Aire Love & Bike-Riding – Biscarosse Plage, France
What distinguishes one beach town from the next? Is it the way the waves crash, the color and feel of the sand, the town or how many people are there? For me it’s a bit of everything and then there’s something else on top. It’s that strange and illogical thing called vibe, the way a place makes me feel inside. And it’s something I can’t describe or predict until I’ve actually been there.
The Vibe Is Different Here
Today we move further north on the coast to Biscarosse Plage. It’s a mere 55km drive or so from our last destination, but I can already tell that things are different.
We’re closing in on Dune de Pilat, the biggest dune in western Europe and a place everyone goes to see (yes, we will too), plus we’re approaching the periphery of Bordeaux, the 6th largest city in France and a region known the world over for its wines (and yes, we will be sampling plenty of those too…). The nearing population means that tourists and day-tripppers are all within a stones throw now. It’s easy to come here so more people do, and that changes the vibe of a place.
This switch is also evident when it comes to camping restrictions. In the last few beach towns we’ve seen motorhomes all over the place, including parked by grocery stores and sometimes (even) by the beach. As soon as enter we Biscarosse Plage we see signs prohibiting all that. No camping cars in town, and no overnight parking in any of the lots. Again, it’s a different vibe.
But all is not lost. In the midst of all this I’ve found what looks like a bit of a hidden gem, and we’re hoping to snag a few days there to hide out from the up-coming heatwave.
Of All The Aires In All Of France…
When I first saw pictures of the Aire de Camping at Biscarosse Plage, I was immediately intrigued.
This was unlike any of the other Aires we’ve seen or been to in Europe. From the pictures I found online looked like a dispersed campsite right in the midst of a thick forest, steps from the beach. It almost looked like a wild camp, with motorhomes parked alongside a dirt road. No electricity, nothing fancy, just parking amongst the trees. Our kinda place?
We arrived around noon-ish, having been delayed by a leisurely breakfast and general laziness at our last spot, and we immediately felt at home. The Aire was almost exactly what I hoped.
It’s set right in the middle of the dense maritime pine forest with a firm dirt road winding through the trees, and spots for camping cars to park along each side. It’s bigger than I expected, able to house ~180 motorhomes (!) and the camping spots aren’t separated (except for trees), but it’s shaded and quiet and literally 5 minutes walk from the beach. In summer this place would probably be a zoo, but in this time of year (late fall) it’s only semi-full and nicely quiet (mostly surfers and retirees, ya know…).
We snag a site just past the entrance between two other campers. The view out of our front windshield is blocked by the next guy, but we’ve got a good amount of separation between us, and our “sitting area” is wide open and looks directly into the forest. Our site is fully shaded during the day, but with a few hours every afternoon through the top of the tree cover, enough for our solar panels to keep us charged. Oh and there’s full cellphone signal. Nomadic perfection…
It’s a lovely site, all for only €8/night, and as soon as we’re parked up our three pets immediately ask to go outside, a sure sign that the vibe is right.
Downtown Feels A Bit Toursity
From the Aire it’s a short 15 minute bike-ride into town.
Biscarosse Plage is probably mid-sized as far as beach towns along this coast go. It’s got lots of restaurants and clothing stores, and all the usual beachy stuff. It’s also got a largish park/green-area with an elevated walkway and views of the water.
My first impression is that it’s definitely more touristy than our last few spots and there’s more people, especially on the beach. It’s not exactly over-crowded, but it feels much busier than the southern part of Les Landes, and the vibe is definitely not as relaxed. It’s a nice enough place, but decide that we probably won’t be spending much time in town while we’re here.
But The Beach By The Aire Is Lovely
Compared to the downtown area however, the beach by the Aire is wonderfully relaxed.
It’s non-surveillée (no lifeguards on duty) so there’s far less people that visit, mostly just a few surfers, campers and day-trippers. Plus it’s dog friendly which is always a double-bonus in our books.
And it’s a really nice beach too. The sand is super fine, the kind that squeaks between your toes, and the waves vary from almost perfectly calm to a vigorous surf depending on the time of day. We can swim with Polly at slack, which we haven’t been able to do anywhere else (waves freak her out, poor girl). Plus of course the sunsets are sublime, as they always are on the water, with a rhythmic crash of water that soothes your soul. What’s not to love?
There’s Also Some Awesome Biking & Lakes Here
The other big draw here are the nearby lakes.
Biscarosse Plage is only ~10 km from the two rather impressive lakes (Lac de Biscarosse Sanguinet-Cazaux & Lac de Biscarosse Parentis) covering over 5,600ha and 3,400 ha respectively. The lakes are a completely different side of Les Landes that many folks bypass altogether to go to the beaches, and for that reason they’re a wonderful place to get away from it all. Plus, as is typical throughout Les Landes there’s a lovely greenway bike trail that goes to them, the perfect way to get some exercise and escape the beach crowds in town.
I start the ride from our campsite in the early morning, winding my way out of town and up to the single-lane path that winds through the hills towards the lakes. It’s a much steeper ride than expected, and in truth more than my current levels of semi-sorta-fitness can handle, but the views are spectacular and it’s wonderfully peaceful and serene. Once past the hill, the trail drops down to the lake and there the atmosphere completely switches.
The lake is gorgeous with a ring of vibrant aqua-blue along the shoreline that drops into a deep blue ~40 feet in. It’s huge too, the opposing shoreline barely in view and it’s wonderfully calm, at least on this day. There’s a few folks kayaking on one side, a lone paddle-boarder and a sailboat in the distance, but other than that it’s completely empty. Plus the shoreline is miles long and pristine, the waves gently lapping in the sand. I’m alone with nothing but a relaxing, clear breeze through the pines to keep me company. What an awesome spot!
I continue the trail around the lake, stopping often to shoot pics & enjoy the atmosphere before I reluctantly turn around and take the long (much, much longer???) bike home.
I Finish The Afternoon With An Icy Dip
When I return to camp I’m so tired that I can barely get out of my seat, and hobble like a penguin to the motorhome. It’s hot today too, the hottest it’s been since we started this tour.
Outdoor temps are hitting 33°C (~91°F!), and the inside of the van has peaked at 30°C, way too warm for our tastes. The only thing keeping us sane is our 12V Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze Fan (Amazon link, #commissionlink) moving the air through the densest part of the rig. We’ve had that thing 5 years and it’s still one of the most useful pieces of wild-camping/boondocking equipment we own.
Once the pounding in my thighs has subsided, I decide to go bathing in the ocean to cool off.
It’s a quick walk over and the water is icy cold, taking my breath away as I get in. It’s the kind of experience that’s feels like torture at first, but is absolutely wonderful once your skin has acclimatized to the temps. I float around, finally cool and relaxed, gazing at the white dunes set against the bright blue sky, and watching the folks of all ages on the beach. It’s a wonderful pastime.
The rest of the afternoon we hang outside LMB in the shade, taking periodic walks to the beach with Polly for a dip, and letting the cats out so we can all savor every little bit of ocean breeze that blows through. We’ve totally enjoyed our few days in the forest Aire, despite the heat and the slightly touristy vibe in town. But something bigger is calling us, something much, much bigger…..and although it would turn out to be even more touristy than this spot, it would be well worth the visit.
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