Head for surfers' paradise
France is - at least according to the French - the home of modern surfing. And although many British beaches offer tempting waves, we can’t compete with the long French coastline for sheer variety, from the rocky bluffs of Brittany to the sun-drenched sands of Biarritz and the Pays Basque. Surfing in France is a perfect way to spend your holiday whether you’re a seasoned wave rider or a just looking to learn alongside your family - and there’s no better way to reach the beach than travelling with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle – even your surf boards can travel for free!
Mainland France has almost 3,500km of coastline, so in theory you can surf anywhere that’s got big enough waves and a safe path down to the sea. However, unless you’re very experienced you should always surf at an accredited beach with lifeguards and safety procedures; if you’re unsure, head for one of the well-known surfing spots and ask for recommendations. We’ve picked a variety of beaches to suit different holidays, but there are hundreds more we didn’t have room to cover - so if you’re planning a surfing holiday in France, you’ve got an incredible number of destinations to choose from, but here we name a few.
The internationally renowned capital of surfing, Biarritz offers everything from kids’ clubs to international competitions.
You’ll find iconic surf brands like Quiksilver and Billabong, as well as 10 different surfing schools with courses that last between an hour and several days. There are surf-friendly hotels to suit every budget - if you’re saving for a new board, try one of the tourist-friendly hostels, or for a more self-contained experience visit one of the new breed of ‘surf lodges’. Inspired by Alpine ski chalets, these luxurious retreats range from compact to sprawling - so you may find you’ve got room for an extended family trip or perhaps a holiday with friends. Don’t forget to visit the Cité de l’Océan et du Surf, an amazing gadget-laden museum that explores the depths of the ocean as well as the science of surfing; or if you’ve had enough surfing for one day, enjoy the glorious weather on the beach.
Just 20km up the coast from Biarritz, Hossegor boasts the same beautiful beaches, spectacular sunshine and surging surf as its better-known neighbour.
However, although it’s long been a destination for serious surfers, it attracts comparatively few novices, making Hossegor ideal for a boutique Biarritz-without-the-crowds experience. If not all the members of your party are surf fiends, there are plenty of other activities on offer. Activities range from golf, tennis and horse riding and these are all within a couple of miles of the beach, or how about visiting the town centre for shopping, discos and the glamorous casino. If you prefer to stay in and around the water there are companies offering everything from kayaking to water-skiing, as well as a fantastic water park 3km from the town; or simply take advantage of the dozens of kilometres of beautiful seaside cycle routes to explore.
One of the best-kept secrets of the Pays de la Loire region, La Sauzaie is a beautiful and accessible beach just six hours’ drive from Calais. Nearby Nantes is an ideal base for travellers who want to combine surfing with some adventures on dry land - make sure you visit the incredible Great Elephant, a 40ft high mechanical marvel that walks a stately circuit of the docklands with cheering passengers on its back. Although the Vendée department is often just as sunny as the beaches farther south, you’ll find that the fame of Biarritz makes more northerly beaches proportionately quieter and cheaper, so this is a great choice if you’re looking for a brilliant value holiday that’s off the beaten track.
If you prefer to keep your travelling to a minimum, take advantage of rocky Le Rozel on Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula.
Located less than five hours’ drive west of Calais, this beach is ideal for British surfers who want to make the most of the weather at home and then find somewhere to surf out of season. The best waves are routinely recorded between November and February, so you can spend the summer in Newquay and then head across the water to get your wintry surf fix. Just make sure you remember a wetsuit! Le Rozel only really attracts a crowd at weekends, so your best bet is to surf during the week and explore the rest of Normandy when the masses arrive for a Saturday dip. Or you could even come for a day-trip - Eurotunnel Le Shuttle runs all day and night, so you can set off early and squeeze in a full day on the beach.
If you’re travelling with children, your first priority has to be that they’re safe and well entertained. Located in the picturesque Gironde region, Lacanau offers fantastic surf, spectacular scenery and plenty of child-friendly hotels near the beach, many of which offer either surf schools for your kids or other activities to keep them busy while you’re hanging ten. The Lacanau Holiday Village has a free children’s club with plenty of sports and other amusements, as well as evening entertainment and spa treatments for when you get back from the beach. Neighbouring Lacanau is Bordeaux so you can enjoy the delights of one of France’s most historic cities - or an exclusive wine tour - whenever you feel like a day without sandy feet. Just remember not to drink and surf!
The simplest way to get to any surfing spot in France is simply to follow the coastline and keep an eye out for boards in the water. However, if you want to aim for a central location and then explore you’re best to take a more direct route.
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is ideal for surfers because there’s no maximum baggage allowance, meaning you can bring all the kit you need - and with a crossing time of just 35minutes from Folkestone, so you’re not wasting time travelling but spending more time on the waves!
You can reach Biarritz from Calais in about nine and a half hours, heading to Amiens before driving south-west through Paris, Orléans, Poitiers and Bordeaux. Alternatively, turn off the motorway in Bordeaux to reach Lacanau, or a little after Poitiers if you’d prefer to be based in the middle of the coast at La Rochelle.
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