Lakes and rivers
Not all beaches in Languedoc are on the sea, there are many freshwater spots. Rivers and lakes usually offer more in the way of leafy shade, the water is often cleaner and warmer, and the scenery usually prettier. Here is a small selection short drive from Lodeve.
Lake Salagou (10 minute drive) Languedoc’s largest lake can be seen from a high point from the villa between the hills. The water is clean, with small beaches and coves around the side of the lake with coarse red-rust sandy earth of oddly shaped hills, exotic cacti and succulents and amazing array of wild flowers and sweet smelling herbs. You should also wear flip-flops or shoes, as the sand/shells underfoot can be quite sharp. There are plenty of trees and bushes all around the lake, so finding shade is quite easy for picnics. Salagou is ideal for a variety of water sports; sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and hire of equipment is available around the lake. It is also a great place to go for walking, climbing, riding mountain bikes, fishing and horse riding.
St Guilhem le Desert (30 minute drive) the Herault river runs under an old ‘Pont du Diable’ bridge, and on past a large ‘pool’ with beach on two sides. It’s extremely popular in summer, so get here early to make sure you get a spot under a tree. Great place to bring a picnic and to cool off after a trip to the town of St Guilhem or the nearby caves. The river ‘pool’ here is pretty big, and the water is quite clear and very clean. You can rent a canoe on the opposite bank. Further down from the main 2 beaches, the river carries on over shallow rapids - the perfect place for kids to paddle and play.
Cirque de Navacelles (30 minute drive) is really fantastic. It's basically an 'island' carved in a canyon by the Vis river, which attracts many visitors in summer to view its unique shape from the tops of the canyon walls. Go down into the canyon itself, and you'll find a charming hamlet with a couple of simple but good restaurants, and the beautiful river Vis itself. The water is incredibly clear and refreshingly cool as it will have just emerged from mountain caverns. The river falls over a spectacular waterfall here - and you'll find people of all ages jumping off the rocks into the foaming water beneath. With the towering sides of the canyon all around you, it's very memorable.
Beaches on the Med
The Languedoc beaches along the Mediterranean are generally sandy, from the Espiguette beach in the East, all along to the Spanish border on the West. The nearest is about 40 minutes drive from the villa along the auto route towards Montpellier or towards Beziers or Sete. Espiguette beach in the Camargue, is said to be one of Europe's longest. It is long and very wide, backed by endless sand dunes. Marseillan Plage beach is sandy, as is the nearby D'Agde's beach which forms part of Europe's largest nudist colony. There are so much choice, from the busy and bustling resorts to the remote and secluded coves to explore. Reviews by: creme-de-languedoc.com
Espiguette: Excellent. The King of Languedoc's beaches, Espiguette stretches for ever of fine sandy dunes. This beach is huge, certainly enough room to find your own space, no matter how many people are there. The walk from the car park can be as long as you want - but the further you go it becomes a nudist. There are no buildings nearby, but in summer a drink seller will pass by. Finish your day here with a drink in the nearby old walled city of Aigues Mortes.
La Grande Motte: Good. La Grande Motte is a huge and very famous seaside resort that is absolutely buzzing with holiday makers. It has fascinating high-rise apartment blocks in unusual shapes looming along the coastline. The beach here is not very big, and can get crowded in summer - but it's well served with restaurants and amenities and lots of fun activities for children.
Le Grand Travers: OK. Between the big urban beaches at La Grande Motte and Carnon (Montpellier) is a long, very flat strip of beach named 'La Grand Travers'. It's quite close to the road with easy parking. It offers restaurants on the beach and nightclubs between May and September. The end closest to Carnon is called Le Petit Travers, and is the closest beach to Montpellier - it's quite a popular beach all year for joggers and people out for a walk along its footpath beside the sea.
Carnon: Not so good. Montpellier's two big beaches, Carnon is a typically busy seaside resort lined with lots of holiday apartments that seem to have lost out in popularity over the years to La Grande Motte. The beach itself is made up of smaller beaches created by large wave barriers.
Palavas: OK. Similar to Carnon, Palavas is lined with apartment blocks, only these are higher. The town itself is relatively lively, with attractions for children and plenty of cheap restaurants and bars.
Maguelone: Good. Further down the coast and away from the built-up mass beaches of Palavas and Carnon we find Maguelone. The beach is relatively slim, but quite long, and part is popular for nude bathers. It's quieter than the big Montpellier beaches. Parking is free if you're prepared to walk or paid parking is closer to the beach itself with a free ‘train’ that takes you right up the sea’s edge. A beach bar/restaurant offers sun loungers and umbrellas for hire and further along sand dunes and the wide sandy beach.
La Corniche (North): OK. Just below the hubbub of the fishing town of Sète is La Corniche, a large, deep beach with nice views of the promontory on which Sète sits. There's a huge parking lot and in the summer there are large restaurant/night clubs on the beach itself. Though it lacks the atmosphere of La Corniche South's beach, it is better for food and drink.
La Corniche (South): OK. The wide beach at La Corniche North thins out, running along the road between Sète and Cap D'Agde for many kilometers. It's a thin beach, so the road is not far away. But the sand is fine, and being further away from Sète, the beach has a slightly wilder atmosphere, with no buildings within sight.
Marseillan Plage: Good. The beach at Marseillan Plage looks and feels very much like Cap D'Agde - except that its bathers aren't nude. It's long and wide, with beautiful fine sand. Behind the beach are a lot of tourist gift shops and snack bars. (N.B. Marseillan Plage and Marseillan are two separate towns, 10 mins apart).
Cap D'Agde - 9 beaches: -OK to Excellent. There are nine beaches in the Cap d'Agde area ranging from small coves (Plage de la Conque and La Plagette) through to long stretches of sand 14 kms (the nudist beach, Plage de Richelieu and Plage de Rochelongue). Each of the beaches has a parking area nearby, but the beaches are only backed by footpaths, so are not plagued by traffic noise. Unusually for this area, there is a rocky headland with magnificent views to Seté in one direction and the Pyrenees in the other.
The nudist beach: Good. The beach forms part of Europe's largest nudist colony, and is actually one of the nicest beaches in Languedoc. Long and wide, it offers fine sand and, if you walk far enough down it, freedom from buildings. Behind most of the beach are sand dunes. There is a small fee at the official entrance to the complex and the beach with parking, or you can get to the beach by going to Marseillan beach and walking 10mins to the south. The beach really is 100% nude.
La Roquille Beach: OK. Plage de La Roquille is covered with seashells and as a 'town beach' has lots of snack shops and touristy concessions. An area of yellow umbrellas offers rented beds. Plenty of showers and toilets. Parking nearby.
Le Mole beach: OK. Very safe for small children, having a wide flat area of shallow water. There are showers, toilets, and parking just behind the beach. Again, quite a built-up area so don't expect much ambiance.
La Grande Conque beach: Good. A small cove carved by the sea out of volcanic rock. The sand here is dark and igneous - but it has a certain atmosphere.
La Plagette beach: Good, also Richelieu beach. A wide expanse of sand with a number of beach side restaurants quite near the water - each offering rented sun beds. Not that pretty a setting, but entertaining. Showers, toilets and parking all nearby.
Richelongue beach: Good. As you walk south from Richelieu beach, the apartment blocks peter out and are replaced by some rather expensive-looking beach houses. The beach here is nicer, and divided into small bays by wave breaks. Not as many amenities, however, so probably less attractive for the kids.
Portiragnes: Excellent. Remote and relatively wild, close to the busy town of Beziers is this lovely beach, with fine sand and practically no views of commerce. It's small and feels intimate. Dog Friendly - The only beach in summer where dogs are allowed.
Serignan: Excellent. More remote and wild, with a grassy sand bank hiding the few buildings that sit behind the beach. You can just see Cap D'Agde in the distance and the Etang (inland lake) borders the north end of the beach. The restaurants on the sand beach offers simple meals and drinks. You can also rent miniature ponies for kids to ride on and there is a water park, paddle boats and wind surfing available. Gets quite popular in the summer, although the sandy beach is very large. To get to the nude beach, turn right at the Ranch St Jean just before you get to Serignan beach - and follow the signs.
There’s no better place in France for wine tasting than the Languedoc. The wines are increasingly good, very interesting, and there are a profusion of keen wine makers. Languedoc vignerons tend to be more innovative and less formal about the wines they produce, offering a greater variety of wines than anywhere else in the world. There’s fruity reds, crisp whites, and increasingly fine rosés all produced throughout the region.
There are literally hundreds of wine domains in the Languedoc, and you will find many signs offering tasting. Unfortunately, opening times are typically odd and many will only speak French. It is recommended to rely on known wine tasting in places of a high standard and who are set-up for wine tasting for visitors. Some will by happy to drop-in, but for others it is best to make appointments to get the best experience.
A good source of the best wine tasting places is at:
Fun for kids
There are lots of fun activities in l'Herault and around the Languedoc, here is just a few:
Velo Rail: Fun pedal trucks (two people pedal and two passengers) that take you on an old railway track through the hills. Fabulous scenery with masses of energy needed for the two hour pedalling. Reservations 05 65 58 72 10 at St-Eulalie de Cernon, along the motorway towards Millau turn off Junction 47 at La Cavalerie.
Karting for children and adults at Grabels junction 62 off the motorway.
Aquarium at Odysseum, Montpellier.
Boat trips on the Canal du Midi, hire your own boat or take a trip.
Adventure Centre climb through the trees at Maguelone near Montpellier.
Water World swings and slides at the aqua centre at Lunas, Canoeing at the base of the Cevennes, the spectacular and unspoiled gorges between rugged cliffs.
Bowling and Planetarium at Odysseum Montpellier and the Pirates Paradise restaurant.
Dinosaur Park a great day out for kids at Meze.
Jet-ski and speed boats on the sea at Plage du Grau d’Agde. Horse riding on the beach at Ranch Fumat at Vias Plage.
Zoo du Lunaret, Montpellier Zoo, lots of animals to see and it's free. At the same place is the impressive Serre Amazonienne (Amazonian Greenhouse).
Réserve Africaine de Sigean, roaming lions, bears, giraffes, elephants drive through.
Cycling and hiking are really popular pursuits in the area. Just one suggestion is the amazing Upper Languedoc Greenway. It is a dead-flat route on a converted train line that winds its way serenely along the Thore river. Starts in La Trivalle (near Lamalou-les-Bains) and ends in Mazamet, passing through many little villages on the way, ideal to stop off for lunch. Bikes can be hired.