If you're looking for small fishing villages, isolated inlets and deserted beaches you might want to go somewhere else.
But let's admit it, there is also a certain pleasure in letting yourself get caught up in the effervescence of a vacation in a fantastic seaside resort... And if on top of the ”Ice cream!”, “Waffles!!” and “10€ Dresses!!!”, this resort offers you the conviviality of its Provençal market, the charm of its little restaurants, its fishing port, its 18 kilometres of sandy beaches and the pretty little houses that gradually get lost in the countryside...
then the Grau du Roi welcomes you!
Beach of Le Grau-du-Roi in winter
The lighthouse of Le Grau-du-Roi
Trawler being followed by birds
Fisher on the quays of Grau-du-Roi
The Espiguette lighthouse
The Espiguette beach
The town's history is quite recent.
At the end of the 16th century, a torrent of the Rhône River opened up a breach (called a grau) in the coastal barrier. This channel was called “Grau Henri” then “Grau du Roi” after the king Henri IV reinforced it by having two stone breakwaters built to protect it from silting. In the 18th century a channel was opened, leading from this sole maritime gateway in the department of the Gard to Aigues-Mortes. The town of Grau du Roi developed around this canal. Italian immigrants settled here in the 19th century and the main activity became fishing.
Since, the town has raised itself to the rank of second biggest French fishing port on the Mediterranean. In the Old Port you can still soak in the charm of the trawlers chugging in by way of the swing bridge, the fish market and the quays strewn with nets and bordered by restaurants with picturesque façades.
At the end of the 19th century, tourism began to develop. The arrival of the railway, the growing penchant for sea bathing and paid vacation time made for Grau du Roi's fortune.
The Villa Parris near the old lighthouse is a beautiful example of Belle Époque construction. The house of the dolphin (Maison du dauphin) is also very typical. And the façades of the buildings along the quay also have the attractive elements of the architecture of that period, even though their construction meant the demolition of the 18th century Redoute (watchtower).
The construction of Port-Camargue, reclaimed from the sea between 1967 and 1985, gave Grau du Roi a marina that is today the most important in Europe. The port resembles a monumental reef of quays from which grows a maze-like mass of shops and luxury apartments, all with their own mooring berths.
The town could also be called Aqua du Roi. It is entirely surrounded by water: the Mediterranean Sea, of course, with its four big beaches and the untamed and preserved Espiguette Point, the Vidourle River and a whole jumble of lakes, channels, salt ponds and marshes. Don't forget, we are in the Camargue!
If the small beaches in the town itself are too crowded, go to the Pointe d'Espiguette with its natural, untamed areas and its kilometres of beaches that give it a desert-like air. A 5-kilometre cycling path connects it to the Grau du Roi town centre. At the other end of the parking lot, after a walk of a few hundred yards, you reach the nudist beach. Espiguette is also a great spot for kite surfing.
A lighthouse was built there in 1869. Initially situated 150 metres from the sea, it is now 700 metres inland due to the sands left by the currents.
And if you get bored with the sun, the beaches or the live music in the town every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in summer, go to the Palais de la Mer with its little maritime museum and the Seaquarium.
Its 2400 m² house more than 2000 Mediterranean and tropical fish, an impressive collection of sharks as well as seals and sea lions.
Also to enjoy: the annual festival in September with the running of the bulls, Course Camarguaise and gypsy music. The occasion to dance, eat and drink!
If you want some old stones and history, the medieval town of Aigues-Mortes is only 7 kilometres away and you can even get there on a bicycle by following the maritime channel.