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Handmade with love in the UK with all the features essential for a safe, comfortable and luxuriously stylish journey. Cap Ferret is the southern part of the Lege-Cap-Ferret peninsula that extends down the western side of the Arcachon basin, itself west of Bordeaux in north-west Aquitaine. It is the combination of scenery, impressive beaches and the quaint oyster growing villages that give Cap Ferret its particular charm and the region is very well placed to enjoy both the extensive coastline and the beaches of this section of the Cote d'Argent and the calmer waters of the Arcachon basin.
Most of the towns and villages on the Cap Ferret peninsula line the eastern side of the peninsula, facing the Bassin d'Arcachon, and several among them have a traditional village centre based around a cluster of small cabins.
France This Way comment: these traditional oyster villages are quite unique in France, and when combined with a trip to a wine and oyster bar on the waterfront will give you a French experience quite unlike any other!
The towns and villages include Lege-Cap-Ferret at the northern end of the peninsula then Le Petit Piquey, Le Grand Piquey, Piraillan, Le Canon, L'Herbe, La Vigne, Belisaire, Le Cap Ferret and La Pointe as you travel south. The villages also offer the chance to enjoy oysters in one of the many waterfront restaurants.
The villages are best visited on market days when possible: markets are held in Lege on Saturdays and Cap Ferret on Wednesdays and Saturdays all year round. You will also find small beaches along this eastern coast that are protected from the large Atlantic waves because they are within the shelter of the Bassin d'Arcachon.
The coastal side of the peninsula is largely a series of long and sandy beaches that extends for over 20 kilometres.
The beach at the southern point of the peninsula is called the Plage Mirador and has lovely views across to the Dune de Pyla but is not supervised. Apart from the Plage Mirador which is easy to access, you need to walk across the sand dunes to reach the beaches which is usually a 10 - 15 minute walk. The landscapes of the peninsula are attractive and mostly covered with pine forest and sand dunes.
From the southern point of the peninsula and close to the village of Cap Ferret you can see five kilometres across the mouth of the Bassin d'Arcachon to the immense Dune de Pyla, the largest sand dune in Europe and a popular tourist attraction. The view from the end of Cap Ferret is also unusual in that the left side of the sea in front of you in the Bassin d'Arcachon is almost totally calm while the part to the right has the larger waves of the Atlantic. Note: a popular recent French film called Little White Lies (Les Petites Mouchoirs in French and an excellent film!) was largely set in and around Cap Ferret.
Worlds apart from the glammed-out scene on the Riviera, France’s Cap Ferret is full of unpretentious charms. The longer I lived in Paris, the more French friends I made, the more I would hear about this magical place of pine forests, oyster shacks, rough waves, and practically no hotels. It took a while for the pleasure-seekers to flock to the Bassin D’Arcachon, a massive, diamond-shaped estuary. But France is a country with more affinity for protectionism than speculation, and the oyster beds were soon parceled out to existing oyster-cultivating families with the provision that they could only be inherited or sold to others in the trade.
Today, although the ubiquitous signs shouting Respectons la nature “Let’s respect nature”) are a little cloying, people have little choice. A turning point for Cap Ferret came in 1985, when Benoit Bartherotte, a former fashion designer and town father of sorts, installed himself at the southernmost tip of the peninsula and started to spiff up the place. While celebrities (Audrey Tautou, tennis champ turned pop star Yannick Noah, and tough-guy matinee idol Jean-Paul Belmondo) have certainly found Cap Ferret, rusticity still reigns.
For travelers looking to play into the local scene, there’s a snappy vacation-rental market through a handful of high-toned agencies. For those willing to lodge across the bay, out of the action but an easy ferry or boat-taxi ride from town, Philippe Starck’s shiny new La Co(o)rniche, in hoity-toity Pyla-sur-Mer, has the basin abuzz.

Back in Cap Ferret, it’s all backyard barbecues and oysters, and, the thinking goes, they need little help. The bottle-service set, meanwhile, heads to Greg de Lepinay’s Sail Fish, the beachside outpost of his stylish Bordeaux bistro Chez Greg. The west side of the peninsula faces the Atlantic and has long sandy beaches while the east side has most of the towns and villages and some smaller beaches. These are pleasant to explore and most unusual with the small cabins often painted in bright colours and originating from the 19th century when they were built by workers in the important oyster industry. The most important of these beaches are at Claouey, Grand Piquey, Le Canon, l'Herbe and La Vigne. These include the Plage du Grand Crohot, the Plage du Truc Vert and the Plage de l'Horizon which are all supervised by lifeguards during the summer months and several others. Towards the south, the best known landmark on Cap Ferret is the lighthouse which you can climb for far-reaching views. To visit the dune you can take a ferry across from Cap Ferret to Arcachon which is much quicker than driving the 70 kilometres around the entire Bassin d'Arcachon! At its western edge sits the skinny peninsula of Cap Ferret, assaulted on one side by the choppy, bracing Atlantic. As Arcachon’s tourism fortunes rose and fell, Cap Ferret, strictly zoned so as not to disturb the seafood or the extremely fragile landscape, maintained a peaceful equilibrium, only seeing an influx of visitors in the 1970’s, when the decade’s back-to-nature ethos went mainstream. It is forbidden to build on the peninsula’s Atlantic shore, so only dunes, shrubs, one or two menacing World War II–era concrete bunkers, and two burger shacks distract from the vistas beyond.
When he bought his 12-acre plot, he also invested millions in a massive stone jetty to keep the compound from washing out to sea. Greg de Lepinay, owner of Sail Fish, one of Cap Ferret’s most glamorous nightspots, has two whitewashed apartments for rent near the town dock called the Sail Fish Suites.
Opened last May—and refashioned out of a split-timber former relais de chasse (hunting lodge)—the hotel has only 12 whimsical, sun-filled rooms, although the restaurant seats more than 200. Despite having the finest possible seafood, Cap Ferret wouldn’t know what to do with a Michelin star if they hauled one up from the deep.
Chez Boulan, one of the many tasting bars that populate the Quartier Ostreicole, is content with a cluster of mismatched furniture set up on a lawn. One look at Sail Fish’s towering whitewashed walls, fluttering linen panels, disco balls, and tanned-and-toned clientele—and the Rolls parked conspicuously out front—would lead one to think arriviste.
A long walk across sand dunes with children, or even worse a pushchair, can be rather challenging! Roman artifacts have been found in the mountainous Dune of Pilat, Europe’s largest sandbank, directly across the lagoon from Cap Ferret. The area doesn’t have much of a gastronomy scene, so La Co(o)rniche’s modern cuisine de terroir is a welcome treat. But de Lepinay is a local, and he first opened the place 27 years ago as a simple beach bar. And there are handfuls of historic churches in towns such as Gujan-Mestras and Andernos-Les-Bains, on the basin’s 45-mile-long coast. And the surrounding, now wildly exclusive neighborhood—known as Les 44 Hectares, with only 250 plots—is among the most prized real estate in France, with modestly sized houses selling for upward of $13 million. The party atmosphere of the poolside terrace is on lower volume during the day, and lunch is the best time to take advantage of a table overlooking the water and the paragliders who hover over the dune like butterflies.
I first stumbled in after a long idyll at the beach, and returned every day for a mid-afternoon snack, watching the to-go platters streaming out the door like the tide.

It’s easy to reach: a three-hour TGV ride from Paris and another 90-minute drive due west from Bordeaux.
But it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that the first wave of tourism to the region came.
The director and actor Guillaume Canet summers here, and it’s where he and his girlfriend, actress Marion Cotillard, just filmed their latest movie together, Les Petits Mouchoirs. Just nice people and wonderful food.” Indeed, the throbbing heart of Cap Ferret is not a blinged-out cruising drag or a string of LVMH-owned boutiques, but the Marche du Cap Ferret, a covered market with a strong parking-lot trade in espadrilles, hammam towels, and tapenades. A few blocks away, Le Pere Ouvrard serves fish-based tapas (succulent grilled prawns with herbs; impeccable sardines a la planche) during cocktail hour on high-season weekends.
De Lepinay welcomes nearly every new arrival with an embrace, floats around the tables, and tries not to harass his model-handsome son Thibault, who runs the surprisingly nice sushi bar.
The population is similar, too: a mix of fishermen, vacation renters, arts-industry types, and preppy aristocrats from nearby Bordeaux. Aided by the expansion of the national railroad, the city of Arcachon became a thalassotherapy hub, with grand rental villas and casinos springing up along the shore.
Inside is a small trove of fresh local fish stalls, a greengrocer, and a jolly tapas bar, Le Bistrot de Peyo, that serves $4 glasses of rose, stuffed piquillo peppers, and Manchego cheese with black cherry jam starting at 6 a.m. With crisp interiors, nautical antiques, and sisal rugs doused with orange-flower water, the rooms are as welcoming as the service, and the restaurant offers excellent bistro comfort food. Meanwhile, the toughest reservation in town is the scruffy Chez Hortense, with long wooden tables, Christmas lights, a great view of the Dune of Pilat, and garlicky, awesomely tender bacon-strewn mussels that are as good as the regulars say. The food is unpretentious: single portions of grilled Argentinean entrecote, letter-perfect frites, and chocolate mousse could each feed three. Meanwhile, starting in 1852, when a local fisherman began the practice of seeding oyster beds, domesticated oysters could ride the rails to Paris, bound for the finest tables. The tides and temperatures keep most of the crowds across town on the bay side, just a slice of sand bordered by boulangeries, grill restaurants, and flip-flop stores. Lacoste shirts and boat shoes abound, and whether it’s due to the morning tipple or not, everyone, everyone, is smiling. The absence of televisions or other cushy room amenities propels you to the beach, which is within walking distance. As the sun turns low and gold, and the tide recedes dramatically, that slice of sand expands into a mossy bed of beached rowboats with herons and gulls picking among the leftovers. Also right in the shabby-chic spirit of Cap Ferret is the Hotel des Pins, whose rustic, country-Deco style seems too well-considered for a two-star. But around midnight, dance they do—among the tables, in the back grill room, in the large front bar, out on the patio. After the fussiness of Paris, even the shiny and fabulous bits of Cap Ferret are very, very laid-back. The strains of Nouvelle Vague and Off the Wall–vintage Michael Jackson follow you out the door to the car, where they finally intermingle with the sound of the surf just over the dune. With a Clarins spa and modern deck furniture, it gives off too strong a whiff of city mouse.

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