The Camargue region of France is an area where you can hike, cycle or ride across a vast, unspoilt landscape. You can see flamingos, bulls or distinctive white horses.

Or you can just stay at the holiday park and enjoy the fact that the temperature can be into the 20s Celsius in October.

The Camargue National Park region is a vast plain on the edge of the Mediterranean, which was turned into an island by the damming of the Rhone.

As you approach it by air, you notice the flatness of the land and the perfect, pink-hued rectangles which are the salt lakes of Aigues-Mortes.

Our family stayed at Sunelia Clos du Rhone, around 4km (2.5miles) from the town of Saintes Maries de la Mer in one direction, and the countryside stretching out in the other.

There are a host of ways to explore the region. A land train offers a circular tour from the seafront at Saintes Maries de la Mer, or you can go horse-riding or pony-trekking, take a boat trip or hire bicycles in the town.

Where we stayed, you wouldn’t go long without a neighing alerting you to the presence of some of the region’s indigenous white-grey horses. They are traditionally ridden by the ‘gardians’ who herd the Camargue bulls.

The bulls are used for fighting, but not quite of the bloodthirsty variety you might expect. In the Camargue version, the men are ‘razeteurs’ whose task is to remove ribbons and rosettes from the bulls’ horns and outrun the animals to safety.

The marshy landscape of the Camargue makes the area ideal for bird-watching, and perhaps our most enjoyable time was spent at the Pont de Gau Ornithological Park.

The park covers 60 hectares of lawns, ponds, marshes and walkways, and is best known for the hundreds of pink flamingos you can watch see there all year round. With spots to picnic and a pleasant canopied cafe overlooking one of the ponds, you can spend idyllic hours here.

If you have had your fill of unspoilt countryside, it’ll be time to explore the region’s capital, Saintes Maries de la Mer. It’s a small but lively town full of distinctive white houses and with plenty of restaurants and cafes opening onto the streets and seafront. Narrow streets full of shops lead off from the main thoroughfares, and there is a market twice a week.

The town lives in the shadow of its church, visible from 10km (six miles) inland. It was built between the ninth and 12th centuries and heavily defended from pirates who were attacking the coast. Today, its crypt contains the statue of St Sara, adorned by messages from the faithful.

The church’s nave is 50ft high and served as a watch tower. Visitors can go onto the roof and walk around the ramparts – and the spectacular view of the town, the coast and the countryside is well worth the admission charge and a walk up some steep, winding stairs.

Highlights of the calendar in the town include the Festo Vierginenco every July, when young girls celebrate coming of age; and the pilgrimages on May 24-25, when statues of the town’s saints are taken to the sea. On the Sunday nearest October 22, there is a ceremony to take down the shrines.

We stayed in a lodge at Sunelia Clos du Rhone, a holiday park which is open to tents and motor homes. Even outside the peak season, there was the chance to enjoy an attractive open air pool with slides, and the park offers spa treatments, a small shop and cafe.

Our lodge was spotlessly clean, with two modest but comfortable bedrooms, kitchen-living room and a balcony on which you could sit in peace and to enjoy the sunrise and sunset. Outside the site, your neighbours are horses, and the park has direct access onto a gorgeous beach.

All four of us felt we’d never been so relaxed. And whether your own idea of relaxation means adventure or taking it easy, the Camargue caters very well for both.


Darren Slade stayed at Sunêlia Clos du Rhone at Saintes Maries de la Mer, open from March 30 to November 11. A two-bedroom/one-bathroom cottage costs from £380 for a week during summer half term and from £805 in August. Sunelia has 31 sites in prime coastal, mountain and countryside locations in France, Spain and Italy. For details, visit Sunêlia .com/en .

All parks offer a range of accommodation options from camping pitches and mobile-homes to architect-designed lodges and chalets. In July and August, some parks request a minimum one week stay; outside those months, all parks offer stays from one night.

Flights were by Ryanair between Stanstead and Nimes, 66km (41km) from Saintes Maries de La Mer.

Saintes Marie de la Mer has a very helpful Office de Tourisme, whose staff arranged several activities during our stay. Visit