You travelled by van on the Atlantic Coast of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, at the beginning of summer 2022. Did you know this region before? What surprised you the most during your trip? Something you had not imagined when planning your trip?
FOA : We had previously visited the area around La Rochelle a few years back for a family holiday and when we returned, we realised how much more there was to the region in terms of its diversity. The French Atlantic Coast is a beautiful stretch of coastline and perhaps the most surprising thing was the vastness of the beaches that were seemingly never-ending towards the horizon and bordered by beautiful pine forests. Nature is dominant in this region and driving along many straight long roads through the dense, fragrant pines gives you a sense of scale to the size of the region!
You published an article “10 eco-friendly things to do in Nouvelle-Aquitaine”. The Nouvelle-Aquitaine region aims to become the leading sustainable tourism destination in France. How is Nouvelle-Aquitaine an eco-responsible destination for you?
FOA : Nouvelle-Aquitaine is home to a diverse variety of landscapes; beaches, sand dunes, estuaries, forests and the ocean. There is a saying, “people protect what they love” and as we explored the beautiful Atlantic Coast, it was clear that the locals in Nouvelle-Aquitaine have a deep-rooted love and connection to the ocean. It’s at the heart of everything they do, whether it be sailing out of the port from La Rochelle or surfing the waves at Le Porge Océan, being eco-conscious is what they do and part of who they as they protect what they love. This bond to the ocean and the nature surrounding it is strong and we experienced beautiful clean beaches, delicious locally sourced food and memorable nautical adventures that gave us a taster of how connected the region is to one of it’s most valuable resources; the ocean.
For your trip in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, you travelled by van. Do you find it accessible for travelling by van? How easy is to travel from the UK to Nouvelle-Aquitaine by car or by van?
FOA : We took the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle from Folkestone to Calais and it was the best way to travel with our two cats as it only takes 35 minutes and allows you to stay with them for the duration of the journey. There were alternative routes by ferry, the shortest route is from Dover to Calais and takes around 90 minutes, however the Eurotunnel was the easiest and quickest option for us. We drove along the toll roads from Calais to La Rochelle which took us around 7 hours, not including breaks for us and the cats. This route takes you through Rouen which is a low emission zone where a Crit’Air sticker is required.
We love to travel by campervan as we can have everything we need with us including our surf board, take in the region at a slower pace and Nouvelle-Aquitaine has a great selection of campsites, camping-car aires and car parks. A tip to remember, if your campervan is over 2.1 metres some car parks have height barriers closer to the coastline to prevent overnight parking. It is worth checking on google maps before you arrive to your destination to ensure it is suitable for your vehicle. We put together a detailed 7 day road trip adventure along the Atlantic Coast of France which you can read about here www.findingouradventure.com
What was your favourite nature spot during your trip? Your best spot for surfing at sunset on the coast?
FOA : A great way to explore the Gironde is to cycle through the fragrant pine forests, there are endless cycle paths that take you from the coast inland. We rented electric fat bikes from Bicy’cool l’Atelier in Lacanau and took the route into the forest starting at Parking Nord past the cemetery. You will find yourself immersed in the fragrant pines with the surrounding sounds of nature. Riding along the sandy paths was an adrenaline rush, and our half way point was the l’étang de Cousseau nature reserve.
The wild Atlantic coast of Nouvelle-Aquitaine has some of the best surf spots in the world. It can be hard to find a truly wild beach, untouched by development or tourism, however on the French Atlantic coast you are spoilt for choice! Our top choice for surfing at sunset has to be Le Porge Océan as it is a short 5 minute walk from the car park, ideal conditions for a range of abilities including beginner surfers and on the way back from your surf you can grab a pizza. We had a great lesson with So Nice Surf School and they also offer surfboard rental where you can take a board for sunset and return it the following morning. A worthy mention is the beach at Lacanau Océan, another fantastic spot for surfing at sunset and if you park in Parking Nord after 8pm it’s free and you’ll make it just in time for a sunset surf during the summer months. There is also a camping-car Aire just outside Lacanau which is right next to the bike path and is only a short ride away from the beach.
What was your favourite visit?
FOA : The Gironde Estuary had so much to offer and as the biggest estuary in Europe, we enjoyed visiting the Estuary Park which features impressive sculptures made from natural materials and a 360 panoramic view of the estuary from a viewing platform. Another highlight in this area was following the estuary south to Talmont-sur-Gironde which has been labelled one of the most beautiful villages in France. We had one of the most incredible sunsets overlooking caralettes (traditional fishing huts) and even spotted a hare jumping between vineyard rows which was a magical end to the day.
The unmissable activity/activities you would recommend?
FOA : Sailing on the Atlantic Ocean at sunset from La Rochelle was one of the highlights of our visit to the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. To see the land from sail boat gives you a different perspective and a chance to spot marine wildlife. La Rochelle is a maritime city, closely tied to the ocean with many experiences that offer you to get out and breathe in that fresh, salty air! We took the Columbus sail boat, a mono-haul, retired racing sailboat that has worked with WWF and as a Sea Shepherd to protect the ocean. The journey lasts for around 3 hours, where you can see Île de Re and the famous Fort Boyard. Bring some delicious food and drink from the town with you and watch the sunset over the ocean. We savoured every minute of the sunset sail on Columbus and would highly recommend it.
Any other tip for our readers that plan to travel to Nouvelle-Aquitaine?
FOA : If you plan to visit the region by campervan, bring your bike! Nouvelle-Aquitaine has a number of camping-car aires that are well-connected by cycle routes. There are few things better than cruising along the coast on your bike with the wind through your hair and the ocean waves crashing beside you. You may find that some places that are difficult to park for higher vehicles, as height barriers such as camper vans and it will be much easier with a bike so you can park and ride. Another insider tip from our experience would be that don’t be put off to visit in summer, the region has so much to offer in terms of variety and space that it’s easy to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in nature!