Go on a weekend adventure: ideas for active camping breaks for you and your family
Camping trips are the best way to get close to nature and once you’ve spent time exploring the great outdoors, you’ll want to do it again and again. The countryside of France is perfect for activity weekends in the open air – there are loads of exciting activities for you and your family to dive right into.
Every part of the French countryside offers a new open-air activity like kayaking, rock-climbing, canyoning, horse-riding… And you don’t have to be an expert. Sometimes taking a weekend course in something completely new and returning home with a new skill under your belt can give you a real sense of achievement as well as a break from your routine!
Open-air activities introduce you to landscapes that you might never find by yourself, as well as testing your abilities and giving you a great chance to bond with your family members and friends. So, use this handy guide to adventure sports in the great outdoors and discover something new and exciting on your next weekend camping trip in France.
Into the wild
Want to get active? Here are eight great ways for you and your family to start.
Kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding
Whether you are camping near the sea or by a river or lake, there is sure to be a kayak or stand-up paddle board rental centre nearby. These are wonderful, eco-friendly fitness pursuits that are relatively easy so all the family can give them a try together. Kayaking in particular is a fun activity that brings you to islands and inlets that people on the land never get to see and it’s a great for core strength and fitness too.
Rock climbing can look dangerous the first time you try it, but once you know that the instructor is following safety guidelines you can have an incredible experience getting to know the ropes.
Rock climbing engages your body and your mind, as you figure out how to move up a climbing wall or a rock face safely. It’s a great activity for building confidence and children, with their light frames and agility, are made for it. There are indoor climbing walls and outdoor centres in many parts of France.
France loves cycling and, if you’ve never tried a longer distance trip, then an activity weekend is the perfect time to get on the saddle. There are lots of safe cycle lanes all over France, which are car-free and bring you to beautiful locations. You’ll be amazed how far you will be able to cycle on your first try, even if you’ve never done it before. A great family trip idea is to take a guided or self-guided bike tour of a region that finishes in a local restaurant or bar.
Few Europeans enjoy food as much as the French and so it’s no surprise that foraging for food in the wild is a thing there. There are activity providers in lots of areas along the coast or near forests that will take you out to discover the edible treats that are freely available, like the different kinds of seaweed, mushrooms or shellfish. This is one where you do need a guide, but you’ll pick it up quickly.
While a dip in the sea is always a joy, there is something even more special about swimming in a lake or in a natural pool in a river. The water is colder, there’s no salt, and it just feels incredibly exciting to be surrounded by trees and the wild. It adds an extra dimension to a forest walk and anyone can do it.
There is a wonderful sense of achievement getting to the top of a mountain ridge or peak. It often seems insurmountable when only halfway up, but by the time you are taking in the views at the top, all the difficulty of the hike disappears. Find a guide to teach you or follow a waymarked path through the hills and mountains of France. All you need is a good pair of boots or shoes, snacks and lots of water.
Windsurfing and kite-surfing
Believe it or not, you don’t need a lot of wind for windsurfing, especially as a beginner – you just need to learn how to catch the wind in your sail. So even on a hot Mediterranean beach there should be enough power to drive your board across the water. It also works great on a lake, so if there is a windsurfing school near your campsite, give it a go. It’s a wonderful sport that really builds your core fitness and also your primary navigation skills. Kite-surfing takes a little longer to learn as you will likely spend a couple of days on land before even taking the board into the water, but if you have already learned the basics, then it’s a fantastic reason for a weekend break.
Snorkelling and wildlife
Teach a child to use a snorkel and mask and you’ll introduce them to an activity for life. There is no end of amazing sights to be seen under water in the right conditions – donning a snorkel and taking a look for the first time is a huge surprise. Fish, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, rock formations…. It’s also a great fitness activity as you become so engrossed in what you’re watching that you don’t notice how much real swimming you’re doing.
Learn through experience
There are so many physical and mental benefits to outdoor activities, you’ll feel much more refreshed after your active weekend than a lazy one!
Most outdoor activities look like a challenge at the beginning, but once you have been shown the right way to do them, they unlock something really special that is a fantastic confidence builder. Climbing a rock face or kayaking to an island gives you a real connection with nature and a sense of freedom and ability that is priceless.
Learn to navigate
Many outdoor activities mean learning basic navigation straight away. It’s a wonderful way to release your natural skills. Whether you are trying to catch the wind in a sail or follow a compass on a mountain hike, these are skills that will be useful forever.
Taking part in outdoor activities helps you learn to appreciate the seas, mountains and lakes around us. Just by enjoying ourselves in nature we will start to realise what would be lost if it wasn’t here. Without even noticing it happening, outdoor activities will help you become a protector rather than a consumer of nature.
Push your boundaries
We all want to grow and change. Outdoor activities ask us to do things our brains usually tell us not to – like jumping into a lake or climbing a rock face. By pushing our boundaries and learning new physical skills, our minds are strengthened too.
Protect your joints
Many outdoor activities have low impact on our joints so there’s something for all age groups: walking, cycling, swimming. These are lifelong activities that, when done properly, reward the body instead of damaging it.
Push your limits – get ready for an activity-filled weekend
Still wondering if activity holidays are for you? Try our frequently asked questions to help you decide.
Are outdoor activities dangerous?
Active pursuits come with a degree of risk, so make sure you choose reputable activity providers who will make sure you and your family or friends are safe throughout your adventure. Proper guidance from a qualified and experienced guide will mitigate the risks, and guides or teachers tend to have to be very highly qualified in France. Don’t be afraid to ask about this before you book a session.
Are outdoor activities good for the environment?
The majority of natural outdoor activities are based on the leave-no-trace principle. You should be able to go into the wild, practice your sport and leave without changing or damaging the environment. Activities like power-boating, jet-skiing or anything that uses a non-renewable power source, while exciting and active, are not included in this group of activities.
I’m a beginner. Can I really take part in active sports?
Yes, there are entry-level activities for all ages and experience levels. You can climb a rock face with a climbing school aged five or 85. It’s all about tuition and technique. Talk to the school or activity provider and they will help you choose the right approach. Beginners are always welcome.
What equipment do I need?
Activity providers will provide the correct safety equipment and will be able to let you know what you should wear and bring yourselves for your adventure.
Are outdoor activity guides qualified?
Yes, look for qualifications and references to experience in each school. In France, guides should be affiliated to the national organisation for their sport, as well as having taken leadership and coaching skills courses for their sport. Put some action in your next camping holiday.