Prairies de la Mer - Port Grimaud
Camping = roughing it?
How about spas, supermarkets, and a variety of restaurants where you can sit back and relax and enjoy your holiday? And while I still love to getting back to basics of staying on a campground - sometimes a little luxury is just what the doctor ordered. So if you’ve never considered staying on a campground, today’s featured location just might be enough to change your mind.
After what felt like a long winter, this Aussie needed to shed the winter layers and see the ocean. We packed up the car and headed south to Prairies de la Mer on the bay of St. Tropez.
1. Tell us about your campground and the best way to get there:
Campground and St Tropez are two words that really don’t belong in the same sentence. But voila, across the bay you will find a little piece of paradise, Prairies de la Mer (part of the Riviera Village group) located in the town of Port Grimaud on the Mediterranean coast between Nice and Marseille. This isn’t your standard campground, and hubby reminded me that this isn’t “real” camping - so let’s call it “resort style” camping.
The drive from Switzerland is a long one so we divided it into two parts. First we drove from Zug to Annecy and stayed overnight in a Budget Ibis hotel along the highway, and then we continued on Port Grimaud the following day.
Tip: avoid driving through Geneva during peak traffic hours. Bad timing!
2. What types of accommodation are on offer?
This five star luxury site is spread over 30 acres and has something for everyone.
We stayed in a beach front Polynesian-style lodge that slept up to 6 people. The kitchen was small but had everything we needed from an oven, hot plate and even a dishwasher and Nespresso machine. The best part was the terrace overlooking the beach where we ate our meals. I’m not sure what the alternative would be if it rained - as the terrace wasn’t covered - but we were lucky to have amazing weather during our trip. To finish it off we had our own sun lounges looking over the beach where we sipped our arrival gift of cool rosé. There are a couple of different options for accommodation available.
The website is a little confusing and doesn’t mention the actual camping plots that they offer except through a single online form when you reserve a plot. Camping France indicates they have 1118 pitches. The site was exceptionally large and we didn’t venture all the way over there. Other than camping pitches for both tents and vans there are mobile homes rented out from many different companies such as Bj-Riviera Holidays and Homair.
3. What facilities does the campground offer?
This place is huge! You really need a bike to explore it all. I had plans to walk over to the tent and caravan area to check out the facilities there but I just couldn’t tear myself away from the sun lounger. If you trust the reviews they are also of a high standard.
There were three restaurants and two bars within walking distance from the lodges where we stayed, as well as a large supermarket and a cafe. Our lodge included a washing machine, but there were also a laundry area for those who didn’t have one. Overall there was a real resort feel to the entire place.
4. What activities does the Campground offer?
You will find all the actives that you would come to expect in a resort of this size, including morning beachside yoga, a kids club, playgrounds, pony rides, bikes, hikes, or just spend your days lounging on the beach (like me). There is a new pool area opening this summer.
But you will also find the type of "entertainment" I dread: Euro-sucking machines promising iPads as the top prize, 5 minute trampoline jumps for 2 euros 50 and a tacky brightly coloured kids train that belongs only at the local fair. We got away with a 5 minute jump!
5. Breakfast, lunch and dinner: what are your recommendations?
After a morning run to the local supermarket, we enjoyed breakfast of fresh baguettes and croissants on our terrace while looking over the bay of St. Tropez - an ideal way to start the day. Lunch was a mixture of local market picnics and quick bites to eat while out exploring.
We enjoyed dinner three times onsite: twice at Les Pieds dans l’Eau directly on the beach where we all enjoyed the mussels and fish, and the kids especially loved the pizzas. Hubby and I enjoyed a kid-free dinner at Manava Plage which was almost directly outside our accommodation. We ventured once into Port Grimaud for dinner and enjoyed dinner at La Table du Mareyeaur which came recommended by the lovely lady we bought shoes from earlier in the day. She also recommended Pasta E Via and Restaurant La Marée.
6. What to see and do outside the campground?
This campground is a great place to base yourself to explore the French Riviera. With only three days to explore we stuck to these three activities.
Port Grimaud: Visit the Venice of the French Riviera which is just a short stroll from the campground. Here you can explore the streets filled with colourful houses and sail boats large and small. The town hosts a twice-weekly market on Sundays and Thursdays where you can stock up on local food and produce. We filled our basket with roasted chicken, in-season strawberries, salami, avocado, melon and a fresh baguette. Don’t have a basket? You can buy one there as well as clothing and souvenirs. When the market is gone, the town is a lot quieter with boules being played. Check out their many restaurants and shops.
Rent a boat: take a 30-minute tour around the canals of Port Grimaud with an electric boat. It’s a little restrictive as you have to stick to a route but it’s another way to see the town.
Visit the towns above St Tropez: St. Tropez may be the sparkling jewel of the area but don’t focus all your attention there. Escape the tourist-filled streets with a visit up to the villages of Gassin and Ramatuelle and wander around these mostly car-free villages, pose for photos in colourful doorways and imagine what it must be like to live here. Bring a picnic lunch along or consider one of the adorable restaurants along the main road of Ramatuelle.
Visit St Tropez: We decided on a visit to St Tropez on a market day, Tuesday, and so did everyone else. The day long market (which breaks for lunch) was heaving with people and so we didn’t last too long. We escaped up to La Citadelle de St. Tropez to view the town from above and take in the maritime museum there before wandering through the much quieter back streets and enjoying ice cream down by the harbour.
But you are not limited to just these activities - consider a day trip to a local vineyard, Monarco, the island of Port Cros, or Gorges du Verdon.
7. Any tips of what not to forget.
Bring along a beach umbrella if you plan to spend days at the beach. Our lodge included an umbrella but having one to go down to the actual beach was a must. Also don’t forget sand toys! Sand keeps any kid entertained for hours!
8. Best way to book?
We booked our lodge online directly with the Rivieria Villages. They do have a campsite form for bookings but I would suggest giving them a call if you plan to bring a tent or van. There are also numerous companies where you can rent mobile homes from—just Google.
9. Anything to watch out for?
Peak season. We LOVED this resort and would go back again in a flash BUT not in summer. We felt it would be too hot (the lodges do have air con though) and secondly since this is such a HUGE site, there would be too many people for my liking. We loved how our visit coincided with low season and would only consider coming back during the spring or autumn school breaks.
Also, set your expectations for the actual beach a little lower. The sand isn’t very fine and may disappoint those used to the white sandy beaches of Australia or America :-).
10. What sets this campground apart from the rest?
The Polynesian feel in Europe is certainly distinctive. No it’s not the Maldives or Hawaii, but hey, its a great option if you are looking for an affordable waterfront vacation. I would certainly come back or venture off to visit one its sister locations.
11. What type of camper are you?
We are a Swiss/Australian family of 5 and are wiling to try it all, VW bus - check! Mobile home - check! Caravan - check! Beachfront lodge - check! Next stop - hopefully a roof top tent! All we need is clean bathrooms and a comfortable place to sleep. Our dream is to one day own a VW camper but until then we either rent one or enjoy other accommodations campgrounds have to offer.
Do you have a favourite campground in Europe to recommend to the Simple Family Travel community? WE would love to hear from you! No campground to small, no campground to luxurious!!