South of France Coastal Villages

South of France coastal villages Gruissan

Gruissan, Bages and Peyriac de Mer

These three pretty South of France coastal villages are about 20 minutes drive from the Chateau. The only one of these villages that actually borders the Mediterranean Sea is Gruissan, sandwiched between the Med and a saltwater lagoon (l’etang). Bages and Peyriac de Mer are on the banks of the saltwater lagoon. These are all picturesque fishing villages with charming old, stone houses and they all have their own unique character.

South of France coastal villages Gruissan Port


Gruissan, the largest of the three towns used to be a fishing village but now is predominantly based around tourism. Fresh seafood is still sold daily from La Halle de la Peche and there are some good seafood restaurants in the old town and by the beaches. The old part of the town circles the Tour Barberousse, which is all that is left of the 10th Century Chateau that used to occupy that spot. Circular villages were built in the Languedoc over a thousand years ago, for defensive purposes. Any invaders would be trapped in the streets and would not be able to turn back. The tower sits astride a hill and the spectacular view over the surrounding coastline and countryside from the top is well worth the climb.  

South of France coastal villages Gruissan Plage

Gruissan is a great destination for nature lovers and the starting point for a number of walks alongside the lagoon or into Le Massif de la Clape, 15 hectares of unspoilt natural beauty and home to rare flora and fauna including pink flamingos. There are several long, sandy beaches in Gruissan, including the Plage de Chalets which was made famous as a location for the filming of Betty Blue. During the summer season, there are regular markets in Gruissan and there is also a night market every evening on the quays of the port throughout July and August.  

Bages & Peyriac de Mer

These neighbouring villages are on the other side of the water from Gruissan and both are right on  L’Etang de Bages. They are a lot quieter than Gruissan in the summer months and a good choice if you are looking for a less touristy option. 

South of France coastal villages Peyriac de Mer

Bages is a tiny fishing village that is home to a community of artists. There’s not a great deal to do in Bages except explore the narrow cobbled streets between the stone fishermen’s cottages that tumble down the hill to the side of the lagoon. The central square is home to a couple of restaurants and is a pleasant spot for lunch or a drink. If you follow the path out of the village by the lagoon away from Narbonne you will reach Peyriac de Mer. This is an absolutely stunning route and we recommend walking or cycling between the two to make the most of the scenery. You will almost certainly see flocks of pink flamingos in the salt water as well as cranes, egrets and numerous other wading birds. You can hire bikes from the cafe in Peyriac de Mer.

Peyriac de Mer

South of France coastal villages Peyriac de Mer

The village of Peyriac de Mer does get busier in the summer months but it is still a bit of an undiscovered secret as most tourists pass it by on their way to the African wildlife reserve in neighbouring Sigean.  It is one of the most attractive villages in the entire area, with mediaeval cobbled streets and historic stone houses in the typical Occitane style, many of which are covered in beautiful Mediterranean climbers.

There is an excellent restaurant O Vieux Tonneaux in the square outside the church which serves local dishes. Booking is essential in the summer, even midweek. There is a little more to do in Peyriac than in Bages – it is home to a small archaeological museum with prehistoric and Roman collections and a fine 14th Century church. 

Peyriac de Mer restaurant

However, it is Peyriac’s position on the banks of the Etang de Doul  that is the real draw.  There are numerous walks you can take to explore ‘le doul’ – a large expanse of garrigue covered with pine trees and criss crossed with sandy paths – and completely uninhabited save for one wine domaine. The most popular walk passes the old salt plains that date from Roman times, and takes a wooden pontoon that leads you across the crystal clear water and onto the Doul. Depending on how much time you have available you can complete a short circuit around the water’s edge or venture further into the Doul. There is a swimming beach a short distance away from the end of the pontoon which is good for swimming due to the saltiness of the water.


Leucate is a seaside town 50 km east of Nevian on the Mediterranean coast. It is a 35 minute drive if you take the Autoroute and about 50 minutes on the national road. In our view, it is worth taking the national road at least on the drive down because it is such a scenic route, with magnificent views of the Pyrenees.

South of France coastal villages Leucate

Leucate is famous for its oysters which are harvested from its saltwater lagoons and widely regarded to be the best in the Languedoc area. There are plenty of restaurants serving oysters in Leucate but the best way to taste them is buying fresh from one of the oyster shacks that line both sides of an inlet leading down to the water’s edge. Each shack will have rustic wooden tables in front of them where you can sit outside in the sunshine to enjoy the oysters, served simply with a red wine and shallot vinaigrette or fresh lemon – and a bottle of local white or rose wine. The oyster shacks are open all year round between 8am and 8pm. 

Oysters in Leucate

Leucate is also blessed with white sandy beaches and clear turquoise seas, including a naturist beach at the Port Nouvelle end. La Franqui is considered the most picturesque section of beach. It is a top spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing as the sometimes fierce, local wind La Tramontana, creates perfect conditions for this sport. On calmer days you can also paddle board here. The wind can be very strong in Leucate so do check weather conditions before setting off.