Visit the Etang de Thau: complete guide

Etang de Thau - Mise en avant

Looking for some fresh air in Occitania? Head for Marseillan and follow our comprehensive guide to the Etang de Thau!

Considered the largest pond in Languedoc, the Thau basin is a major attraction for locals and visitors alike. It gave rise to a series of artisanal operations that accelerated its economic and tourist development. Today, the pond is a superb seaside resort offering a wide range of outdoor activities. Check out our complete guide to the Etang de Thau below!

Etang de Thau in a nutshell

Visiter l'étang de Thau : Etang de Thau en quelques mots

Photo credit: Shutterstock – FredP

With a surface area of 7,500 hectares, the Etang de Thau is an immense expanse of water bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Considered a veritable inland sea, it is home to a rich biodiversity. It is the abundance of phytoplankton in its waters that has given rise to the pond’s main artisanal activities: mussel and oyster farming.

But the area is also renowned for its fishing activities and local shellfish farming. The village of Bouzigues, on the edge of the pond, specializes in oyster and mussel cultivation. A museum has been set up in its honor to tell you all about the artisanal history of the pond.

With an average depth of 4.5 m, the Thau pond can in fact reach depths of up to 10 m at certain depths. Open to all water sports activities, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to thrills or discovering the pond’s aquatic fauna.

1. Hiking

Visiter l'étang de Thau : Randonnée à l'étang de Thau

Photo credit: Shutterstock – FredP

Before you set foot in the water, enjoy the magnificent coastal landscape of the Etang de Thau. In the communes surrounding the basin, signposted circuits will take you on a journey of discovery of remarkable nature, biodiversity and local heritage.

  • On the hills of La Moure: thread your way through kermes oak trees on the foothills of the Aumelas plateau to reach a viewpoint overlooking the blue waters of the Thau River;
  • From Saint-Felix en Gardiole: this 9.5 km route offers exceptional panoramic views all the way to Saint-Félix de Montceau abbey;
  • Le chemin des Aresquiers: walk along one of the largest protected areas on the lake. After meeting the pink flamingos, the route takes you through a pine forest full of a thousand scents.

2. Oyster tasting

Huîtres

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Chiociolla

And yes, it’s not just the Atlantic that offers oysters. The Etang de Thau is also a mecca for oyster farming. So make time for a gourmet break, to discover this mollusc that is the pride of the locals.

Pair your oysters with a good white wine, and you’ve got everything you need for a great time with family and friends!

3. Mountain biking

Visiter l'étang de Thau : VTT dans l'étang de Thau

Photo credit: Facebook – La Méditerranée à vélo

To visit the Etang de Thau, let the sea breeze blow through your hair on a mountain bike ride.

Around the basin, a long 57.5 km loop takes you to the five must-see towns of Marseillan, Mèze, Bouzigues, Balaruc-les-Bains and Sète. You’ll also have the chance to get up close and personal with the local wildlife, oyster beds and marshes.

Terms and rates

  • You can rent your bike at the Balaruc tourist office or at Bikemed in Sète ;
  • A day’s hire of a mountain bike or VTC costs €14;
  • Please bring a deposit cheque for 300€.

4. Horseback riding

Balade équestre à Sète

Photo credit: Shutterstock – FredP

Departing from the Mèze stables, you can visit the garrigue and the Etang de Thau with your family or friends.

Pony or horse rides will take you along the Via Domitia, the Moure hills, the Etang de Thau and the Mediterranean coastline.

Terms and rates

  • A horseback ride for an adult costs between €18 and €20;
  • A maximum of 4 beginners or 5 experts is allowed;
  • Rides last an average of 1 to 3 hours;
  • They are also suitable for people with reduced mobility, who will be taken around in a horse-drawn carriage;
  • Ages 8 and up.

5. Quad biking

Visiter l'étang de Thau : Quad aux portes de Béziers

Photo credit: Facebook – Occiquad

Need to get away from it all? Spice up the pleasure of hiking by trying out quad biking, an original way to visit the Etang de Thau!

On the outskirts of Béziers, explore the winding roads leading to the Thau basin and its coastal communities. You’ll also be supervised by an instructor. Quad biking is the ideal way to let off steam with friends.

Terms and rates

  • An individual 2-hour course costs €65;
  • For 2 people, the price rises to €100;
  • Please provide a deposit cheque for 600€.
  • A driver’s license is required.

6. Canoeing and kayaking

Visiter l'étang de Thau : Canoë à l'étang de Thau

Photo credit: Facebook – Slag’ Aventures

Let’s finally approach the salt waters of the Etang de Thau. Enjoy the gentle currents of the sea on a canoe trip!

Sea bream, eels, seahorses, pink flamingos… The Etang de Thau offers a unique fauna, an exceptional natural jewel. You can also explore the oyster-farming industry and the small ports of Bouzigues, Mèze and Marseillan. Last but not least, stop off at the islet of Sète, where Brassens enjoyed tasting sea urchins.

Terms and rates

  • This activity costs 35€ for adults and 5€ for children between 6 and 9 years old;
  • The tour lasts2h30;
  • It is necessary to know how to swim;
  • Minors must be accompanied by an adult.

7. Kitesurfing

Kitesurf à Thau 2

Photo credit: Facebook – Ventileau

A vacation on the sunny Etang de Thau coastline is the perfect opportunity to try your hand at kitesurfing!

In Marseillan-Plage, try out this alternative to surfing in the best conditions. In fact, the basin is an ideal learning spot for its ease and safety. With little chop, clear and windy in all directions, you’ll be able to glide at the mercy of the wind and enjoy the thrill of the ride!

Terms and rates

  • A discovery course in high season costs €165;
  • A two-day course costs €310;
  • One-to-one lessons for two people cost €290;
  • Payments must be made by cheque, bank transfer or vacation voucher.

8. Stand-up paddle

Vister l'étang de Thau : Paddle à Marseillan

Photo credit: Facebook – Office De Tourisme De Marseillan

Test your balance on an oversized board by trying out stand-up paddling. Indeed, this activity is perfect if you want to visit the Etang de Thau calmly.

Paddle gently past oyster beds and small local harbours! You may also be lucky enough to spot a seahorse hiding between two seaweeds underwater.

Terms and rates

  • A one-hour baptism costs 15€;
  • For a1.5-hour tour, the price for a group of 5 people is €150;
  • The minimum age is 12;
  • Finally, all participants must be able to swim.

9. Sailing excursion

Voile à l'étang de Thau

Photo credit: Facebook – CPIE Bassin de Thau

With its shallow basin, it’s easy to sail on the protected salt water of the Etang de Thau.

In Balaruc-les-Bains, embark on a sailing escapade accompanied by a nautical guide! Suitable for all levels, the waters of the lake welcome you for serene sailing, from morning till sunset.

Terms and rates

  • A private duo lesson costs 35€ per person;
  • A windsurf board can also be rented for €13 for 2 hours;
  • Shorty suits and life jackets are available for €2 per session;
  • You must be able to swim.

10. A boat trip

Visiter l'étang de Thau : Bateau à Marseillan

Photo credit: Facebook – « L’étoile de thau IV » boat

If you’d like to take a closer look at fishing and shellfish farming in the Etang de Thau, come aboard a catamaran for a sunset cruise!

Join a former oyster farmer on a guided tour of the oyster beds. You’ll also have the opportunity to taste a few oysters, accompanied by wine, on board the boat!

Terms and rates

  • For a sunset expedition to discover the parks, allow €13 per person;
  • A supplement of €9 is charged if you wish to sample local produce.
  • For children aged between 4 and 12, the rate is €7.

11. Diving

Plongée aux Palavas

Photo credit: Facebook – Plongée Ecosystem

But visiting the Etang de Thau also means taking into account its depth!

Indeed, the basin’s seabed also conceals a vast aquatic kingdom. More specifically, its atypical lagoon environment is home to a large number of endemic species: seahorses, cuttlefish, nudibranchs, wolffish… Come and meet them from Balaruc-les-Bains on a diving initiation or exploration.

Terms and rates

  • A baptism for two people costs €100;
  • On the other hand, a level 3 descent will cost you 590€, ballast and bottle included;
  • All diving equipment can be rented for 12€;
  • This activity is not suitable for people with heart problems or pregnant women.

12. A microlight expedition

ULM à l'étang de Thau

Photo credit: Facebook – Hydravion ULM

After exploring the waters of the Etang de Thau from top to bottom, take to the skies for a unique experience!

Take a microlight flight over the singular island, with its harbor, canals, oyster beds and mussel beds offering a new perspective on the area. Accompanied by an instructor, take your first flight and get the most out of your experience in the shortest possible time.

Terms and rates

  • For a1-hour ride, prices start at 140€;
  • The activity is subject to weather conditions;
  • It is also accessible to people with reduced mobility.

13. An airplane flight

Avion au-dessus de l'étang de Thau

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Olivier Tabary

Finally, for the last stage of our guide, stay in the clouds and try your first introductory flight!

Beyond Sète and Mont Saint-Clair, take to the skies over Palavas, Carnon, Les Aresquiers and the Etang, accompanied by a guide. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of the entire Bassin de Thau. You’ll end your stay with your heart full of emotions!

Terms and rates

  • For one person, a flight costs €61;
  • The activity is also subject to weather conditions;
  • Anyone with a heart condition is strongly advised not to take the flight.

After following this guide, you’ll know the Etang de Thau from its depths to its highest peaks!