Summer holiday in... Cap Ferret

The Cap Ferret peninsula, west of Bordeaux, is one of France’s best-kept secrets. With oyster farms, secluded beaches and cycle paths among the pine trees, FRANCE Magazine guides you to its highlights SPONSORED FEATURE

The best place to taste oysters is by the sea, and the catch doesn’t come fresher than among the oyster-farmers’ huts in the Cap Ferret peninsula in Aquitaine. As you sit outside one of the bistros serving platters of iced oysters, sipping a glass of chilled white wine and looking out across the Bassin d’Arcachon, you’ll soon realise why this is a destination so adored by the French.

With pine forests, cycling trails and beautiful sandy beaches, Cap Ferret is the perfect choice if you want to relax for a week or so. An ideal place to start a stay is with a visit to the lighthouse. This red and white beacon peeps out over the trees and provides a bird’s-eye view of the peninsula and the triangular-shaped bay. Climb its 258 steps to the top and in one direction, you get a fantastic view of the enormous Dune du Pyla – Europe’s biggest sand dune – across the bay and, in the other, the Atlantic coast.

The lighthouse doubles as a museum, and interactive displays tell the story of the area and its oyster-fishing, explaining how boats navigate the complicated sandbanks in the bay. The lighthouse is in the village of Cap Ferret itself, the biggest community on the peninsula, where you’ll find several oyster bars offering platters for lunch and dinner. The most famous haunt is Chez Hortense, a beachside restaurant that is something of an institution and proud of its history that dates from the 1930s, when tourism slowly seeped into the area.

Thankfully, Cap Ferret has managed to resist the commercialism of modern tourism due to strict conservation rules that prevent development. Among the oyster-catchers’ huts of Cap Ferret and the other villages of L’Herbe, Le Canon and Piraillan, you can be glad of this unspoiled, rustic character. Packed tightly together, with nothing more than narrow gravel paths between them, these colourfully painted huts form a wonderful maze. Vibrant hollyhocks, gladioli and geraniums add to the idyll, while the piled-up crates and pallets are a reminder that these are working villages.

After pottering around the villages and lazing on the beach, you can see the area at a faster pace by whizzing through the trees, sand dunes and villages on a bike, or indeed a more modern two-wheeled transport, the electric Segway scooters (gyropodes in French).

You can venture out on to the water, too, with one of the many boat trips on the traditional pinewood pinasses. As well as exploring the oyster beds, boats can take you out to the Île aux Oiseaux, where two cabins stand on stilts when the tide is high, and perch on the sand when the tide is low. With so much to do, or indeed so little for those who simply want to relax, Cap Ferret makes for the perfect escape.

For more information on where to stay and what to visit, see www.lege-capferret.com

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Eurotunnel le Shuttle is the quickest way to the continent by car. Book early and get the best fares to explore Cap Ferret.

Visit www.eurotunnel.com or call 0870 850 8133 to book your crossing.