France has the largest number of campsites of any country in Europe and the largest variety in terms of size and facilities. There is therefore something to suit everybody. They range from small “campings à la ferme” with half a dozen pitches and a toilet and shower to small villages where the facilities cater for every need, perfect for families who want to chill out and not go off site too often.
It is a myth that camping and caravanning is only for the hardy outdoor types, who don’t care about their creature comforts. Hot showers and decent toilets are now the norm rather than the exception. Admittedly poor weather conditions can affect the quality of a camping holiday, but a large number of sites have indoor games areas, indoor pools and bars to offset the discomfort.
In 2012 the French authorities introduced a new classification system allowing the top sites to upgrade to 5 stars, so they now range from 1 – 5 star. The one and two star sites tend to be rather basic and offer little more than a field with a small toilet block. The others 3 – 5 star vary dramatically in quality as the rating is based on the number of facilities rather than the quality. Some sites have preferred to remain 4 stars or even 3 stars rather than apply for a higher rating even though they qualify for the higher rating. The new assessment did, however, encourage many sites to upgrade their sanitary facilities. Some offer a level of luxury in their shower blocks which compare well with a 4 or 5 star hotel, for example Le Brasilia at Canet Plage on the Languedoc coast or l’Ardéchois near the Vallon Pont d’Arc, both 5-star campsites and worthy of their rating.
The amenities on French campsites are very good and allow the visitor to enjoy a comfortable holiday. Apart from good toilet and showering facilities, the majority of campsites have good children’s play areas, offer table tennis either indoor or outdoor, and a boules pitch. The majority of 3, 4 and 5 star sites have a swimming pool and the larger sites have beautiful aqua complexes often with an indoor pool as well.
The larger sites organise daytime and evening entertainment particularly in the high season and even smaller ones lay on musical evenings or family barbecues. A large number of campsites offer a take-away meal service, often only in the high season and quite a few, especially the 4 and 5 star sites have their own restaurant with reasonably priced set menus. There are still a few sites that have one or two “hole in the ground” style toilets, but they are the older style sites that haven’t been upgraded.
Pitches on French campsites do vary in size, ranging from a rather tiny 70m2 to a very generous 200m2. Generally they are divided by hedges or low shrubs, although some do have a more open plan aspect. We always recommend people with exceptionally large outfits, over 7.5m long, to book sites in advance.
British campers and caravaners really do appreciate the level of comfort they find on French campsites and continue to visit France in increasing numbers. We have visited France practically every year for over 50 years and still find new places and new attractions to explore. For anybody who has never stayed on a French campsite, the experience is highly recommended.
Andrew and Bernadette Erskine run Frenchcampsites.co that gives a detailed description of each site, the facilities on offer, the quality of the services and the suitability for families with young children, teenage children and for couples. They have visited them all and stayed on the majority, so it is guide based on over 50 years experience camping in France.