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La Conche / Phare de Balleine

On the westernmost tip of the island the Phare de Balleine (a lighthouse) overlooks the tricky ocean entrance into the Pertuis Breton and a string of reefs protecting the island from being swept away by the sea. On the northern side, just at the end of the fortification wall circling the lighthouse, lies a long stretch of sandy beach bending from a westerly to a northerly orientation.

The place must have been of some strategic importance because a couple of WWII bunkers litter the beach and the dunes. The waters in this area are very shallow and in consequence low tide gives a wide beach with lots of space for summer tourists while high tide forces the beach goers to crumble on a very narrow strech of sand between the sea and the - at most parts protected and therefore fenced off - dunes. With stronger winds and waves the beach disappears at high tide.

The reef in front of the lighthouse produces long but soft lefts while the sandy parts of the beach only have shorebreak waves. Waves usually only break from mid to high tide. At low tide the sea is too shallow for letting pass smaller swells.

Access to the beach is easy with a small road near the lighthouse - along this road there is two holliday villages and a large campground - and a few nice parking areas in the pine tree covered dunes on the northern end of the beach.

windsurfing: with winds from the west (sideoffshore) to the northwest (sideshore) the reef provides excellent wave sailing with rides up to 200m possible. The waves never really get too hollow and fast and the few sections cry for aerials. Getting out is sometimes a bit tricky as on high tide the waves break very clos to shore while sideoffshore winds are very light and gusty near the beach. There is also usually a decent current running from west to northeast that makes it difficult to get upwind to the peak.

At low tide it is usually flat and good for cruising and free style. The sandy parts of the beach further east / north are not recommendable for windsurfing due to the shorebreak.

kiteboarding: at lower tides and therefore wide beach this is a very nice place for kiteboarding in lighter winds and summer breezes.

surfing: Mainly due to the currents the left waves on the reef lack of power but can provide long fun rides on larger boards. Fun with SUPs.

sailing: There is a small sailing school just at the beginning of the sandy part of the beach. Very nice sailing in summer breezes.

For more photos check the gallery or have a look at some autumn rarities

Related stories: La Grande Boucle, Ré-velation