An Insider Guide To Cap Ferret
Not to be confused with Cap Ferrat… Travel Editor Kate Lough sings the praises of Cap Ferret, a low-key chic beach town on the west coast and France’s best-kept secret.
‘I was introduced to Cap Ferret about 10 years ago by my best friend’s family who have a house there. It was love at first sight and I’ve gone back almost every year since, intoxicated by this relatively unknown French fishing village. It’s low-key but incredibly stylish, has brilliant food and wine and gorgeous sandy beaches.
It sits on a long lick of sand to the west of Bordeaux, hugging the Bassin d'Arcachon on one side and jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean on the other. The former is gentle and calm and where you’ll find all the oyster farms and shacks that supply most of France, the latter more rough but marvellous and invigorating. It reminds me all at once of Cornwall’s rugged Camel Estuary and Cape Cod.
Here are just a few of my favourite spots around the Cap.’
Where to stay
‘I stay at my best friend’s family home and it’s one of my favourite spots on earth — especially the garden gate which leads right onto the beach and looks across to the Dune du Pilat. Cap Ferret is actually light on hotels — which is all part of its charm — but the place to stay if you need one has to be La Maison du Bassin. A little back from the beach but in the heart of the village, it’s set in an old forest house and is rustic and charming. Even if you’re not staying there, it’s a lovely place to go for cocktails or a romantic dinner.’
Where to eat
‘My days in Cap Ferret revolve largely around eating and drinking. We’ll start with breakfast at the house, buying the most delicious almond croissants and pain au raisins from the P’tite Boulangerie du Ferret just down the road.
Come lunchtime, we might cycle (everyone cycles in Cap Ferret) to one of the many oyster cabanes that line the Cap. Each one has a little garden or decking overlooking the water and serves the same thing: platters of huîtres, crevettes and pate as well as white or rose wine. My favourites are Chez Boulan and La Cabane d’Hortense.
In the evening, the most coveted tables in Cap Ferret are at Chez Hortense, run by the formidable Bernadette. Eating dinner with a big group of friends here, under the vines on a balmy evening, is always a highlight of my trip. Must-orders are the moules a la maison, turbot and chocolate mousse.
If we’re feeling more adventurous, we might bike through the forest to L’Herbe, the neighbouring oyster village, which takes about half an hour. It’s incredibly pretty with very old school fishermen's houses right on the water. We’ll either pop to one of its oyster shacks or settle in for a proper lunch at L’Hotel de la Plage — it’s a great thing to do if the weather isn’t so good.
For a real treat or special occasion, take a water taxi across the bassin to Philippe Starck’s La Co(o)rniche hotel in Arcachon. The views from the terrace are spectacular.’
Where to drink
‘Cap Ferret is really not about partying, but there are some fun, kitsch places to go for a nightcap and even a dance if you’re in the mood. After dinner at Chez Hortense, Le 44 is a bar with decent cocktails and a dance floor which, although I’ll feel my age, is a fun option if you’re with a group.
Or we’ll book a late dinner at Sailfish, where the tables get pushed aside for drinking and dancing.’
What to do
‘There’s plenty to do in Cap Ferret, whether the sun decides to shine or not. If the weather is good, rent a boat for the day and whizz around the Bassin, heading over to the islands which are submerged at high tide — we’ll take a picnic and volleyball net and set up camp for the afternoon. Or I love hanging out at the Atlantic Beach on the other side of the Cap. It’s a beautiful — although it can sometimes be rough — place to swim or surf. It’s also a lovely place to take sundowners to pre-dinner.
If the weather is a little overcast, taking a boat over to climb the Dune du Pilat is very worth it. It’s the highest sand dune in Europe and it’s pretty special once you reach the top.
Shopping for provisions is also one of the best things to do in Cap Ferret. The market is on daily and outside you can pick up beautiful and inexpensive linen shirts and bedding among other things. Inside is a truly wonderful food market where we stock up on amazing cheeses such as St Felicien, cured meats and wines from the Bordeaux area and usually we’ll stop in at the tapas bar on the corner for a quick glass and a snack.
There’s also a great natural wine-come-delicatessen next to the P’tite Boulangerie where we pick up more funky sparkling wines.’
Kate Lough is a Travel Writer and Editor based in London. Follow her on Instagram @kateloughtravel
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