Destination Guide – Le Cap Ferret (Atlantic Coast, France)

You might not have heard of it yet, but Le Cap Ferret is the seaside destination of your dreams. Not to be confused with the Mediterranean Cap Ferrat, this bohemian-chic fishing village is a world away from the ostentatious glitz of the Cote d’Azure, yet still attracts the odd celebrity amongst the well-heeled crowd of chic weekenders who come to savour its more rustic seaside charms.

La Pointe Cap Ferret
La Pointe Cap Ferret

At only an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, Le Cap Ferret, is located at the very tip of the France’s Atlantic peninsula, jutting out like a crab claw into the ocean and forming the northern edge of le bassin d’Arcachon (Arcachon Bay, a name long synonymous with top oysters in France). The area is responsible for a significant portion of French oyster production and the fact that Le Cap Ferret doubles as a working oyster village and a chic seaside resort only adds to its charms.

The nutritious waters of the bassin d’Arcachon lend the oysters here an exceptional saltiness and a real taste of the sea. Many of the farmers send their oysters to mature over three months in the nutrient-rich waters of the Medoc region (100 kilometres north) resulting in an extra fleshy, unique tasting mollusc.

Chez Boulan Cap Ferret
Oyster shacks in Cap Ferret

The best way to sample the local speciality, is to head directly to the village pecheur at the base of Le Cap Ferret’s imposing lighthouse where many of the village’s oyster farmers have wooden oyster shacks (cabanes de huitres), which hide smart little oyster bars with bay-facing terraces. Local wines, and small plates of cheese and charcuterie round out the pared back menus.

Chez Boulan produces some of the island’s finest oysters and their charming shack has the best-placed terraces in the village. The friendly service staff is enthusiastic about explaining the differences in their range of oysters (whether you speak French or not), making it both accessible, educational and enjoyable.

For a more ample meal head across the road to the Bouchon du Ferret. A former fishmonger, the chalet-style cabin now serves as a boisterous bistro, with a broad selection of local oysters. A wide variety of charcuterie, grilled meat and fish, plus some good vegetarian options, help make this one of the busiest spots on the Cap.

La Maison du Bassin Cap Ferret
La Maison du Bassin Cap Ferret

If you’re keen to stay a few nights and extend the oyster-eating opportunities, look no further than the Hotel Restaurant, La Maison Du Bassin. Tucked away behind the hustle of the oyster shacks lays this utterly charming boutique hotel is set in a colonial-style house. The vibe is casual but stylish (service is relaxed and amenities are basic, but the guest rooms are spacious and comfortable). The garden terrace is home to the hotel bar, Le Tchanqué, a local hotspot with decent cocktails and an extensive list of rums hailing from the former French Caribbean colonies. Le Bistrot du Bassin, also attracts more than just hotel guests, thanks to quality contemporary bistro cooking and an epic desert buffet.

Le Cap’s most well known restaurant, however, is the long standing Chez Hortense, a green-striped cabin perched above the beach at the very point of the Peninsula. Here, Bernadette (the granddaughter of the Hortense who lent his name to the establishment) still works the front of house, serving family dishes unchanged in 100 years to an unwavering loyal clientele of locals, weekenders, and the odd French celebrity. The most famous of these is the house mussels with cured ham and a garlicky herb sauce, and although the original recipe is closely guarded, approximations appear on menus all over France as Hortense-style mussels. The view here is one of the best on le Cap overlooking the bay and the vast Pylat Dune (Europe’s largest sand dune). From here, it’s only a short walk down to the point’s beach, which is pristine except for the eerie graffiti-covered WW2 Nazi fortifications that are slowly sinking into the sand.

La Pointe Cap Ferret
War relics at La Point, Cap Ferret

The Bélisaire jetty, home to a strip of boutiques, cafes and restaurants, is another centre of activity at Le Cap Ferret. Head to the busy Café Pinasse for a seafood feast and nab a terrace seat perched above the water. If you can’t get a spot on the terrace, try the more casual sister establishment, La Cabane du Pinasse, around the corner for a drink and tasty bar snacks.

The jetty is also the leaving point for the many boat trips exploring the bay. The most popular visits are to the Île aux Oiseaux, an uninhabited island in the centre of the bay, named for its abundant bird population, and home to Les Cabanes Tchanquées, two large stilted fisherman’s cabins that are icons of the bay area. Boats here also make the short ride across the bay to Arcachon, a town that has played beachside resort to the Bordelais since the 19th century.

Bike paths head north through the neighbouring, fragrant pine forest and offer a pleasant way to get out of town and visit the surrounding villages; but don’t be surprised, if like the locals, you find all your time spent loafing idly around the village. Le Cap Ferret is that kind of place.

When to Go

Le Cap Ferret is busy on weekends all year round, but is most popular during summer, when all accommodations are booked long in advance. Oysters are available year round, but are best in the winter months.

How to get there

Le Cap Ferret is only accessible by road and a 90-minute drive from Bordeaux. From Bordeaux, there are direct trains daily to nearby Arcachon, which is only a short ferry ride across from Le Cap Ferret. Bordeaux’s international airport is well serviced with direct flights daily from all over Europe.

Where to eat

Bistrot du Bassin
Classic French, €€ (count €120-200 for dinner and drinks for two)
Address: 5 Rue des Pionniers Cap Ferret, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret
Phone: +33 5 56 60 60 63

Le Bouchon du Ferret
Classic French, € (count up to €120 for dinner and drinks for two)
Address: 2 Avenue de la Douane Cap Ferret, 33970
Phone: +33 5 56 60 67 51

Chez Hortense
Seafood Restaurant, €€ (count €120-200 for dinner and drinks for two)
Address: Avenue du Sémaphore, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret
Phone: +33 5 56 60 62 56

Le Pinasse Café
Classic French, €€ (count €120-200 for dinner and drinks for two)
Address: 2 Bis Avenue Océan, 33950 Cap-Ferret
Phone: +33 5 56 03 77 87

Where to drink

Le Tchanqué
Address: 5 Rue des Pionniers Cap Ferret, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret
Phone: +33 5 56 60 60 63

La Cabane du Pinasse
Address: 2 Bis Avenue Océan, 33950 Cap-Ferret
Phone: +33 5 56 03 77 87

What to do

Boat trips are available with Bateliers d’Arcachons, including tours of the bay, trips to l’île aux oiseaux and across to Arcachon, leaving from Cap Ferret’s Bélisaire jetty. Kayak hire is also available near the jetty for those who prefer to make their own way.

In summer, this is a popular popular surfing and windsurfing spot, with hire and lessons available along the beach.

Bike paths are plentiful, as are hire options. Locabeach is centrally located by the jetty.

Bateliers d’Arcachons
Address: Jetée Bélisaire, Cap-Ferret, 33970
Phone: +33  825 27 00 27

Address: Debarcadere Belisaire, 33950 Cap Ferret
Phone: +33 5 56 60 49 46

Where to stay

La Maison du Bassin, Le Cap Ferret, Atlantic Coast, France
Boutique hotel, doubles from €155
Address: 5 Rue des Pionniers Cap Ferret, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret
Phone: +33 5 56 60 60 63