European beaches have long failed to impress us. Those rows and rows of striped umbrellas might make for a nice aerial photo, but being packed on to a beach and being able to bump elbows with our fellow sun worshipers as though we’re in a teeny Parian café is pretty much my definition of hell on earth. Come June when those umbrellas would spring up, we’d swear off going to the beach again until September, when the umbrellas and chairs are stowed away until next year’s season. However, my first look at the Bay of Arcachon had me singing a different tune. And when Villa La Tosca invited Tim and I to come stay at the boutique luxury beachfront villa for a few days, we didn’t even hesitate.
Villa La Tosca
The Bay of Arcachon has a special Victorian style of architecture known as Arcachonnaise and Villa La Tosca is an excellent example of the style. The villa was built in 1903 by Germain Cumenge, a man of great importance in Bordeaux at the time who served as prosecutor, district attorney and went on to become the first President of the Court of Appeals.
The villa would change ownership several times over the years and Aurélien, the manager of Villa La Tosca, told us that an elderly woman lived there alone before the current owners acquired the villa. As you can imagine, such a large house and grounds were too much for the woman to care for alone and it fell into disrepair.
The current owners, Karin and Marc, purchased the villa in 2005 and lovingly restored it. It oozes character and we loved all the details from the whale tail shaped bar stools to the working fireplaces.
The 5-star 5000 square meter villa can be rented for exclusive use or individual rooms can be booked as a boutique hotel type stay. We experienced both options on our two night stay, sharing the villa with another couple on our first night and having the entire villa exclusively to ourselves on our second night.
It’s more like going to stay with friends that just so happen to own a fabulous beachfront villa than at a hotel. There’s friendly staff onsite to ensure you have everything you need, but they’re also happy to give you privacy. And they’re always only a call away with a little call button located in the rooms and throughout the house.
There’s fantastic common areas like the living room perfect for curling up with a good book or playing a board game. There’s also amenities like foosball for guests to make use of.
Villa La Tosca offers a traditional French breakfast with fresh pressed orange juice, croissants, pain au chocolate, baguette, fruit and yogurt. There are additional options you can order, like the eggs benedict I was very tempted by since it’s my favorite breakfast to indulge in. You have the option to have breakfast in the dining room or be served breakfast in your room at your preferred time.
There’s also a multi-course dinner offered by the villa’s chef or you can choose to use the fully equipped kitchen to cook lunch and dinner yourself. Since living on different continents means Tim doesn’t get my home cooked meals very often, we picked up filets, baby potatoes and green beans. And as a once aspiring chef, Villa La Tosca’s kitchen is pretty much my dream home kitchen.
Though we stayed in February over Valentine’s Day and it was too chilly to make use of the outdoor pool, living in Bordeaux we know just how fabulous that pool is come summertime. There’s also beach access right through a gate from the garden for a dip in bay or walk on the beach.
L’eau Vive Suite
We stayed in the largest of the two suites, the 80 square meter L’eau Vive suite. Located on the first floor (second floor for us Americans), it has two private terraces with one with a sea view and the other overlooking the pool and garden. If other guests are staying at the villa, you also share a third sea view terrace.
The bedroom looks out over the sea view and it was warm enough for us to sleep with the windows slightly open. Is there anything more relaxing than hearing the waves lap at the beach?
A huge his and hers dressing area separates the bedroom from the bathroom. The bathroom has his and hers double sinks, a separate rain and massaging shower and a jacuzzi bath situated by a working wood fireplace. There were also Caudalie bath products, which was founded in Bordeaux and is known for their grape-based skincare line.
Bay of Arcachon
It’s not just us that are wowed by the beauty of the Bassin d’Arcachon. The Guardian named Dune du Pilat one of the 12 most beautiful beaches in the world recently. The triangle shaped bay covers an area of 150 square kilometers at high tide and Dune du Pilat is just one of 10 towns and villages surrounding the bay.
Villa La Tosca is located in Lanton, sort of situated in the middle for visiting both Dune du Pilat and Cap Ferret. There’s plenty to do from bicycling to parasailing off the top of the Dune. The nearby village Andernos hosts a jazz festival each July and Arés hosts an oyster festival, the Fête de L’huître, each August.
Arcachon, lending its name to the bay, has miles of sandy beach and is the most complete Belle Epoque town in France. A walk or drive around the Ville d’hiver (Winter Town) will have you oohing and aahing over the grand villas from the late 1800s. There’s also a covered market, open daily in summer and every day except Mondays from September through June. The freshest fish from the auctions arrives here, along with local produce. The restaurants along the promenade are the perfect place to indulge in moules frites.
Of course, you can also head out to Cap Ferret and eat the freshest oysters straight from the farmer’s oyster shacks where they only serve oysters, bread and wine. We promise you won’t ever have better oysters than from these unassuming shacks.
Another unique way to experience the Bay of Arcachon is on a wine tasting cruise excursion. You can charter the boat to make your way to drop anchor in front of Dune du Pilat, all while tasting the variety of Bordeaux wines from white to red to sweet Sauternes and slurping up a few dozen oysters right from the Bassin.
Know Before You Go
Our stay was provided by Villa La Tosca in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. This article contains affiliate links. When you book on Booking.com through our affiliate site, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.