The Arcachon basin in France is about 50 minutes by car or by regular - approx half hourly trains - trains from Bordeaux. It is a chic French resort area on the coast best known for the fantastic seafood (especially oysters), cycling and walking routes, bird watching, fishing and watersports. Everything here depends on the tides which are very quick and leave great swathes of marshland and beaches when out but rush up to fill the entire bay when they come back in.

Beware, this is an area of exclusive second homes so don’t expect to find hotels, bars and restaurants at every port shown on the map. Plan in advance if you are fussy about your hotel facilities as most places to stay are filled early. The two best towns to stay in are Arcachon and Andernos as they have a range of accommodation and have access to the boat routes across and around the bay.

You can walk around the bay in four days but even without a car there are buses, trains and boats covering most routes if needed.

Start in Arcachon for a day or two and visit the massive 'Dune Du Pilat'  the largest sand dune in Europe. The bus #1 goes from in front of the excellent market near the train station to the dune. The ticket costs abt Euro 1 and takes abt 15min. Also take a boat trip round the bay past the island where there are huts on stilts from where the oyster stocks were guarded.

Catch the boat to Belisaire watching for the lighthouse then walk or cycle (these are easily hired) up to L’Herbe and Le Cannon. Both old style fishing villages with tiny wooden shacks built very closely together and separated by ponds and eat oysters at one of the shacks overlooking the bay.

A walk up to Claouey through little ports overlooking oyster beds is pretty and stay overnight in O'Janes or The Pit, much better than it sounds. This is a great spot for camper vans as the bay has great views and although it has no facilities it is free parking.

The woods have an amazing number of oaks and heathers amongst the pines and marshland on the coast to Andernos-Les-Bains. This is almost like the USA east coast in its layout with wooden housing predominant, unlike the brick Victorian style buildings in Arcachon. There are plenty of places to eat, drink and stay here.

From here are walks along beautiful beaches and promenades to Audenge from where a boat or bus can take you to Le Teich and from here back to Arcachon are pretty stretches of marsh and beaches dotted with working oyster and fishing ports where you can eat. If Arcachon is too busy the village of La Teste-de-Buch is pleasant with places to stay and is on the train route back to Bordeaux.