Seven of France’s most beautiful camping spots

Camping in France is your ticket to the country’s wildest and remotest reaches: whether it be seal-spotting in the Baie de Somme, cycling along Brittany’s Atlantic coast and the château-lined banks of the Loire, or wreck-diving off Corsica’s east coast.

Published 6 Sept 2021, 18:00 BST, Updated 7 Sept 2021, 11:34 BST
France’s mighty Canal du Midi stretches 150 miles from the Garonne River to the Mediterranean Sea.

France’s mighty Canal du Midi stretches 150 miles from the Garonne River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Photograph by Valentin Pacaut

Naturally, pitching your tent in France comes with a pinch of romance, courtesy of some of Europe’s most unforgettable landscapes. Off-the-beaten-track camping captures the slow-travel, sustainably minded mood of the moment, offering scope and breathing space, whether you’re watching the sun dip over vineyards or peering up at a night sky richly embroidered with stars.

1. Occitanie

Best for: fun on the water

With mountains rolling to vineyards and ochre-stone towns, Occitanie fulfils every French fantasy. Brimming with historic charm, cathedral-topped Béziers is where Pierre-Paul Riquet, the brains behind France’s mighty Canal du Midi, was born in 1609. Stretching 150 miles from the Garonne River to the Mediterranean Sea, the UNESCO World Heritage Site canal is perfect for absorbing the gentle rhythm of the country— by boat, bicycle or on foot. Hugging the banks of the canal in Villeneuve-lès-Béziers, family-run Camping Les Berges du Canal is a great springboard, with spacious pitches, glamping tents and huts, a pool for whiling away lazy afternoons, and a restaurant playing up regional produce and wines.

Northern France’s Baie de Somme enchants with its coastal wilderness of salt marshes, estuaries, lagoons and dune-fringed beaches.

Photograph by Getty Images

2. Hauts-de-France

Best for: stirring seascapes

Defined by dramatically shifting tides, Northern France’s Baie de Somme is a coastal wilderness of salt marshes, lagoons and dune-fringed beaches facing the English Channel, thrumming and trilling with migratory birds. Stirring seascapes make this a terrific region for an off-the-radar camping break, at Camping La Baie de Somme in the fishing village of Le Crotoy, for instance. Right on the doorstep of the Parc naturel régional Baie de Somme Picardie Maritime, this campground, gathered around a 19th-century farmhouse, appeals to families with its pool, tennis courts and balneotherapy relaxation area. Just across the estuary sits Pointe du Hourdel, where receding tides reveal a 500-strong colony of grey and harbour seals. You can see them year round, but come in spring for pup sightings. Going with a guide lets you get even closer.

Sully-sur-Loire’s château is the stuff of fairytales, with its crenelated walls and riot of turrets.

Photograph by Alamy

3. Loire Valley

Best for: medieval fortresses

Kings and their castles define the Loire Valley, where France’s longest and wildest river flows. This UNESCO World Heritage Site region has a spirit that captures the country’s essence. Stay right in its heart at relaxed Le Jardin de Sully, with shady pitches, stargazing glamping pods, a swimming pool and pétanque. Sully-sur-Loire’s château pops up on the opposite bank of the river. The medieval fortress plunges travellers into the past, with its riot of turrets, towers, ramparts and moat. If you're after more adventure, hire a bike and pedal a stretch of the 500-mile La Loire à Vélo cycle route, weaving along the river from vineyard to village, cellar to château.

Finistère is at Brittany's westernmost extreme, which enthrals with its cliff-rimmed coastline.

Photograph by Alamy

4. Brittany

Best for: cliff-rimmed coastline

Located on France’s wild northwest, Atlantic coast, Brittany is full of rugged romance and Celtic charm. At its westernmost extreme is Finistère with its cliff-rimmed coastline, mercilessly hammered by wind and wave. The Côte des Abers is a dreamscape of dunes and blonde-sand beaches, lighthouses and wide-open horizons. Embraced by the sea on both sides on the Sainte-Marguerite peninsula, beachfront Camping des Abers is pleasingly tranquil, with terraces affording privacy, gorgeous sea views, walks across to islands at low tide, and bike rental. Cyclists are in their element here, with La Vélomaritime (EuroVelo 4) unspooling 930 miles along the country’s north coast, from Roscoff to Belgium.

Corsica is a diver’s dream, with huge wrecks like the Alcione, a tanker torpedoed in the Second World War.

Photograph by Getty Images

5. Corsica

Best for: turquoise seas and wild beauty

Often eclipsed in favour of the more craggy, mountainous west, Corsica’s east coast is wonderfully wild, unravelling from Cap Corse in the north to Bonifacio in the south. Cliff-hugging roads twist and turn to beaches dotted with granite boulders and shelving into a sea of exquisite turquoise. What lies above the water is only half the story: this is a diver’s dream, with underwater caves, arches, coral aswirl with grouper, moray eels, scorpionfish and rays, and huge wrecks like the Alcione, a tanker torpedoed in the Second World War. Dive pros like Amadreperla take you into the deep. Campgrounds are strung along the coast, among them beachfront, back-to-nature Camping de Bravone in Linguizzetta.

Spread across the Chaîne des Puys – Limagne fault tectonic area, more than 80 dormant volcanoes dominate the landscape.

Photograph by F. Cormon

6. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Best for: taking to the skies

The wild, remote region of Auvergne in central France are unsung and ripe for a backcountry camping adventure. Rippling across the country’s midriff is the Chaîne des Puys – Limagne fault tectonic area, where some 80 dormant volcanoes dominate the landscape. The 28-mile-long chain of forest-draped cinder cones, lava domes and maars form a huge UNESCO World Heritage Site, best observed on a hiking trail or from above paragliding or hot-air ballooning. Capping it off is the Puy de Dôme (4,806ft), reached on the three-mile Panoramique des Dômes cog railway. The summit commands startling views over a sea of volcanoes. Camping Les Volcans is the ideal base for hikers and cyclists, with easy access to the volcanoes, long-distance trails and watersports at Lac d’Aydat. Pitch a tent or glamp in a tipi, dome or Canadian-style trapper’s lodge.

The Parc national de forêts en Champagne et Bourgogne is one of Europe’s greatest stretches of lowland forest.

Photograph by Alamy

7. Burgundy 

Best for: dappled forest and hiking trails

Burgundy beguiles with its rich tapestry of vineyards gentle hills and fortified villages. History and wine are big draws, but now the area has a new string to its environmental bow: the Parc national de forêts en Champagne et Bourgogne, protecting one of Europe’s greatest stretches of lowland forest. Some 1,240 miles of hiking trails weave through the park, among them the long-distance GR2, shadowing the River Seine, and the Via Francigena pilgrimage to Rome. The park’s silent woods and waterways attract wildlife including black storks, deer and wild boar, so bring binoculars. Sweet and simple municipal campground Le Vieux Moulin in Arc-en-Barrois makes a low-key base for exploring and slow touring.

For more information on France and its natural wonders, visit Atout France

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