Holidays in France will never go out of fashion and the rich variety of the southwest is sure to tick your box whatever kind of traveller you are. Get ready for a Bordeaux road trip!
Historic and elegant Bordeaux parades its centuries-old architecture and laid-back chic, its glitz and boho glamour. Next, the surf capital Biarritz, with waves, silky sands and the oyster beds of the Bassin d'Arcachon. Finally, drive through lush green vineyards and visit epic chateaux in Médoc.
Taking in cities, sand, windswept cliff-tops, wine, and fine dining, this campervan road trip itinerary across France’s southwest is a sure-fire winner
Bordeaux, France’s sixth largest city, is best known for its wine. Surrounded by vibrant green vineyards, Bordeaux and its residents enjoy the good life — by which we mean, yes, lots of wine.
But the city’s heady allure also owes to its architecture. Half the city is UNESCO listed, making it the world’s largest urban World Heritage Site. But alongside history is a progressive and youthful vibe, thanks in part to its 87,000-strong student population.
The first stop on the way from Bordeaux to Biarritz, begins at the Place de la Bourse. This Neoclassical masterpiece overlooks the Miroir d’Eau, a shallow fountain reflecting the world above in mesmerising clarity, and the perfect place to cool off. Continue along the river promenade, where you’ll find ample art museums and galleries.
After indulging in art, go for a river cruise or simply stroll around the shabby but charming Chartrons neighbourhood. As for dinner, pick between upscale restaurants, boutique eateries, and even food trucks — just make sure to pair your dish with a generous glass of Bordeaux.
Ecole du Vin
Learn the dacts behind drinking at wine school
Pont de Pierre
Head here at dusk for spectacular views
Chandeliers, music, ballet and opera
Seasonal and local produce
Modern bistro in centre
Seasonal and local produce
Le Bouchon Bordelais
Affordable dining in heart of city
SGGPB (Parc des Allées de Chartres)
Open from 8am - 8pm
Le Village du Lac, Bordeaux
Access to city centre by bus or bike
Come summer, many of Bordeaux’s residents pack up their cars and flock to the golden sands of the seaside paradise that is the Bassin d’Arcachon. Follow in their suit and head on to the next stop on from Bordeaux to Biarritz.
From delightful Arcachon itself, with its whimsical villas and gardens, to the chic and sophisticated Cap Ferret, there is plenty here for a memorable stop on your French adventure.
First up: oysters. Oyster beds stretch all along the shoreline here, as do waterfront restaurants serving nothing but wine and nature’s aphrodisiac. Stroll the streets of Arcachon, with its hotchpotch of architectural styles.
Take a pinasse — a traditional long wooden boat — over to Cap Ferret. Or there’s the pyramid-shaped Dune du Pilat, Europe's highest sand dune — climb to the top for mind-blowing views.
Cycle to the picturesque villages of L'Herbe or Le Canon. Or hire a canoe to explore the region’s water-dwelling flora and fauna.
Floral wonderland and natural oasis
Dune du Pilat
Enormous sand dune perfect for paragliding
Bird reserve and nature park
The Skiff Club at Hotel Haitza
Unpretentious but delicious dishes
Hotel de la Plage, L'herbe
Classic French restaurant, ideal for oysters
Sail Fish Café, Cap Ferret
All-day café-bar, perfect for people watching
Campsite Fontaine Vieille
Located in Andernos-les-Bains, close to beach
Once the glitzy haunt of European royalty, today Biarritz still entertains a fair number of celebs, but the vibe is less aristocratic glamour and more beach-bum chillout. People have flocked to Biarritz for holidays for centuries, and this west coast surf destination continues to tempt many to its six breathtaking beaches.
And it’s not just sand and surf. You also have Belle Époque relics, art deco villas, and even a 1930s casino.
When you arrive at the next destination on this road trip, walk in the footsteps of Empress Eugénie and Napoléon III — who started high society’s obsession with the city — with a visit to Eugénie's extravagant villa, now the Hôtel du Palais. Then perhaps a digestif on the terrace of the Casino Municipale, although you’ll need a gown or tux to go inside.
As for beaches, there’s the sandy expanses of La Grande Plage, or the rugged La Côte des Basques. And for breathtaking views, head to the Rocher de la Vierge.
Port de Pêcheurs
Rustic harbour for seafood and sunsets
Musée de la Mer
Art deco aquarium featuring a shark cave
Les Halles de Biarritz
Food market ideal for picnic supplies
Le Clos Basque
Michelin-starred Basque dining
La Tantina de Burgos
Traditional Basque dishes in rustic setting
Music and private beach
Avenue Notre Dame
Free parking overlooking Côte des Basques
15-min drive south of Biarritz in quaint village
Northwest of Bordeaux you’ll find the megastars of the French wine world. Along the Gironde Estuary are some of the region’s most acclaimed vineyards, including Haut-Médoc, Margaux, and St-Julien, familiar to anyone who knows their grape.
But even if you don’t, this is the perfect final stop before you return from your Bordeaux road trip. Unspoiled beaches and seaside towns. Horse riding and mushroom picking through lush forests. And those crumbling old villages that lend this corner of France its unique charm.
Choose which of the region’s extraordinary châteaux you fancy and call ahead to schedule a visit. Château Ducru-Beaucaillou or Château Margaux are good options.
Time it right and you might catch part of the Marathon du Médoc, a race that offers cheese, oysters, foie gras, and — yes, you’ve guessed it — wine, at the stations along the way. And, of course, you’ll need some dining to go with all that wine-ing, so be sure to try the Pauillac lamb at some point — it’s delicious.
One of the best-known Médoc wineries
Neaoclassical château with English-style gardens
Centre Equestre Petits Chevaux
Horse-riding for kids
Sophisticated but not fussy
Michelin-starred in château setting
Le Saint Julien, Saint Julien
Fresh, grilled dishes and patio
Camping Municipal Gabarreys
Peaceful campsite with views of the river
from the Médoc