After recently exploring Montpellier, France and checking FISE Montpellier off the bucket list, our next stop on the RAD European Tour was Biarritz, France for Wheels and Waves. Located on the southwest coast of France, the Biarritz is a popular seaside town; home to a major surfing destination and offers sweeping views of the Biscay Bay. While Oli was busy at Wheels and Waves, Theo and I decided to explore Biarritz and the Basque Country and see what the waterfront region had to offer. Here are seven rad things to do in the Basque Country.
We actually planned to go to the dinosaur park in Azur-Lac but did not realize it didn’t open until 2 pm as it is not yet peak season. We had driven 45 minutes to what felt like the middle of nowhere and were stuck with lunchtime approaching. Luckily, we saw CapFun and thought, campgrounds usually have a playground and cafe; this should keep us occupied until the dinosaur park opens. I had no idea that this campground is the best campground… I mean, kids entertainment center, that I have ever been to!
There were five different playgrounds for all ages at CapFun. Theo obviously ignored the age suggestions and wanted to climb straight to the top of the big winding slide. “Mummy too”, he demands as he realizes he can’t get up by himself! There I am, climbing five meters above ground with vertigo to keep my little two year old happy.
We tried out all the playgrounds, bouncy castles and even the stage where they have occasional performances. There is also a kids paradise; a huge water park with big slides. It was only 22 degrees so we thought the water would be too cold but for warmer days, you can spend the entire day there. I couldn’t convince Theo to break for lunch; the only bait he took was to go for ice cream!
The campground is beautifully set by the lake with big huts and cabins that looked very new and nice. There is a lot of open space and a grass area with barbecues overlooking the lake. This was such a perfect location for a family holiday and I can’t believe we just stumbled upon this place. You can probably imagine we did not make it to the dinosaur park as I had to take an overtired toddler home after he had been climbing, exploring and playing all day!
There are a number of different campsites located at Capfun, all labeled with varying levels of fun and entertainment; the most relaxed being the ‘Zen Dose’ which is green, followed by blue and purple and finally red which is ‘fun dose’. This particular campsite was red and features plenty of entertainment on site.
During the peak season, which runs from July 1st until September 1st, the campground offers a number of kids clubs; The Clapou Club (4-6 years old), the Policator Club (7-10 years old), The Dragonicums (11-14 years old) and the Nobodys (15-18 years old). The clubs are only in French but are open to anyone and is entirely free of charge. The campsite also offers evening entertainment five nights a week, as well as four animators and aqua gym every morning.
We arrived at a natural reserve with apples in our bag to feed the ducks. We started our short walk that ended up on stilts walking over swampland. It was beautifully quiet and we heard the birds singing as we watched the fish and look for ducks. Theo got a little impatient looking for ducks as we walked past the first two lookouts. We realized the ducks were too far away to feed and none of the birds were coming close. What would probably be an ideal day out for an older child did not entertain my busy two year old enough so he decided it was time to head back to the car. We happily ate all the apples we brought for the fucks on the drive home.
The Marais d’Orx nature reserve features more than 1000 hectares of wetland areas and walking trails. It is the last protected wetland in the region and is a paradise for birdwatching. The reserve offers guided tours year-round with nature specialists and offers a peaceful and educational place to observe rare and endangered species.
Situated just a couple of minutes from the beach in Labenne is the Zoo. When purchasing our tickets at the entrance of Labenne Zoo, there was an option to upgrade for two euros more and add popcorn to your ticket; much to Theo’s delight. I told him that the popcorn was to feed the animals, which didn’t go down too well. One for the animals and one for Theo!
Upon entry, I thought the Zoo was quite small and only had a selection of birds; until we ventured a bit further and came across all kinds of animals. Theo loved feeding his popcorn to the deers, goats, and camels when he wasn’t scoffing it all up himself! It was great being able to get up close to all the animals and you can see how well the workers took care of them. When it was time to leave, Theo was not impressed and kept asking for more popcorn to feed the animals.
The zoo features more than 200 animals and 60 different species of mammals, reptiles, birds and more. You can take one exotic trip to the heart of the five continents and see everything from wolves to lemurs, flamingos, wallabies and more. Labenne Zoo is open year-round and tickets start at 9 euros for children under 11 years old and 12 euros for visitors 12 years old and older. Children under 3 can enter for free. You can also purchase one-year subscriptions, which allows unlimited access within 12 months of purchase and starts at 26 euros.
Like any great city in France, Biarritz also has a tchou tchou train. When Theo and I walked through the town, he got very excited as soon as he saw the train coming through the tunnel. There was no turning away so here we were on another tchou tchou train through the heard of the city. The train goes along the amazing picturesque seafront in Biarritz past the surf beach Cote des Basques and through the historic center.
The petit train in Biarritz offers two starting points, both departing every 30 minutes. The main route is ‘great beach’, which departs at La Grande Plage, on the esplanade of the Casino. The train passes by Port des Pecheurs, Rocher de la Vierge Musee de la Mer, Port Vieux, Perspective Cote des Basques, Jardin Public Gare du Midi, and Hotel du Palais. The second route is the ‘Museum of the Sea’ and departs from the Rock of the Virgin; just outside the Museum of the Sea. Tickets start at 4 euros for children under 12 and 6.50 euros for anyone over 12 years old. Children under 3 can ride the little train for free.
Cite de l’Ocean surf and ocean museum was right next to the Wheels and Waves event village. We had been running around on its roof the entire time and Theo loved running around the skate bowl that was built into it. Before we purchased tickets for the museum, we were advised that all the exhibits are virtual/digital, such as a virtual Teahupo’o wave; and none of them were suitable for children under 6 years old.
We still went in as Oli has an obsession with surfing and we were able to watch the 3D film with Theo. I personally did not rate the exhibits too much; to me, it was too gimmicky and I wouldn’t even know which target age group to recommend it to. The ocean film, however, had amazing footage and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Theo struggled to understand the concept of keeping 3D glasses on, but that’s normal for a kid aged 2 I guess.
The main attraction was the ‘700 sharks into the dark’ exhibit, an immersive 360-degree experience. The visitor is submerged into a unique virtual expedition and gets to experience the stress, excitement, and fears of the crew as they dive into the night. The other popular attraction is the Seaborg, which resembles an amusement park ride combined with virtual reality. The ride flips you upside down while the virtual reality mask takes you on an immersive 360-degree journey for four minutes. You can purchase tickets in advance and download tickets to your phone or get them at the museum. Tickets start at 9 euros for children aged 6-12 and 13 euros for adults. There is also a reduced rate for teenagers aged 13-17, students, job seekers, and disabled visitors.
We rented bikes for a day, which was quick and easy as there are bike shops located everywhere. We opted for the Jerry Bike Rental as we had seen their bikes with kids trailers around. You can rent an e-bike with a hipster trailer in the front, but we decided to go old school and use our muscles to cycle around. I think Oli regretted this decision immediately after we encountered 35km/h headwind on the beach at Hossegor. We quickly went inland to cycle around the lake, which was significantly less windy and very flat. Theo dug being carted around on the bike and kept yelling for us to go faster!
We stopped for a bite to eat at ‘Le Mango Tree’; a beautiful little cafe by the beach on the lake next to a park and playground. Their food is super yummy and healthy and Theo loved running around and exploring the area.
Theo and I went to the event every day. The village has such a nice vibe and everyone from the food stall vendors to the skateboarding pros, the security guards and more were super friendly. The Balls & Glory meatball vendor picked up Theo and let him fly around his truck. One of the food vendors let Theo pull their little cart, and the Brexit waffles bus let Theo climb up and down the stairs and fed him strawberries while they prepared for the lunchtime storm.
At the ‘Hit the Deck’ mini ramp, they offered beginners skateboard lessons. They usually start at the age of 5, but Theo has been quite convincing and the skateboard instructor that was on the ramp taught him a few tricks. This event has been one of the most family-friendly events on our European tour so far. The Tamworth Country Festival in Australia and Munich’s Fruehlingsfest in Germany are also up there on the list!
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