The Camargue is a famous bird-watching location, and the beaches you ride near are some of the wildest in France. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is known for great seafood. This loop takes you past or near additional interesting side diversions that include: Domaine de Méjanes Paul Ricard
, Parc ornithologique Pont du Gau
, Camargue Museum
, Gachole lighthouse, a Michelin-starred garden restaurant
, and horseback-riding. Don't rush—spend some time in the area.
Though it sticks to dirt tracks whenever possible, there are some lengthy paved stretches required to link this loop. Ride out and back from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer along the coast for a shorter day on dirt paths, only.
The Camargue is home to wild white horses and black bulls that evolved here, rather than being introduced. Some of these wild animals are managed on manades (ranches), and the bulls are used in the wildly popular local style of bull-fighting that involves snatching prizes from their horns rather than killing the animals.
Start on the north side of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and take the sea dike road heading east (Digue a la Mer). Pass the Gachole lighthouse, and continue to the south end of the Clos de Desclaux pond. From there, cross the bridges, turn left at the T, and follow the Chemin du Fangassier. When the road bends north, watch for a way over the dike on your left to join a dirt track that parallels the road. When the road and track bend east, take a left turn on a dirt road that heads north. Pass the Gites du Salin de Badon and continue working north, visiting the east shores of Étang du Fournelet and the much larger Étang de Vaccarès.
When you leave the east shore of Étang de Vaccarès behind, you'll soon approach the D37. Turn left before reaching it, and parallel this paved road at some distance, traveling west until you run out of room on the north shore of Étang de Vaccarès. From here, continue west on the road and parallel dirt tracks to Domaine de Méjanes.
From Méjanes, continue south on the Five Gorges designated bike lane
of the D85A—or parallel dirt roads where available—back to the start.
Remember that this area is one big swamp. If you find the dirt segments are too wet to ride, this route never has you too far from a paved road. If you decide to pioneer a new route on the network of dirt tracks, be conscious of the mesh of canals that can be difficult to cross without swimming or wading.