Aire/Stellplatz: BISCARROSSE-PLAGE Forêt (Aquitaine)
GPS Decimal: 44.45885 N -1.24539 W
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Per night: 8.20 Euros collected by attendant - sometimes (2010)
Biscarrosse-Plage is an Aire of contradictions - on the one hand it has a wonderful forested location with plenty of lengthwise parking bays set well back from the road along gravel tracks, with loads of shady open space in between, dotted with picnic tables, huge pine cones, and foraging squirrels. It boasts direct access through wild dunes to a spectacular surfing beach only 10 minutes' walk away that stretches into infinity in both directions. The beach profile produces a variety of waves suited to water users of all ages and abilities. A tarmac bike track runs along the back of the site from the nearby busy resort town all the way up the coast to the massive Dune du Pyla, and beyond. A convenient mini-supermarket adjoins the Aire, and the beach offers toilets, showers, cafe, a surf school, and lifeguard cover in summer. Even the on-site toilet is a free self-cleaning superloo inside a quaint log cabin (insert obvious log joke here). There is no visible limit on how long you can stay here.
Paradise found? Apparently, but not necessarily. On arrival you are greeted by this board full of rules (if you want to read them, click the image to zoom in):
Whilst the restrictions on fires, tents and unleashed dogs make sense, the municipality also forbids awnings, chairs and tables, and washing lines. What?! Why can't I aire my dirty laundry? One word - Crusties. For the uninitiated, Crusties are the baggy-clothed, dreadlocked, usually youthful characters who take to the road in graffiti-adorned battered old trucks and vans accompanied by packs of unleashed dogs. Now don't get me wrong here - I'm all for a live and let live attitude, and I take all people as I find them, but the Biscarrosse Crusties haven't always extended the same courtesy to me. I don't like being charged down by a pack of their baying, slavering, uncontrolled hounds on my early morning walk to the beach. I don't like having to shut my camper van's top vent and window at night in the heat of an Aquitaine summer in a vain attempt to get some sleep, while Crusties drink, smoke, play over-loud trance music and babble the whole night long in the opposite parking bay. That board full of rules is aimed at the Crusty contingent, to discourage them from staying too long. However, as nobody seems willing to enforce these rules, the Crusties remain, and neighbouring camping-caristes have to find a means of uneasy co-existence through distance. Surely a simpler way would be to impose a maximum stay limit and enforce it through ticketing, but what do I know? On the plus side, the municipality seems equally lax in collecting parking fees, so we had two nights here for free. I felt like they owed me a refund for the sleepless night anyway so on this occasion it seemed like a fair outcome. In some small way I felt sorry for those on edge of the neighbouring Campeole campsite who thought a forest-facing pitch would be a good idea. They'd paid a hell of a lot more than I had to be kept awake all night..
Anyway, be aware that the north-eastern corner of this Aire is Crustyville, and it's best avoided if you want a peaceful dog-free stay here. In fact the panoramic photo at the top of this page was taken from the outskirts of downtown Crustyville, where the only available bay could be found when we arrived here one evening. Our immediate neighbour on this occasion was a long-abandoned car, mercifully unoccupied. Click the magnifier icon and zoom in if you want a quick lesson in Crustymobile recognition. It'll stand you in good stead if you're planning to use this Aire.
Needless to say, after our sleepless night we fled Crustyville to the first available vacant bay across the other side of the Aire early the following morning, and our stay here improved no end as a consequence. This is why I say Biscarrosse-Plage is an Aire of contradictions - the quality of your stay can vary considerably with where you park, and most people (Crusties and non-Crusties alike) seem to contradict that pointless board of petty rules at the entrance.
A further point worth making is that this site can get very dusty in summer, especially as (due to its layout and one-way system) there is a steady carousel of camper vans searching the forest tracks for empty parking bays all around you. If anyone in your party has a respiratory condition that flares up with dust, you might want to give this Aire a miss.
The service point has been re-located in recent years from beside the amusingly-named Rue du Tit to a spot further inside the Aire adjacent to the superloo. This is extremely handy if the only chemical waste disposal gulley has backed up, as it did on our last visit. A discrete trip to the superloo with the toilet cassette and it's job done and no questions asked. There are two bays for grey water disposal and fresh water, but a queue will start to form here first thing in the morning, so timing is everything. If you don't fancy queueing here, there is another service point on the other side of the town along the Impasse des Pluviers. There are no electric hookups on this Aire, so solar panel users will have the advantage, even with the extra shade from the pines.
Biscarrosse-Plage itself is very much a resort, with more than its fair share of fast food outlets, neon signs, and amusement arcades by usual French standards. In fact if you put your fingers in your ears it would be easy to imagine yourself back in the UK in a bog-standard small seaside town. Well, apart from the warmth and brilliant sunshine anyway. That said, it still does what it does with a bit more calm and dignity than the average English resort, and it's very well served by cycle tracks. Camper van parking is very limited around the town, and is not permitted overnight, so it's best to move around by bike if you can.
On the plus side: Lovely location, very convenient for pretty much everything, especially if you have a bike. Consequently this Aire is popular in summer, so try to arrive in the morning to ensure the best choice of parking bays.
But: Busy and dusty, avoid the Crusties. Not well-managed.
Alternative Aires: Overnight parking is permitted at the E Leclerc supermarket/centre along the D146 on the west side of Biscarrosse-Bourg. Alternatively, take the D83 then D218 North towards Pyla and Arcachon. Beside this road on the left is another Aire that we flashed by without stopping, so the exact location is uncertain, but it's not too far away. Note that it's no longer possible to park overnight in the main Dune du Pyla car park. If you're really stuck and don't mind a bit of wild camping there are numerous forest-side pull-ins along this stretch of road - just take care not to bog down in a sandy verge. An early return to Biscarrosse-Plage the following morning would probably reward you with a recently-vacated bay.
Around Biscarrosse-Plage click thumbnail for bigger picture:
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