Set on islands, farms and amongst the trees, these idiosyncratic campsites are guaranteed to take you to the heart of France and its culture
Kayaking on the Dordogne River (Dreamstime)
Location is the key to this extraordinary campsite. Situated on an island on the Dordogne River, opposite the pretty medieval town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, this 7-hectare site puts you at the heart of France’s summer playground, the Dordogne.
The site offers pitches, safari-style tents and wooden huts. Active campers can go kayaking and fishing. Cultural types can wander the medieval streets of Beaulieu. Foodies will seek out the Noyette, a decadent walnut cake, beloved by locals.
Your neighbour for the night (Dreamstime)
Suspended above the zoo’s lemur habitat, you’ll experience the atmosphere of Madagascar, falling to sleep at night to the sound of lemur calls. An outdoor shower adds to the experience. Just don’t be surprised to find inquisitive eyes watching you or peering in through the oversized windows designed, ironically, for you to watch them.
Beach near Huttopia Lac De Carcans campsite (huttopia.com)
You’ll be spoilt for choice at this perfectly situated campsite. Set in a pine forest in the Bombannes National Forest, Carcans Maubisson freshwater lake is a few minutes walk away and the long sandy beaches along the Bay of Biscay a short ride by bike.
The site is perfect for people who love cycling and watersports, but the Médoc offers other delights as well. The region is dotted with imposing castles – follow Départementale 2 and you’ll see most of them – and the vineyards of Bordeaux, but a short drive away.
Set amongst mature oak trees, in a region where small streams babble under stone bridges and the Pyrenees rise steeply behind, the atmospheric Glisten Camping site in the Basque village of Col d'Ibardin is a place where relaxation is guaranteed.
The site features six geodesic domes, each furnished with hanging sleep pods for children, king-sized beds for mum and dad and an al fresco kitchen with plancha grills for perfect Basque evenings in the summer time.
Where Napoleon lay his weary head. Maybe. (domaine-de-pradines.com)
If you like your campsites with a dash of history and a healthy dollop of slapdash charm, this idiosyncratic farm site, halfway between the Parc National des Cévennes and Parc Régional des Grands Causse, could be for you.
Local legend states that Napoleon stayed on the property on his way to Egypt, in the collection of vaulted buildings from the 13th Century, not the Turkish yurts built since. You could spend your entire stay exploring the massive 150-hectare site, but there are plenty of outdoor activities like kayaking, rafting and canyoning on your doorstep as well. Not to mention a multitude of hiking paths in the National Parks as well.
Kids in a treehouse (Dreamstime)
Situated in the heart of the Normandy countryside, high in the redwoods on an ancient estate, these sturdy tree-houses are amongst the highest in France and offer a unique camp experience for the whole family.
Isolated from each other, and hidden amongst the leaves and branches, the tree houses offer all the creature comforts, along with the luxury of waking up each morning to a dawn chorus of birds and wild boar and snuffling for chestnuts in the grass.
Mont Blanc in the summer (Dreamstime)
This spectacular campsite, 3,000 feet up the Rhône-Alpes, offers champagne views for cider prices, with most pitches offering breath-taking views of Mont Blanc.
This is a site where nature surrounds you. Set out in any direction and you will find forest hikes, mountain bike trails and quaint alpine villages. In winter, stay in the immaculately restored wooden mazot (chalet), for a true White Christmas experience.
Main image: Wild camping spot, Lac De Chéserys, Chamonix (Dreamstime)