France travel guide: a week-long road trip along the beautiful Basque Coast

To this day, crazy adventures fill me brim with the joy and travelling the world with someone who shares my dreams and supports my growth is definitely one of them. Although our trip to France wasn’t really a crazy adventure, it was a very fulfilling trip, and it was something we planned and prepared toward.

The magnificent stretch of the Basque coast that curves from one charming fishing village to another one and brings glimpses of the glistering ocean – the kind you can rest your eyes upon for hours had us excited for returning to France.

We started off by renting an automatic from Hertz situated at Biarritz Airport followed by a few days in Biarritz, then headed out to explore nearby villages and towns, Bayonne, Hossegor and Capbreton including.

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Did you know that the Landes forest is the largest man-made forest in Western Europe?

 

 

Road trip details & essentials

This blog post covers a road trip where we drove from Biarritz to Bayonne, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Capbreton and  Hossegor.

Rather than bomb trough the area in a couple of days, we dedicated 10 full days to allow us to slowly cherish its charming towns and peaceful pine forests. Our road trip was full of new and fun experiences we are eager to share with you.

If you are looking for a fantastic road trip with fun itinerary ideas around France than Our Crossings has you covered – just browse through this post and learn about the most popular attractions in each place.

  • Car Rental / At first, it didn’t make sense to rent a car at Biarritz Airport – just so we can finally visit towns that are located in such short proximity of Biarritz.  But after our efforts to find public transport on Sunday that was our departure day back to Ireland failed we opted to hire one after all.

We decided to spend five day relaxing in Biarritz town and to pick up our rental when we were due to check out, this way avoiding unnecessary rental and parking fees.

Renting a car and driving around the Basque region is pretty much straightforward. Youll find plenty of car rental companies at the airport and the roads are well marked.

  • When to go / Best time to visit would be from May to October – this weather frame offers pleasant temperatures and limited rainfall – with June and September being the warmest and driest month.

  • Duration: seven to ten days
  • Route Lenght: 110 kilometres
  • Driving Time: 2-3 hours
  • Start: Biarritz – Anglet – Bayonne Airport
  • Stops: Biarritz, Bayonne, Capbreton, Hossegor
  • Finish: Biarritz – Anglet – Bayonne  Airport

 

#1. Start off by exploring Biarritz

Our firsts fortnight was in Biarritz, and if you ask me, Biarritz was fantastic. But fantastic hardly sums up all the things we had a chance to experience.

Though the town’s reputation has often been illustrated as a place for wealthy aristocrats and trademarked by the passage of Napoleon III, Biarritz lovingly endorses voyagers with varied life stories.

Guys with low maintenance haircuts and surfboards under their arm keep the town young and fluidly blend with fast speeding Maserati cars and new shops selling Chanel and vintage Hermès mix with gritty residential areas.

Top things to do in Biarritz:

  • Visit Biarritz Lighthouse / This beautiful lighthouse built on such a perilous edge, awash with perfectly curled waves has been greeting local fishermen since 1834. A visit to Biarritz Lighthouse where for a small fee you can climb to the very top of it to enjoy incredible views from a different vantage point over the city and surrounding coastline is well worth the effort.

  • Learn to Surf / If you are visiting Biarritz which is known as surfing paradise and if you wish to feel the power of the ocean under your feet while having heaps of fun, sign up for a surfing lesson at one of the surf schools and get advice from people who know what they are doing. Learning to surf is a time-consuming process, but once you know the basic technique, you can start practising.

  • Explore its markets / Stop at L’Ecaillerie and join the queue for a glass of wine and their famous oysters or other shellfish coming straight from the Bay of Bisque. Or, pop into another part of the Las Halles market for fresh bread and cheeses. You can also try Izarra – a liquor drink made 16 herbs – which is very “Green” but traditional Basque drink that has a peppermint taste.

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Biarritz has its origins as a fishing port, but over the years has evolved into a lovely seaside resort.
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Biarritz is a town filled with surf schools and surf shops.

 

#2. Travel to Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Combing through the old photos always makes me itch for new and even thou we have a terrible tendency to go back to the same places, we make sure to add nearby villages and towns.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a lovely fishing village located at the mouth of Niavelle River, just 18km from Biarritz, and it was an easy decision to incorporate a visit to this charming seaside town where macaroons are the most typical sweets.

Situated on the French Atlantic coast, Saint-Jean-de-Luz offers pretty beaches, heaps of history, beautiful old quarter and its only 10km from the Spanish border – a great day trip if you are in San Sebastian.

While there were quite a lot of similarities when compared to Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is much more relaxed and family-oriented place where you can celebrate special moments, big or small.

Top things to do in Saint-Jean-de-Luz:

  • Old town / Walk around the old town and admire beautiful half-timbered houses built by wealthy merchants and shipowners. Feast your eyes on romantic windows, gauzy blinds and try to imagine what life was here back in 17 century when Saint Jean de Luz was the centre for Basque corsairs.

  • Beaches / One of the towns main attractions is its beautiful beaches. They are clean, wide and perfect for families with young children. Go for a walk along the Promenade and take in the views of the crescent-shaped bay and pretty houses.

  • Rue Gambetta / The main pedestrian street in town is filled with shops selling local produce, sweets and chocolates.

  • Port / Make your way to the port which was once Frances largest and see the fishing boats coming and going. For great quality fish and seafood restaurants look no further than little streets surrounding the Port.

  • Church of St. John Baptist / Located on Rue Gambetta, the Church of St. John Baptist is one of the important and visually striking places to visit in town. This is where the royal wedding between Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain took place back in 1660.

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Pretty streets bursting with character.
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Enjoy the scenery and pretty views from a coastal path.

 

#3. Wander around Bayonne

Bayonne, situated at the northernmost point of the French Basque Country, is a  city that feels more like a large town. A large and colourful and welcoming town infamous for Bayonne ham and chocolatiers.

With the afternoon sun finally shining, we started exploring the capital of the French Basque Country, with a short stop at their Tourist information bureau to pick up a few maps and tips.

Top things to do in Bayonne:

  • Sainte Marie Cathedral / Given that it’s a UNESCO site, it should not come as a surprise that this was the most beautiful place we had a chance to visit in Bayonne. The imposing spires reaching high up in the cloudy spring sky as we approached through one of the narrow streets left us with feeling intense excitement.

  • Château-Vieux / Not too far from the cathedral is Château-Vieux (“Old Castle”). Although this place isn’t open to the public, you can still view it from outside just to see what a former residence for the governors of the city looks like.

  • Les Halles / Discover local produce that Bayonne has to offer by visiting Less Halles market. Here, under one roof you’ll find fish, meat and tasty gâteau Basque (“Basque cake”). Make sure you visit early on a day because the markets close around 1.30 pm.

  • Jardin Botanique / Located next to a tourism office is Bayonnes botanical gardens – relatively small yet beautifully laid out and perfect if you need a few minutes of rest.  Admission to the Jardin Botanique is free of charge, and here you’ll find a lovely Japanese garden as well as children’s playground.

  • Basque Museum / Located in a 16th-century townhouse, Basque Museum Bayonne is a great place to learn about its culture and traditions from its 3,000 exhibits.

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Bayonne has withstood fourteen states of sieges and has a rich historical heritage.
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Filled with slender Basque houses, Bayonne is a fantastic place to explore and photograph.

 

#4. Relax at Capbreton

Upon our arrival in Capbreton, that’s situated in the Landes department, clouds blew through to reveal a beautiful sunset. The soft colours of the sunset are always amazing and provided an opportunity to appreciate the coastline in a new light.

From its seaside allure, with semi-submerged second world war bunkers and traditional fish markets, there’s also the barreling waves of La Piste and a very photogenic wooden pier that was built by the orders of Napoleon III.

When it comes to sightseeing, in Capbreton you won’t find big tourist attractions. Instead, it’s a place where you can relax and appreciate those little things in life.

Top things to do in Capbreton:

  • Go surfing / For experienced surfers – to make most of your surf session, get advice from the locals. For learners & beginners- rent your board from qualified surf school and

  • Sign up for yoga / Reward yourself with a relaxing yoga session to improve your flexibility and balance and increase your muscle strength. Yoga is a great activity for your whole body and its one of the ways to improve your health.

  • Go cycling / Strech your legs and enjoy the beautiful landscape while biking trough one of many cycling paths around Capbreton. While cycling is yet another great way to keep fit, one of its benefits also includes improved mental well-being. So, rent a bike, spend some quality time outdoors and see the world from a different perspective.

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Capbreton is a perfect place to watch a sunset.
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Go for a walk on the pier overlooking the port.

 

# 5. Unwind in Hossegor

Hossegor, a beautiful beach resort only 30 km from Biarritz is world-renewed surfing mecca and the towns main attraction for locals and visitors alike is surfing.

Divided into three areas  – La Centrale and the beachfront, Hossegor town and the lake and Soorts-Hossegor and a commercial zone about 4 km inland –  Hossegor can easily become your favourite town. Think – french bakeries with amazing pastries, plenty of surf shops, fantastic bike paths and surf events.

Hossegor’s well earned a reputation among the worlds best surfers brings them together on Quicksilver Pro France where spectators can rub shoulders with the world’s surfing elite.

Top things to in Hossegor:

  • Surf / Hossegor in France isn’t known as a surfing mecca for nothing. Wherever you go on the coast which is known for being the longest uninterrupted stretch of sandy beach in Europe, you’ll find fantastic surf spots suited for beginners and more experienced surfers. For beginners – Les Estagnots and Les Bourdaines offer easy access and plenty of equipment rentals, for advanced – check out La Nord or La Gravière.

  • Shop / Stroll through the town centre along the Avenue Paul Lahary and Avenue du Touring Club, and you’ll find Billabong, Quicksilver and other famous surf brand outlets selling the latest fashion trends and surfboards. Check out Collective Soul, located on 93 Avenue des Tisserands in Soorts-Hossegor for decorations, vintage and upcycling.

  • Bike / For non-surfers biking is a fantastic way to explore the area. In Hossegor, you can rent a Fat Bike or even an electric bike for very fair prices and discover the beauty of the Landes region.

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Ice cream sampling in Tante Jeanne
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Hire a bike and explore rural trials around Hossegor.

 

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Now, over to you!

Have you been to Hossegor or Capbreton? Let us know in the comments!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Hossegor or Capbreton and have travel-related questions!

 

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

38 thoughts on “France travel guide: a week-long road trip along the beautiful Basque Coast

    1. Hi, Juliette. We love the Basque Country too; it pretty much has everything you would need for a fantastic holiday as the ocean, mountains and pretty little villages are within easy reach and not to mention nearby Spain with San Sebastian just an hours drive away. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You guys are the masters of “slow travel.” These places look lovely. France is such a great and diverse country, isn’t it? I don’t blame you for wanting to return. I would spend two weeks in France fully blindfolded as long as I could get their pastries every day! Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to agree with you guys – France really is a great and diverse country to explore and photograph and it pretty much has got it all – Medeterinanan beaches, alpine villages, fantastic castles and lots of lots of chocolate. You could easily spend months exploring it and yet not to see everything it has to offer. Have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. France is a beautiful country, and we are grateful for every opportunity to explore it. We are yet to hike trough its mountain trails so I can easily see us returning one day for more family adventures. Thanks for reading and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. We don’t speak French, yet we make a conscious effort to learn a few basic phrases and a couple of new words every time we travel to France. Getting by with English is also possible, but you’ll find that even if the French do speak English, they might not, either because they are too shy to do it or because they are feeling taciturn. It’s also a good idea, in addition to essential phrases, to learn about their costumes and social behaviour before jumping on the plane too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. A Basque region is a fantastic place to explore, and it’s one of the corners of France we can highly recommend to fellow travellers. Years ago, we made the worst mistake by going to Paris, and only Paris and thus couldn’t really grasp the uniqueness of France as a country. That changed once we left the bright lights of the city behind and immersed ourselves in exploring quiet villages and coastal towns. Thanks for reading and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Mark! I actually had to bribe Ericeira with more ice cream just to get her to sit still for a photo! Exploring the Basque country is always so exciting, and by revisiting France numerous times we learned that we don’t have to travel far to travel, we learned that travelling is all about experiencing new things and creating lasting memories. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Same here, Christie, same here. Sunsets are one of the reasons why we always go on family adventures near coastal villages and towns, not knowing what the setting sun has in store is so exciting. Have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in France for four years, and I’ve never been to the Basque Coast (only on the Spanish side). Biarritz looks fantastic and calm, probably less so than the over-crowded beaches in the Côte d’Azur! Beautiful photos, and I look forward to more adventures from you soon.

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    1. Thanks so much, Rebecca, Biarritz can get very busy during the summer month and can become quite hectic too, but there are plenty of little nooks and crannies where you can escape to for some peace and quiet. We are looking to explore more of the Spanish Basque Coast now, we’ve heard it is an equally fantastic place to explore. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback! We wanted to create a space to share everything about the good things in life and to be a wonderful source for cool ideas and advice if you’re planning a trip. Thanks for stopping by and safe travels. Aiva

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  3. Outstanding! Beautiful photographs! You are certainly an amazing photographer! It must be quite a lovely place that I must visit. I am of Basque heritage so the Basque country is very important to me, in Spain and in France. Thank you for such a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Francisco and thanks so much for your lovely words, you must be very proud to have genes from one of the oldest ethnic groups in Europe in your DNA! Biarritz is one of our happy places in Europe, and I find it challenging to keep the excitement to a bare minimum when writing blog posts about it, but anyone that visits this part of France is bound to see its beauty and charm! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi and thanks for visiting! The Basque country is one of those places we can go back to again and again and always find something new and exciting to do. We are yet to travel around the Spanish side, so I guess another trip is on the cards soon. Have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was struck by your opening about crazy fun adventures versus fulfilling, planned trips. I have felt the same way about our last couple of trips to France and Germany. You sure have captured a beautiful region. Thanks for all the details; I’m sure I’ll be referring back. While in Normandy, a fellow cyclist mentioned that this part of France and down into Spain makes a great cycling route.

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    1. Thanks so much, Biarritz and surrounding towns make for a perfect gateway! One of the reasons why we love returning to France is its diversity and travelling with a three-year-old in tow we eventually have to be more prepared, although we do manage once in a while to squeeze in spontaneous adventures. Would love to read all about your cycling adventures in Normany – that sounds like a memorable trip! Have a good day and safe travels. Aiva

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    1. Travelling through France in the 80s must have been a trip to remember. I’m glad our family started travelling before the smartphone and satnav area and hade a chance to find our way with the help of locals pointing us in the right direction! We had a wonderful trip exploring quieter and not so famous corners of France and would love to go back one day for more. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you very much! Although we encountered a fair share of bad weather and heavy rainstorms, we still managed to enjoy all the natures wonders while on a road trip through the Basque Country. Thanks for stopping by and safe travels. Aiva

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    1. Hi, Indi and you re welcome. We were delighted to explore nearby villages and towns while on holiday in Biarritz – the Basque Coast is unlike any other place we have visited so far, and it’s one of those charming corners of the world we can highly recommend to fellow travellers. Have a good day and thanks for stopping by. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

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