Best Beaches in Languedoc

A guide to the beaches in Languedoc Roussillon and the best beach of Banyuls sur Mer

Languedoc beaches - 42 to choose from!

The Languedoc-Roussillon region (Languedoc-Roussillon Property Guide) of southern France has a long stretch of coastline, reaching from the Camargue in the east to the Spanish border in the west. There are many beaches, and all have their own individual character. They range from the huge expanses of sand, backed by holiday villas and apartments, such as is found at Narbonne (Narbonne Property Guide, Narbonne Plage Property Guide), to tiny, hidden coves where there is nothing to do except to enjoy the full force of the natural beauty, to bathe and to soak up the sunshine. Indeed some 42 beaches vie for the title of best beach in the region, and choosing just one is a difficult thing to do, not least as the decision can only be subjective! However, a choice must be made, and Banyuls sur Mer beach, whilst not perhaps being among the better known beaches, deserves its rating for a variety of reasons. (Banyuls sur Mer Property Guide.)

A surprising choice perhaps

Banyuls sur Mer's beach may seem in some ways a surprising choice, as it is not the long stretch of golden sand that you may expect to constitute a fantastic beach. Rather it is a pebbly curve in the coastline of the southernmost part of Roussillon, just before you reach Spain. It is, however, regarded by some as one of the best beaches in the region, for its beauty, its character, its setting and, of course, its fabulous climate. Also, as well as there being a main beach on the seafront of the town, there are smaller coves around the headland that offer a peaceful retreat from the seaside fun and frolics of the main resort.

Banyuls sur Mer - best of the Languedoc beaches

One reason for choosing Banyuls sur Mer's beach (or beaches), above the rest is that the scenery around the town and its coastline is dramatic and utterly beautiful. The main beach is fringed by the town, with its traditional low rise buildings, restaurants and cafés giving a lively but thoroughly authentic ambience. Move just out of town, though, and the real glory of Banyuls sur Mer's beaches shines through. The rocky coastline dips and curls into small bays and coves, and to lie, floating in the warm sea while gazing up at the vine-clad hillsides that form the foothills of the Pyrénées, is an experience to savour. Art without artifice.

Authentic and charming, both beaches and town

Many of the better known Languedoc beaches are long and sandy, with warm blue waters, backed by modern holiday apartments and villas. These become very busy in summer and deserted in winter. Banyuls sur Mer's beaches however are the real thing, as authentic and charming as the little town that backs them.

Stony or sandy?

The beaches are stony or pebbly, rather, but if this strikes you as a disadvantage please think again. Unless you really want to make sandcastles then a pebble beach can be cleaner and less irritating than sand, which, lets face it, does tend to get everywhere! And although Banyuls sur Mer's beaches are pebbly, they are not to the point of discomfort. They are clean and quieter than some better known beaches, and backed by dramatic and beautiful Mediterranean scenery.

Water quality and safety

There are four main beach areas: Centrale, Centre Heliomarin, Plage des Elmes and Troc Pinell. The French Ministry of Health's website (http://baignades.sante.gouv.fr/editorial/en/accueil.html) has awarded all four areas of Banyuls sur Mer beach with A grades for water quality for the past four years. (Banyuls does not currently have a Blue Flag award. For further information about the Blue Flag programme, visit their website at http://www.blueflag.org/.) The sea at Banyuls is calm and the beaches sheltered from the winds that can plague the large, open stretches of coastline such as Narbonne, and this makes it perfect for swimming.

Lifeguards on duty

There are lifeguards on duty all season to keep things really safe for all the family. The main beach has a diving raft with a slide attached, moored a little way off the beach, and on hot days this provides endless fun for the kids. There is boat access but this is restricted to the little harbour, and no boat access at all to the quieter beach of Les Elmes.

Amenities available

There are public showers and toilets available near the beach in four places, with drinking water available and access for those with reduced mobility. From the end of June until the beginning of September there are deckchairs and umbrellas for rent in the middle of the main beach, which is approximately 200 metres long. There is also a good smattering of shops, cafés, bars and restaurants along the promenade itself, on the edge of the beach, and the place buzzes with life in the holiday season without being over run with tourists. Banyuls sur Mer town itself is a small town that has evolved from being a quiet fishing village into a characterful holiday town. Fishing and wine are still important, and add to the authenticity. There are many more shops, cafés, bars and excellent seafood and Catalan restaurants in the town.

Getting around

Getting around town is easy, especially in summer, when there is a free "navette", or shuttle bus to and from the beaches, or of course, you can be totally independent and get some exercise too by hiring a bicycle instead. If you are arriving by car, there are car parks in Banyuls sur Mer, but it does get busy in the summer time, especially if you are hoping to park right beside the beach. Parking on the main drag on the promenade can be a matter of lucky chance!

Water sports available

Banyuls harbour is full of colourful little craft, both fishing boats and pleasure craft. Sailing, jet skiing and windsurfing are all popular in the summer months. Jet skis, windsurfers and boats (including a glass bottom boat for those who want to enjoy the marine life from above rather than below the surface) can be hired from the town, and there are sailing schools too if you want to improve your skills on the ocean wave!

Try scuba diving or snorkelling

Banyuls sur Mer's sea territory extends to some 4,200 hectares, and reaches to the place where France meets Spain. There is a Marine Reserve here, and this makes the area not only ecologically interesting but also a fantastic centre for scuba diving, or "plongée" as the French know the sport. All around the beaches of Banyuls sur Mer you will find scuba diving schools, and the clear, warm waters and diversity of marine life make this a perfect place to enjoy this exciting sport. In Banyuls sur Mer town itself there are specialist shops too, where you can buy or hire sports equipment for pursuits such as scuba diving and snorkelling, so even if you are new to these sports, you have the opportunity to try them and see for yourself whether or not they are something you want to pursue. (Sport in France, French Sports and Sports Clubs in France.)

Property and accommodation available in Banyuls sur Mer

If you are seeking holiday accommodation in or near Banyuls sur Mer's beaches you will find plenty of options. You can rent apartments in the town itself, or easily find a pretty gite (Gites for sale) or villa to rent on the outskirts of town or in the surrounding countryside. Banyuls sur Mer has hotels, bed and breakfast establishments (Owning Gites and Chambres D'Hotes (B&Bs) in France) and campsites too (Buying a campsite in France), so whatever your idea is of great holiday accommodation you will find it here. If you are wanting to buy property in this neck of the woods, meanwhile, then you should find that prices are quite reasonable, if you compare the area to those towns just across the border into Spain, or further east along the French coast in Provence (French Property Prices). Currently (2011) on the market there is a one bedroom apartment for sale at just 93,000 Euros.

Sample the wines or try skiing in winter

The location of Banyuls sur Mer makes it perfect for exploring the area, with Spain on the doorstep as well as the fascinating Cathar regions of France close at hand. Don't forget that Banyuls is not just about the sea, as the wines of Banyuls are highly respected. The town is full of wine caves where you can taste and learn about the wines and the land that has created them, so that next time you open that bottle with Banyuls on the label it will taste even better. And away from the beaches Banyuls sur Mer offers plenty to do, with many sports available nearby including winter sports in the Pyrénées, so unlike some seaside towns, Banyuls doesn't become a ghost town out of season.

How to get there

Perpignan (Perpignan Property Guide) is the nearest airport, and has flights from the UK with Ryanair, Bmi Baby and Flybe. Girona, Barcelona and Carcassonne (Carcassonne Property Guide) are also nearby. The TGV runs to Perpignan and Barcelona from Paris, and Banyuls sur Mer has a railway station too, which makes train travel another good choice. Travelling by road you need to follow the A9 then look for the D914.

And finally...

So there you have it, the beaches of Banyuls sur Mer. Authentic, beautiful, unspoiled by excessive tourism, and set in a fascinating region with one of the sunniest climates in France. Don't just read about them, discover them.

Additional articles which may be of interest:


Battle of the Best Languedoc Cities
Côte Vermeille Property - an insider's guide
The prettiest villages in the Languedoc
Languedoc Property - Top 10
Languedoc-Roussillon Property - an insider's guide
French Connections - Travel to Centre-South France
Beaches of Brittany

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

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