5 must-see towns around the Thau lagoon

Discover the Thau lagoon

The Thau lagoon or Bassin de Thau is the largest of a series of lagoons that stretch along the Languedoc-Roussillon region, from the coast of the Rhône river to the foothills of the Pyrenees, which form the border with Spain. It is the second-largest lagoon in France.

It is approximately 21 km long and 8 km wide, with an area of 7,012 hectares. The average depth of the pond is 4.5 m, but in the central navigation channel, it can be 10 metres deep. Near Bouzigues there is a depression with a diameter of 100 to 30 metres. This Fosse de la Vise has a hot spring that supplies hot water to the thermal baths in Balaruc.

Let’s take a quick trip around the lagoon and visit its towns.

Sète, the Venice of Languedoc

Birthplace of George Brassens, Sète charms with its many canals, its picturesque fishing port and its 12 km of protected beaches. To enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the town, I recommend two viewpoints: Mont Saint Clair, which overlooks the town at an altitude of 183 meters and the Domaine des Pierres Blanches, from where you can see, weather permitting, the Pyrenees and Mont Canigou. Other unmissable places in Sète: the Georges Brassens museum and the Saint-Louis festivals, typical nautical games that take place at the end of August.

Balaruc-les-Bains, leading thermal spa in France

Balaruc-les-Bains with it pretty side walk, piers and beaches, specialises in rheumatology and phlebology and welcomes more than 46,000 spa visitors per year. A new establishment, les Thermes de Balaruc-les-Bains, opened its doors on 2 March 2015. It covers 16,000 m², 5 collective care pools and 7 independent hydrotherapy care sectors, 4 of which are dedicated to the application of thermal mud, a renowned treatment of the resort, with the use of a new application bed specially developed and patented for the thermal baths.

Bouzigues and its oyster and mussel farms

The charming fishing village of Bouzigues is a hotspot for shellfish farming. Visit the Thau Lagoon Museum and learn more about the trades of the “peasants of the sea” and the activities of the Thau lagoon where the original staging of the objects recreates a fishing atmosphere: aquariums, videos, models…

Mèze for ecology

Mèze is the oldest town in the Thau lagoon with a handsome port brimming with seafood restaurants and a cobble-stoned old town. The Pays de Thau ecosite, a research centre dedicated to the protection of the environment and aquaculture, explains to visitors how “nature cleans the water” with microscopic plants and animals.

Marseillan and its wine heritage viticole

The listed port of Marseillan proudly bears witness to its past linked to viticulture. Ancient wine-growers’ buildings and other majestic cellars frame the port. A short distance away, the Pointe des Onglous and its lighthouse mark the mouth of the Canal du Midi in the Thau lagoon where you can enjoy a sublime view over Sète and the entire lagoon. Visit of the Noilly Prat cellars and discover the techniques of the elaboration of Vermouth, an aperitif made from white wine.

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Cycle around the Thau lagoon

The Thau lagoon and its oyster beds

The Thau lagoon, located on the Mediterranean coast, is the largest lagoon in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The oyster beds that stretch out as far as the eye can see give it the nickname “garden of the sea”. A place full of charm to discover.

Separated from the sea by a coastal barrier, the vast lagoon (7,500 hectares) stretches along the Languedoc coast over 19 km long and 5 km wide. It has been a place of oyster and shellfish farming since Antiquity, but it is also a natural space where water sports activities are developing.

5 must-see towns by bicycle

The lagoon is surrounded by 5 unmissable towns, which can be discovered by bike: Sète, Balaruc-les-Bains, Bouzigues, Mèze et Marseillan.

A continuous cycle path around the Thau lagoon (about 62 km) is in the pipeline, but it is already possible thanks to 2 sections of cycle paths linked together by road sections: from Mèze to Sète and from Sète to Marseillan beach.

Cycle around the lagoon

Distance 62 km; duration 3h10 min; positive elevation; 46m; negative elevation 

Cycle path around the Thau lagoon

Your route begins in Sète via the Lido, a stretch of land between the sea and the lagoon.

After 8 km, you arrive at Pointe des Onglous in Marseillan, which represents the eastern end of the Canal du Midi. This is the outlet into the Thau lagoon, where the waters of the Canal mix with those of the lagoon. With its small lighthouse at the end of a jetty, enjoy a great panorama of Mont Saint-Clair, the Thau lagoon and its oyster beds, and the port of Marseillan.

After Marseillan, you cross the vineyards of Languedoc and the surrounding villages to reach Mèze, where you find shellfish farmhouses with their oyster beds extending in well-aligned rows into the lagoon.

After crossing the port of Mèze, you will find a cycle path at the town’s exit to Bouzigues, a charming fishing village and a Mecca for shellfish farming.

At 36 km, you cross the beautiful wilderness of the Crique de l’Angle. The landscaped path crosses the cove of the Thau lagoon, in the middle of the water, with seagulls and flamingos on each side (bird sanctuary).

After leaving the track at 38 km, a small road leads you to Balaruc-le-Vieux, a circular village and the neighbouring Balaruc-les-Bains, a spa town well known to spa visitors.

You now head towards Sète‘s town centre along the edges of the lagoon (2 km with a rather unpleasant cycle lane in terms of traffic). At 48 km, cross the road into La Pointe Courte, a fishing district with a life and soul so typical with its small houses and fishing boats. Continue through the marine district, where restaurants offer bourride sétoise or tielle, local specialities.

If you still have some energy, make a detour up Mont St-Clair. The view is exceptional and well worth it. The climb is somewhat challenging, with very steep sections.

At 55 km, the route joins the Lido connecting Sète to Marseillan-Plage. Along this dune strip separating the Thau lagoon from the sea (former section of the National Route 112), you will reach your starting point after 6 km.

Do not miss

The Pointe des Onglous, the Port of Marseillan, Mèze, the Pointe Courte in Sète. 

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Climb Mont Saint Clair, the pride of Sète

Panoramic views from Mont Saint Clair

From its summit, Mont Saint Clair offers spectacular views of the sea and the coast as well as of the lagoons and the “garrigue” (fragrant shrubs typical of the south). The bird’s eye view of the city from this natural vantage point is quite striking. At the other end of the hill, the state-owned Pierres Blanches forest, the “white stone forest” is ideal for walkers.

Rising to 175 meters above sea level, the hill is an ancient island in the Mediterranean Sea until it formed southwest of the coastal barrier closing off the Thau lagoon. Largely urbanized, it nevertheless has a high density of wooded areas including the Sète state forest on its western flank.

On its east side and overlooking the port are the citadel of Richelieu, the lighthouse and the marine cemetery. At the top is the Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette chapel where masses are regularly celebrated. This chapel is dedicated to the alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary in the village of La Salette-Fallavaux in the Alps.

The Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette chapel was built in 1861 on the ruins of a hermitage adjacent to those of a military fort, which somewhat explains its severe character. It is dedicated to the Virgin after her apparition on 19 September 1866 in La Salette in Isère. The statue of the Virgin was erected in 1866 to commemorate the city’s bicentenary. Its bell tower also served as a geodesic landmark. This chapel is a traditional place of pilgrimage on 19 September (a mass is celebrated there every 19th of each month). The interior frescoes, created by Bringuier in 1952, were restored in 1991.

The cross of Saint-Clair, this luminous cross (1932), perpetuates the fire that the Sétois lit on 12 July to celebrate the saint who gave his name to the hill.

From the port to the top of Mont Saint Clair

Explore the trails of Saint-Clair on foot and stroll around local villas and traditional chalets, taking in stunning views at every turn.

Built on the slopes and at the foot of Mont Saint-Clair, on the edge of the Thau basin, visit Sètes secret gardens, which have inspired the work of some of its famous poets: Paul Valéry, Georges Brassens and Jean Vilar.

Itinerary Le Pouffre to Mont Saint Clair

Itinerary Le Piade to Mont Saint Clair

  • From Le Pouffre, our vacation home rental in Sète, go right onto Grande Rue Haute and go right onto rue Ramond. Follow rue de Belfort to reach Lycée Paul Valéry.

    From Le Piade, our holiday apartment in Sète, go up Rue de La Revolution, turn right on Rue du Maire Aussenac, then turn left on Rue de la Caraussanne to reach Lycée Paul Valéry.

  • Climb the stairs behind the Lycée Paul Valéry to reach the top of the hill with its cross, its chapel and its belvedere (182 m above sea level), from where the view extends over the city, the Pointe Courte and the Thau basin.

    From the Second Empire, the Sétois got used to storing their nets in the Pointe Courte. The traditions of the picturesque district still remain. From north to south, you can also see Bouzigues, Balaruc-les-Bains, the Gardiole massif and Frontignan.

  •  Make a loop that leads back to the Pierres Blanches orientation table. The Pierres Blanches orientation table offers a breath-taking view of the coastal barrier known as the lido, in the foreground. The return is the same path as for the climb.
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