Taking in a huge swathe of the Atlantic coast, the green and verdant Dordogne and the vineyards around Bordeaux, Aquitaine offers huge variety and some of the best camping in France.
As if that wasn’t enough natural beauty, the region touches two mountain ranges: sweeping south west from the Massif Central to the border with Spain on the Pyrénées. Whether you want family camping by the beach, an active holiday in the mountains, a relaxing holiday in the countryside or a combination of all three, pitching up in Aquitaine won’t disappoint.
Between the mountains of France’s Massif Central and the dune-backed beaches of the Atlantic coast lies the historic Aquitaine region. It’s near-perfect camping country, no matter what view you fancy unzipping the tent to. Meandering rivers in rolling countryside, charming towns and villages, expansive vineyards, verdant forests, high peaks and those stunning west-coast beaches... this region provides pretty much any landscape you could hope for. The only thing it’s lacking is a desert and as it’s home to Europe’s largest sand dune at Pilat, it’s not too far off that either! Understandably, this region of south-west France has been attracting campers for decades and it has the camping and glamping sites to prove it. We’ve toured countryside and coast to find the very best in Aquitaine camping including everything from quiet tents-only campsites to luxurious glamping sites where only the best will do.
With romantic châteaux, cobbled medieval streets and rustic countryside scenes, the French region of Aquitaine can seem like a fantasy land dreamed up by Disney. And, in fact, the region is a bit of a myth as it’s now been consigned to history by French bureaucrats. In 2016, historic Aquitaine was married in a three-way union to its inland neighbour Limousin, and its coastal one, Poitou-Charente, to become Nouvelle Aquitaine. This Hipcamp selection of Aquitaine campsites concentrates on those places that fall in to the historic Aquitaine region incorporating five departments (just like English counties): Dordogne, Gironde, Lot et Garonne, Landes and Pyrenees Atlantique. Check out our guide to camping in France for a wider look at what’s available if you’d like to camp further afield. Each of the departments in the historic province of Aquitaine has a charm of its own and the type of camping you are looking for might help you decide which area to visit.
The Dordogne is famously named after the major river that flows through it but, in fact, is home to seven. It’s well-watered soils mean it’s a green and verdant area known for great produce and regional specialities including truffles, walnuts, goats’ cheese and fois gras. It’s also home to medieval villages, châteaux and the world-famous caves at Lascaux with their pre-historic cave paintings. Lot et Garonne shares much with neighbouring, Dordogne. It’s a place of rural beauty also named after the rivers which have shaped it and a great place for walking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking. These are the places to look for classic camping or glamping in rural and rustic French countryside, for riverside campsites and to be within reach of Aquitaine’s most historic sites. Camping in Bordeaux offers more rural scenery of a different kind. The Dordogne and Garonne rivers confluence near Bordeaux to find the sea via the Gironde Estuary. It’s on the banks of the Gironde that the Bordeaux wine region’s vineyards flourish to make this one of France’s best-known wine regions.
South of the Gironde Esturary is Arcachon, a seaside resort which is well-known for oysters and a gateway to Dune du Pilat, Europe’s largest sand dune. It’s a popular area for paragliding, wildlife and, of course, camping. The Parc Naturel Regional des Landes de Gascogne, is a protected area which stretches south, with Gironde blending seamlessly in to Landes where vines are replaced by pines and cork oaks and the sand continues. Les Landes is the largest maritime pine forest in Europe and its trees provide dappled light for the campsites between long sandy beaches of this coastline and inland lagoons that run parallel to the coast. Like the short stretch of coast on the beach in Pyrénées-Atlantique, many of its wind-swept Atlantic-facing beaches are known for the quality of the surf and watersports. Bustling Biarritz, just 35km north of the Spanish border is the main resort on this stretch of the west coast. Inland, it’s the Pyrénées that dominate France’s most south-westerly department, along the border with Spain – a great place to camp for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. For more camping in this mountain range check out our hand-picked selection of campsites in the Midi-Pyrénées.
With reliably warm weather in the summer months, Aquitaine is a great destination for classic tent camping. Packing up all your camping gear, taking your own car across the Channel and hitting the road with the family is a great-value way to holiday in the sun and it’s a memorable one too. When you choose camping in Aquitaine for a holiday you’ll have the option of riverside campsites, seaside campsites, woodland campsites and campsites in the mountains. The choice is vast thanks to the incredible variety of landscapes in this south-west region of France – the only difficulty will be choosing which suits you best!
Both coast and country in Aquitaine are blessed with a huge number of campsites as the region has long been popular with people seeking to make the most of the great outdoors. Many of the sites in the most popular places tend towards the titanic with all mod cons and a dazzling array of facilities but we’re a discerning lot at Hipcamp and we don’t necessarily believe the old adage that bigger means better. In fact, we usually prefer the smaller, independent places that offer something a bit different. That’s not to say you won’t find large sites within our curated collection, but that we’ve carefully considered the campsites that do appear to make sure that they are all places with a little je ne sais quoi.
These days there are almost as many glamping sites in Aquitaine as there are back-to-basics tent camping sites. For many people glamping is the perfect compromise between camping and a hotel. You can enjoy the freedom of camping without any of the hassle; and the level of luxury can be dictated by you. You can choose somewhere that provides the basics or somewhere with sumptuous bedding, fluffy towels and hot tubs. Whether you want to stay in a bell tent by the beach, a dome in the Dordogne or a roulotte or gypsy caravan by a riverside, we’re likely to have something to suit you. If you’re camping in the heat of summer, a cool canvas safari tent or other luxury tent is ideal but when it comes to spring, autumn and even winter glamping, a cosy chalet or cabin might have the edge.
There are dedicated glamping sites where you’ll be sharing space with just a few other glampers and bigger sites with a range of accommodation and facilities to match. Although we tend to steer clear of the big-name camping brands that dominate the French camping scene, we make an exception if we find places that tick the Hipcamp checklist and Huttopia campsites manage to meet that criteria. They offer a great range of facilities and activities while retaining the ethos of a classic campsite.
Camping and glamping are pretty much the most family-friendly holidays in Aquitaine. Staying in a tent, gypsy caravan or cabin on a campsite can make the simplest things into a big adventure for kids: mealtimes, bedtime and even washing up can be fun in the sociable environment of a campsite. There’s likely to be plenty of opportunity to make new friends and most campsites in France are set up with kids in mind offering facilities and activities ranging from a swimming pool to table tennis and even dedicated kids’ clubs on the larger sites.
Seaside camping and campsites near the beach are almost always a big hit with children as you can spend long days paddling, swimming and building sandcastles. Older children may enjoy trying watersports on the coastal lagoons or surfing or bodyboarding out to sea. Opportunities for kayaking and cycling in the Dordogne, Lot & Garonne will also help entertain active families and visits to caves and châteaux provide great days out for all ages. While wine-tasting and tucking in to the local produce may not be top of your kids’ holiday to-do lists, they may feature on yours and the good news is that children are welcomed to the dinner table in French restaurants as mealtimes are considered very much a family affair.
There’s nothing like a quick dip in the Atlantic sea to cool you down after sunbathing on the golden sands of France’s west coast.
Nothing quite prepares you for the scale of Dune du Pilat; quite simply the largest heap of sand in Europe where everyone is suddenly like a kid in a sand pit!
There’s water, water everywhere in Aquitaine and plenty of kayaks and canoes to help you make the most of it. Experienced kayakers can take to the high seas while the rest of us ply the inland lagoons and tributaries of the Dordogne, Lot and Garonne.
Pre-historic paintings, stalactites, stalagmites and underground river boat rides… there’s a lot going on in the subterranean world of Aquitaine and it’s worth getting your head down for.
Leaving the campsite behind for a day out at a French château can be a bit of a crowd pleaser: it’s an all-weather attraction, usually family friendly but fascinating for all ages and, with all those turrets, photo-friendly too!
Wandering the streets of rural French villages is a pleasant way to while away an hour or two – especially if you time your visit with market day when local producers come to town to share their wares.
Truffles in Périgueux, oysters at Arcachon, walnuts from Sarlat… wherever you are in Aquitaine, you’ll be surrounded by the regional specialities from land and sea. Tuck in – it’d be rude not to!
The banks of the Lot & Garonne, the country lanes of Bordeaux region and the forest paths of Landes… there are plenty of traffic-free routes which are perfect for a family cycle.
Well, croissants anyway. No visit to France would be complete without a daily petit dejeuner of croissants and pain au chocolat. Luckily for us campers, most campsites have a daily bread delivery from the local boulangerie so make sure to put your order in!
You could spend your whole holiday following the wine route through the world-famous Bordeaux region but if that’s a bit too much viticulture for you, at least take a drive through wine country and if you’re a fan, stop off for a tour and tasting.
Don’t miss our curated collection of campsites in Aquitaine. From glamping sites to family-friendly camping spots, pitches where caravans are welcome to dog-friendly campsites, no-one is left out. From seaside camping to woodland sites, there’s a camping landscape to suit you all.