The good, the bad and the ugly! From butt-naked naturists to bouncy castles, how to find the Langeudoc beach that’s right for you.
Languedoc in the south of France is a popular holiday resort. Sunshine, great food, great wine and some great beaches. But not all beaches are ideal. Designed to help holidaymakers sort the wheat from the chaff, the Languedoc Beach Report tells it like it is. Just because a beach is on the Med doesn’t mean it’s a nice place to spend the day, and the report aims to ensure that no one wastes valuable holiday time hunting for the perfect beach.
Asked for advice on where to go – and what to avoid – the report’s author and Creme de Languedoc co-founder Greg Taylor suggests the following:
Languedoc has some beautiful beaches on offer, but you have to know where to go. Espiguette, for example, is often not marked on maps, yet it is one of the longest beaches in France, stretching from the marina at the Grau du Roi all the way into neighbouring Provence. Completely wild, with a sandy landscape of dunes and cacti bordered by beautiful clear waters, it’s a little difficult to find and the walk from the car park to the beach can be a long one, but its size guarantees everyone their own space, and its remoteness makes for an utterly peaceful, relaxing experience.
Near the city of Narbonne, Leucate Plage is also a great tip. Fir-covered hills rise along this stretch of the coast, dotted with attractive villas. The village has the feel of a Californian beach town, complete with surf shops and good restaurants serving up ultra-fresh seafood. The vibe is relaxed and the beach is enormous, attractive and clean, with fine sand and plenty of toilets and showers. Clamber around the rocks at the beach end and you come to a much narrower area enclosed by steep rocks which offers a more intimate and secluded atmosphere.
Avoid the famous town beaches – those huge stretches of sand only 10-15 minutes drive away from Languedoc’s major coastal cities of Montpellier, Béziers, Narbonne and Perpignan. They are the most obvious beaches to visit, the best publicised and the most popular amongst city-dwellers. But they suffer from over-commercialisation and feature row-upon-row of cheap and nasty concrete holiday homes, tacky postcard shops and ice cream stalls, and tightly-packed crowds of bathers in the summer months.
Argeles Plage is famous – it’s often cited as one of the best beaches in the whole of France – but there’s a catch. Split into two halves, the southern, more commercial end of Argeles is not very nice. Games arcades and garish bouncy castles spoil the atmosphere. Instead, head north up the beach, beyond the hubbub, to the more remote area from where you can enjoy impressive views of the Pyrenees (still snow-capped in May). The beach is huge and deep, with fine sand and dense clumps of pine trees and grass separating the sand from the holiday homes and camp sites behind.
Here is a selection from The Beach Report:
The King of Languedoc’s beaches, Espiguette stretches for kilometre after kilometre of fine sandy dunes. This beach is big enough to find your own space, no matter how many people are there. The walk from the car park can be as long as you want – but the further you go, the more nude and then more gay it becomes. There are no buildings near by, but in summer the odd drinks seller will pass by. Finish your day here with a drink at nearby Aigues Mortes.
Cap d’Agde’s 6 beaches: Good to Excellent
There are six beaches in this area, ranging from small coves (Plage de la Conque and La Plagette) through to long stretches of sand 14 kms (Plage de Richelieu and Plage de Rochelongue). Plage de Roquille is covered with sea shells while Plage du Mole is very safe for small children, having a wide flat area of shallow water. Each of the beaches has a parking area nearby but the beaches are only backed by footpaths, so are not plagued by traffic noise. Unusually for this area, there is a rocky headland with magnificent views to Sete in one direction and the Pyrenees in the other.
Further down the coast and away from the built-up mass beaches of Palavas and Carnon we find Maguelone. The beach is relatively slim but quite long, and is very popular with nude bathers and gay men. It’s quieter than the big Montpellier beaches. Parking is free if you’re prepared to walk – whereas paid parking is quite close to the beach itself. A beach bar/restaurant offers sun loungers and umbrellas for a price.
La Grande Motte: OK
La Grande Motte is a huge and very famous seaside resort that, in summer, is absolutely crammed with hundreds of thousands of eager holiday makers. It’s not a particularly up-market sort of place, with rather ugly concrete high-rise apartment blocks looming wherever you go. The beach here is not very big either, and so gets absolutely packed in summer – but it’s well served with restaurants and amenities and activities for children.
Banyuls is a nice enough place. It’s smaller than Collioure and lacks its cach? – but the various restaurants and bars lining the beach promenade are perfectly pleasant. The beach, like Collioure’s, is small and pebbly, and really not the sort of place you’d want to sunbathe and swim. Far better to drive back up the coast to Racou or Argeles.
There’s just something cheap and nasty about Montpellier’s two big beaches, Carnon and Palavas. Carnon is lined with truly hideous concrete holiday apartments that seem to have lost out in popularity over the years to La Grande Motte. The beach itself is made up of smaller beaches created by large wave barriers. Strangely, there isn’t much in the way of restaurants or bars along the beach, for that you’ll have to venture into the delights of Carnon town.