France is one of our all-time favourite child-friendly holiday destinations, so we thought we’d share 3 recommended regions for family holidays in this beautiful country. All are renowned for their gastronomy – and, as some families prefer to self-cater while others yearn to enjoy someone else’s cooking on holiday, we’ve suggested an example of both options for each.
France’s southernmost region, bordered by the beaches of the Mediterranean and the majestic Pyrenees, has historical towns and hilltop castles, wild landscapes with rivers, gorges and valleys, and beaucoup du vin (it produces more than Australia!). You can fly in and out of Montpellier, Carcassonne, Perpignan or Beziers, or let the train take the strain – the TGV goes to Avignon, Nimes and Montpellier.
Although these luxurious villas come with brilliantly equipped kitchens, this classy country estate also has an excellent restaurant with a family-friendly lunchtime menu, plus a separate kids’ dinner at 6pm daily. Parents can then book a babysitter and descend into the Caveau for a wine-tasting session, or imbibe the excellent cocktails in the atmospheric bar before dining à deux. Picnics and BBQ packs are also available, and there are great market towns such as Pezenas nearby. There’s a heated swimming pool (and several of the villas have private pools), a tennis court and boules, plus a kids’ club in the summer. Borrow bikes to bowl along country lanes, go horse-riding, or head further afield for beaches.
Only 7km from the beaches of Canet Plage and 20 minutes from Perpignan airport, this micro-resort is a godsend for those seeking a great-value and hassle-free family holiday. There are only 4 villas/apartments, set in a peaceful enclosed garden with trampolines, zip-wires, a sandpit, a games barn and 2 heated pools, so you get an intimate and safe vibe. Parents are catered for with free babysitting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, along with Pilates and massages on offer, while children get a free kids’ club 6 days a week. Each villa/apartment has a kitchen, and you can buy good-quality meals on site; there are family-friendly restaurants very close at hand, too. You even get stone-baked pizza delivered for all the family one night a week!
If you’re into wild beaches, history both ancient (the Bayeux tapestry) and modern (the D-Day landing beaches), dramatic cliffs, authentic half-timbered villages and delicious local cuisine (think seafood, cider, crepes and cheeses), then a trip to one of these 2 northern regions is in order. Arrive via ferry from the UK and Ireland to Le Havre, Saint Malo, Cherbourg, Roscoff, Caen or Dieppe; alternatively fly to a regional airport such as Dinard, Brest, Deauville, Rennes or Nantes.
This Scandi-New England styled hotel has seafront gardens and a superlative setting on the invigorating Finistere coast, with no fewer than 9 sandy beaches nearby. Adults can recharge their batteries in the marine spa, complete with a hammam, thalassotherapy treatments and a sauna. For the kids, there’s the excitement of an indoor heated swimming pool, a beach at the end of the garden, a kids’ club in summer, sailing and surf schools year-round, and boat trips and rock pools. All the family will appreciate the connecting rooms, the fresh local fare served in a separate dining annexe, the kids’ menus at the nearest brasserie (whose speciality is superb seafood), and the really excellent breakfast buffet.
At this exceptionally family-friendly chateau you can choose between self-catering cottages in the former stables or 2-bedroom suites with kitchenettes in the main house. There are grocery shops and lovely markets nearby, and a slap-up breakfast is included year-round if staying in the chateau. In the summer, chateau rates also include family suppers 6 nights a week, and you can partake for an additional cost if staying in the cottages. The wonderfully relaxed house-party vibe is present all year, and the wealth of provision for kids – large gardens, playground, gypsy caravan, play marquee, woodland den, croquet, sandpit – is available to all, whichever accommodation option you prefer.
The fragrant lavender fields, unspoiled market towns and rolling vineyards of Provence represent quintessential rural Franc. You also get awesome aqueducts and amphitheatres, papal palaces and gorgeous gorges. Towns of note include historic Nimes, arty Arles and beautiful Avignon. There’s magnificent scenery in the Camargue and regional parks such as Luberon and Verdon. If not taking the TGV, fly into Marseilles, Avignon, Nice, Nimes or Montpellier. It can be super busy in the summer, so visit during the shoulder seasons and head for more tranquil settings inland.
Expect only serenity, seclusion and style at this luxurious hideaway, set on a golf course in the Alpilles hills with views stretching to the Med. The large swimming pool, terrace bar, glorious gourmet grub and heavenly spa (offering decadent treatments and an indoor pool) indicate an adults-only domain, however both pools are heated, and there’s a cute kids’ club in gypsy caravans in the woods during school holidays. You also get games and toys, and there’s a pony club and kayaking nearby. The bistro (fresh and seasonal Provencal fare) has a kids’ menu; book a babysitter to dine in La Table for faultless upscale food. You also have the option of self-catering in sleek kitchens if you’re in one of the 3-bedroom villas.
Also in the hills, but this time just outside a charming village near the stunning Gorge du Verdon (great for kayaking!), is this self-catering retreat. Each of the large, contemporary suites has its own private entrance, a terrace with hammocks, and a small but well-equipped kitchen where you’ll find the basics (olive oil, tea, sugar etc) on arrival. Supermarkets and local bakeries are a minute away, and Aups has a terrific market on Wednesdays and Saturdays (plus a truffle market on Thursdays from November to February). There are lovely little restaurants and bistros nearby, too. The big swimming pool is fenced and has an alarm, and there’s a treehouse to find plus petanque to play. Whether you come with older children (mountain biking, walking, wild swimming) or smaller fry (there’s baby and toddler gear to borrow), this is a supremely relaxing and delightful spot.