By Catherine Cooper
With memories of childhood camping holidays complete with dodgy shower blocks, midnight treks to the loo, boiling hot tents and nowhere to put anything away, I’m not a natural camper. But the facilities at the five-star campsite La Rive in a forest near Biscarrosse on the southern French Atlantic coast, and its proximity to some fabulous beaches, persuaded me to give it another try.
'The site has its own lake beach – ideal for younger children but also for those who like it active, with paddle-boards, kayaks, canoes, windsurfers and even flyboards.'
As a family, we love this coast for the waves, the usually cooler climate than the Mediterranean coast, and the space on those stunning beaches. Plage de Vivier was a particular favourite. A little quieter than the main Biscarrosse Plage, it has easy, shaded parking – though it's a slightly longer walk from the sands, which might be trickier with very small children.
Most of the beaches have lifeguards and designated swimming/surfing areas, and many have shallow lagoons at low tide – ideal with younger children. Lake Biscarrosse is also enormous, with plenty of beaches around its edges that work particularly well for children who don’t enjoy waves.
Away from the beaches, attractions include mini-golf, a large water-park and a high-ropes course. We also scrambled up Dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe, to enjoy the incredible views.
The site has its own lake beach, which is also ideal for younger children as the water is warm, there are no waves and it’s incredibly shallow. This pretty beach also has a walkway almost to the water, which makes it easy to navigate for those with buggies, and the trees around the edge offer shady areas. But those who feel like being a little more active can rent paddleboards, kayaks, canoes or windsurfers or even have a go at hovering above the water on a flyboard.
There’s also an impressive water park with slides and play areas suitable for all ages, a fun giant bucket suspended up high that tips over around every 10 minutes, delighting the squealing children below, an adults-only pool suitable for swimming lengths, and plenty of loungers.
Our two-bedroom Rossini Riviera Lounge mobile home was surprisingly spacious and well thought out, with plenty of storage space, a decent bathroom with properly sized shower and, most excitingly of all, efficient air-conditioning. We loved the large terrace with its proper canopy (so no fighting over the shady spot) and wicker furniture. And while the indoor kitchen was largely well equipped, with a full-sized fridge-freezer, the gas BBQ was a very welcome addition.
The wood-clad cabins are fairly close together but largely positioned for maximum privacy while you're outside. The Al Fresco section of the site is at the far end, away from the entertainment area. which makes it nice and quiet. The huge trees of the forest offer shade and also help break up the rows of cabins.
You definitely need a car here. The peaceful location means no noise from nearby nightclubs or bars but the nearest sea beaches, at Biscarrosse, are around 20 minutes’ drive away. There's a small supermarket on site, however, as well as a bar, a restaurant, a couple of takeaways and a general shop selling souvenirs, beach gear and the like.
While large, the site is very contained and feels safe – the few cars going to and from their cabins drive very slowly, and it’s the kind of place where many parents might feel happy letting their children having a little bit of freedom to wander, although bit more signage might be useful in helping them find their way back.
A two-bedroom Rossini Riviera Lounge + AC sleeping up to 6 (but more comfortable for 4) at La Rive, Biscarrosse, Aquitaine costs from £180/wk in low season and from £1,390 in high season. Find out more about Al Fresco Holidays and book now.