Our Mini-Tour Of “Les Landes”, SW France -> Route, Costs, Stops & More
When we first decided to explore the little SW corner of France known as “Les Landes”, we didn’t really know much about the place other than it was a large green triangle on Google Maps with miles of beach along the Atlantic ocean.
It looked intriguing, even a bit wild perhaps, with remote little beach towns scattered along the coast, several large interior lakes, and the lure of a high-class wine region (Bordeaux) just steps away. Plus it was only a few hours from our home-base, an added bonus now that we’re traveling with older, CKD cats.
We chose September as our month to visit, hoping for lower crowds and good weather, and our goal was simply to take our time and meander along the ocean, hitting as many off-the-beaten-track places as we could, with a few lighthouses thrown in to fill our geeky lighthouse souls. We set off with few expectations, but I have to admit we totally fell in love along the way.
We found beaches with no-one for miles, wild waves coveted by surfers, super cute towns and deep forest stillness the likes of which we haven’t experienced since the PNW Coast of the USA. We saw the tallest sand dune in Western Europe and we got to visit not just one lighthouse, but three, including the oldest in France (Cordouan Lighthouse), perhaps the most incredible and unique lady we have ever seen. Plus we finished our tour in style, with a unique camp inside a 17th century Citadel and a drive through incredible Bordeaux wine country.
All in all we came back with more memories than we could ever have imagined, and a strong urge to visit this region again.
So, what was the nitty gritty of this mini-tour? How much did we drive, and how much did it cost? Well, that’s what I’m covering today.
Km Traveled: ~1,114 km (~692 miles)
Days Traveled: 20
|AV. COST PER DAY
|€15 (19 nights)
We Explored At A Leisurely Pace
In the end we spent 20 days (19 nights) in “Les Landes”. Our tour was done at a leisurely pace, exactly the style we prefer.
We covered a mere ~1,114 km (~692 km) over 20 days of travel and stopped at 11 different spots. Our drives averaged ~60 km (just around 1.5 hours) each, although we did do a few longer drives on the Autoroute getting to/from “Les Landes” and few really, really short drives (our shortest was only 15 km!!) within the area. It was the perfect, easy-going pace.
Our Average Fuel Price Was €1.53 Per Liter
We filled up three times this tour, loading ~153 liters for a total of €235, which means we paid an average fuel price of ~€1.53/liter (that translates to ~$6.4/gallon for my US friends, if you’re curious). Compared to our last two tours into Spain, this was the highest price we’ve paid for fuel for our motorhome travels in Europe so far.
Of course we expected this.
France is more expensive than Spain for diesel, running anywhere from €0.2-€0.4 per liter more on average, depending on where (and when) you buy. Plus we did make a rather obvious mistake this trip, if you will. We did two of our fills in gas stops along the main Autoroute on the way to/from “Les Landes” simply because it was convenient, but that’s always more expensive than filling up in the smaller towns.
In France, Autoroute fuel prices always run ~€0.1-0.2/liter higher than the local (off-highway) gas stations. I have no idea why, but put that tip in you back-pocket for your own trip over here!
We Spent Only €15/night On Camping
Compared to our fuel prices however, this trip was the lowest average we’ve spent on camping so far.
We spent a total of €293 on camping over 19 nights, which averages out to a very reasonable €15/night in camping fees. That covered 11 different camps, 5 of which were regular campgrounds (all but one of which took the ASCI discount card), 4 of which were Aires de Camping and two stops that were free.
Again, as is our style we didn’t particularly look to save on camping costs. Our goals with motorhome travel is always to stay in places we truly enjoy, and that includes the comfort of our campground. We like space, and green and the ability to relax “at home” with the pets. So we will always prioritize a great pitch over a cheap one. That said we did make more use of Aires de Camping this trip, which helped to bring down the costs.
Our most expensive stay was at the municipal campground in Camp de L’Homy where we paid €25/night, but it was also the campground we stayed at the longest and enjoyed the most. Absolutely worth the splurge!!
Our most enjoyable free camp was our last night at the fabulous Chateau Haut-Pradot winery just east of Bordeaux, although we did make up for it by buying a significant quantity of wine (so, perhaps not really free after all?).
Out of all the Aires we stayed at, our favorite was absolutely the dispersed forest camp at Biscarosse. Such a unique place in such a great location.
We Paid Only €43 in Road Tolls (But Also ~$32 In Ferry Fees)
One of the nice things about traveling this part of France is that there really aren’t many toll roads, and they are easy to avoid if you so desire. We only paid €43 in road tolls, most of which was on the Autoroutes getting to/from “Les Landes” from home. Within the region itself we didn’t pay anything at all.
However we did fork out €32 in ferry fees as we exited the region, which almost doubled our route costs.
There are two sets of ferry crossing in “Les Landes”, one at the northern tip of the peninsula (the crossing from Verdon to Royan), and one on the north-eastern side (the crossing Lamarque to Blaye) and neither are cheap. You can easily avoid them if you’re willing to drive back down and around Bordeaux, but they do save a ton of time and miles (and they’re admittedly, a very pleasant way to travel).
It Was A Smidgen Hotter & Busier Than We Expected
Weather-wise September turned out to be great. The heat and crazy busy of summer was gone, the beginnings of fall were in the air, and it was sunny and dry throughout most of the trip.
That said, it was hotter than we imagined, a trend that we’ve seen progress over our past many years of travel. Say what you will about global warming, but Sept is warmer than it used to be and that is true here in France too.
We had many fabulous days during our mini-tour, but also quite a few days where temps reached 30°C (86°F), waaay higher than they should be in early fall. The temps didn’t truly drop until late into our tour, as we were edging towards October.
Plus it was a smidgen busier than we initially had imagined, especially early on.
It turns out September is “retiree travel month” in France, a little well-known fact that we didn’t know at all, so both campgrounds and Aires were much fuller than we expected.
That said, the trip went fine. We had a rocky start in St Jean de Luz where we arrived unexpectedly to a full campground with zero open spots, but then the rest of our travels went smoothly. We managed to explore all of “Les Landes” without any reservations at all, snagging good sites everywhere we went. And as the month edged on, sites got even easier to find. All in all, not much to complain about, but just something to know if you decide to travel here in Sept yourselves.
The Entire Landes Was Wonderfully Dog-Friendly
One thing we absolutely loved about this coastline was how dog friendly it was.
The general rule in “Les Landes” is that dogs are NOT allowed on beaches where lifeguards are on duty (called “plages surveillées” in French -> see a full map HERE). These are the monitored swim beaches, and they tend to be smaller areas of sand close to town. Outside of these areas however, dogs are free to roam on the beach. Plus they are generally allowed on the swim beaches too, just as long as you go outside of lifeguard duty hours.
Given there are over 100km of beach in “Les Landes”, this means you’ll have PLENTY of spots to enjoy with your dog!!
We had zero issues finding places to enjoy the sand with Polly, even close to towns (often we just had to walk 500m down the shoreline to find a dog-friendly access spot). Plus almost all the restaurants and cafes were open to us, as long as we sat outside. Within camp, we had lots of space to hang, and walk the cats. They all enjoyed it.
Our furry family gave “Les Landes” a solid 12 paws up.
We’ll Definitely Be Back, And We’ll Chose the Off-Season Again
We absolutely loved our mini-trip to “Les Landes”, especially during the time of year that we chose to visit.
We looooove the slower pace of the off-season, and would rather have the experience of sunset on an empty beach, than be crowded with a bunch of others during the height of tourist season.
There’s no doubt we’ll be back and we’ll stick to the shoulder seasons, perhaps coming in Spring (April/May) or even going a little later in fall (October?). Campgrounds and shops are very seasonal here, opening April/May and closing down in September, so if we come back outside those months we’ll have to rely more heavily on Aires, but I think that’s totally worth it for the peace and solitude we’ll find in return.
Either way, this region has definitely captured our hearts and the next time we need a beach (or wine) fix, we know exactly where to come.
Want To See The Maps? And Read The Posts?
For those of you that are map geeks like me, I have the entire route on our updated 2019 travel map (see the PURPLE route). It includes all our routes & stays as well as links back to the blog posts associated with each of those stops.
And of course for those who just like to read here’s all the blog posts I made, in travel order:
- Back To An “Old” Favorite -> St Jean De Luz, France
- Serious Surfer Vibes – Capbreton & Hossegor, France
- Just What Our Souls Were Craving – Cap De L’Homy, France
- A Laid-Back Beach Town – Mimizan Plage, France
- Aire Love & Bike-Riding – Biscarosse Plage, France
- Hit Or Miss, Or A Bit Of Both? Dune Du Pilat, France
- The Most Beautiful Lady In France – Cordouan Lighthouse
- A Historic Camp – Citadel De Blaye, France
- Wine, With Old Friends And New – Bordeaux, France
That’s it for our last mini-tour of 2019! As we edge into December we’ve got Christmas on the mind, and of course taking care of our aging cats. I’ve got all those updates coming next. In the meantime, here’s hoping you get to “Les Landes” one day yourselves. You’ll most certainly fall in love, just as we did.