A Mini-Trip Off The Beaten Path – Costa Vasca, Spain
It’s raining tonight. The light pitter patter of rain on the motorhome roof is actually quite soothing and relaxing. Well at least for a day or so. Plus we’re parked in a lovely spot, right smack in the middle of a natural park with a full windshield view of the beach and water.
It’s so utterly quiet here that the rain is literally the only thing we can hear, and the gorgeous view soothes not only our eyes, but our tired voyager souls. What a wonderful place to end the day!
We Drove Through Costa Vasca Today
We drove through Costa Vasca today, which is actually part of the autonomous Spanish Basque Country, motoring around 191 km from our morning stop in St Jean de Luz, France to our final stop near Laredo, Spain.
We stuck to the main toll highway AP-8 most of the way, with just a small side-trip in the middle. It was fairly easy driving and the scenery was nice (lovely rolling green hills up here), but the highway was packed with traffic and massive trucks, plus it’s a smidgen inland so it skips most of the actual coast.
And that is really a shame.
The Northern Coast of Spain borders the Atlantic Ocean and is as wild as the sea here. It’s not nearly as developed as its southern counterpart so there’s lots of natural beauty, but the only way to truly explore it is to get OFF the main freeway onto the little N and B-type roads that squiggle and curve along the coastal cliffs. This is where you see the mountains plunge into ocean, where you discover the cute villages that cling to the sea, where you can gawk at surfers (this is another hugely popular surfing area) and where you can breathe and relax. It’s well worth the effort.
We Decide To By-Pass The Two Biggest Towns
Another major decision we make is to totally skip the most popular (and busiest) stops along this stretch of coastline, specifically San Sebastián and Bilbao.
The is purely a personal preference and not a reflection on the towns themselves. There’s nothing wrong with either of these big cities, in fact quite the opposite.
San Sebastián (population: ~186,665) is a lovely stop and is known for its inventive and delicious Pintxos (the basque word for tapas) while Bilbao (population: ~345,821) is famous the world over for the architectural wonder of the Guggenheim Museum. For big city lovers they are “must sees”. Plus there’s inexpensive motorhome parking areas (Área de servicio y pernocta para autocaravanas) in both spots, so they’re pretty accessible too.
The problem for our little WheelingIt crew is that the parking areas in these towns are quite a ways outside of the center, plus the towns themselves are large and crowded. With Polly getting on in age, and the fact that we don’t like to leave her alone in the rig, they’re not the kind of places we’re really into anymore.
Nope, these days we MUCH prefer smaller towns and off-the-beaten-track spots where we can park the rig right next-door and bring doggie along for a relaxed stroll. We’ve been leaning that way for a while, and with the mini-rig it’s become even more so. Dad is into the smaller places too, so it’s a good fit all around. It’s just the way we ALL prefer to roll.
We Take A Mini-Trip Off The Highway
For our little side-trip we decide to take the N-634 into a slice of a lesser explored area of Costa Vasca.
As soon as we get off the highway it’s like a breath of fresh air. After just a few km drive we’re on a single-lane road curving right by the Cantabrian Sea, the only motorhome in sight. It’s a lovely little drive with panoramic views and gems of villages along the way.
We stop at Getaria, narrowly missing a 1.8m height cutoff road at the entrance to town (phew!) and landing ourselves a lucky parking spot on the back side of town. It’s a lovely little place, a classic fishing village built dramatically on a rock cliff peninsula that juts into the sea. It’s the home-town of Juan Sebastián de Elcano (the first seaman to circumnavigate the earth in 1519) so it’s got some nice history too, plus it’s known for Basque grills (particularly fish, of course) and Txacoli wine.
We walk with Polly around the mostly pedestrian-street town, checking out the little Spanish Church, the beach and the many restaurants perched nicely by the water. It’s a super cute place and we’re sorely tempted to stay longer, but our parking spot is a little suspect so we don’t linger. We have a quick sandwich in the rig and then move on.
The other towns along N-634 are also lovely (tho’ perhaps not quite as scenic) and provide inspiration for future stops along the way. If we weren’t on a schedule, we’d probably stay a little longer in some of these areas. Either way, getting off the highway really made the day.
We End Up Camping In A Natural Park
Once back on AP-8 we motor around the monstrosity of Bilbao (man, that town is huge) and a little ways further into the region of Costa Cantabria and a green spot that I found on Google with a very highly-rated campground (thank you Park4Night, yet again) right smack in the middle.
We land in Park Natural De Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel, a 6,678-hectare nature park near the small town of Laredo, featuring marshes, an estuary of the Asón River & tons of migratory birds. Our stop for the night is Camping Playa Regaton, a lovely, green, and WONDERFULLY quiet campground right next to the water. It’s superbly pretty and everything is dog-friendly so there’s miles of sand & nature to walk doggie off-leash just steps away. Plus we score a perfect site with full water views and electrical hookups, all for only EUR 20/night. What a fabulous spot!!
We park with our front windshield to the water, mix up some gin and tonics, and meet the next-door neighbors. They’re Austrians with a dog who looks almost exactly like Polly, and although they only speak a little English they’re super friendly, so we muddle through with hand signals, bits of German and a few other languages. They’re on a 4-month trip through Europe and absolutely having a blast. We chat a bit about where they’ve been and exchange future travel ideas while Polly spins around and plays with their dog. It’s lovely to make connections like this on the road.
Later that evening dad and I go to the campground restaurant for an easy pizza dinner (with wine, of course) before retiring with the pitter patter of rain to the rig. Everyone is exhausted, full of the impressions from the day. It’s been a long day, but with lots of good stuff. Tomorrow will be a slightly slower day with more little villages to explore. And yeah, we’ll be going off-track again…SPONSORED LINK:
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this blog post may be affiliate links, so, if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission. Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. WheelingIt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.