The great Pilat dune stands at the entrance of the Arcachon Bay, facing the Banc d’Arguin and the Cap Ferret peninsula. This « mountain of sand » was born naturally from the meeting between sand, water and wind, it is the highest Dune of Europe: 110 meters high, 60 million cubic meters of sand, 2.7 km long and 500 meters wide.
From the top of the dune, the panorama is spectacular: views of the entrance of the Arcachon Bay and the ocean on one side, and an infinite pine forest of the Biscay Landes on the other. It is one of the most spectacular places to admire the most beautiful sunsets.
« the Pilat Dune » or « the Pyla Dune »
The name of this place comes from the gascon word: pilòt, which means « mound », « pile. » The official name of this place is therefore « the Pilat Dune ». On the other hand, the seaside resort of Pyla-sur-Mer, near the dune, was founded in the 1910s-1920s by a real estate developer who opted for a more exotic sound, using an « y ». Daniel Meller obtained land between the Moulleau and the Pilat dune. In reference to the large neighbouring dune that forms a mound of sand, he chose to christen the place « Pyla-sur-Mer » to erect « a city in the forest ».
In the late 1920s, another promoter Louis Gaume created « The Society of the Pilat-Plage » with the Corniche, a former hunting lodge that became a privileged holiday resort for aristocrats and the bourgeoisie where he built many neo-Basque-style houses (to date nearly 4000 Gaume villas have been built!).
A desert in perpetual motion:
As has been the case every year and especially since November 2019, following the very strong storms on the Arcachon Bay and on the ocean beaches, erosion and rising waters have an effect on the beach coast. Each year the dune advances between 5 and 10 meters, it is also to protect the progress of the sea on the coast as of the plantations of oyats, pines… This year, to strengthen the coasts of the ocean beach named « la Lagune », the city of La Teste-de-Buch proposed to recycle Christmas trees to curb erosion.
The advance of the sand at the dune site has uncovered an Iron Age necropolis, proof that the site has been occupied for nearly three millennia.
The site of the dune to be protected
This site has been classified since 1943 and has now become the first tourist destination welcoming more than one million visitors.
The creation of the Joint Union of the Great Pilat Dune in 2007, which unites under one acronym the regional council of New Aquitaine, the county council of Gironde and the commune of La Teste-de-Buch, in consultation with the Coastal Conservatory, has helped to rehabilitate the reception area in order to give this site the surrounding area at the height of its splendour.
The dune has become the must-see site of Aquitain tourism, and continues to recede each year, gradually approaching the road that leads to Biscarrosse.
With Private Captain, enjoy the services of a skipper to discover this magnificent site of the Arcachon Bay by private boat.