Ten of Europe’s best campsites to visit this summer
Summer holiday still not booked? Here are some great options for all the family
Camping Les Ormes in Dol de Bregtagne, Brittany
Thought five-star camping was a contradiction in terms? Check out our top 10 sites with fun stuff for kids, and sights to see for grown-ups, to ensure happy campers all round.
La Croix du Pont, Berny Riviere, Aisne, Hauts-de-France
This one might look inauspicious, situated as it is in what might technically be described as au milieu de nulle part, but it’s a terrific campsite with indoor and outdoor pools, a swimming lake, laser tag and bowling alley. It’s also a great base for touring. Disneyland is just over an hour away and you can buy discounted entrance tickets at the campsite, which also runs a bus to the resort. Parc Asterix is even closer, and better if it is rollercoasters that float your boat. Paris is just over an hour away and, if you don’t mind the heart attack-inducing lane changes – why do the French put exit arrows right on top of the exits? – Versailles takes not much longer. A region which was devastated in two world wars, the campsite is surrounded by poignant military graveyards and the Somme is a 90-minute drive away.
Don’t miss: The Clairière de l’Armistice, a war memorial in a clearing in the woods where the armistice that ended WWI was signed
Camping Le Vieux Port, Messange, Gascony
A huge campsite – so bring your bikes or be ready to hire them – tucked into the pine forests of Landes in south west France, never has a campsite’s fab water park been so redundant. This is because Le Vieux Port backs onto an immense beach stretching as far as the eye can see. And when you’ve had enough of the coast, explore inland on horses from the kind of “Gaulish” riding stables you’d expect Asterix to frequent. The low-key seaside village of Vieux Boucau is few minutes’ walk away and Biarritz, a resort which has shed its Victorian seaside skin and been reborn as a trendy surfing destination, is just under an hour’s drive. Best of all is elegant San Sebastián, just over the border in Spain.
Don’t miss: The Course Landaise – an ‘anti-bull fight’ where the cows torment the people.
La Sirene, Argelès Sur Mer, Pyrénées-Orientales
This suburban campsite is accessed via an inauspicious series of roundabouts in what appears not unlike an industrial estate. Once inside the gate, however, this is lush and exotically planted. The pools and restaurants are good but it’s the surrounding location that accounts for its real appeal. Argèles is a buzzy seaside town which seems to have sprung up out of nowhere, while nearby Collioure, right on the nearby border with Spain, has picturesque heritage. The mighty walled city of Carcassonne is an hour and a half’s drive away, and all have plenty of churros.
Don’t miss: Argèles Plage, almost 10km of sandy beach and promenade.
Domaine Les Ormes, Dol de Bregtagne, Brittany
Manicured parklands in a 200-hectare estate built around a honey-coloured mansion, this one has an 18-hole golf course, boating lake, equestrian centre and tree-top high wires. It has a huge playground too, as well as a Big Top for travelling circuses, a great pool complex and tree-house accommodation. Being Brittany, the campsite is surrounded by half timbered, floral villages, while, further afield, must-sees include relaxed St Malo and historic Mont St Michel, straight out of Beauty and the Beast, the live action version.
Don’t miss: Raft houses which float on a pond.
Camping Pachacaid, La Mole, Var
In the forested hills backing the French Riviera, Pachacaid has a large outdoor restaurant, tennis courts and a kidney-shaped pool. But the big draw here is the water park next door which has enough slides and chutes for endless entertainment. The beach at Canadel is 15 minutes away and the yachts at Antibes are well worth the drive, just to see the speed boats, cars and even helicopters attached to them. Or take the train to Cannes, Nice or Monte Carlo for a great day out.
Don’t miss: The Green Boat shuttle to Saint Tropez, 17km from Pachacaid.
La Grande Metairie, Carnac, Brittany
Brittany can be a hit and miss on the weather front but where there are indoor and outdoor pools you’ll be sorted for a swim regardless. Great for younger children, this one is built around a small zoo, with zip lines and high-wire activities to suit slightly older kids. For the grown-ups there’s all the history of those 3,000 megalithic stones surrounding it, plus picturesque towns such as Dinan, Vannes and Quimper.
Don’t miss: The geranium-filled streets of the old walled port town of Concarneau.
Norcenni Girasole, Figline, Tuscany
Set overlooking forested Tuscan hills and to an intense soundtrack of cicadas, Norcenni is a terrific spot half-way between Florence and Arezzo. The campsite is divided in two, with a water park at either end connected by a little electric train. The restaurants have spectacular views and there is a good variety, including pizza places, crepe stops and Italian ice cream parlours. The surrounding scenery, replete with cypresses and hilltop villages is stunning, and Florence a 40 minute hairpin drive away in one direction, Sienna just over an hour in the other.
Don’t miss: The market at the nearby town of Greve en Chianti
Castell Montgri, L’Estartit, Costa Brava
A beautifully maintained campsite with a pool large enough to make up for a lack of chutes and flumes, this one has football pitches, tennis courts, ponies and mini golf too. It also has an illuminated rock pool high up in the pine forest that’s worth trekking up to see because they serve cocktails up there too – for non-swimmers obviously. The seaside town of L’Estartit isn’t particularly picturesque but has lots of restaurants and a good beach and water sports. There’s a great water park nearby at Lloret de Mar, which has a great beach, while the drive to Barcelona makes a great day trip, at just over an hour and a half away from the campsite.
Don’t miss: The medieval Catalan village of Pals on a fortified hilltop nearby.
Les Alicourts, Loire Valley
Verdant and well designed, with good spaces between mobiles and a wave pool that, on its own, is reason enough to go, the only reason your correspondent ended up here was because you could fly to Tours for about 10 cents at the time. As we drove deeper and deeper into the woods to find it, we had reason to worry we had been fleeced. But it turned out to be the perfect location from which to trail children through the glorious chateaux of the Loire Valley. Chambord, Chaumont, Cheverny – all the ch ones – each more magnificent than the last, are all within easy reach and guaranteed to take your breath away, and not just from all the stairs.
Don’t miss: The Tintin museum at Cheverny.
Bella Italia, Peschiera de Garda, Veneto
A huge campsite with a decent-sized pool, archery, football, tennis and loads of bouncy trampoline inflatable-type activities for kids, the real draw here is the location right on edge of Lake Garda, with all the touring required to keep grown-ups entertained too. Picturesque towns not to be missed include Sirmione, Torri del Benaco and Riva del Garda. Bella Italia is well served by a host of theme parks, including water parks, Movie Land and Gardaland. Best of all is that a two-hour train journey – and train travel is always an adventure in itself on holidays – takes you right into Venice.
Don’t miss: Ditch the car and get an all day boat ticket to explore the lake.