Along the western coast of Aquitaine in south-west France there is an almost unbroken line of beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean. The main characteristics of these beaches are almost the same all along this coast: long, sandy, sunny and sometimes with quite large waves coming in from the ocean.
Behind the beaches there are often large sand dunes, extensive forests that were planted in the 19th century when the land was reclaimed, and also several leisure lakes (useful when the waves on the coast are too big for children to deal with!)
The extensive forests and limited roads mean that certain parts of the coast are rather slow to get to, so choose carefully when you visit. It is also these same forests that provide many of the leisure opportunities such as hiking and cycling in the region.
Because of the large waves some of the finest surfing beaches in Europe are found on this part of the Atlantic Coast, especially around Biarritz and along the southern part of the region, and the beaches attract many international standard surfers.
Within Aquitaine the coast can be thought of as two separate areas, with the Medoc peninsula to the north of the Gironde estuary and the coast between Arcachon and Biarritz to the south. We have visited many of these resorts and below we explore them from north to south
Beaches of the Médoc Peninsula
See the Soulac-sur-Mer travel guide
See the Montalivet travel guide
See the Hourtin travel guide
See the Carcans travel guide
Lacanau Ocean is perhaps the most popular of the resorts in the Médoc. See the Lacanau travel guide
Cap-Ferret has a reputation as being home to the wealthy, and an upmarket place to visit. See the Cap-Ferret travel guide
Beaches and resorts south of Arcachon
The northern part of this 200 kilometre line of beaches is called the Cote d'Argent, the southern part the Cote Basque. In truth there isn't a great deal to choose between the quality of the beaches so you are likely to select your resort based on the facilities in the resort itself, the ease of access, and how far it is from places of interest.
With a great choice of beaches, a bustling town centre and the fascinating "winter town", Arcachon is also close to the Dune de Pilat (the biggest sand dune in Europe). We love staying there - our favourite French Atlantic resort! See the Arcachon travel guide
Really the south-western 'quarter' of Arcachon, but Le Moulleau has its own centre and identity. See the Le Moulleau travel guide
See the Biscarrosse travel guide
See the Mimizan travel guide
See the Moliets travel guide
See the Soorts-Hossegor travel guide
See the Capbreton travel guide
See the Anglet travel guide
Biarritz is a lovely town with lots of 19th century architecture, and on a very attractive part of the coast. See the Biarritz travel guide
The long established resort of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is always very active and friendly. See the Saint-Jean-de-Luz travel guide
See the Ciboure travel guide
Hendaye is the very last resort in France before you cross into Spain. See the Hendaye travel guide
France This Way comment: of the many places to choose from along the Atlantic Coast in south-west France, we would stay at Arcachon if possible, followed by Biarritz or Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and then one of the smaller resorts such as Lacanau if we had small children or wanted a 'beach-only' holiday.
Find more places of interest nearby in our Aquitaine travel guide travel guide