Saturday, 31 August 2019

Arcachon, France

The town of Arcachon lies on the south west coast of France, roughly 50 kilometres west of Bordeaux.  It is a popular summer holiday destination.  I visited in August 2019.

Bus services in Arcachon, and in the neighbouring communities on the south side of the Bay of Arcachon, are provided by the Baïa network (website only in French).  Six of Baïa's bus routes operate in Arcachon itself.  All six operate from outside Arcachon's railway station.

I found single-deck buses in use on routes 1 and 3.

Some were full-length buses, with three sets of doors.



There were also some shorter-length buses operating.

These had two sets of doors.


Routes 1 and 3 run to special timetables during July and August, with an augmented service on route 1Even so, buses generally run roughly hourly, with route 1 increasing to a bus every 35 to 50 minutes during the afternoon.

Route 7 is more infrequent, with seven journeys a day.  There is no Sunday service into Arcachon, although another section of route does run on Sundays during July and August.

I found a minibus operating on route 7. 

Minibuses also operate three local routes, A, B and C, within Arcachon.  These are branded "Navette".

Route B operates every 35 minutes, routes A and C are less regular with intervals ranging from 20 to 80 minutes.  The "Navette" services do not operate on Sundays, and their timetable does not change for the summer holiday months.

Whereas routes 1, 3 and 7 serve fixed bus stops, the "Navette" services will stop anywhere (within reason) on demand.

Europe's tallest sand dune, the Dune du Pilat standing at more than 100 metres high, is a few kilometres to the south of Arcachon.

Route 1 runs to the dune all year round but during July and August, this is supplemented by a dedicated "Dune Express" service from outside Arcachon's railway station.


The Dune Express generally runs once an hour, although intervals between buses range from 50 to 80 minutes. 

Fares on the Baïa network are very simple.  At the time of writing a single journey costs €1, with interchange permitted for 60 minutes (although a return journey is not permitted), while an all-day ticket allowing unlimited travel costs €3.  There is also a weekend ticket valid from 18:00 on a Friday allowing unlimited travel until the end of service on the Sunday, costing €5.  Where a Friday or a Monday is a public holiday, the weekend ticket is valid throughout those days in addition.  Single journey, one-day and weekend tickets are sold by bus drivers.

There are also three-day tickets and a range of family tickets, as well as packs of ten-journey tickets sold at a discount.  These cannot be bought on buses, but can be bought in advance.

Tickets (including single journey tickets) must be validated on boarding the bus.

There was one other bus service operating in Arcachon.

A park-and-ride service is provided from early July until late August, from a car park on the approach to the town.  

The bus service is free, but there is a fee for car parking at the park-and-ride site.

For its season of operation, the park-and-ride service operates seven days a week from 09:00 until 20:30, apart from a break of an hour at lunchtime.

I found full-length single-deck buses operating the park-and-ride service.

Further information about the park-and-ride service is available (in French only) on the Arcachon town website.

A road train caters for tourists, operating from April to October.

There is a public bicycle scheme in Arcachon, however this is only available to local residents.  Cycles are provided free of charge (although a deposit is required for electric bikes), with the aim of reducing car use in the town.


Unusually, there are almost no regional bus services linking Arcachon with towns further afield.  The only one I am aware of is a seasonal summer service from Biscarrosse, around 30 kilometres to the south, operating four trips a day at weekends only.  A more regular service runs all year round, six days a week, to Biscarrosse from La Teste de Buch, which neighbours Arcachon.  Details of the Biscarrosse services are available, in French only, on the Bisca Grands Lacs website.

Although regional bus services are limited, there are other public transport options.

A regular train service operates between Arcachon and Bordeaux. This service forms part of the TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine network (details only in French).

In addition to the TER, one or two TGV high-speed trains per day operate between Arcachon and Paris via Bordeaux.  Special fares apply on TGV services and reservations are compulsory.

There is a variety of boat services operating from Arcachon to destinations across the bay.  Some routes are seasonal, but the link from Arcachon's main jetty to Cap Ferret, at the end of a peninsula, operates throughout the year.

I found a wide array of vessels operating on the bay.  Some were providing scheduled services, some were providing sightseeing tours of the bay, while others were plying for hire as water taxis.


Tickets for boat services and tours are sold from kiosks at Arcachon's jetty.

Cap Ferret

As mentioned above, Cap Ferret lies at the end of a peninsula, across the bay from Arcachon.

Bus services to Cap Ferret are provided by the TransGironde network.

The principal route is the 601 to and from Bordeaux, which operates all year round.  Journey time to Bordeaux is around 2 hours.

Most of the vehicles I saw on route 601 were high-specification coaches, with "e-car" branding.  These vehicles are equipped with wi-fi.




During July and August, an augmented timetable operates on route 601.

This might be the reason why not every bus I saw was an "e-car".

A second route serves Cap Ferret during the peak summer holiday months.  This is the 611, running north along the coast to Lacanau Océan.

Route 611 operates four times a day during the high summer months only.

Fares on TransGironde services are, at the time of writing, €2 per journey, regardless of distance.  This fare includes interchanging.  A day return fare is also available for €3.60.  Ten-journey tickets are also available, offering a discount.

On route 601, from April to October, tickets can be bought and seats reserved online in advance, on the TransGironde website.

A number of the French towns I have visited have tourist trains, including Arcachon illustrated above.

There is also a tourist train in Cap Ferret.  Unusually, this one runs on rails.

The tourist train operates across the peninsula, linking the jetty on the Bay of Arcachon with the beach on the Atlantic coast.

The train runs from April until October, although the timetable for October states that it will only operate in good weather.

The heavily-graffitied concrete structure overlooking the ocean terminus is a remnant of the Atlantic Wall, a network of fortifications built during the Second World War while this part of France was under Nazi occupation.

Details of the tourist train are available, in French only, on the "Petit Train de Cap Ferret" website.

The same information is on display at the stations.  This image was taken at the ocean terminus.

Finally, cycles can be hired at Cap Ferret.  The cycles are four-wheeled, clearly intended for use by couples, families or groups.