Le Clarys Plage is a campsite from which you can experience a truly beautiful part of the world.
The Vendée, a region of western France, boasts stunning beaches.
Just a quarter of a mile from the base, jointly occupied by Eurocamp and a number of other holiday providers, is the long stretch of Saint-Jean-de-Monts beach.
A 20 minute drive takes you to the bustling town of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, with its fishing harbour and breathtaking beach.
The sand slopes gently out into the Atlantic, allowing kids to safely wade for a good distance.
All along the seafront are restaurants and cafes and there’s plenty of free parking nearby, which make a full day at the beach an attractive and easy proposition for families.
A busy market town, it has leisure boats on the river and picnic areas located close to the centre, as well as plenty of shops.
The sheer convenience of the water park at Le Clarys Plage means you don’t always have to go looking for entertainment.
There’s more than enough in the way of slides and water features to keep kids aged right up to pre teens busy for hours on end.
The site has two sandy playgrounds, table tennis tables, a boules arena, tennis courts, a bar, restaurant and, crucially for parents requiring an hour or two of peace, a kids club.
Eurocamp run family activities that everyone can join in with, and sessions just for the kids, allowing parents to drop the little ones off and run for the bar.
A supermarket, shops, a bakery, restaurants and cafes lie a five minute walk away, meaning the car can stay put for as long as you like.
In terms of the accommodation, the chalets are clean and perfectly adequate when all you’re doing is sleeping and eating there.
Our family of six managed to spend a week in one without ever feeling too claustrophobic, albeit blessed by beautiful weather that allowed us to spend all day every day outdoors.
As with any form of camping, however, being well prepared for rainy days with your own forms of entertainment is well advised.
Breaking up the drive
It’s a long old slog of a drive down to Dover and on through to Saint-Jean-de-Monts.
To break up the journey to the port we visited the excellent Gulliver’s Land at Milton Keynes.
The theme park had something for each of our kids, aged one, three, five and 10.
There were virtually no queues and the park was busy throughout the day.
When the rain threatened, briefly, we decamped to an indoor play area, but the rest of the day was spent on rollercoasters and rides of various shapes, sizes and speeds.
Staff were friendly and talkative, almost as if they’d had a memo to reassure kids before they boarded the rides.
The return leg from Dover at the other end of the trip was made more bearable by a visit to Whipsnade Zoo near Dunstable.
A vast site, the viewing areas make it easy to see the animals and there’s an array of talks and demonstrations throughout the day.
A fantastic butterfly house, a family of playful bears, the elephants and tigers were all highlights.
The lions, as per usual, looked sleepy.
Tips for a smoother journey
Pin clothes pegs to the windscreen visor, representing chunks of time, so the kids can see how much time is left on the drive and have no excuse to ask ‘are we nearly there yet?’
Take a bag of ‘presents’ (we wrapped up tiny toys and pound shop knick-kacks) and set your phone alarm for every 45 minutes or hour, so they have something to look forward to and crucially, something new to occupy their hands and minds for periods of time.
We also hired a load of children’s audio books from the library.
You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Kate Winslet read a Mr Gum book.
Mercifully, there are an abundance of rest stops along the French motorways, with picnic spots and toilets at each one.
The roads were superb and largely traffic free - although the toll cost was higher than we’d anticipated. Probably worth it to be able to travel at 80mph on smooth surfaces for the majority of the journey.
Remember your ‘driving in France’ kit and affix your headlamp beam converters before you drive onto the ferry, because you’ve enough on your plate concentrating on driving on the wrong side of the road once you roll off at Calais.