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The Dune du Pilat, also known as the Dune du Pyla, on France’s Atlantic coast is Europe’s highest dune. Only 65 km from Bordeaux the Dune du Pilat is an easy day trip or plan a longer stay on the coast and explore Nouvelle- Aquitaine’s Atlantic coast.
Close your eyes.
Deep green pine forest plus salty Atlantic sea breeze.
A simple aromatic bouquet.
Add in a dash of summer heat and soft, powdery sand between your toes. And there you are, standing on Europe’s highest sand dune, the Dune du Pilat France.
Look west and the Atlantic Ocean sparkles as far as the eye can see.
A verdant green carpet sprawls to the east. Is there a better view of the Landes Forest?
First of all, you have to get to the top.
Scramble up the steepest side of the Dune du Pilat France.
or walk the 168 stairs to the top.
Which route would you take to the ridge of the this enormous sand dune in France?
It’s not hard to momentarily wonder if you have been transported to Africa or the Middle East. This enormous dune seems out of place in France.
The Dune du Pilat is one of France’s natural heritage sites. It stretches 2.7 km from north to south and 100 metres high.
No wonder the people on top look minuscule.
The Dune du Pilat France has been around for thousands of years.
But… it never looks quite the same.
Winds continue to push the dune eastwards by one to five metres a year slowly covering the forested area.
What will it look like a thousand years from now? Will the Landes forest eventually disappear?
On arrival at the Dune of Pilat’s summit…
marvel at its existence,
feel the sand shifting,
run from one side to the other,
forest to sea,
and back again,
wander to the second peak,
imagine swimming to the island you spy,
sink into the sand
Sand is drifting all around.
For a minute I allow it to put life in perspective.
A handful of sand slips between my fingers falling into a new location.
I am reminded that, like a grain of sand, I am one teeny speck in the vast universe.
The fun part? Running down the steepest side of the dune!
FAQ | Dune Du Pilat France
When Is The Dune of Pilat Open?
The Dune of Pilat is a very popular destination and is open all year, every day.
How Much Does It Cost To Climb The Dune?
The Dune of Pilat is free of charge to enter. There is a cost for parking. See below.
What Services Are At The Dune of Pilat?
Just past the parking lot, there are bathroom facilities and stores selling touristy trinkets, ice cream and drinks. The services are open in high season.
What Can I See From The Top Of The Dune?
From the top of the Dune, the views are marvellous. Stretching before you is Arcachon Bay, The Banc d’Arguin and the Cap-Ferret Lighthouse. And the Landes Forest stretches out before you too.
How Do I Get To The Dune du Pilat?
I drove north from Biscarrosse and found that the Dune of Pilat was not well signposted. I missed the Dune du Pilat because I thought I was going to Dune du Pyla. There is a town called Pyla-sur-Mer which is north of the dune which is where I ended up!
Driving south, there are lots of clearly marked signs to get you there.
Dune du Pilat and Dune du Pyla are the same thing!! Both names appear on road signs.
Driving from the South:
From Biscarrosse Beach: take D83 and D218; 20 minutes
Driving from the North:
From Arcachon: take D218 for the seaside route.
Driving from Bordeaux:
take A63 and the A660
Parking at the Dune of Pilat:
The first 30 minutes are free.
2 hours: €4 cars and motorcycles; €8 camper vans
4 hours: €6 cars and motorcycles; €10 camper vans
It is a busy parking lot with a long line up to get in and out.
By Train and Bus:
Bordeaux (Gare St-Jean) to Arcachon Train Station:
There are many daily trains TER and TGV (regional and high speed) from Bordeaux to Arcachon. Find train time here.
About 53-minute trip.
Cost: €11.50 one way
From Arcachon Train station to the Dune du Pilat:
By bus, it takes 30 minutes.
Check the schedule here:
Tip: If you have time between the bus and the train, find a brasserie in Arcachon to sample the local speciality of oysters. Pair it with a chilled white wine! If you are new to the oyster scene, here is how to look like a local and eat oysters like the French!
Another Option To Get To The Dune du Pilat
If taking public transportation and renting a car, doesn’t float your boat, take an organized tour to the Dune du Pilat and Arcachon:
Half-Day Tour from Bordeaux: includes the Dune du Pilat and also oyster tasting in Arcachon.
Check Booking.com and Airbnb to see what is available.
I stayed at Biscarrosse Beach at the Hotel des Vagues – less than a ten-minute walk to the beach and just a 20-minute drive to the Dune du Pilat.
Camping | Dune du Pilat
Here are 5 campgrounds near the Dune of Pilat. What a great place to hang out for a few days.
Who’s up for a trip to the Atlantic coast of France to check out the Dune du Pilat?