Ok, so at first glance southwest France may not look like the country’s premier adventure destination. In fact, without close access to raging rivers, climbable gorges, snow peaked mountains or wild national parks, it doesn’t really get much better at second or third glance either. But rest assured, traveler, the city still has a few tricks up its sleeves for those quick to write it off as just another calm, polite, wine drinker’s destination.
For starters, how about a hike up Europe’s tallest sand dune? At 107m and growing, the Great Dune at Pyla may be the region’s most notable geographic attraction, providing stunning views of the Atlantic and beyond (as well as the possibility of an exciting sand-board ride back down to the bottom). The prolific forests that grow along the coastal edge of the dune, including Des Landes de Gascogne Park further inland, provide plenty of opportunities for some scenic hiking and mountain biking, as well as some interesting wildlife watching opportunities for those ornithological enthusiasts in the bunch. Admittedly none of this will take your breath away, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?
Oh, so you’re one of those travelers who crave extreme adventures on the water? Then grab your board and head to the beaches at Lacanau, internationally renowned for their incredible waves and first class surfing opportunities. From here you can take a short jaunt north to explore the marshy wetlands of Des dunes et marais d’Hourtin Reserve, or maybe go zip-lining at L’Adventure Nature in neighboring Montalivet. There are also tamer aquatic opportunities available for kayakers on rivers like the Garonne and Leyre, which don’t offer much in the way of rapids but plenty in the way of countryside scenery. It all adds up to a humble but adequate offering for those looking to explore the outdoors around French wine country.