Four lesser known but brilliant day trips from Bordeaux

Nicknamed “La Perle d’Aquitaine” (The Pearl of Aquitaine), the city of Bordeaux has long cast a spell over visitors thanks to its beautiful architecture, world-famous Bordeaux wines, delicious food, and all-round joie de vivre. The capital of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, as well as the Gironde department, is a city that knows how to have a good time. 

But in addition to all the things that Bordeaux has to offer within its city limits, Bordeaux is a wonderful place to visit because there are also so many things to do nearby.

Once you’ve explored the narrow streets and charming squares of Saint Pierre and Saint Paul in the city center; discovered all that there is to know about the best wines the region has to offer at La Cité du Vin; and sampled the many delicious foods for which the city is famous, then it’s time to hit the road to discover the best day trips from Bordeaux. 

Day trips from Bordeaux
Cool street art at Darwin

There are lots of great places to visit within the Bordeaux region, whether you’re looking for time in the Great Outdoors, an adventure activity for the whole family to enjoy or a lesson in history. There are medieval towns, acres of vineyards, famous caves and so much more – there really is something for everyone in this rich and varied region

Plus, the Atlantic Ocean is not far away; the Atlantic shoreline of the Gironde region runs from south of the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe, north to Pointe de Grave offering visitors some 130kms of sandy coastline.

If you’re interested in exploring more of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, then take a look at our guide to enjoying the wonderful city of Limoges.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Nouvelle Aquitaine and Atout France for the purpose of producing this guide. I have been or could be if you click on a link in this post compensated via a cash payment, gift or something else of value for writing this post. See our full disclosure policy for more details.

Key to the Map: Purple is Bordeaux. Yellow indicates popular / more well-known day trips from Bordeaux. Orange marks the day trips from Bordeaux particularly recommended in this article. Green denotes the accommodation recommendations in this article.

Popular day trips from Bordeaux

Some of the most famous day trips from Bordeaux include trips to the medieval town of Saint Émilion, which sits just 35km northeast of Bordeaux. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best places to visit near Bordeaux for wine – vineyards have been planted here as early as the 2nd century. It’s also a lovely place to wander around with narrow, cobbled streets, medieval ruins, and even a treasure hunt for kids

At the entrance to Arcachon Bay stands the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s largest sand dune which soars to 110 metres high. Arcachon is one of the most popular places to holiday in the southwest of France.

Other favourites include the village of Margaux, which is particularly popular with wine lovers, and the historic centre of La Réole, as well as Sainte Foy la Grande, a beautiful Bastide town that has the Dodegone river running through it. 

In this article, however, I want to share some of the less well-known day trip options from Bordeaux and ones that I think are particularly fun for families. Here we share some of the best day trips from Bordeaux for you to enjoy. 

Let’s Go: Nouvelle-Aquitaine!

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Four can’t miss day trips from Bordeaux

Day trips from Bordeaux
At the Citadel in Blaye

A history lesson in Blaye

Roughly an hour north-east of Bordeaux by car, on the right bank of the Gironde estuary, is the town of Blaye (pronounced Blie). The pretty town makes for a great full day exploring, or half-day tour from Bordeaux. Home to one of the most impressive and well-preserved citadels in France, it’s the perfect place for history buffs.

Designed by the famous French military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (he also built this one in Arras), the citadel was built between 1685 and 1689 to protect Bordeaux from ships sailing up the Gironde Estuary, which is formed is formed from the meeting of the Dordogne River and Garonne River.

Today the Citadel of Blaye is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The impressive military fortification is perfectly preserved and is free for visitors to enter. There are various ways that you can visit the citadel; placards in both French and English mean that you can visit on your own and explore at your own pace; or you can join a guided walking tour through the Blaye Tourist Office

Another option is to take the Tourist Train, which rumbles around the city and surrounding countryside. The train has its own audio guide – in both French and English – sharing the history and heritage of the area, as well as the vineyards, which produce one of the world’s most famous wine blends. 

If you are visiting Blaye with young children – or even reluctant teens! – then the train is the best option for exploring Blaye.

Note that the train runs daily during summer months but less frequently during the winter months so check times in advance with the Blaye Tourism Office. 

We enjoyed the train ride, which does a loop through the citadel as part of its route, and then explored the citadel on two feet afterwards. A small population still lives within the Citadel and there are a handful of shops and restaurants – we had a very good dinner at L’Auberge des Officiers followed by excellent ice cream from Lily à la Vanille. The citadel also offers some excellent panoramic views over the estuary.

Outside the citadel, don’t miss the opportunity to buy some Prasline de Blaye, delicious toasted almonds covered in caramel that are a local speciality. You can find the in most patisseries in town.

Day trips from Bordeaux
At the Citadel in Blaye

Blaye Highlights 

  • The Vauban Citadel that is beautifully preserved and free to enter
  • The tourist train that gives a fun introduction to Blaye and the surrounding countryside
  • Ice cream at Lily à la Vanille!

Need to know

Distance Bordeaux to Blaye: Approximately 50km 

There is no direct train between Bordeaux and Blaye so the best way to get there is by car. There is, however, a cycle route that connects Bordeaux to Blaye if you’re feeling energetic. Le Canal des 2 Mer is a 61km cycle ride, which takes approximately four hours.

Overnight Option: If you did want to stay overnight then there is a lovely guesthouse, the Domaine de Canesse. This is a good option if you choose to also visit Terres d’Oiseaux (below) rather than going back to Bordeaux for the night. Run by the extremely hospitable Patrice and his partner, this is a charming place to stay with a swimming pool and perhaps the best breakfast in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region.

Day trips from Bordeaux
Looking for birds at Terres d’Oiseaux in the Gironde region of Nouvelle Aquitaine

The Great Outdoors at Terres d’Oiseaux

A little less than 80km north of Bordeaux (and just 24km from Blaye) is the Terres d’Oiseaux, 120 hectares of wetlands that sit on one of the most important migration routes in France

If, like me, you have kids that are more accustomed to navigating busy city streets than reed beds, marshy meadows, and ponds and lakes, then this is a brilliant way to introduce children to the Great Outdoors

The marshlands were once a commercial hunting area but twelve years ago they were transformed into a protected bird park, providing refuge to an incredible 150 different species of birds throughout the year including water birds such as herons, egrets, and various waders. 

There are three different walking routes of varying lengths depending on how much free time you have; the red route takes 1 hour, the yellow route 2 hours and the green route 3 hours. 

Along the way there are observation points for spotting birds and, in our case, wildlife. At the first observation tower we spotted a coypu, a large semiaquatic rodent that’s related to the beaver, before we spotted any birds, and we later spotted a young deer. This is one of the fun things about exploring Terres d’Oiseaux with kids, you’re never quite sure what you might see! 

The other fun aspect to these marshes are the various educational points that are dotted through the grounds. Children – and adults – are invited to learn, for example, the different sounds that birds make or about migratory paths – through simple, fun and interactive games. 

All visits to the marshland begin with a guide who leads you to the first observation tower before you are left to explore at your own pace. Or you can choose to join a guided tour and one of the resident ornithological experts will tell you all about the many feathered friends that pass through the park. 

Day trips from Bordeaux
There are fun interactive and educational activities around Terres d’Oiseaux

Terres d’Oiseaux Highlights

  • Time in the Great Outdoors with trails to suit all ages and fitness levels
  • Fun, interactive and educational games along the way for kids to play
  • A lovely information centre with a cafe and gift shop selling work by local artists

Need to know

Distance from Bordeaux to Terres d’Oiseaux: Approximately 72km

Day trips from Bordeaux
Cool street art in Darwin near Bordeaux

A sociological experiment at Darwin

One of the most exciting day trips from Bordeaux is also one of the closest. Located on Bordeaux’s right bank, in the Bastide district, Darwin describes itself as an unprecedented sociological experiment, an eco-friendly ecosystem that promotes collaboration, innovation and sustainable development. 

Confused? So was I until we visited Darwin and discovered with a fun, innovative and highly original experiment this really is.

Located on the site of former military barracks, Darwin has been designed as an example of what a new city and community can look like. It’s home to co-working spaces as well as workshops for designers and entrepreneurs. There’s an indoor skate park – one of the largest in France – and an urban farm. The large central restaurant, Le Magasin General, is the biggest organic dining hall in Europe and there’s also a bakery and a chocolatier.

There are a handful of shops on site including a Veja store offering the first sneaker repair service in Bordeaux and there’s an enormous warehouse selling all manner of bric-a-brac. The annual Climax Festival, an eco-focused music, arts, and culture festival, is also held at Darwin.

That’s the other thing – arguably one of the most important things – about Darwin, it has been built in the most organic, sustainable way. Materials have been recycled (roof materials have been used to build furniture for example), they have solar panels and water tanks, and they use toilet waste for compost. Everything that could possibly have a second life has been given one here.

As a visitor, it’s a fun place to come and eat and then to wander around but it’s not just tourists that come here, it’s hugely popular with Bordeaux locals too – and not just the many who work here in the co-working spaces, it’s also a popular after-work and weekend destination.

The skate park is open to visitors, and you can hire equipment there too. There’s also a great range of old school pinball machines to play. There are ramps for scooting along, a giant tic-tac-toe game to play and wall after wall of vibrant street art – perfect for taking photos!

Day trips from Bordeaux
On the Skate Throne at the indoor skate park at Darwin

Darwin Highlights

  • A wonderful opportunity for kids – and adults – to learn how sustainable models of building a ‘city’ and community can be successful 
  • Delicious food from the Magasin General 
  • Amazing street art, perfect for taking photos! 

Need to know

Distance from Bordeaux to Darwin: 6km. You can catch public transport between Bordeaux and Darwin with buses running regularly between the two.

Day trips from Bordeaux
La Station de Velo in Creon

A bike adventure in Créon

The town of Créon is located in the middle of Entre-Deux-Mers, a territory marked by the by the Garonne River in the south and the Dordogne in the north, surrounded by vineyards, hills, rivers and forests

It’s just 25km from Bordeaux to Créon, so an easy place to visit on a day trip. It’s famous for its medieval town centre, its 14th century arcaded square where a market is still held every Wednesday morning and the various historic buildings nearby, including the Abbey of Sauve-Majeure that was built between the 11th and 13th centuries. 

For families, however, it’s the best place to come for a cycling adventure

Créon is one of the official stages of the Lapébie cycle path, named after the famous cyclist Roger Lapébie who won the 1937 Tour de France. The path runs for 57km from Bordeaux, through Créon and onto Sauveterre-de-Guyenne. Theoretically, you could cycle the entire length but if that sounds a little daunting then you can start, as we did, in Créon. 

Located next to the tourist office in Créon, alongside the Labépie cycle path, is La Station Vélo Créon where you can hire all manner of bikes from kids’ bikes and electric bikes to tandem bikes and even cargo bikes for carrying very small children. They also have bikes for cyclists with mobility issues and all manner of bike kit from baskets and helmets to bike repair kits to locks. 

The Labépie cycle path is a former railway line that has been covered in smooth asphalt making it a breeze to cycle along. The terrain is largely flat with occasional inclines and gradients. It’s a beautiful route too, through lush green forests and picturesque country scenes. 

One of the best ways to enjoy the path, however, is with the free Terra Aventura app. This app has a handful of cycle adventures that are a cross between geocaching and a treasure hunt. Download the app, attach your smartphone to your bike (they’ll give you a handy holder) and then set off, solving clues as you go. 

The app pings when you arrive at your next location and then you must answer a question before you can move onto the next stop. If you get all the answers right (they will help you if you get them wrong!) then you’re given the coordinates to find the final cache and a QR code. Enter the correct answer and you win! 

It’s a fun way to explore the area – not only does it provide the motivation to keep going but it’s a great way to learn more about the history of the area too

Day trips from Bordeaux
On a cycling adventure in Gironde, Nouvelle Aquitaine

Créon Highlights

  • Exploring the countryside by bike; it’s a beautiful area and fun to discover on two wheels 
  • The Terra Aventura app is great fun. 
  • The staff at La Station Vélo Créon are really friendly and helpful, and they have a huge range of bikes making the route accessible for everyone

Need to know

Distance from Bordeaux to Créon: About 25km. The easiest way to get there is by car. 

Overnight option: If you did want to stay overnight nearby then the Château Du Payre is a beautiful place to stay. The home and vineyards have been passed down mother to daughter for the last five generations are currently run by Valerie Labrousse Marcuzzi, an extraordinary welcoming host. A stay here is much like a holiday with old friends. 

There are three bedrooms within the Château, including a family suite, all decorated with period furniture, pretty wallpaper and with large bathrooms, and named after a different variety of wine. Speaking of wine, the property has 40 hectares of wine and Valerie will happily take you on a tour of the vineyards, the cellars and through the production process. It’s a lovely place to stay; convivial, homely and with delicious food and wine. 

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