If you like sun, surf and seafood, then Maubuisson is the place for you. Situated on the Atlantic coast in southwest France, the area boasts France’s largest lake, Lac d’Hourtin et de Carcans, as well as world famous waves.
Maubuisson is designed for families who want to enjoy a week or so get away by the beach. There are no hotels, most people stay in chalets – charming holiday houses set amongst the pine trees, complete with wooden window shutters. There are also apartments and camp sites for rent (the near by town of Lacanau has hotels if that’s what you’re after). We stayed in a family friend’s chalet in a place called Hameau de l’Ombriére (their chalet is not for rent, but plenty of others in Hameau are). It’s ideally situated fifteen minutes’ walk to Maubuisson town centre by the beach of Carcans lake, and 10 minutes’ bike ride (five kilometres) to Carcans Plage, a beachside town. Many of the towns in the area, Lacanau, Carcans and Hourtin, have a main town inland, with a corresponding village by the sea (Lacanau Océan, Carcans Plage and Hourtin Plage).
There are plenty of family-friendly activities in Maubuisson and the surrounding towns. You can hire bicycles for all ages, even electric ones, from the many Fun Bike stands around the area. Equipment and lessons for many water sports including surfing, catamarans and sail boats are on offer. The departmental government organises a range of activities including beach volleyball, badminton and chess games (look out for the Cap33 signs). There’s also plenty of evening entertainment such as concerts and themed dance parties. The helpful staff at the tourist office can give you all the details.
The surrounding region is definitely worth exploring too. Oyster farms, seaside dining and vineyards abound. We went to Cap Ferret in Arcachon bay for an oyster tasting. The oyster farmers live in colourful wooden houses by the water, drive special boats called pinasse which are only found in this bay, and play petanque in their time off. If you book in advance, you might be able to get a table at the famous Hotel de la plage, which has featured in many French films. But there are many oyster farms in Cap Ferret where you can turn up and feast on oysters and other seafood straight from the sea. For less than €60, we got enough oysters, sea snails, pipis, small and large prawns, bread and wine to satisfy six adults, view over the bay included.
On the opposite side of Arcachon bay to Cap Ferret is the the town of Arcachon. I’m told it’s very chic and a hotspot for French celebrities. You can get a boat ride from Cap Ferret to Arcachon or vice versa, or take a boat tour around the bay from Cap Ferret. The Ile aux Oiseaux has beautiful houses on stilts that are unique to the bay. The tricky part is getting a ticket for one of the boat tours. Most of them are fairly small vessels, there were about 20 people on ours, the tours don’t run daily and you usually can’t book in advance. Just go to the ticket office at 76 boulvard de la plage, 33120 Arcachon and buy your ticket first thing in the morning of the day you want to go. The information kiosk at the jetty can also give you the timetable and information about other boat tours which can be booked in advance by telephone.
We went on a sunset cruise then had dinner in Pinasse café, one of several restaurants on the jetty. The food, mostly seafood, was delicious but a little pricey – about €40 for a menu (meal deal including entrée, main and dessert). L’escale restaurant offers a menu for around €30 and I’m reliably informed that the food is just as good. Get in early if you want to eat there, it fills up the quickest as it’s closest to the road.
Just an hours’ drive from Maubuisson you’ll find yourself in Bordeaux wine country, where you can taste and learn about the region’s rich wine producing history and culture. Bordeaux wine region has several main areas, including Medoc, St Emillion and Margaux. Each vineyard is referred to as a chateau, though most of them don’t actually have castles. We visited Chateau Loudenne in Medoc – a beautiful pink 17th century building on the banks of the Gironde river. We had a tour and tasting with an English speaking guide. Most chateaux offer this however you have to book in advance (by phone or online) – the waiting time for the most famous chateaux, such as Rothschild, can be months in summer. We ate dinner in a guinguette, local kiosk-style diners by the river. For around €20, you can get a menu and drinks including salad entrée, seafood main (I had moules frites – a huge pot of muscles cooked in white wine, served with hot chips) and dessert (I chose a crepe instead of ice cream).
Maubuisson offers something for all ages and budgets, whether you want to spend a week lazing on the beach, indulge in regional food and wine or get your adrenalin fix, it makes a fabulous summer get-away.
Getting there and around: We caught the train to Bordeaux, flights are also available. There’s a tram from the airport to the city centre. The 710 bus will take you from Bordeaux to Maubuisson and surrounds. It takes about one and a half hours, four times daily, return adult ticket is €4,20. We were lucky enough to be driven around by local friends, but if you don’t have a car, take the bus to Bordeaux and get on one of the many regional tours that leave from the Bordeaux tourism office. All the beaches and towns around Maubuisson are linked by walking and bicycle tracks as well as by road.
First published by The Goodlife France: http://www.thegoodlifefrance.com/medoc-ocean-france/