A slender spit of land where the Bassin D’Arcachon trickles in and out, the Atlantic roars to the delight of surfers and time is dictated by your appetite, Cap Ferret is a charming French headland with oysters aplenty. Kate Lough explores.




“Alors… Pour le dessert, je vous propose de la mousse au chocolat.” A husk of a voice hovers over our candlelit table, her unsolicited suggestion floating across the debris of moules and blue gingham napkins. We know without looking that it belongs to Bernadette, the legendary proprietaire of Chez Hortense. And we know better than to refuse. It is a finely choreographed dance we hone each time we visit her restaurant in Cap Ferret, which is never less than sardine-packed on a summer night.

I have been coming to Cap Ferret with friends for a decade and we will always have dinner at Chez Hortense — at least once. Everyone does. We cycle from the house in town like a line of chicks, following the curve of sand through pine forest towards the point where the bassin meets the ocean. Someone usually falls off on the way back.

Dangling from the west coast of France an hour from Bordeaux, Cap Ferret is a slender spit of land where the Bassin D’Arcachon trickles in and out to its east, while the Atlantic roars to the delight of surfers to the west, rolling in across a wide sloping beach with dunes standing sentry. You can bike across the Cap in 10 minutes. Or walk. There is no need for a car, unless it is a Moke to ferry boogie boards around. Reared on blustery Cornish summers, I feel deliciously at home.

Our time here is dictated by our appetites. And oysters. Endless oysters, which are the lifeblood of Cap Ferret. The bassin is a hive of breeding and shucking, with each oyster honcho opening up a small cabane along the beach for daily degustations. We have our favourites, such as Chai Bertrand, but it does not matter much since each one offers the same chalked-up menu of crevettes, huîtres and baguette. White or rose wine.

Usually we take our pick ahead of dinner, just as the light starts to turn and the landscape is painted a molten gold. We cluster around the tables by the water, ordering multiples of “moyennes, sans laiteuse, s’il vous plaît”. Traditional pinasse boats sidle up to weary jetties, their salt-licked crews swilling oysters-to-go under the last rays.

My days here always start with a swim from the house, if the tide allows. The garden gate opens onto soft sand and within a few paces you are at the shoreline. Sometimes it is clear like the Mediterranean, sometimes the wind or rain has churned it into opaqueness. We swim across the water, collapsing on the other side for a few minutes of sun-drenched rest, then push back against the current in the direction of breakfast.

Somebody would have ambled to the boulangerie in the meantime, filling a basket with croissants, pain au chocolats and a dozen baguettes that we tear into with our hands and top with slices of butter that look like cheese.


Before we know it, it is lunchtime. Bottles of Bordeaux white from Alice Cap Ferret (a cave-a-vin-come-book-shop) are fetched from the fridge, alongside paper-wrapped charcuterie and St Felicien from the market. Afterwards, we might pedal to the ‘Atlantic Beach’ to be thrown about in the waves and crisp our skins on the sand.

Some days, we might wade through the shallows beyond the garden gate to a waiting boat, its captain Daniel whisking us off to the little islets that pop up in the bassin at low tide, lugging picnics, beers and balls for the boys.

But mostly, we rise and fall from the outdoor dining table, drifting in and out of conversations, debates and games — and plotting what to eat, drink or shuck next.


Where To Stay: The charming and rustic La Maison du Bassin Ends

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Kate Lough is a UK-based writer and editor, specialising in the arts and travel | Follow Kate on Instagram: @kateloughstudio

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