune in Europe (100 metres high and about four kilometres long) and a very popular tourist destination wth lovely views across the sea, the sand banks in the ocea and the forests of the Les Landes area. There is a largely empty beach between the Dune de Pyla and the sea but is harder to reach because of the size of the sand dune!

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Atlantic beaches of south-west France

All the beaches mentioned here - and many others - are on the Atlantic coast, but the descrption 'Atlantic beaches' ("Plages Atlantiques" on the signs in the area) refers to several quiet beaches south of the Dune de Pilat and north of Biscarrosse.

Although they are quiet, each of these beaches has a WC, lifeguards during the summer and at least one cafe. The three beaches each have forested areas where you can enjoy a picnic and are also connected by a cycle path through the forest.

The further south you go the longer the walk between the car park and the beach, although the sand dunes are traversed on boardwalks so this is easier than clambering up and down the sand!

Plage du Petit Nice

At the Plage du Petit Nice you will find a cafe and a restaurant. There is a sand dune behind the beach which adds to the environment and the ocean is still very calm here because the Banc d'Arguin (a sand bank about 500 metres offshore) provides protection from the large Atlantic waves.

This is our personal favourite of the beaches classed as Plages Atlantiques in this region.

Plage de La Lagune

Plade de La Lagune

The Plage de la Lagune is a quiet beach with a walk along the edge of the forest to reach the main beach. The beach here has Atlantic waves, which are often still quite calm but can become quite large - if you are visiting with children you will probably prefer to choose a calm day!

There is also a naturist beach about one kilometre south of the Plage de la Lagune.

Plage de la Salie

The most southern of the Plages Atlantiques that we discuss here, the Plage de la Salie is listed as two beaches (Plage de la Salie Nord and Plage de la Salie Sud), although there is one continuous beach between the two, and closer to Biscarrosse than Arcachon.

The beach is reached by using wooden boardwalks that cross the dune between the beach and the parking area (a few hundred metres between the two), and is a large flat beach with less impressive scenery than the beaches to the north that is also quieter than the others.

At the southern end of the beach at Plage de la Salie Sud there is a large structure that allows the waste water from the area to be pumped out to sea, whch is quite an impressive sructure but also reduces the chances that you want to travel here to swim in the sea! (In fact swimming in the sea is forbidden within a few hundred metres of this pipe).

Attractions nearby

Of course, you cannot visit this area without exploring the charming beach resort town of Arcachon, one of our favourite resorts in France. The resort of Biscarrosse, at the southern end of the Atlantic beaches, has less of interest for visitors but is popular with the younger crowd and visitors who prefer their beach with Atlantic waves than the calm waters of the Bassin d'Arcachon!

I already mentioned the Dune de Pyla above but it is unmissable so I am going to include it again here - don't assume that a sand dune cannot be interesting, this is one of the most beautiful natural highlights in France (although unfortunately entirely unsuitable for wheelchair users and those who cannot climb a long flight of stairs).

The cycle path that connects the beaches above continues north to Arcachon and south to Biscarrosse (and beyond), and is almost entirely separate from the road so you can cycle around very easily.

Photos of Arcachon Atlantic beaches

  • plage-de-la-salie (1)
  • plage-de-la-salie (12)
  • plage-de-la-salie (3)
  • plage-de-la-salie (6)
  • plage-la-lagune (10)
  • plage-la-lagune (11)
  • plage-la-lagune (4)
  • plage-la-lagune (9)
  • plage-petit-nice (1)
  • plage-petit-nice (12)
  • plage-petit-nice (3)
  • plage-petit-nice (7)
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