As the Bordeaux summer turns on the heat and the kids start to get feistier, it’s critical to get them to the nearest splash zone. Here’s the Bordeaux Expats rundown of the local coolspots!
The rulebook! Pools in and around Bordeaux
- Pools in France are often compared to army boot-camps and you have to toe the line! Always make sure you have swimming caps for everyone just in case – these don’t need to be the head-shrinking silicon caps.. you can pick up cheap cotton elastic caps (incl. kids sizes) from all the sports shops and often vending machines in the pools themselves.. you’ll hardly feel you’re wearing one.
- Also make sure you wear swimming trunks/a swimming costume and avoid shorts or any casual beachwear – you’ve been warned!!! 🙂
- If you have kids that are learning to swim, bring all the necessary armbands etc. Some of the Bordeaux pools provide flotation devices, but don’t count on it.
- All pools obviously have lockers, but I always take my bag into the pool so I can smuggle in a bottle of water and snacks. Although you’re officially not allowed to eat, you can get away with it if the lifeguards aren’t looking. Kids also tend to get ravenously hungry after an hour or so going mental in the water!
- For the entry fees, it’s cheaper for residents of a particular commune (Bordeaux, Pessac, Talence…) so bring a proof of address that’s up to date – electricity bill etc…
I’ll start with the big one… Located half way down rue Judaique behind Meriadeck, piscine Judaique has a large kids pool, baby pool, waterslide and big buckets full of balls, floats, armbands etc. The colossal glass roof opens up on hot days, there’s a large space for sun loungers and even a spacious jacuzzi which is open to kids after 11am! The waterslide is for kids age 6 and above but they let younger ones on as long as they can swim and go by themselves. The water in the kids pools is also really warm!
Address: 164 rue Judaique
Parking: it’s the centre so expensive apart from Sunday mornings, which are free.
Getting there without a car: the nearest tram is St Bruno (next to Meriadeck) and you can get bus no.3 from Quinconces. It’s 7mins on foot from place Gambetta.
Annoying bits: the lifeguards here are the strictest in the region and there’s no room to manoeuvre… sometimes there are actually more lifeguards staring intensely at the pool with their walkie-talkies than there are swimmers… They’re on the ball though and I’ve seen them dive in to grab people at the drop of a hat.
Fun bits: it’s in a gorgeous art deco building dating back to the 1930’s and there’s tons of room for everyone including one of the only 50m pools in the Sud Ouest. The St Bruno club trains there if you’re keen and they have a water polo club that trains a few times a week. They also do scuba diving courses…
Piscine du Grand Parc
This one’s really child-friendly as well and has a large kids pool, complete with palm trees and a flowing river to float around. They supply a range of floatation devices and sometimes put out a large floating mat for kids to run across the water. The changing rooms are modern and lifeguards aren’t as menacing as piscine Judaique!
Address: 60 cours de Luze
Parking: Grand Parc has limited paid parking although Sunday mornings is usually fine as well as free. Avoid the burnt-out cars and itinerant vans parked everywhere.
Getting there without a car: the nearest tram is Emile Counord (8mins walk) and you can get bus no.15 from place Victoire/Gambetta or the Jardin Publique.
Annoying bits: it’s at Grand Parc… and the water can get a bit chilly after an hour or so. You need a swimming cap!
Fun bits: the floaty river is very relaxing and there are massage water jets to sort your back out. There’s also a baby pool with a rock adventure slide for small kids.
Stade Nautique Pessac
Just outside Pessac, the Stade Nautique has a medium kids pool, baby pool and water slide alongside the adult 25m pool. The lifeguards are far more relaxed than in the centre of Bordeaux and they let parents take their kids on the water slide. They also don’t seem to mind parents and kids jumping and bombing into the main pool off the diving blocks and generally causing total havoc. You don’t need a swimming cap either. They have sun loungers (why would you want to lie on a sun lounger in the winter in Pessac?) and even put on rocking tunes from time to time!
The real draw of the Stade Nautique though is the large wave pool and array of awesome outdoor waterslides that opens in July/August. This summer they have a new inflatable vertical slide drop as well.
Address: 13 Avenue des Aciéries, Pessac
Parking: they have a large spacious free car park
Getting there without a car: the nearest tram is Pessac and you could also get the train there. It’s then up the road on bus no.4. Bus 4 runs from Jardin Publique and place Gambetta every 15mins or so all day.
Annoying bits: it’s €5 for Pessac residents with proof of address in the summer and more for non-Pessacais – there’s usually a queue to get in. The outdoor pool gets MINDBLOWINGLY RAMMED during peak hours so time your visit. The outside area is mostly in the direct sunshine so grab the shady areas before the locals do…
Fun bits: the outdoor bit is huge and there is a wave pool, kids pool with water jets and kids slide etc. They have a snack bar and large grassy area for picnics as well as an array of giant slides that kids go mental for. They also rarely check bags so you can bring in full picnics and the odd cheeky bottle of rosé.. 😉
Piscine Thouars (Stade Nautique Henri Deschamps)
Similar to Pessac, Thouars has a smallish indoor pool/kids pool that transforms into a megatastic outdoor waterpark in the summer! It’s all fairly relaxed and you don’t need a swimming cap, although still come in proper swimwear and not beach shorts etc.
There is a large outdoor pool, a diving pool with three heights of boards, a kids water play area with jets etc. and a kids pool (including sun loungers). There is a large grassy area for sunbathing and picnics and they have free table tennis tables and table football! Check out the kids playground/obstacle course as well.
To play the games, you need to exchange your locker key – the guy has floats and other equipment for free so just ask.
Address: 235 Avenue de Thouars, Talence
Parking: they have a large spacious free car park
Getting there without a car: get to Peixotto tram and take bus no.20 (10mins up the road). Bus 20 also starts in Victoire for info…
Annoying bits: if you’re not a Talence resident, it’s €5 per person – kids under 5 are free. The changing rooms are very old skool and in need of a makeover. You have to get changed, then put all your stuff on a bizarre 1970’s red plastic clothes hanger and give it to the locker staff in exchange for your entry ticket. It also gets pretty busy on weekends and hot days!
Fun bits: there is loads for kids to do and they’ll be going crazy all over the place. Plenty of space and you can bring in a picnic and football for a kick around!
The best spots to swim outside Bordeaux!
Maguide, Lac Cazaux
The entire south-western side of Lac Cazaux (also known as Lac Biscarosse and the Étang de Cazaux et de Sanguinet) is a paradise for kids. The water is extremely shallow and warm for about 100 metres out until it cliff-drops down into the deeper lake. There are sauvage parts where you can set up your parasol and picnic gear in the trees or more tame beaches with large sandy areas and lifeguards/monitored swimming areas.
Maguide has an array of café’s and fun park activities such as kids bungee, bouncy castles etc. and there the giant inflatable Aquapark! You can also hire out canoes or paddle boards fairly cheaply.
Address: Route des Lacs, Biscarrosse
Parking: there are large carparks the entire length of the SW of the lake above Navarosse which charge in July August – €2.50 for 4 hours and €4.50 all day – there are traffic wardens that check your tickets and you can come and go all day as you please with a ticket.
Getting there without a car: kinda tricky as it’s in the Landes… try co-voiturage.
Annoying bits: it’s an hour’s drive from Bordeaux but the return can easily turn into two hours if you get the timing wrong and hit the traffic coming out of Arcachon.
Fun bits: if you wanna catch some waves, simply pop over the hill to Biscarosse plage 10mins drive away. There are also plenty of decent places to stay and eat around the lake including the Slow Village and Olipopette!
This is one of the best indoor/outdoor pools in the region and rivals Center Parcs. The campsite is quiet most of the year and you can pay to use the pool (€10 per adult and free for kids under 6). It has a large indoor glass dome full of trees and plants, a wave machine, jacuzzis, a flowing river, a range of slides and an outdoor rapid riverslide. There’s also an outdoor bit with a waterfall and a large outdoor pool with slides and kids aqua-park for the summer months.
Next to the pool you have a decent and cheap restaurant with a great kids menu and they love playing reggae!
Address: 24 Rue du Repos, Lacanau
Parking: free parking in and around the campsite but it’s busy in July/August!
Getting there without a car: there’s a bus to Lacanau beach, then it’s a 20min walk or so…
Annoying bits: July/August are crazily busy and the pools are all totally heaving – watch out for well-fed drunk Dutch campers!
Fun bits: kids go ballistic in this place – it has a large range of activities and the outdoor pool is still open off-season in September.
Les Antilles de Jonzac
Jonzac is renowned as a spa town and the Antilles mixes this up with a splash of Caribbean flavour! It’s a large all-encompassing indoor pool complex, complete with jungles, a range of eating zones, a restaurant and a spa zone for big people. It’s only an hour away from Bordeaux and a great day out!
Address: Park du Val de Seugne, Jonzac
Parking: large free car park
Getting there without a car: there’s a train from Bordeaux and it’s a 25min walk from the station through the picturesque village.
Annoying bits: it’s a bit pricey and two adults with a child will set you back around €28 – it costs more for the spa zone which is separate. Watch out for robbers as well as I’ve had goggles nicked on two separate occasions! It also gets really busy on weekends and during the holidays. The drive back to Bordeaux can be a pain if it’s raining.
Fun bits: it’s a massive water fun park and kids love it. Huge pool, wave machine, waterslide, hot jacuzzi, rubber rings, aquarium, jungle area, picnic areas, sun loungers and a snack bar. Oh and the restaurant’s not too shabby!
Happy safe swimming and if you have any ideas or suggestions, I’m all ears!