Top 5 Toddler-Friendly Beaches in South West France

Justin Posted on 21st January 2016 by Justin

1) Plage du Parc, Lac Marin d’Hossegor
2) La Grande Plage, Saint Jean de Luz
3) Plage des Abatilles, Arcachon
4) Plage Navarrosse, Lac de Biscarrosse
5) Plage de Bertic, Clàouey, Cap Ferret

Most families coming to France for their summer holiday want to be near the beach. But knowing which beach or coastline to choose can be tricky.

Get it right and your days at the beach will be happy, relaxing and full of great memories; get it wrong and it will be hard work and stressful – no-one’s idea of a holiday!

The internet is of course overloaded with information and opinions of hotels, restaurants and attractions. However, I always found it a lot harder to extract good advice and guidance on the best beaches for young families.

Of course, what constitutes the ‘best’ beach will depend on what you need. My three children are not so young these days but in my experience, families with younger kids will be looking for:

  • Calm, shallow water – no surf, rip-tides or steeply shelving shores
  • Water that isn’t perishingly cold!
  • Fine golden sand for playing – let’s be honest, kids find pebble beaches rather dull
  • Play areas and 'fun zones' such as inflatables and pontoons
  • On a practical note these things are very handy: a nearby loo; a decent café for Mum & Dad; nearby parking for easily transporting your excessive amounts of beach gear; a bit of shade in the afternoons.

And it's on this basis that I’ve picked my Top 5 beaches in south west France for families with young kids.


1) Plage du Parc, Lac Marin d’Hossegor

Where? About 40 minutes’ drive north of Biarritz is the ‘upmarket’ resort of Hossegor. It’s actually famous for its surfing beaches but the tidal lagoon, in the heart of the town, is a gem for young families.

Why? It’s a lagoon so it’s completely protected from the Atlantic surf. The shoreline is mostly sandy and kids can walk into the shallow water without fear of being knocked over by a wave or pulled off your feet by a strong current. The water is beautifully blue and reaches 23 degrees in summer.

There are four sandy beaches around the lagoon. In the summer season two of them feature: lifeguard surveillance; kids’ play area plus summer activity club; cafes and snack bars; local parking. They also propose leisure activities such as sailing, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding.

I’ve chosen Plage du Parc, though, because it’s the shortest walk to the town centre for the compulsory afternoon ice cream run, there are public toilets nearby, plus the adjacent park has a play area and offers some valuable shade too. Furthermore it's just a short stroll to the Mango Tree  retro food truck for fabulous smoothies and fresh juices -  it has quickly become one of our favourite Hossegor eateries!

Tip: bring a shrimping net and bucket. 

Hossegor beaches 
Hossegor holiday villas and holiday rentals 
Walk to the lake Hossegor holiday rentals


2) La Grande Plage, Saint Jean de Luz

Where? The culinary capital of French Basque Country, St Jean de Luz is a pretty fishing port and holiday resort, 20 minutes south of Biarritz and a similar distance from the border with Spain.

Why? Ironically, just a short hike along the coast path takes you to Belharra Reef – one of the Big Wave surf spots of the world and where winter swells can generate 20m waves! However, back in St Jean de Luz, a breakwater protects the bay and the result is several gorgeous curves of safe, golden sand – bucket & spade heaven for kids!

There's also kayaks and paddle boards for hire for some family fun too.

The Bay of St Jean de Luz is divided in two by the port. On the southern side is the quieter Plage Socoa where parking is easier and there are several excellent seafood restaurants – not that you will be patronising them with your young family in tow!

I prefer La Grande Plage in St Jean de Luz. Sure, it’s a lot busier but there’s 700m of shore so you can find your own patch of sand. There are multiple lifeguard surveillance points and, of course, you have the town’s beautiful boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants only a short stroll away.

Tip: arrive early to find a precious parking place by the port.

Saint Jean de Luz beaches
Holiday accommodation in Saint Jean de Luz
Saint Jean de Luz luxury villasSaint Jean de Luz villas with pools


3) Plage des Abatilles, Arcachon

Where? One of the west coast’s best-known resorts, elegant Arcachon lies due west of Bordeaux not far from the famous Dune de Pilat -  it' not just kids who love this amazing sand dune!

Why? By virtue of its position, Arcachon in fact has a host of beaches that are child-friendly; the Bassin d’Arcachon is a rare break in the ruler-straight 150 km of sand that makes up the Côte d’Argent. It’s here where the Atlantic waters are broken up by the stunning Banc d’Arguin sandbanks before entering the tidal Arcachon Bay. There’s no surf here, just calm waters lapping beautiful sandy beaches.

I’ve chosen Plage des Abatilles because it’s outside the hustle-and-bustle of Arcachon which is busy in peak season (the town beaches work better for teenagers who need a bit more action). Step away from the resort centre and the coastline south offers a string of stunning white and golden sand beaches popular with young families – Abatilles is one of these.

The kids will love playing in the shallow tidal pools. Mums and Dads will appreciate the ‘chic-ness’ of Arcachon with its sophisticated yet unpretentious shops, restaurants and cafes.

It's also an ideal choice for a car-free holiday as you can take the TGV to Bordeaux then it's a short connection on to Arcachon railway station.

Tip: walk a few metres south then you’ll discover delightful Parc Pereire for a shady retreat.

Arcachon beaches 
Arcachon holiday villa and apartments 


4) Plage Navarrosse, Lac de Biscarrosse

Where? Just an hour south west of Bordeaux, Biscarrosse is another Aquitaine resort that enjoys the benefits of both ocean and lake.

Why? Aquitaine – specifically the Landes and Gironde départments – is blessed with a series of stunning freshwater lakes that lie just a few kilometres inland from the coast. Now, normally when you think of a lake, your mind conjures images of mountains and deep, perishingly cold water and not a great deal of sand.

Think again! The 'Great Lakes of Aquitaine' are just the opposite. These vast and beautiful natural landscapes feature gorgeous sandy beaches and coves with shallow and warm water. With a backdrop of shady, fragrant pine forests and a host of leisure pursuits for more active types, the Great Lakes are simply perfect for young families.

There are many lakes to choose from south and north of Arcachon Bay. One of my favourites is Plage Navarrosse at Lac de Biscarrosse.

This lake is still less than 1m deep at 100m from the shore! It's perfect for young children. What’s more, because the lake is so shallow, the temperature of the water reaches up to 28 degrees. That’s pretty much a heated pool! With plenty of parking nearby you won’t need any Sherpas to haul your gear for miles. The other great benefit with Navarrosse is the adjacent pine forest which provides shade, delightful picnic spots as well as lovely cycle paths. I just love it here.

Tip: Navarrosse divides into 3 separate beaches; two of them are by the marina and campgrounds and are busier - choose the other one for a more tranquil experience as that’s really what the lakes are about.

Biscarrosse beaches 
Biscarrosse holiday villas and holiday rentals 
Cottages du Lac lakeside holiday chalets (situated at a lake beach very close and similar to Navarrosse)


5) Plage de Bertic, Clàouey, Cap Ferret

Cap Ferret Claouey beach, Cap Ferret holiday rentals

Where? La presqu’ile – nearly an island. Beautiful and natural Cap Ferret: southern Aquitaine’s Ile de Ré; France’s Cape Cod. Call it what you will, Cap Ferret is the narrow peninsula of land across the bay from Arcachon and less than an hour’s drive from Bordeaux.

Why? The west coast is Atlantic-facing and picks up some excellent surf. Meanwhile, on the protected bay side (and in some parts of the peninsula barely a kilometre separates the two) you will find sheltered sandy coves against a backdrop of colourful, authentic fishermen’s villages. It's summer heaven!

Bay-side, there’s a dozen or so beaches from which to choose. Of all these beaches, Plage de Bertic is the best-known locally as the choice for families with younger age kids. The most fun is had at low tide when the retreating sea reveals a channel of water in the sand where kids love to play.

In the summer months there’s an excellent kids’ activity club – Baloo – with swimming pool, trampolines and games. There’s a handy snack bar too. If your kids are still awake after an active day at the beach, an open-air cinema plays films in July and August. What more can you ask for?!

Tip: holiday indulgence is guaranteed at Crêperie du Port. 

Cap Ferret beaches
Cap Ferret beach housesCap Ferret villas with pools


And so, in a nutshell:

  • Whilst it rightly has a reputation for outstanding surf, the Aquitaine coastline of south west France also offers a fantastic choice of beautiful sandy beaches that are perfect for young families
  • As well as ocean beaches suitable for younger ones, Aquitaine has the unique advantage of its stunning, sandy lake and lagoon beaches with shallow, safe and warm water

Have you visited one of these beaches – or can you recommend another beach in south west France perfect for young families?

For further information and advice on toddler-friendly beaches in south west France and where to stay, call Justin or Alex in our UK office +44 (0)1395 576655.


Justin Ashby | About Us 

Justin is a founder of Alternative Aquitaine and when he’s not in the office you’ll probably find him running or cycling the hills of East Devon. He also regularly vists what he thinks is the best beach in the south west UK for young families - why don't you ask him where it is...?

Plage du Parc Hossegor

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