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Take the Family › Top 10 Active Family Holidays in France

Top 10 Active Family Holidays in France

France is great for family cycling.France is great for family cycling.

The summer family holidays are a great time to try out new sports, have adventures abroad and spend quality time together as a family while learning about other countries. France is a perfect holiday destination for get-up- and-go families; we’ve showcased 10 exciting family breaks in France featuring biking, kayaking, boating, swimming, climbing and/other horse-riding, among other activities.

The most convenient way to travel as a family to northern France or to get to France as a whole is via the cross-channel ferry. For easy access to Brittany, sail into the Brittany Ferries ports of Roscoff or St Malo.

1. Sail away in Brittany

Sailing is the best way to appreciate the rugged Breton coastline, especially on a sailing trip in the Gulf of Morbihan. A tour on a wooden sailboat will steer you around the unspoilt coastline, with kids acting as deckhands for the day, helping hoist sails and aiding navigation as you drift around the islands. On one of these trips you can visit Hoëdic, one of the tiny islands off the south coast of Brittany, with two Neolithic sites.

Alternatively, almost every seaside town in the region has its own sailing school, while the Finistère area – the most westerly part of France – offers good surfing conditions at La Torche, La Guidel and Spot de La Palue (surf lessons are available). Or opt for the sheltered coves on the Quiberon Peninsula, perfect for paddling.

2. Cycle through history in Normandy

A great way to appreciate Normandy’s scenery and history is by bike, on around 500km of cycle paths for all levels of ability. For smaller children, there are old railway tracks and car-free greenways to travel down at a gentle pace, or you can even ride down the old railway line on specially adapted railway carts ideal for families.

Normandy is rich in history. See the Bayeux Tapestry, which shows the story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and learn about the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944 by visiting the D-Day landing beaches (Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah), battlefields, cemeteries and memorials.

3. Explore an island in Vendée

Cast aside 21 st -century life by crossing the cobbled causeway (Le Gois) from mainland France to the delightful Ile de Noirmoutier. This 19km island off the Atlantic coast is a deservedly popular spot among French tourists. The best way to travel around is on Dutch-style bikes along the flat cycle routes, exploring the salt marshes and beaches where children fish for clams, mussels and cockles.

You can also learn about Vendée’s turbulent history and its part in the French Revolution at the medieval Château de Noirmoutier. Other attractions include a waterpark and sailing. A great day-trip is a visit to the spectacular historical themepark Puy du Fou, just over 100km away, for history-themed shows.

Many of the Ile de Noirmoutier’s campsites are within walking distance of the beach and have swimming pools and children’s activities. Hôtel Saint Paul and L’Île Ô Château are other well-situated options.

4. Canoeing, castles and caves in the Dordogne

It’s pretty hard to beat the Dordogne’s fairytale landscape, with its turreted chateaux perched on hilltops, plus vineyards, forests, rivers and the prehistoric sites along the Vézère valley down below. One of the best ways to see it all is from a canoe: drift serenely down the Dordogne River past the picturesque fortified villages of Beynac and La Roque-Gageac. Canoeing along the Dordogne is safe for children, lifejackets are provided and hire prices are reasonable.

The Dordogne’s prehistoric sites will capture your children’s imagination. The cliff-side Les Eyzies has an entertaining museum, featuring recreated cavepeople and mammoths. The Grotte du Grand Roc, a vast cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and Lascaux, with its multimedia special effects and interactive iPad guides, are also great days out.

5. Pony-trekking in Aquitaine

Trot across golden sands or through pine forests on organised rides. Book a ride on a pony from the Centre Équestre Marina for trails in the Landes Forest and along beaches. There are Anglo-Arab steeds for adults, too.

Freshwater from the River Leyre merges with seawater from the Arcachon basin in the Landes de Gascogne Natural Regional Park to produce a unique marshland populated by eels, otters and terrapins – another splendid place to ride.

6. Easy cycling in the Loire

Enjoy leisurely bike rides along the flat terrain of the Loire Valley, using the Loire à Vélo trail from the outskirts of Nevers to the Atlantic Coast. You don’t have to worry about traffic – these are car-free paths along France's longest, loveliest river that pass heritage sites and other attractions. The trail passes through the Loire-Anjou- Touraine Regional Nature Park, vineyards and past countless châteaux. Look out for the Château de Cheverny (the model for Captain Haddock’s ancestral home in Tintin) and the walled garden at Château de Bourdaisière.

7. Saddle up in Provence

Away from the crowds and beaches of the Côte d'Azur, explore authentic Provence by riding through the blue and violet lavender fields on horseback. There are guided tours around the Camargue National Reserve – where you can see flamingos – or the Alpilles Natural Park. The Parc Naturel Régional des Baronnies Provençales also offers horseback or donkey-riding.

If you’re a more adventurous family, head for the medieval village of Orpierre and go climbing. There is something for all levels of ability: the testing cliff faces of Quiquillon, Belleric and Adrech, and for beginners the Quatre Heures cliff and the inflatable climbing tower and walls at Camping des Princes d’Orange.

8. Climb a volcano in the Auvergne

The Auvergne region, in the centre of France, is home to around 80 volcanic peaks and you can climb the highest, Puy de Dôme, or catch a train up. The 1,464m extinct volcano has a restaurant, a museum and spectacular views from its summit.

Themepark Vulcania in Auvergne makes volcanoes fun through its interactive exhibits and rollercoasters. Don’t miss the 28m-high cone covered in lava stone on the outside.

9. Wild swimming in the Côte d'Azur

Swim the Loup river and see some of the Côte d'Azur’s most captivating hilltop villages. Adrenaline junkies can try rafting and canyoning – run by local operators – along the gorge. Flowing from its source in the mountains at Andon, the Loup winds its way for 49km to the Mediterranean at Villeneuve-Loubet. Or the Clue d'Aiglun is a series of gorges north of Cannes that has rock passages in white limestone and stunning natural pools.

10. Get on your board in Bordeaux

The new five-star campsite Club Mayotte, south of Bordeaux, offers a range of watersports. Nestled amidst pine trees on the shores of Lake Biscarrosse, which leads to the Bay of Biscay, it’s a place where you’ll never get bored, with activities including paddle-boarding, water-skiing, wake-boarding, kite-surfing, dinghy and catamaran sailing. Hire of equipment is included.

The surrounding area is also great for mountain-biking and kayaking, while nearby is Europe's tallest sand dune, the Dune of Pilat, in La Teste-de- Buch in the Arcachon Bay area 60km from Bordeaux. Travelling by ferry allows you to bring your family car packed with everything you need, including the family bikes, so not only do you avoid lengthy airport queues and excess baggage charges, you also save money by not needing to need to hire a car or hire bikes for the family.

Brittany Ferries offer the widest choice of ferry crossings from the UK to France along with excellent holiday deals that include ferry travel and family accommodation.

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