Gruissan in France is a brilliant option if you are looking for an easy family holiday destination. Gruissan in France surprised us all this summer. When booking our summer holiday to Gruissan we knew very little about this beautiful medieval town in the Occitanie region of France. All we knew is that it offered us a beach holiday and being by the beach is one fail-safe decision we have always made when travelling with kids. Gruissan ended up being one of the easiest family holidays we had been on and so much more than a simple beach holiday.
In preparation for our trip to Gruissan I hadn’t done any research or even looked at the map too carefully. This holiday is a perfect example of us doing what we love the most – being spontaneous and enjoying the unknown of it all. I love to discover a place on my own terms so this trip to Gruissan was perfect for that!
Our summers are mostly designed around taking the car and driving through Europe, which we find an easy and cost effective option for our family of five. Our summer trips usually involve some sort of camping too. Camping helps keep costs down as we can travel for up to six weeks at a time.
We didn’t know it, but I think we stumbled upon the South of France’s best kept secret and a really easy family holiday in Gruissan France. Keep reading below to discover everything you need to know about holidaying in Gruissan with your own family.
Gruissan Old Town
The town of Gruissan is beautiful. It was built around a hilltop castle, although all that remains now is the tower. Gruissan is home to lots of boutique shops that include wine cellars, clothes shops, artisan food stores, bakeries and tabacs. There’s a healthy choice of bars and restaurants and a couple of quintessential ice cream shops – obviously an essential when trying to organise an easy family holiday.
The northern end of town is completely surrounded by an extremely salty lake. Because of this there are lots of lovely walks to be had around this end of town, although there’s no swimming due to the high salt levels. This end of town also produces the very best sunsets!
The Tour Barberousse is the tower in the middle of town. The name translates to the Redbeard Tower and it is all that remains of the original Château de Gruissan built around the 10th century.
The tower is free to explore, which is a great plus and makes things so much easier when visiting Gruissan on a family holiday. However, the gates to the tower do have closing times and these times vary depending on the time of year. However, even if the gates get locked when you are still inside, you can always get out. Because the tower is unmanned, there is a button on the wall next to the gate which will release the lock. Simple!
The best walks in Gruissan on a family holiday
For an easy family holiday in Gruissan France there are lots of lovely walks to do together. We usually take the kids scooters and Gruissan is very accommodating in this way too! Here’s a list of the best walks to do with kids in Gruissan:
1. Rue de Fort or Rue Roger Salengro. Both take you around the north end of town with views of the lake and tower. On the east side of town you might even see a boules competition, which the whole town seems to come out for! This walk is best at sunset and the best place to watch the sunset is right here!
2. Walk alongside the Canal du Grazel to the bridge. Search for birds, fish and locusts along the path and then hunt for crabs in the shallows of the water. It’s a great place to have a kidventure in Gruissan. It also gives you one of the best views of Château de Gruissan!
3. Old Town to Gruissan Plage. From the town this walk will probably take 30 minutes. However, it’s totally worth it just to see the wild flamingos in the water on either side of the path! If you’re lucky you might even see them take to the sky, which is a sight in itself!
4. Walk along the beach at Gruissan Plage. A beach walk is always a good thing to do with kids and Gruissan is no exception. You can even divert into the little town for a coffee and a cake in any of the local bars and bakeries. There are also some lovely looking beach bars too.
5. Gruissan town to Le Salin de l’île Saint-Martin to see the salt flats and from there to Village de Pêcheurs. This is a long walk and will take over an hour. However, you could also hop in the car and drive this route (which is what we did). On the way stop at Site Archeologique De L’île Saint Martin to see some Roman ruins and then Vins Pierre Richard to do a spot of wine tasting!
Gruissan Chalets is a little village just south of Gruissan and sits right on the waterfront. The main thing to notice about Gruissan Chalets is that all the houses are on stilts!
Houses have existed on this site since the 16th century. After WWII they were rebuilt and modernised. The houses were raised on to stilts to keep them away from the waves and fitted with water and electricity.
The area is very quaint and the chalets are extremely charming. We really enjoyed spending time here. The shops and cafes on the little high street feel very boutiquey, but still have that edgey, beach vibe coolness about them that comes with being so close to the water.
Choice of Beaches for an easy family holiday in Gruissan France
Plage des Chalets
The beaches in Gruissan are massive, sandy but can be windy! The coast guard flags need to be adhered to in Gruissan for this very reason.
Inflatables are not allowed in the water when the wind is blowing out to sea. This is strictly enforced by the lifeguards that patrol the sands all the way along the beach. Safety is paramount, thus making Gruissan an easy family holiday.
There’s ample parking at Plage des Chalets and easy access to shops and cafes back in the little town of Gruissan Chalets. We spent most of our time at this beach because the water is shallow and there always seemed to be lots going on. These included beach rugby competitions, roaming ice cream and donut cart sellers along the beach and lots of exciting looking beach bars.
Plage Sauvage de la Vielle Nouvelle
Even though this beach is only next door to Plage des Chalets, it is a totally different beach in so many ways!
To begin with there is no access to the beach from Plage des Chalets. The only means of entry to Plage Sauvage de la Vielle Nouvelle, is from Gruissan town.
This beach is WINDY and I mean WINDY!
Gruissan is well known in the kitesurfing world. If you can brave the winds for long enough, you’ll find hundreds of them down on the beach zig-zagging around on the sand and tearing through the waves!
One really cool thing about this beach is that you can park your car on it! Although, I would recommend following the signs and doing this cautiously, as you’ll want to make sure you can leave without beaching yourself.
The second really cool thing is that there are loads of sand dunes to climb over and explore! This makes the whole place look like a section of the Sahara Desert rather than a beach in the South of France.
This beach is also great for beach combing as the shells here are ginormous!
Le Salin de l’île Saint-Martin de Gruissan was one of our best finds!
Salt is produced at Le Salin de l’île Saint-Martin de Gruissan. You can see a lot of it free of charge and there is also a free on site museum. Here you can learn all about the area’s heritage with salt and how it is produced. The shop has multiple salt products you can purchase and lots of souvenirs too.
The pink salt basins are extremely pretty and provides a great place to take some wonderful photos. There is also a beautiful looking restaurant right on the water. Their speciality is, unsurprisingly, salted fish.
See the Flamingos when in Gruissan
Did you know there were wild flamingos in France? This had to be one of the best surprises when we travelled to Gruissan with kids!
This easily became one of our favourite elements of the holiday!
They hang out by the salt marshes and can easily be seen on the walk from Gruissan town to Gruissan Chalet. If you’re lucky you might even see them take flight, which is both amazing and funny in equal measure. One for the core memory bank for sure!
Street Markets – family holiday in Gruissan
Gruissan and Gruissan Chalet have the BEST street markets I have seen! They are both huge in size and held several times a week. This is definitely another highlight on a family holiday to Gruissan France. We all enjoyed walking around and looking at the sheer amount of variety on offer!
We bought local fruit and veggies, local dried meat sausages (which I ate tonnes of with fresh cherry tomatoes every lunch time and it was simply perfection) and locally caught fish, which we fried up on our modest gas camping stove. But the variety didn’t stop there. Gruissan street market also has hot food stalls, clothes stalls, accessories stalls, hardware stalls and linen stalls.
The market is as exciting for the kids as it was for us. And I don’t mind admitting we went back more than once! It is also worth mentioning everything was very reasonably priced and much cheaper than markets towards the north.
If you like kitesurfing, Gruissan is the place for you! Because of the windy conditions, kitesurfing is almost a staple of Gruissan and there are places such as Spot Kite La Flac Gruissan which will show you how to do it!
Camping for an easy family holiday in Gruissan France
During our time in Gruissan with kids, we stayed at the local campsite called Camping Paradis Barberousse. The campsite is situated near the town and everything is walkable. We hardly got in the car for the two weeks we stayed here.
The facilities on the campsite were very good. The toilets were clean and well attended and there was hot water everywhere at no extra charge!
Camping Paradis Barberousse has a kids splash park rather than a swimming pool, which we actually preferred as we found this gave our kids much more freedom to play on their own. This was especially true for our rambunctious two year old. The bouncy castle was a brilliant touch and was free for all children to use, which they thought was brilliant – of course.
The management organise welcome evenings where guests are invited to try local food and drink. The kids club runs specific events during the day and evening too. These include treasure hunts, face painting, crafts and mini disco. Most of the big group events are in French only, but you get the gist if you stick with it.
The pitches were of a good size, the bar area was lovely and always well used and drinking water was available in multiple areas.
If you are keen campers like us, we would certainly recommend Camping Paradis Barberousse.
Narbonne – a day out for an easy family holiday in Gruissan France
One of the best days out with kids from Gruissan is Narbonne. It is a 15 minute drive from Gruissan through idyllic rice fields, vine yards and old French farms.
Narbonne city is full of quaint streets filled with shops and restaurants, a castle and cathedral to explore and indoor market. There are plenty of walks along the river to enjoy and parking is good, with paid parking available and street parking free of charge if you can find a space.