Posted date: October 28, 2021
Standing tall between the Arcachon Bay and a dense pine forest is La Dune du Pilat – Europe’s tallest sand dune. This spectacular natural wonder is one of the most unique sites to visit in France and should definitely be added to your France bucket list. Here’s how to get from Bordeaux to Dune du Pilat.
Just an hour and a half from the capital of the Gironde, a day trip from Bordeaux to la Dune du Pilat is a must-do during your stay in the area.
How to Get from Bordeaux to Dune du Pilat
Getting from Bordeaux to La Dune du Pilat is very easy. You have a couple of options – the train + a short bus ride or drive if you have a car.
We decided to take the train because it was affordable and quick. Driving takes about the same amount of time as public transportation, so how you get there depends on how you plan to spend your day.
If you plan to only visit Arcachon and La Dune du Pilat, then I’d suggest you take the train.
If you want to visit more of the region on your day trip, then a car is a more convenient option.
Take the train from Bordeaux Saint-Jean to Arcachon. The train ride takes about 54 minutes, and you can either buy your tickets online in advance or at the station.
Once you arrive in Arcachon, you will take the Line 1 bus from the train station to La Dune du Pilat. You can find the Line 1 bus schedule here.
The bus ride takes around 30 minutes but if there is no traffic, it might only take 20 minutes.
The bus stop is just outside of the train station and tickets can be bought directly from the bus driver. The bus tickets cost €1 each way. Remember to bring cash – you’ll need it for your bus ticket!
The drive from the center of Bordeaux to La Dune du Pilat is around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
There is a parking lot at the entrance to the site where you can park for a fee. All of the parking fees are donated to the preservation of the site, so it’s worth the small fee.
Parking starts at €6 per vehicle during the high season – you can find up-to-date prices here.
What is La Dune du Pilat?
La Dune du Pilat is a 3km long sand dune located along the Atlantic Coast of the Gironde region in France. Listed as the tallest sand dune in France, La Dune du Pilat sits at almost 110 meters high and 600 meters wide.
This dune began to form around 4,000 years ago due a drier climate and strong winds from the west. Large amounts of sand accumulated over time and created the dune that we see today.
La Dune du Pilat moves inland up to 5.5 meters every year, slowly covering the forest. When you get there, you’ll notice trees sticking up halfway through at the base of the dune.
Climbing La Dune du Pilat
After about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot, you will reach a giant wall of sand. Seeing the dune for the first time is a bit intimidating but also breathtaking. It is much taller than I had imagined!
To get to the top of the dune, you have two options: climb the stairs or walk up the dune itself. I chose to take the stairs and Colin the latter.
Unsurprisingly, he was out of breath once he reached the top – be prepared for a work out if you decide to walk up on the sand!
The stairs are installed from mid-April to the first of November, so if you’re visiting during the winter season, you’ll have to make the trek to the top through the sand.
What to do at La Dune du Pilat
Once you reach the top of La Dune du Pilat, you will be met with incredible 360 degree views. On one side is the Arcachon Bay with views of Cap Ferrat and on the other a seemingly never ending forest.
The whole experience took my breath away and it exceeded all of my expectations.
I would recommend spending some time walking along the top of the dune to take in the views.
You can walk across the dune to the opposite end, but be prepared for a 3km trek on sand.
We walked about a quarter of the way and found a place to sit for a while.
Bring a picnic if you plan on staying for a couple of hours – it’s the perfect spot to enjoy the ocean breeze and relax for a bit.
There is a beach at the base of the dune where you can hang out or go for a swim.
For a bit of an adventure, walk along the beach back to Arcachon. It’s about a 10km walk and takes at least 2 hours.
6 Tips for Your Trip to La Dune du Pilat
1. Take sunscreen
You won’t find any shade on top of Europe’s tallest sand dune. Pack some sunscreen and a hat to help protect yourself against the direct sunlight.
2. Pack a Lunch
Our biggest regret was not packing any food. We ended up spending almost 4 hours (instead of 1 hour) at La Dune du Pilat, and we were starving by mid-day. The only other options are a couple of small cafes near the entrance, but they are over-priced for what you get. Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic with a view.
3. Take plenty of water
To avoid making a trek back to the parking area to buy more water, pack plenty with you to last the day.
4. Wear sturdy shoes
During the summer, the sand can get hot. Where some sturdy shoes while you walk around the sand dune.
5. Bring a swimsuit
You can access the beach at the base of the dune, so bring a swimsuit If you want to swim!
6. Visit during the spring or fall
For more mild temperatures, visit during the spring or fall. We visited towards the end of September – the weather was perfect and it was a clear day.
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