Ferry across the Gironde - David Kennedy and Sarah Sheehan

Ferry across the Gironde


Exploring north of the Medoc

Driving south down the west coast of France, you may well take the autoroute all the way to Bordeaux, a fine city with a beautiful fountain in front of the grand town hall, great for a bit of retail therapy and dining al fresco beside the river.

Look a bit more closely at your road atlas though, and you will see that there is a ferry crossing between Royan and Le Verdon-sur-Mer, where the Gironde meets the sea. For wine buffs this may well appeal as it takes you to Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac and Margaux. This peninsula of the Côte d'Argent has more to offer than that, with a network of roads crossing the mainly forested area and long stretches of golden sands.

Driving in to Royan, the ferry port at first seems a bit tricky to find until you realise that you are not looking for signs to the town on the other side, but rather should be following directions for 'BAC Pointe de la Grave'. No booking required, you just turn up, buy a ticket and wait for the next crossing, which seem to be every 45 minutes or so during the day. Leave your car on the vehicle deck and head upstairs to sit in the fresh air and enjoy the views of the coast and the Phare de Cordouan lighthouse out to sea.

Once across the other side you can take the main road down to Bordeaux, passing through areas of pine forests, head right towards the beaches, left towards the aforementioned vineyards, or just potter about the network of side roads.

We found a lovely place to wild camp beside an inlet near Port-de-By which was a picnic site by day so was furnished with tree-shaded benches and a convenient public convenience. We parked up and had a pleasant salad supper of ingredients picked up at a small market earlier in the day, and watched the sun go down along with the tide in the estuary.

If you are looking for a more conventional place to camp, there are plenty of campsites to choose from amongst the trees, offering all the usual amenities, some with swimming pools or beside the sea.

The only downside of our visit to this pretty area was that Lola managed to pick up a tummy bug, probably drinking something she shouldn't have, but we found a lovely vet who sorted her out in no time. The moral of the story is that is not just we humans who should be wary of drinking brown water on holiday... unless it is beer, coffee or tea, that is!*

* much as she might like to, Lola doesn't get any of those last three either.