Carefully tucked away in the southwest corner of France, right by the Atlantic coast, the Côte d’Argent has – for the most part – managed to stay under international travelers’ radar. Anybody who has been lucky enough to visit the region just south of Bordeaux will end up with one question: How?!
While the French’s appetite for domestic tourism has certainly played a role, the discreetness with which the Département Landes has maintained such a low profile should spark every traveler’s attention.
A couple hundred kilometers (125 miles) of uninterrupted fine golden coastline, chic resort towns, and endless pine forests lurking behind the dunes, the Silver Coast might be one of France’s best kept secrets.
With ample opportunities for getting active outside (surfing, anyone?) and recharging with fresh local delicacies, there’s few arguments that speak against a trip to the French Atlantic coast. Let’s explore some of the things to do in Côte d’Argent.
Things to Do in Côte d’Argent, France
1. Seaside City-Hopping along the Côte d’Argent
No matter if you make your way to the coast by car or plane, Bordeaux will most likely serve as your gateway to the region. Why not start your visit to the Silver Coast with a few hours in the famous port city, situated on the Garonne.
A walk through the historic (and UNESCO World Heritage listed) city center, along the Place de la Bourse and the Pont de Pierre, will serve as a fine intro to the region.
Moving further south, there’s no way around Arcachon, a small yet popular seaside destination on the Atlantic coast. The city is known for its charming Victorian style villas that were built from the 1860s onward.
Dwelling on the Arcachonnaise architecture will kick you into full vacation mode. For a change of scenery, a walk along the charming promenade will do the trick.
Arcachon forms the northern end of the Côte d’Argent. At its southern end lies another elegant seaside resort town: Biarritz. You could easily spend a day on Grande Plage, the city’s main beach – or by touring the imposing city center, boasting influences of both old French money and Spanish architecture.
2. Hit the Beaches
Among the many things to do in Côte d’Argent, this one is an easy favorite. There’s no better way to indulge yourself with the natural splendor of this region than by dipping your feet into the surprisingly clear Atlantic water – and the powdery golden sand.
Let’s be clear, it will be hard to decide between the many individual beaches. The good thing: No matter if you opt for laidback Contis Plage, slightly bigger Moliets-et-Maa, or any other beach resort dotted along the coastline, you can hardly go wrong.
In fact, the Côte d’Argent forms the longest uninterrupted sandy coastline in Europe, running for a staggering 200 kilometers (125 mi) from the mouth of the Gironde all the way down to the Adour. Get off your shoes and feel for yourself.
3. Explore the Surf Scene
As if endless squeaky golden sand wasn’t enough, this part of the Atlantic regularly provides some of the cleanest surfable waves in Europe. Naturally, the Côte d’Argent and its many smooth beach breaks, that cater both to the bloody beginner and the more advanced surfer, have developed a lively surf scene.
On your way to the beach, cars with surfboards on the roof are a common sight. But don’t worry when your board didn’t quite fit into your suitcase. You will find numerous surf schools in pretty much every seaside resort town.
Still leaning somewhat more towards the beginner end myself, I can personally vouch for very rewarding surf experiences in Contis Plage and Moliets-et-Maa. Those sunset sessions were simply stunning.
For bigger and more challenging waves, head further south to Hossegor. The tube wave at La Graviere is known internationally. No matter for which wave you ultimately decide, brushing up on your skills on the board is one of the few mandatory things to do in Côte d’Argent.
4. Explore the Nature
Okay, nature does include the many beautiful beaches. But there’s more. Only sparring the seaside resorts, the coastline is backed by thick pine forest. In fact, this is the largest man-made forest in Western Europe, originating in a reforestation program in the 19th century.
At times, this has created very interesting landscapes. One example is the Dune du Pilat, a 100 meter (330 ft) tall sandy hill that expands along the coast just south of Arcachon. Ready to get active? Climbing this desert-like structure is allowed.
Upon reaching the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the sea. Here, the bordering maritime pine-trees serve as a nice contrast to the blue skies of Aquitaine and the golden sand below your feet.
Today, the forest doesn’t only serve practical purposes, but further invites cycling or walking trips. Or – to get the most out of your holiday in Landes, why not base yourself in a charming French vacation home a few minutes away from the coast. Surrounded only by nature, it doesn’t get calmer than this.
5. Try Local Delicacies
Any trip to France is inevitably wasted when not munching on a few local snacksfrancaise along the way. And when visiting the Côte d’Argent, it will be hard to escape some regional delicacies anyway. First and foremost: seafood!
Cap-Ferret, the peninsula just across Arcachon, is home to the largest oyster farm in the world. So if you always wanted to slurp a fresh oyster, this is your chance.
Another local’s favorite is Moules et Frites, freshly cooked mussels tossed in garlic and thyme and served with French fries on the side. If all the seafood sounds a bit too fishy for you, maybe try the Boeuf de Bazas, a tender kind of beef that you will primarily find on the menu in the form of a grilled steak or a savory stew.
Regardless of your land/sea preferences, you can’t go wrong with a sweet Canelé, a rich doughy cupcake with a caramelized crust, at the end of your meal.
But, aren’t we missing something, you ask? I’ll spar you another paragraph on the excellent wine produced in the Bordeaux and Médoc region. Trying a glass of the red or white is one of the natural things to do in Côte d’Argent anyway. Go, and see (and taste!) for yourself.