Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gujan Mestras and the seven Oyster Harbours

Larosse Harbour in Gujan Mestras

The Larosse Harbour in Gujan Mestras makes for a perfect postcard picture with the oyster farmers small boats and the little huts where you can taste fresh oysters with chilled white wine. Gujan Mestras has no less than seven harbours and stands for half of the Arcachon Bay's oysters.

I went there last spring with the children. We started with some play time on the Hume beach next to Gujan Mestras. The tide was low, so the sand stretched far out and the boats where tipped on the side. The air smells of sea! This just dry landscape is difficult to take pictures of, it is beautiful in a subtle way with shades of green and grey and beige...

View from Gujan Mestras

When we arrive at the Larosse Harbour, the questions from the children start pouring. Why are there so many boats? What is this, they say and point at the tiles painted white or at some strange plastic thing, like a stick with wings... The huts huddle together along the pier and several offer a simple service of fresh oysters.

Larosse is also the centre for pinasse construction. Pinasse is a long, sleek boat with a high front, ideal to pass in shallow waters but still resistant enough to take on the ocean waves at the opening of the bay. You can rent a pinasse with a captain or admire them at different competitions in the bay.

Pinasse, typical boat in the Arcachon Bay
Photo Wikipedia

We continue to the Oyster Museum, Maison de l'Huître, where you can learn all about oyster farming. Small but well thought, the visit starts with a film and then takes you through the different parts of the life of an oyster. It gives you answers to many questions you might have about tools you see in the harbour. Personally I was surprised to learn that it takes three years to grow an oyster and I was not aware of the amount of work it takes to do oyster farming. You only see the farmers at high tide, because at low tide they are out in the bay taking care of their oysters. I am preparing another post to tell you more about oyster farming!

In August you can participate in the Oyster Festival in Gujan Mestras. Five days with over 100 000 visitors, music, oyster tastings and a festive mood!

The ladybug is a symbol for Gujan Mestras. There used to be vast vineyards around the bay. When they were attacked by lice, the people blamed the ladybugs that came to eat the lice. The inhabitants of Gujan Mestras were called barbots, which mean ladybug in gascon language. Today the ladybug is seen on the city armour and other official decorations - and everybody knows that the lice were the culprits.

The seven harbours of Gujan Mestras are La Hume, Meyran, Gujan, Larosse, Barbotière, Mole and the canal. Hume has a very nice beach, shallow and perfect for children.

Presentation of Gujan Mestras in French and English.


  1. Encore et toujours de bons moments qu'on peut passer chez vous...C'est une pure merveille.

  2. Hello,
    I am considering a visit with my wife to the Gujan Mestras Oyster Festival. Thank you for the helpful and descriptive information!

  3. Hello - dipped in to read some of your views on Aquitaine - We are so looking forward to visiting the area and Bordeau this Easter. Merci Matthew


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