The capital of French oyster farming and a region of tiny villages, pine forests and massive dunes, the Bassin d’Arcachon lies just an hour and half from Bordeaux. Exploring the lagoon-like bay by private boat with an English-speaking skipper gives you views of the Dune du Pyla, Europe’s tallest sand dune, and an insight into the age-old tradition of oyster farming. This private half-day tour also offers a chance to visit traditional fishing villages where the narrow lanes are lined with brightly painted cottages and oyster shacks. Isolated from the mainland and surrounded by the sea, these villages seem genuinely lost in time.
Your guide will pick you up from your hotel on the morning of your tour and take you to the Port d’Arcachon on the southern shore of the Bassin d’Arcachon. Here you’ll board a traditional pinasse, a long, narrow, wooden boat typically used by fishermen to collect oysters in the bay. You’ll be accompanied by a private skipper who knows the region, its history and traditions well, and as you sail along you’ll get a deeper insight into the area and its customs.
Firstly, you’ll head south past Perèire Beach toward the imposing Dune du Pyla, the tallest sand dune in Europe. Running along the coast between the forest and the bay, the dune is a popular spot for walkers and paragliders. From here, you’ll continue your leisurely sail along the Cap Ferret coastline heading toward the small villages of l’Herbe, Canon and Piraillan, where you’ll disembark and have some free time with your skipper to walk the narrow lanes in between the houses and oyster shacks.
While here you’ll stop at one of the many waterfront wooden cabanes and enjoy a light meal of oysters, freshly caught that morning, accompanied by local wine, bread and pâté while you sit back and take in the view. Once you’ve eaten your fill, rejoin your boat to sail on to the Île aux Oiseaux (Bird Island) where two cabins, originally built to monitor the oyster beds, sit on stilts to accommodate the rising tides. The cabins have become the landmark of the bay and are particularly scenic at sunset.
Once you’ve sailed around the island, you’ll return with your skipper to Arcachon and continue from there to your hotel.