Our pick of a dozen wonderful spots to visit along the Languedoc coast…
Related feature article: Just Say “Oc”: Exploring the Languedoc Coastline
ÉTANG DE SCAMANDRE
The Réserve Régionale du Scamandre occupies 146 hectares on the southwest side of the Étang de Scamandre (the Scamandre Lagoon). Several footpaths and wooden boardwalks allow you to walk around and view all manner of bitterns, buntings, herons, egrets, ibis and marsh harriers in their natural habitat.
Enjoy the seals and sea lions cavorting in the giant sea mammals’ pool; watch the 25 species sharks and rays patrol their 1,000m2 ‘requinarium’, and then marvel at the 2,000-odd species of fish in the remaining aquaria. Seaquarium, in Le Grau-du-Roi, brings the Mediterranean ashore. Website: www.seaquarium.fr
Stroll along the pine-covered peninsula, with vineyards, lagoons and the Mediterranean all around you, until finally you reach Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Maguelone, a fortified building dating to the 11th century. Every June the cathedral stages a festival celebrating music from the medieval period on.
AQUALAND CAP D’AGDE
If you fancy getting wet and wild, Aqualand is the place for it. There are dozens of water slides here, offering ample adrenalin. How much adrenalin? Well, the names suggest what’s in store: Tornado, Niagra, Black Hole, Anaconda… The entry price is €26 for adults, €18.50 for children. Website: www.aqualand.fr/cap-d-agde
A strange thing happens when the algae get active in the saltwater lagoons to the south of Aigues-Mortes: the water turns red. To examine this phenomenon close up you can take a ride in one of the miniature trains that skirt the lagoons. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot flamingos. Website: www.visitesalinsdecamargue.com
PLAGE DE L’ESPIGUETTE
With its protected dunes and nature reserve, this beach (one of the longest in Europe) provides cover for rare birds and naturists. (That’s naturists, not naturalists. The only clothing you’ll see are feathers. The further you go from the car park, the nuder it gets.) Kite-surfers and windsurfers also abound, usually in wetsuits.
Cap d’Agde is home to around a dozen beaches (depending on how you count them), including France’s largest nudist colony. There’s plenty to do too: spas, fitness centres, water sports, tennis, boules, football, bars, restaurants, markets, coastal walks and theme parks are all in good supply. Website: www.en.capdagde.com
La Tamarissière is technically one of the Cap d’Agde beaches but deserves special mention because it’s such a gem of a spot. Located on the right bank of the River Hérault, it offers glorious sandy beaches and pine forests. Lie on the sand and relax as the smell of the sea mixes perfectly with the rich pine aromas.
A lovely village leads down to the huge expanse of beach. Here you can while away a whole day watching the wind-surfers and kite-surfers zipping across the bay. Languedoc is France at its windiest and in late May competitions for both sports are staged here. Website: www.defiwind.org
At Le Grau-du-Roi you’ll find one of Europe’s largest marinas – Port Camargue – with 5,000 moorings available. If watersports are your thing, head here. On offer there is wind-reliant sailing, wind-surfing and kite- surfing, as well as less weather-specific water-skiing, jet-skiing, paddleboarding and scuba diving.
Yes, it is very commercial, but it’s not blighted by the concrete monstrosities you can stumble upon elsewhere along the Languedoc coast. There are well-kept gardens, bars, restaurants, shops, mini-golf and a long boardwalk. If you happen to be arriving by sail boat, you probably already know the place. It can get very yachty here.
RÉSERVE AFRICAINE DE SIGEAN
On the edge of the Étang de Bages, in a nature reserve, this safari park does feel like Africa, especially at the height of the Languedoc summer. Lions, elephants, white rhino, cheetahs, alligators, chimpanzees, zebra and (perennial favourites) meerkats. Website: www.reserveafricainesigean.fr
From France Today magazine