Family friendly campsites in France
- Credit: Archant
Looking for camping inspiration for your next holiday trip to France? These campsites in France will have the whole family entertained and relaxed
Chosen by Jonathan Knight
The glitzy west coast resort of Arcachon is home to the King Kong of all sand dunes, measuring one and 3km in length, 500m wide, and 107m high. From the summit, you’ll be treated to sublime views of a pinky-blue sunset that engulfs the Bay of Arcachon, from the campsite across the waters to Cap Ferret. Next to the sand dune sits Panorama du Pyla. A stay here isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every centime. The fancy à la carte restaurant, ice-cream parlour and crêperie, two swimming pools, and kids’ entertainment create a boisterous atmosphere in high season, to say the least. Terraced slopes allow personal space at numerous pitches, but for greater seclusion aim for a spot by the side of the dune. These pitches are still near the beach – the sea glistens through the trees – but you’re further away from any of the pedestrian paths. If climbing the dune feels like walking on hot coals, use the steps etched into the slope at the start of every summer. After the sun has set and you’ve washed the sand off, steam oysters over a bed of pine needles (it’s what the locals do) and dream about the wonderful surprises that lie in store.
Set on a gentle incline with masterful views over a wooded valley, Les Mathévies offers 40 pitches to choose from, many of which enjoy shade from walnut, cherry, fig, apple and plum trees. If you’re arriving late and don’t fancy pitching up for the night there are also some cosy cabins (for up to 6 people) dotted subtly around the site. There’s also a self-contained traditional gîte with all the mod cons, but the real ace is the spectacular sunset view you enjoy from the back and the privacy the place affords. The site itself is a real playground for kids, with a toddlers’ play area near the Cosy Nook Café (so you get to relax with them in plain view), and a weekly campfire night. There’s also a tree house for older kids and a terrific climbing area. If that’s not enough to keep them occupied there’s a children’s pool as well as a larger swimming pool for adults beside the tennis courts and table-tennis table. You may well find yourself staying much longer than planned with the gastronomical Mecca of Sarlat so close, coupled with perhaps the most charming site in the Dordogne.
OPEN all year
In the heart of Calvados country in Brittany, near the idyllic village of Blangy, is the friendliest château-camping experience you can hope to find in France. Le Brévedent is a fairly big site, but its canny design results in a beautifully chilled atmosphere. The play areas are handily situated by adult distractions such as the restaurant, café terrace (with free wi-fi), and lake. The heated swimming pool and paddling pool have been tastefully cut into the slope in front of the main house. From here there’s a spectacular view of the lake, which is where most people choose to camp. Elsewhere ducks and chickens meander about the site among the apple trees and herbaceous borders. You can hire a canoe for a scenic glide across the lake; the small fee should be per hour, but owner Raphael is laid-back about counting minutes. After all, there’s no reason to rush here.
OPEN end of April–mid September
Les Grèbes campsite in Burgundy has all the ingredients for an old-school camping experience: a remote location far away from any road noise, a substantial lake, an incredibly friendly and helpful welcome, and a laissez-faire attitude to where you pitch your temporary home. Being away from any traffic, the site feels like a safe place for kids to run around and have fun without causing undue parental anxiety. On one side of the site are open fields and vineyards and on the other is the lake, which is about five kilometres all the way round and on the edge of a forest. Unfortunately you can’t actually camp on the lakeside itself, but you are literally a hop, skip, and a jump away across one of a couple of footbridges that links you to the water’s edge. The relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and beautiful setting somehow capture the true spirit of camping in France and make the experience of staying here a real joy.
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As Pat and Pascaline Pain renovated their 19th-century farmhouse in Rhône, they acquired some authentic roulottes and decorated the whole place with trinkets they had garnered from their travels in India and Africa. The site is up in the wooded hills, above all the southeast-facing slopes, where Beaujolais grapes are grown. Found down the end of a long shadowy track, it is well away from what is anyway a pretty quiet road, La Roulotte des Amoureux is decked out in nostalgic 1950s’ style with beautifully carved wood and mirrors. La Roulotte des Ménages, the riding masters, began life plying the trade fairs of northern France and is more reminiscent of the 1920s, while the largest of the three is La Roulotte des Étoiles, comes with sequinned cushions and a variety of decorations collected from travels through the Orient (all have en suite facilities). You can even have your breakfast delivered to your front door if you feel like really kicking back and enjoying the peace and quiet.
OPEN end of March-mid November
Just up the road from the Alpes d’Huez, in Les Sables, sits Ferme Noemie; a lovely laid-back campsite. The camping field is triangular in shape, with lush green grass, a few dainty blossoms, and the national park towering sky high in the background. In addition to the 16 emplacements, the owners introduced 4 ‘camping for softies’ bell tents, with beds, duvets, wine glasses, plus a sheltered cooking stove, as well as 4 furnished apartments and 2 mobile homes. Consideration for campers is evident throughout the site. Warm blankets are handed out on chilly nights, and the owners will lend you beer if you happen to run dry. In fact, they’ll give away cider made from their own apples, gratis. No stay would be complete without taking the time to explore the local area. As well as walking, cycling and swimming, try rockclimbing, rafting, canoeing, horse-riding, fishing, golf or parapenting.
OPEN all year
With around 70 pitches this site in Alpes-Maritimes is pretty big. Add to this the fact that there are also mobile homes, chalets, fixed caravans and even a couple of TV rooms, and it makes for a veritable holiday village. Yet, due to Les Gorges du Loup’s layout, staggered up the mountainside and camouflaged by shade-giving trees, the site holds on to its air of intimacy. Despite the excellent facilities, including an impressive pool (making the site extremely child-friendly), the real benefit is its location. Le Bar-sur-Loup is a cluster of medieval beauty with a handful of houses gathered around a chateau. Nearby Tourrettes-sur-Loup has violets, artists’ studios, chapels and the Florian confectionary factory, which is sure to tear the kids away from the pool. Then there’s the plus beau village of Gourdon, as seen in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. And for film buffs you’re only a 30-minute drive from Cannes – but why you’d want to sit in a dark cinema is anyone’s guess…
Owners Nora and Michel took up the reins of Les Olivettes in 2009, bringing a touch of Parisian chic to its rural Provence setting, and giving it a boutique but bohemian and ecological vibe. Features include a pool with a meditation area, a stylish barbecue spot, and tastefully painted cornflower-blue amenities – in the modern mode. Each camping and caravan pitch has been carefully considered and levelled with some olive trees totally shading you from the Provençal sun. Both the showers and pool are solar-powered and all rubbish can be separated. The only additional lighting comes in the shape of small solar lights, which are only light enough to guide your way through the site at night. They certainly don’t pollute the incredible view of the staggering star-flecked sky – which is said to be the clearest in Europe. Just a 20-minute drive to the A51 means a great distance can be covered and so a wide range of activities are on offer. Just down the road from Les Olivettes is the moulin, where Michel and Nora press their olives into oil in March.
OPEN mid April–mid October (site partially closes September to ready the olive crop)
Mas de la Fargassa, high up in the Pyrénées and 20 minutes from the nearest town, is hidden away amid a dense wonderland of trees and farmland bisected by an atmospheric mountain creek. The camping area is home to six Dutch-designed De Waard Albatros tents. As well as a pre-erected tent, you also receive home comforts such as mattresses, a cooking hob, a fridge and picnic tables. Those who sign up to it can anjoy a simple, vegetarian dinner served in the garden. There’s also an organic fruit farm connected to the property that sells plums, apples, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, pears and organic bread. The windy path that cuts through the mountains is certainly something to behold – some might avoid looking down, but others rate the precipitous view of the Gorges du Mondony as one of their holiday highlights. Either way, once you’ve climbed to the dizzying heights of Fargassa, you might never want to come back down again.
Youngsters will love being kings and queens of their own castle at this rural campsite that looks on to a picturesque stone manor house. A tennis court and mini-golf should keep them occupied while parents indulge in a pampering fit for royalty at the on-site spa, but there is also a large pool with an aquatic kid’s play area. There are no less than 3 different restaurants to eat at. Sleeping options include tents, mobile homes and even a treehouse. Venture beyond the site and you’re in the heart of the Loire’s château country, with Chambord and Cheverny nearby.
OPEN mid April-mid September
With its serene waterside setting in the Aisne Valley, this campsite will go down a storm with older children who can prove their independence while exploring the 34-hectare resort or joining in camp activities such as mini-golf, cycling, karting, laser game and archery. The site has several impressive swimming pools which include jacuzzis and water slides. You can stay in a tent, holiday home or luxury log cabin complete with dishwashers and flat-screen TVs. Château de Pierrefonds, setting for the BBC TV series Merlin, is nearby, while Disneyland Paris, the Parc Astérix and the capital itself are just over an hour’s drive away.
OPEN all year
Nestled within an area of woodland and lakes nestled in Vendée, the Camping La Garangeoire has plenty of child-friendly attractions including crazy golf, trampolines and boating on the lake. There are 151 tent pitches varying in size but all separated by hedges to give campers enough privacy. You can also stay in little chalets and cabins but for an original night, try the bivouac tent made out of wood and topped with a little tent. The sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast are nearby, as is the Puy du Fou, France’s biggest historical theme park, which puts on spectacular re-enactments and sons et lumières shows.
OPEN mid April-mid September
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