The Family Travel Guide for Holidays in the South of France

The Family Travel Guide for Holidays in the South of France

As Australian parents planning a family holiday abroad, you're most likely seeking locations rich in culture, beautiful nature, lovely beaches, and plenty of activities to entertain the whole family. Look no further than the South of France, a charming and picturesque region filled with stunning beaches, lovely cities, and a wealth of historic sites. This blog post will cover some helpful travel tips, exciting attractions and local experiences that will leave you and your family with long-lasting memories.

1. Pre-Trip Planning: The Key to a Smooth Journey

Importance of scheduling and pre-booking:

Pre-booking is crucial in the highly sought-after South of France, especially during the summer. It guarantees your spot in top-notch towns and attractions and often comes with discounted prices. With a well-planned schedule, you can save time and avoid disappointment from sold-out attractions. But don't forget, leave room for spontaneity – some of the greatest memories stem from unexpected adventures! So, get ready to explore and make unforgettable moments in the captivating South of France.

Child-friendly accommodations:

When it comes to staying in France with kids, finding suitable accommodation can make or break your trip. It's crucial to look for places that offer family rooms or, even better, establishments specifically designed to cater to younger kids. Amenities such as an outdoor pool, a kids club, or a nearby park can be a lifesaver after a long day of sightseeing. And if you're lucky enough to book a hotel with a view of the surrounding countryside, it can be an added bonus, immersing your family in the stunning landscapes that Southern France is renowned for.

Not only do hotels and holiday resorts in the region understand the importance of catering to families, but they also embody the family-centric culture of France, particularly in the South. They go above and beyond by providing cots, offering kid-friendly menus, and ensuring a safe play area for children.

In addition to hotels, holiday apartments are a fantastic option for family holidays in the South of France. With ample space and the convenience of a fully-equipped kitchen, they offer the flexibility and comfort that families need. Many regional holiday apartments provide family-friendly amenities and are strategically located near attractions and activities suitable for all ages and interests.

Packing essentials:

Preparing for a family trip, particularly with young children, can feel like getting ready for a grand expedition. The key is to prioritise. Pack sunscreen, hats, and comfortable clothing for the sunny South of France. If you're visiting the delightful parks in Montpellier or the beautiful beaches of Marseillan, don't forget to bring swimsuits, beach toys, and a picnic blanket.

However, in addition to the essentials, consider the region's attractions. Will you explore historic sites like the famous Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard, or ride an old steam train through charming towns? If you're visiting during winter, adjust your packing list accordingly and ensure you have the right gear for every adventure.

Remember, entertaining items like colouring books, puzzles, or travel games can keep the little ones happy during transit or waiting in queues.

2. Pezenas: The Historical Base for Your Family Adventure

Market Square in Pezenas

Nestled in the heart of Southern France, Pezenas is a gem that blends historical charm with modern-day comfort. Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbours, this picturesque town has, over the years, become a favourite for discerning travellers, especially families seeking a more intimate experience of France.

Staying:

Why Pezenas is Your Ideal Family Base

Pezenas strikes a perfect balance between a city's grandeur and a village's warmth. Its ideal size ensures engaging family outings without overwhelming them. The town is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding countryside and nearby cities, offering a tranquil retreat to return to.

For families, Pezenas offers a range of tailored holiday apartments, from spacious family rooms to well-equipped kitchens, providing a home away from home. With friendly locals and pedestrian-friendly streets to explore, it's no surprise that Pezenas has become a must-visit destination for family holidays in Southern France.

Kid-friendly Activities:

Historic Center - A Walk Through Time

Immerse yourself in Pezenas' charm by taking a leisurely stroll through its historic centre. With cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and storytelling fountains, this area echoes the town's rich past. Family-friendly tours are a delightful introduction to French history, engaging young minds with interactive and memorable learning experiences. Let the adventures begin!

The Toy Museum - Nostalgia and Play

Visiting the Toy Museum is a must if you're travelling with younger kids. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the past, showcasing vintage toys from various eras. It's not just a walk down memory lane for adults; it's a wonderland for children. The hands-on sections are especially popular, allowing kids to engage with replicas of these timeless toys. Come and experience the joy of play!

Eating:

Pezenas prides itself on its culinary heritage. Family-friendly restaurants and cafes dot the town, offering a range of options from traditional French cuisine to international dishes. One of the joys of staying in Pezenas is the ease with which families can dine out. The town caters to every palate, whether a quaint cafe serving fresh croissants or a bustling bistro dishing out local wine and cheeses.

Furthermore, Pezenas' weekly market does not disappoint for families keen on exploring local produce. Fresh fruit and vegetables, artisanal cheeses, and local delicacies are abundant, making picnics a popular choice for many.

Fresh produce at the weekly market in Pezenas

In Summation:

With its melding of history, culture, and modern comforts, Pezenas truly is a beautiful place for families to anchor their South of France adventure. Whether you're delving into the town's past, indulging in its culinary delights, or simply soaking in the ambience, Pezenas promises an enriching and relaxing experience. And for families, it offers the luxury of adventure and tranquillity, making every moment spent here a cherished memory.

3. Beziers: Discover the Enchanting Cathedral City

Beziers park with flower decoration

Just a short drive from Pezenas lies the magnificent city of Beziers, a destination that beautifully melds its ancient roots with the vibrancy of contemporary life. Often referred to as the "Cathedral City" due to the towering presence of the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral, Beziers offers families a perfect blend of cultural exploration and leisurely activities.

Attractions:

The Canal du Midi:

This world-famous waterway, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, flows gracefully through Beziers and is a must-visit for families. Taking a boat ride on the Canal du Midi is like journeying through time. As the boat meanders through ancient locks and over picturesque bridges, families can enjoy the serene beauty of the surrounding countryside. For kids, the experience is further enhanced by tales of old shared by local guides, making the journey informative and enchanting. Plus, with the gentle sway of the boat and the soothing sound of water, it's an ideal setting for a family bonding moment.

Plateau des Poètes:

If you're looking for an oasis in the city's heart, Plateau des Poètes is the place to be. This beautifully landscaped park, adorned with statues, fountains, and a lovely pond, offers families a serene escape from the bustling city life. The expansive lawns are perfect for family picnics, and the shaded areas provide a cool retreat during hot afternoons. Younger kids will especially enjoy the park's play areas, which are designed to be both safe and engaging.

Tips:

Morning Visits:

Like much of the South of France, Beziers can get quite warm during the afternoon, especially in summer. Exploring the city's attractions in the morning is advisable to make the most of your visit and avoid the peak heat. Not only is it cooler, but morning visits also offer a chance to experience the city as it wakes up, making it a quieter and more intimate experience.

Kid-friendly Eateries:

While Beziers boasts a range of gourmet restaurants and cafes, families will be delighted to know that there are also plenty of kid-friendly eateries. Many restaurants in the city offer play areas, ensuring that younger kids remain entertained while parents can savour their meals in peace. These eateries often have special kids' menus, ensuring that even the pickiest of eaters find something they like.

In Summation:

Beziers, with its grandeur and charm, offers families an experience that is both enriching and relaxing. Whether you're exploring the historical depths of the city, taking a leisurely boat ride, or simply enjoying a family picnic, Beziers ensures that every moment is memorable. So, as you plan your family holiday to the South of France, make sure to carve out a day or two for this beautiful city – it promises to be a highlight of your trip.

4. Marseillan: Embrace the Coastal Beauty

 

Nestled along the Mediterranean coast, Marseillan stands as a testament to the timeless allure of Southern France. Its blend of azure waters, sandy shores, and a bustling port makes it an irresistible destination for families. As you step into Marseillan, the scent of the sea greets you, the laughter of children playing along the beach, and the distant hum of boats docking at the port.

Family Activities:

Marseillan Beach:

Marseillan Beach - a great place for a family outing

One of Marseillan's crown jewels, the beach is a family haven. The waters are notably shallow, making it perfect for younger kids to splash around safely. Parents can rest easy, soaking in the sun while the kids build sandcastles or chase after the gentle waves. The expansive stretch of golden sand ensures enough room for everyone, so whether you're keen on sunbathing or playing beach volleyball, Marseillan Beach has got you covered.

Marseillan Port:

After a delightful beach and day trip, visiting the Marseillan port is the perfect way to wrap up your day. The port is a lively hub of activity, with boats of all sizes docking and setting sail. Families can take leisurely strolls, watch the skilled sailors at work or enjoy the myriad of colours reflecting off the water during sunset. And what better way to cool off than with a scoop (or two!) of ice cream? The port boasts a range of ice cream parlours, serving everything from classic vanilla to exotic Mediterranean flavours.

Tips:

Best Time to Visit:

Marseillan, being a coastal beauty, is understandably popular, especially during the summer months. If you're keen on experiencing the town without navigating through large crowds, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons – late spring or early autumn. The weather is still pleasant, the waters inviting, but with fewer tourists around, making your visit more intimate and relaxed.

Beach Essentials:

The Mediterranean sun, while beautiful, can be intense. When heading to Marseillan Beach, ensure you're well-prepared. Sunshades or umbrellas are essential to provide a cool spot for the family. Remember to pack ample sunscreen and keep reapplying, especially after a swim. Lastly, staying hydrated is crucial. Carry enough water to ensure the entire family can quench their thirst and stay refreshed throughout the day.

In Summation:

Marseillan captures the essence of a coastal town in the South of France: tranquil yet vibrant, traditional yet modern. For families, it offers a perfect blend of relaxation and activity. Whether basking on the beach, exploring the port, or simply savouring the local flavours, Marseillan promises a day filled with joy, laughter, and memories that will last a lifetime.

5. Carcassonne: Embark on a Medieval Adventure

Carcassonne fortress and castle tower

Journey back to the era of knights, fortresses, and fairy tales as you enter Carcassonne. This stunning medieval town, perched on a hill overlooking the beautiful surrounding countryside, transports families to a bygone age, blending history and imagination in perfect harmony. With its turrets, towers, and ancient walls, Carcassonne is every history lover's dream and every child's fantasy playground.

Main Attractions:

The Medieval Fortress:

Dominating the skyline of Carcassonne is its iconic medieval fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a testament to the town's rich past. With its double-walled fortifications and numerous watchtowers, the fortress stands as an enduring symbol of medieval architecture and defence strategies. Exploring the fortress is a journey filled with awe and wonder for families. However, to avoid the brunt of the midday sun and larger tour groups, it's advisable to visit during the early mornings or late afternoons when the ambience is more serene, and the lighting casts a golden hue over the stone walls.

Kid-friendly Guided Tours:

Opt for kid-friendly guided tours to bring the history of Carcassonne to life for younger family members. With tales of brave knights, mysterious princesses, and ancient battles, these tours are designed to captivate young minds. The guides, often dressed in medieval attire, add more authenticity to the experience, making history entertaining and educational.

Horse carriage in Carcassonne France

Tips:

Comfort Over Style:

While Carcassonne's charm lies in its cobbled streets and ancient pathways, they can be challenging to navigate. It's essential to wear comfortable shoes, preferably with a good grip, to explore the old town more safely. This will make the exploration more enjoyable, especially for little ones eager to run around and discover every nook and cranny.

Medieval-themed Dining:

After a day of exploration, what could be better than diving into a meal fit for a king or queen? Carcassonne boasts several medieval-themed restaurants that are a hit with kids. With staff dressed in period costumes and often entertainment like minstrels or jesters, these eateries offer more than just food—they provide a complete medieval experience. Children can enjoy dishes inspired by ancient recipes, making the dining experience fun and flavorful.

In Summation:

Carcassonne is more than a medieval village or just a town; it's a step back into history, an adventure waiting to unfold.

For families, it's an opportunity to learn, explore, and imagine together. Whether you're defending the fortress from imaginary dragons, listening to tales of old, or savouring a medieval feast, Carcassonne promises an experience that will be etched in memory long after the holiday is over.

6. Sète: Explore the Venice of Languedoc

Sete in France

Sète, often called the Venice of Languedoc, enchants families with its beautiful canals and seaside charm. Take the time to enjoy a boat tour around the canals or stroll along the picturesque cobblestone streets with your kids. Keep an eye out for local markets and welcoming restaurants that cater to families.

Family Activities:

Boat Tours Around the Canals:

While Venice is renowned for its iconic gondolas, Sete has its unique charm with boat tours along its quaint canals. These tours offer a tranquil perspective of the town, and it's universally acknowledged that both children and adults find boat journeys delightful. Keep an eye out for friendly locals as you glide by.

Sete’s Beaches:

A day at the beach is often a cherished family outing. Sete's beaches are refreshingly tranquil compared to some of its busier counterparts. They provide an ideal setting for activities like sandcastle building, casual games, or merely basking in the sun. The reduced crowd density also ensures a more relaxed experience.

Mont St Clair:

For those seeking a panoramic view of the surroundings, Mont St Clair is the place to be. It might require effort to reach the top, but its vistas are genuinely rewarding. Moreover, such an excursion can be a small adventure for the kids, sparking their excitement and curiosity.

Dining:

Seafood is undeniably the star cuisine in Sete. The town boasts a range of restaurants offering delectable marine delicacies. Recognizing the varied palate of younger visitors, many establishments offer child-friendly menus, ensuring everyone gets a taste of the Mediterranean. There's something for everyone, from classic fish and chips to delightful shrimp pasta.

In Summation:

In essence, Sete captures the heart of a serene Mediterranean town. Its blend of waterway tours, pristine beaches, and delightful cuisine crafts a balanced holiday experience for families. As you make the most of your time in Sete, the town's tranquillity and warmth will leave an indelible mark on your memories. Safe travels, and may this journey be one for the books.

Montpellier: Experience the Vibrant City

Panorama view of Montpellier in France

Ever experienced the vibrant rhythm of a city coursing through its streets, squares, and parks? Look no further than Montpellier! This Southern French gem seamlessly combines historical charm with contemporary flair. Let's explore a few highlights that make it a beloved family vacation destination.

Attractions:

Place de la Comédie:

At the heart of Montpellier, Place de la Comédie thrives as a lively epicentre. Not just a mere square, it's a spectacle adorned with street performers whose arts range from music to mime. As you traverse this vibrant plaza, it's almost like a window into the city's soul, where history meets today's heartbeat.

Zoological Park:

Montpellier's Zoological Park is a treasure trove for those young ones with a penchant for the animal kingdom. It's a realm where nature's wonders roam, chirp, and sway. The diversity of familiar and exotic species promises a day of learning, awe, and countless 'remember when' moments.

Amazonian Greenhouse:

Journeying into a tropical paradise doesn't necessitate crossing oceans. Montpellier's Amazonian Greenhouse is a verdant oasis that transports visitors to the dense heart of the jungle. The lush foliage, unique flora, and ambience make it feel like an expedition, albeit without the travel fatigue.

Tips:

Using Public Transport:

Navigating Montpellier is a breeze, especially with its efficient tram system. Apart from being punctual and extensive, these trams consider family needs – particularly those travelling with strollers. So when little feet tire, or you wish to hop from one end of the city to another, know that the trams have got you covered.

Kid-friendly Shopping:

Montpellier, blending tradition and modernity, offers an array of shopping locales tailored for younger visitors. Whether enchanting toy stores, inviting children's bookshops, or charming boutiques with trinkets and treasures, the city ensures its smallest guests aren't left out of the retail experience.

Square in Montepellier France

In Summation:

Montpellier, with its rhythm, wonders, and warmth, invites families to be part of its tapestry. It's a wonderful place where every corner has a story, every square resonates with laughter, and every day ends with a sense of fulfilment. As you chart your course through this radiant city, may it etch memories you'll cherish and recount for years. Safe journeying!

General Travel Tips for Families in the South of France

Embarking on a journey to the South of France promises both adventure and relaxation. However, travelling with family, especially kids, requires strategic planning to ensure a smooth and delightful experience. Here are a few tried-and-tested tips to consider:

Transport:

Renting a Family Car vs. Public Transport Options:

While renting a car provides flexibility and the luxury to explore the best towns in the South of France at your own pace, public transport, like trains and buses, can be more affordable and stress-free, especially in busy city centres. Consider your itinerary, comfort, and the logistics of moving with kids and luggage when deciding.

Dining:

Embracing the Local Cuisine and Finding Kid-friendly Dishes:

French cuisine is renowned worldwide, and the South of France boasts unique culinary delights. Venture into local markets and eateries to savour authentic dishes. For kids, staples like croissants, quiches, and crêpes are usually a hit. Moreover, many restaurants offer "menus enfants" (children's menus) tailored for younger palates.

Keeping Kids Entertained During Transit:

Activity Books, Games, and Local Tales:

Travel can entail waiting periods at stations, airports, or during long drives. Keeping a stash of activity books, travel-sized games, or sharing intriguing local tales can transform these intervals into enjoyable bonding moments. Engaging kids with stories about the places you're visiting can also pique their interest and anticipation.

Conclusion:

The South of France allures families with its picturesque towns, stunning beaches, and rich history. Each city and village holds unique charm waiting to be discovered. Taking into account the nuances of family travel, let your journey be both smooth and memorable.

This guide serves as a starting point, and as you explore, may you create stories filled with laughter, wonder, and shared moments.

Wishing you safe travels and an unforgettable family adventure in the South of France!

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