Situated on a magnificent bay of the Atlantic Ocean, Arcachon is a seaside resort town in France with a rare and elegant charm. If it lacks the obvious “glitz” and glamour of Riviera resorts such as St-Tropez or Cannes, it has much to offer the discerning luxury traveler. Once a grand 19th-century holiday town that attracted the aristocracy for its seaside hotels, elegant mansions, casino and fine seafood and shellfish-based gastronomy, it continues to hold appeal for many of the same reasons today. The Arcachon Basin is simply lovely to behold, between the deep blues of the sea, the teeming greenery of surrounding trees and enormous sand dunes at Pyla-sur-Mer. Both towns are only about an hour by train or car from Bordeaux and its world-class vineyards, making it an ideal stop on any bespoke tour of the region. Keep reading to find out why Arcachon and surrounds should be on your radar– and for a few luxurious ways to enjoy it.
Luxurious Things to Do in & Around Arcachon, France
..From Dune Hotels to Local Gastronomy
Stay in a Glamorous Seaside Hotel
The Arcachon Bay offers a more subtle brand of luxury than, say, opulent Monaco or star-studded Cannes. Yet for those seeking an authentic and enduring sort of elegance, the area’s numerous high-end hotels are a genuine draw-card. Not only can you imagine yourself back in the region’s 19th-century heyday, perhaps sitting under an umbrella on one of the hotel’s gorgeous private beaches or dining in a beautiful Belle-Epoque dining room; you can also bask in some of the region’s bold new design concepts.
Nearby Arcachon in a secluded and peaceful corner of the bay, the Villa La Tosca is surrounded by green pines and offers access to some of the loveliest stretches of local beach and seafront. Enjoy a large outdoor pool, private beach, onsite gastronomic restaurant and wine cellar, and a zen-style garden for extra relaxation. You can also opt to rent a private villa for an even more exclusive and luxurious getaway in the region. We also suggest this hotel as a potential romantic haven for a honeymoon in France.
Meanwhile, in Pyla sur Mer, surrounded by sea, sand and the dramatic Dune Pilat, two more recent hotels designed by renowned architect Philippe Starck have significantly upped the high-luxury ante in the Arcachon Bay. First, La Co(o)rniche is a modern tour de force, designed to harmonize with the surrounding natural environment of the sand dune at Pilat. Poetry is a major theme in the design, so visitors who appreciate the arts and culture as well as a touch of the whimsical will likely love this hotel. The spacious rooms afford sweeping views of both the Bay and the dramatic sand dune. And if you’re after a relaxing spa treatment and soak, the onsite facilities with treatments from the luxury beauty brand Ren fit the bill perfectly. An onsite restaurant specializing in top-quality shellfish and oysters offers careful pairings with French wines from nearby Bordeaux and other regions, and the gorgeous outdoor infinity pool seems to blend into the sea landscape.
Right nearby is the 5-star Haaitza hotel and spa, inaugurated in 2017 as a redesign of an iconic 1930 hotel of the same name. This was once a favorite haunt of celebrities including fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin. It features ornate stained glass created by Ara Starck, registering the light differently depending on the time of day and weather. Meanwhile, the onsite spa offers treatments by Ren. Gastronomes will appreciate the Skiff Club restaurant, specialised in both seafood and shellfish and French patisseries.
Finally, for some peace and quiet away from the crowds, the Ferret Vigne B&B offers luxurious accommodations on verdant premises, located on the gorgeous stretch of the Arcachon Bay known as the Cap Ferret. This is an ideal choice for nature and cycling enthusiasts: plunged in the forest with close access to beaches and water sports, the B&B is surrounded by bicycle and walking paths. It boasts a heated pool, large suites with jacuzzis and numerous other amenities. It’s also easy to embark on nearby adventures: boat rides, scuba diving and other outdoor activities await.
Our luxury travel specialists are always happy to help you find the perfect high-end accommodations, so we’ll work with you to design a stay that rhymes with relaxation, gourmet experiences and natural beauty.
Taste World-Class Oysters & Local Gastronomy
For seafood and shellfish lovers, this region is a wonderful place to taste some of the finest products available. Oysters are a particular speciality of Arcachon, and can be enjoyed in numerous forms: raw on the shell and paired with complex, delicious white wines; or cooked and incorporated into various gastronomic creations. Fresh shellfish platters are ubiquitous around the bay and are almost invariably fresh and delicious, especially with fresh lemon and crusty bread.
Read related: Luxury Wine Tasting Around Bordeaux: Our Picks
Gastronomes will find several high-end restaurants in the region to stimulate and expand the palate, many with breathtaking sea views and beautifully presented, creative dishes on offer.
Situated the main beach of Arcachon, Le Patio is a gourmet destination helmed by chef Thierry Renou. Fresh seasonal fish, shellfish and produce presented in eye-catching ways, a substantial wine list and gorgeous maritime scenery make this 1-star Michelin restaurant an excellent choice for fine dining in the region. Meanwhile, in nearby Pyla-sur-Mer, Le Skiff Club offers a yacht-club ambience, with renowned gastronomic creations from chef Stéphane Carrade. Reputed as one of the very finest spots in the region for fresh shellfish and boasting an impeccable wine list, a memorable and luxurious experience awaits at this restaurant, also holding a Michelin star.
We can also arrange a custom food tour or cooking workshop around the Arcachon Bay: board a private boat with an oyster farmer, learning about and tasting some truly delicious specimens. Visit a local seafood market and partake in the vibrant regional culture, or take a French cooking class with a private chef who will initiate you to the secrets of choosing, and preparing, excellent seafood and shellfish platters.
Experience Superb Natural Beauty, From Sea to Dunes
Blessed with outstanding natural features, the Arcachon Bay is an ideal port of call for outdoor enthusiasts or anyone seeking beautiful landscapes, flora and fauna.
The complex tidal system that animates the relatively tranquil bay means that your experience of the sea will almost never be repetitive. Visiting at high tide, you can enjoy swimming, kayaking or other water sports, while at low tide the shimmering play of light on the sand and opportunity to walk far out to the oyster cages offers a unique experience. Meanwhile, many wild birds can be found fishing on the water or even digging in the sand at low-tide. Birders will adore the opportunities for spotting some of the region’s species, including egrets and buzzards.
The area is surrounded by gorgeous pine forests cut through by cycling and walking trails. Hiking or biking enthusiasts can easily cycle or walk for a half or full day along the coast, enjoying the changing and increasingly wild landscapes as you move from Arcachon to Pyla-sur-Mer.
In the latter town, the imposing, massive Dune du Pilat is so impressive that it’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The tallest sand dune in Europe, it stands some 115 feet tall. More intrepid luxury travellers may wish to climb to the top to enjoy sunset views over the entire bay, perhaps equipped with a bottle of sparkling wine and a couple of glasses.
Finally, if you’re an adventurous traveler who loves challenging sports and outdoor activities, plenty of opportunities await in this rugged region. Parasailing, paragliding, surfing lessons, deep-sea diving and sailing are all possible in and around Arcachon. Fresh air, adrenaline, privacy and luxury come together: what could be better?
Beaches, Boating & Private Events
No high-end getaway to the Baie d’Arcachon would be complete without taking full advantage of the area’s lovely beaches, seafront walkways and opportunities for luxury boating or yachting. After spending an afternoon sunning, reading and/or ambling along one of the elegant local beaches– from Arcachon proper to Cap Ferret and Pyla-sur-Mer– why not embark on a private lunch aboard a well-appointed boat or yacht?
Your personal captain will show you the outstanding natural beauty of the Bay, from oyster farms to sunsets over the water and the Dune Pilat. You might even consider a longer cruise that takes you out of the bay and south toward the French Basque coast. From two-hour lunches to all-day luxury cruises on the Atlantic coast, there are so many opportunities for fans of maritime luxury.
Read related: Why to Take a Luxury Boat Cruise in France?
You may also want to stage a private event on a seaside terrace, catered by a private chef and featuring live music? Anniversary celebrations, corporate themed evenings or stimulating teambuilding events– all of these are examples of private events that can be ideally staged in this unique region of France.
Tour (& Stay in) Gorgeous 19th-Century Villas
Last but certainly not least, Arcachon is a delight for travellers interested in architecture– especially from the Victorian period. It boasts hundreds of stately mansions and villas, most built during the 19th century when the town became popular with the well-heeled as a holiday resort. It was also favored as a place for tuberculosis sufferers to retreat to for rest and recovery.
The Ville d’Hiver, or Winter Town, is a true architectural gem that many tourists never bother to see, since it’s set back from the beach and up high in the hills overlooking Arcachon. Composed of some 300 elegant villas surrounded by pine trees and greenery, and clustered around a lovely central park, the villas boast typical Victorian and neo-gothic design details: elaborate balconies and gables, external staircases and beautiful, lush gardens. Others are a bit on the eccentric or grandiose side, with neoclassical or even Mauresque elements. Taking a private tour of the Ville d’Hiver allows you to better appreciate the history of this interesting town and its fine architectural heritage.
Read related: Our private history and architecture tours of France
Of course, if you’re interested in staying in a local luxury villa, that’s entirely possible, too. Enjoy the charms and privacy of a historic villa overlooking forests and sea, situated in close reach of Arcachon’s finest boutiques, shops and restaurants. You can also consider staying in a high-luxury villa in Pyla-sur-Mer, plunged in natural beauty.
Book a Bespoke Luxury Tour of Arcachon & the Bordeaux Region
Have we convinced you that Arcachon might be an ideal destination for your next luxury getaway to France? If so, contact us. Whenever you choose to visit, we’ll design the perfect bespoke tour or holiday for you. Luxury and authenticity are our two “middle names”.