Arcachon (pop 11,800) was once just a forested area that was hardly accessible. The town was officially ‘birthed’ only in 1857, by Napoleon III. From then on, this quiet little seaside area grew to become an idyllic town, which slowly gained popularity with the bourgeoisie crowd. Sitting on the Bassin d’Arcachon, the town also morphed into a proper oyster catchment area. This coupled with its rising population count, gave the town more architectural character. Many arcachonaise (local villas) are from its peak period (Victorian era), with a few 1950s buildings scattered here and there. Arcachon also became a great summer getaway, as its northern end is lined with beaches. The main commercial streets (Bd de la Plage, cours Lamarque de Plaisance and cours Héricaut de Thury) run parallel to the beach. Also take note that the town is divided into four quarters, each cleverly named after the four seasons. You can arrive at Arcachon via trains from Bordeaux, at Esplanade Georges Pompidou.
Arcachon’s popular residents list (which comprises of names like writer Alexandre Dumas and Puerto Rican politician Ramón Emeterio Betances) stands as testament to its popularity during the 19th and 20th centuries. Having lost none of its charm, the town still remains a well-frequented summer destination.

FRANCE AQUITAINE duneThe Ville d’Été (Summer quarter) is befittingly home to the Plage d’Arcachon (the main beach). Bordered by the Jetée Thiers (west) and Jetée D’Eyrac (east), the beach dips into the Bassin Arcachon. The eastern Jetée D’Eyrac shadows the Casino de la Plage [163 Bd de la Plage, +33 556834144]- a castle-style casino that has been standing here for more than 50 years.

Head opposite the casino and you will come across the Aquarium et Musée [2 rue Professeur Jolyet, +33 556833332 ad/ch €4.90/3.15]. This slightly shabby-looking, wooden shack was founded in 1865 for marine life research. Being one of the oldest aquariums around, the Aquarium et Musée houses an entire ecosystem with marine life like sea anemone, fishes and turtles.

The Ville d’Hiver (Winter Quarter) is located south of Ville d’Été. This attractive section is filled with over 300 villas, each featuring a unique style. You can sight these pretty houses on foot or by taking a public lift from Parc Mauresque, located right beside.

Arcachon is a full-fledged summer spot, as it has many activity options. There are well-mapped cycle paths, which lead around and out of town- even to Cap ferret and Dune du Pilat. You can also try your hand at a myriad of activities such as surfing, kayaking, windsurfing, wakeboarding and even tandem parachuting. An equipment rental centre is located close to the Jetée D’Eyrac. The local tourist office can also hook you up with more activities and gears.
Lastly, if you are a seafood lover, don’t forget to savour oyster dishes in the local restaurants, which almost always have them on the menu.