Growing up in Northern Virginia, oysters were not something that came to our table, ever. Once I started working in the South of France, getting a bottle of white wine and a plate of oysters in Cannes by the marina was one of my favorite escapes from work. Now, watching my four year old inhale a platter of seafood when we go to the coast is one of the most incredible things! No hesitation and just pure joy! On my food tours, this is one of my favorite things to have guests try, since it does tend to be the first time for many. You wont find fresher oysters then eating them from a producers cabane (shack) in the Bassin d’Arcachon.
While oyster cultivation has been occurring in our area of SW France for millennia and is a massive industry on the West Coast of France in general (France accounts for 60% of all oysters eaten in Europe, if they get the chance to leave the country). The Bassin (bay) is a large producer but mostly known for being the largest producer of baby oysters, or spat, which are then sent all over France.
The oyster museum in Gujan-Maestras is a great resource, offering excellent visuals to explore oyster farming and production throughout the centuries. Good for kids and adults, can book tickets in advance online. Located in the Port Larros, next to the shacks / Maison de l’huître – Bassin d’Arcachon – Gujan Mestras – Musée – Port de Larros (maison-huitre.fr) / email@example.com / +33 05 56 66 23 71 / Port de Larros, 33470 Gujan-Maestras
There are multiple locations to go and try oysters in the Bassin, here are a few ideas. Generally, if you are taking this for lunch, you would add some shrimp and sea snails (not produced locally however) and maybe some pate (local), and surely a glass or two of white wine from the Entre-Deux-Mers region (local). Please be sure to always call in advance to ensure the cabanes are open and/or book a table. Locations on the beach tend to be booked well in advance in the summer months. This just a short list of my favorites :
ARCACHON – Cabane Aguillon is close to Arcachon and rather unique in that you get the feel of a beachside cabane without having to head towards Cap Ferret / Open daily from 9am-9pm / La Cabane de l’Aiguillon (Arcachon) – Vente / Livraison d’huîtres à domicile (lacabanedelaiguillon.com) / +33 06 75 85 90 60 / 51 Boulevard Pierre Lotti l’Aquillon, 33120 Arcachon
GUJAN-MAESTRAS – Next to the port with all of the farmers, there are multiple cabanes to taste oysters surrounding a quai near the oyster museum. If you go to Les Foiles Jolies you can speak with Julie in French or English to learn more about the production / A dozen oysters should run you no more than about 8 EURO / Les petites folies – Dégustation d’huîtres – Gujan Mestras (facebook.com) / +33 05 56 83 45 78 / Port de Larros, 33470 Gujan-Maestras
CAP FERRET – Take a stroll through the charming Village L’Herbe and Le Canon at the top of the peninsula, full of small, historic fishing villages with beautiful colored shacks and picturesque landscapes. The views here are some of the best in the area, especially around sunset. My kids like to be near the beach and play in the water while we enjoy a longer conversation and absorb the incredible view over a glass of wine. My favorite is down by the lighthouse, away from the crowds is at Chai Bertrand / +33 06 63 91 84 88 / 60 Quar Pecheurs, 33970 Lege Cap Ferret
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Why not take a walking tour with us to learn about oyster farming, history and how to eat an oyster? We can add a caviar farm visit with tasting as well if you want to make a day of it! Pick up can be arranged locally with us or a private driver from your hotel / +33 06 33 91 37 90 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a boat tour with local boat company who caters to families as well as individuals in group guided tours of oyster farms Oyster farms | Union des Bateliers Arcachonnais (bateliers-arcachon.com)
Multiple companies offer private boat tours on a pinasse (local boat), contact us for options.