10 natural spots to explore with all the family

An adventurous spirit and bundle of energy with a curious mind… What better playground than Mother Nature herself to make them forget about their smartphones and screens? Here’s our Top 10 pick of places sure to get them back off the internet and back on track.

Dentelles de Montmirail

Look at that!

This jagged relief standing against a dazzling backdrop of blue skies is easily-recognizable from afar: its rocky cliff faces extend 8 kilometres to the North of Carpentras and overlook the stunning vineyards of Beaumes-de-Venise, Gigondas and Vacqueyras. But if you want to make the family outing a success, the local cellars will have to wait: opt instead for a lovely walk in the hills – the faux menhir of Vacqueyras is a definite must. Starting out from Vacqueyras, the trail leads across vines then into caves (make sure you have a torch with you), before reaching a bizarre stack of rocks carved by nature – a truly delightful and relaxing Provence walk. If you’re seeking something a little sportier, climb on your mountain bike and head out to conquer the Tour des Dentelles : don’t worry, it’s rated as “easy”.

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Marais du Vigueirat

Environmental awareness

This time, remember to take along your binoculars so you won’t miss out on any of this 2,965-acre site set at the crossroads of two remarkable ecosystems: the Rhône Delta and steppe-like plain of La Crau. This protected site in the heart of Camargue overflows with bull and horse ranches, herons, ducks and pink flamingos… A definite must-do for all the family, set between dry and wetlands. Don’t miss the Sentier des Cabanes, a pretty footpath entirely built on piles. While you’re there, you can also opt for a tour of the wetlands in a horse-drawn cart, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, before treating everyone to a drink and bite to eat at the friendly refreshment stand featuring a great choice of local fare.

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Plage de l’Espiguette at Grau du Roi

Just chillin’

A trip to the beach is one excursion that’s bound to get everyone’s vote! Head to Le Gard and Plage de l’Espiguette in Grau du Roi. This 10-kilometre stretch of golden sand (a Blue Flag beach) promises plenty of room for you to lay down your towel on dunes unique in Europe… Slip into your swimming gear and jump in for a splash against a captivating backdrop of kite surfers. And if you want to make the day truly unforgettable, opt for a horse ride along the dunes in the flaming light of dusk. Simply mesmerizing.

 

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Verdon Canyon

Awe-inspiring

By now, nearly everyone is familiar with this emerald-tinted picture-postcard decor. The Verdon Canyon – Europe’s highest canyon lined with cliffs ranging from 250 to 700 metres, set between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – promises a vast palette of activities for all the family. Set in the Verdon Regional Nature Reserve, the “Route des Crêtes” road running alongside the canyon offers many beautiful viewpoints – get ready to wow everyone back home with your pics! If you’re travelling with teenagers, try your hand at paragliding and take to the air alongside bearded and griffon vultures soaring majestically above the cliffs. If your clan is on the younger side, head to Sainte-Croix lake spanning the Var and Alpes de Haute Provence areas for an afternoon of antics on a pedalo.

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Massif de l’Estérel

A picnic with a view…

Standing with its feet firmly in the water and head in azure-blue skies, the Massif de l’Estérel is set bordering the Mediterranean Sea, to the south-east of the Var area. This volcanic hill range is easy to spot thanks to its flaming ochre rocks and low altitude, making it an ideal playground for nature-seeking families. The hills feature a variety of signposted trails suitable for walkers, riders and mountain bikers. Make sure your little cherubs are kitted out with good walking shoes then head out to tackle Mont Vinaigre or Pic de l’Ours, both offering sea views they won’t forget in a hurry.

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Haute-Provence geological sites

Let’s play Jurassic Park!

Time goes by but stone remains… and unveils a host of hidden treasures. The Haute-Provence area overflows with geological heritage and promises endless hours of exploration for your kids. Head to the Haute-Provence Geological Reserve, home to such iconic sites as the Dalle aux Ammonites in Digne-les-Bains. This huge stone slab is adorned with 1,500 ammonites dating back over 200 million years and is part of the Haute-Provence UNESCO Geopark. Take the footpath in the village of Les Mées leading to Les Pénitents : a line of narrow rocks measuring over 100 metres in height. Legend tells that they are ancient monks set in stone… Last but not least, the Vallée des Sirènes in the village of Castellane unveils fascinating fossils of sirenians (ancestors of the manatee).

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Mont Serein

Conquering Mont Ventoux

Visiting Provence? Don’t leave without conquering the mythical Mont Ventoux, via the resort on the mountain’s northern face. Mont Serein offers a vast palette of summer and winter activities alike, including a treetop adventure course, pony rides, trampolines and some weird and wonderful machines your kids won’t want to miss, such as tubes, a “devalkart” (a mini electric kart) and all-terrain electric scooters. There’s definitely something here for all the family before heading out on one of the 4 hiking trails dotted with information panels and views to take your breath away… If you’re an avid MTB fan, you’ll also find a “VTT-FFC” park here, complete with 12 thrilling trails.

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Gorges du Gardon

A breath of fresh air

A tributary of the Rhône river, the Gardon, with its crystal-clear waters perfect for paddling and bathing, has everything to please families seeking a plunge into nature. You can also explore this impressive natural decor with a choice of walks: the Belvédère du Castellas, for example, offers magnificent vistas over the most impressive stretch of the gorge. Last but not least, the site’s two museums – the Maison des Gorges du Gardon in Russan at the gateway to the gorge and Maison du Castor in Collias (opening in 2021), both offering a fun and informative insight into the area’s unique ecosystems – are sure to please curious kids.

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Plaine des Maures national nature reserve

An exotic touch

Set at the foot of the Massif des Maures hill range, this site promises a voyage to remember for all the family. The Mediterranean’s exceptional biodiversity is on full display here, with a fabulous show of oak and pine forests, lush grass, pools, shrubland, sandstone slabs and meadows… Your little ones will love looking out for the local Hermann tortoise – a rare indigenous species – and the reserve’s protected orchids (look but don’t touch of course). Last but not least, enjoy a casual stroll along Lac des Escarcets : at dusk, the pink sandstone dotted with umbrella pines and cork oaks resembles a decor straight out of the Lion King – a taste of the African Savannah unique in France.

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A tour of La Treille

Plunge into the world of Pagnol

Follow in the footsteps of world-famed French author and film-maker Marcel Pagnol in the village of La Treille, where Pagnol was laid to rest. He used to cross the town on his way to his summer home in La Bastide Neuve (in the hamlet of Bellons, in Allauch). It was here too (at Villa La Pascaline) that he took refuge to write his novels and shoot some of the scenes from his earlier films. The Marseille Tourist Office now hosts guided tours inviting visitors on a deep dive into the wonderful world of Pagnol, featuring fun historical facts, anecdotes and extracts from his works. A magical Provence experience at the gateway to Marseille and a chapter you’ll never want to finish…

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