Author of Take the Slow Road: France, Martin Dorey shares his favourite places to stay while travelling by campervan or motorhome, from an idyllic riverside campsite in the Loire Valley to camping on the beach in the south of France
MY TOP TEN FRENCH CAMPSITES
Looking for a good campsite? Here are 10 of my faves. Bear in mind, though, that I haven’t visited all of France’s campsites – and generally prefer smaller sites, indies or quirky places – so this is not a definitive list. But at least it’s a really good start.
1. Best for swimming
Camping du Lac de Narlay, Le Frasnois, Jura
A beautiful site on a hillside that slopes gently down to Lac de Narlay, a cerulean slice of wonder that’s great for a swim and a kayak. Go for electric and you’ll get a pitch that’s level, otherwise it’s a free-for-all. If you can nab a level spot by the lakeshore then you’re doing better than we did.
2. Best for cooling off on a hot day
Camping du Brec, Entrevaux, Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence
Another lakeside campsite that’s got its own patch of watery heaven. Only this time it’s all yours. The owners provide kayaks and SUPs for you to muck about on and the bar is right next to the water. Pitches are a great size and it’s really friendly. Loved it.
3. Best for falling out of your van into the sea
Le Camp du Domaine, Le Lavandou, Bormes-les-Mimosas, Var
OK, so it’s big, very big. But book yourself a pitch on the beach and you’ll never be closer to the water. It won’t be cheap, but you’ll have everything right there, including a sunshade. Wake up, slip on your shorts and get in the Med. Swim around the marker buoys before breakfast then go and pick up your pain from the on-site bakery.
4. Best for toasting your good fortune
Camping d’Épernay, Marne
It’s one of the nicest municipal campsites we’ve come across. It’s right on the river and has a restaurant and kayak hire on site, as well as sports facilities. It’s an easy cycle into town to get sozzled on Champers and makes a great base for exploring the Champagne houses of the region.
5. Best for walking to surf
Camping de la Côte d’Argent, Hourtin Plage, Gironde
It’s going to cost you, and woe betide you if you didn’t book ahead, but that aside, this is the campsite for all travelling, van-dwelling surfers (and their families) who need more than just a car park. There’s a fab pool complex for the kids, bars and nightly entertainment for the other half. It’s also just a four-minute walk from the beach. Perfect for early surfs, and then back in time for croissants.
6. Best for Paris
Let’s face it, there isn’t much else to choose from if you want to visit Paris by moho. But even so, it’s not lax or complacent in any way. The pitches are decent and it’s an easy bus and metro ride into the centre of the city. If you want to see the city, this is it.
7. Best for winter sports
Camping Huttopia, Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Savoie
The Huttopia sites are like the Caravan and Motorhome Club sites: reliable, well-presented and decent value. This site offers a free bus to the funicular railway that will take you to Les Arcs for winter sports, which means you don’t have to drive up the mountain roads but can still enjoy the rides. They have a drying room, there is a supermarket opposite and the town is a short cycle away.
8. Best for walking and natural wonders
Camping La Bergerie, Gavarnie, Hautes-Pyrénées
This is a tiny site that may not be suitable for huge mohos and bigger vans. But if you can fit, you will love it. It’s right by a river and is the last site before the Cirque de Gavarnie. A wonderful location.
9. Best for views
Panorama du Pyla, Pyla-sur-Mer, Gironde
You might have to manoeuvre a bit to get in but it’s worth it. The views are magnificent, over Arcachon Bay to Cap Ferret. It’s also got direct access to the Grande Dune du Pilat, Europe’s biggest sand dune, so it’s an easy walk on to the top of this monster of silicon. They also have a pool and kids’ stuff and a bar, also with great views.
10. Best for the Loire
Camping Chaumont-sur-Loire, Loir-et-Cher
Right next to the river, this is an ace campsite for perfect sunsets, hot days and château exploration. It’s a free-for-all when it comes to pitches but that’s the way we like it. Get there early and grab the best spot right next to the river.
This is an extract from Take the Slow Road: France by Martin Dorey. Martin is author of The Camper Van Bible and the Take the Slow Road campervanning guides which include England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France, all out now.
Read an interview with Martin Dorey in the July issue of FRANCE Magazine (out now).
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