La Grande Motte is unique and original. Like it or loathe it, it’s stunning architecture, conceived by Jean Balladur (Eduard Balladur’s brother), has been likened to a complex of futuristic Mayan pyramid temples or mirror images of Le Pic St Loup mountain situated to the north of Montpellier. Both are valid analogies: Balladur sought to construct something that was redolent of the Cevennes hills on what was an area of flat topography; and the inspiration for the pyramidal forms was the desire to give every inhabitant a sun terrace. Either way, it is a remarkable architectural achievement.
La Grande Motte was built in the mid-sixties to combat the rising trend in French holiday makers spending all their hard-earned French cash in resorts across the Languedocien border in Spain. It also made good use of a vast expanse of land that was surplus to wine-growing needs and simply too good to be left to Camargue bulls to graze upon. The ground was leveled using sand from hydraulic dredging; the port area to the west was excavated and the Ponant Lagoon on the east side deepened. Prior to planting the trees and green areas, the ground was washed in order to allow them to grow, so salty was the soil.
Nowadays, plants and minerals are in perfectly harmony, with green spaces covering one third of the town’s surface area. Tree species include stone pine, Aleppo pine, Leyland cypress, Common Alder, Russian olive tree, poplars, and palm trees among others. There are 31 hectares of shrubs, including mimosa, oleander, thyme, lavender and rosemary. If you like walking for fitness, and are also passionate about botany, then Grande Motte is your perfect location for hiking in France.
The range of species found here is constrained by the environmental conditions: arid summers, humid southerly winds and the drying effect of the northerly Mistral. Consequently, conifers and broad-leaved trees, shrubs, semi-ligneous perennial plants and annual climbers have been selected to suit these elements. 21,124 conifers and 6,834 broad-leaved trees have been planted since 1965.
Some of the buildings and walkways have been showing signs of wear and tear recently, which has resulted in a major investment by the town hall, especially along the quayside of the marina, along the vast esplanade as well as a major overhaul along Avenue d’Europe, the main shopping street. This has only very recently been completed (late summer 2013) and our France hiking tours located in the Grande Motte are now back to their very best, taking you along tree-lined pavements, promenade and round the marina.
We have known the Town since 1990 and been frequent visitors ever since. It really is the ideal place to ‘chill out,’ whether traveling alone, with friends or a partner or with the family and kids. There is quite simply something for everyone here. It is mid-market, and so not intimidating and gentrified like some other coastal resorts further to the east; nor is it ‘much ado about nothing’, a criticism often raised against Cannes.
La Grande Motte is located on the Mediterranean coast, within easy access of both Montpellier airport (20 minutes drive) and Nimes airport (45 minutes drive). With La Petite and La Grande Camargue to its east, and Sète and Agde to its west, those who love the coast can enjoy its pleasures as well as spend time walking its coastal canal system.
© The Enlightened Traveller 2015
This short walking tour takes place in and around La Grande Motte/LGM:
Activities and Amenities
- 1. Excellent Beaches
- 2. Conference Centre and outdoor arena for live shows.
- 3. The institute of ” Thalassothérapie.”
- 4. Fishing
- 5. Golf
- 6. Tennis
- 7. The Aqua Parc “Espace Grand Bleu.”
- 8. La Grande Motte Nautical Centre.
- 9. Nightlife
Both public and private – European Blue Flag quality standard, with three lifeguard stations. There is even a beach reserved for dogs at Le Grand Travers.
This uses the healing properties of sea water and the sun within a high quality framework and environment, offering thermal mud and algae baths, massage and physiotherapy, plus four specific themes: diet, esthetics, regaining shape and tobacco detoxification.
“La peche au gros” (big fish fishing). In 1969, a group of fishing enthusiasts created the Big Game Fishing Association of La Grande- Motte. This club, the first of its type on the Mediterranean coast, quickly achieved popularity. Since 1986, the Club organizes competitions in collaboration with Port-Camargue. The fishermen sell their catch to the local co-operatives and the greater part of their catch is donated to charitable organizations.
On a smaller level, fishermen and women can be seen at various points along the banks of Vidourle River and in and around the Ponant lagoon to the east, all year round and also round the clock.
The golf course was created by the world-renowned American golf architect, Robert TRENT JONES, with roughly 500 golf courses to his name, such as the Royal Dar Es Salaam Golf Club in Morocco, and, in Spain on the Costa del Sol, the magnificent courses in Soto Grande.
La Grande Motte golf club and course boast world class facilities on a 135-hectare site, plus a golfing school.
There are three courses:
– The ‘Les Mouettes’ course: a compact 6-hole course – PAR 19.
– The ‘Les Goélands’ course: 18 holes – PAR 58.
– The ‘Les Flamants Roses‘ course: international circuit – PAR 72.
A big practice tee with 50 mats
A 2,000 m 2 putting green
A pitch and putt course
The purpose built tennis club boasts a total of 30 clay and hard courts, both covered and open-air, plus a Club House with Bar, Restaurant and Swimming pool.
The indoor park (600 square metres) has a capacity for 600 people and comprises several swimming pools, paddling pools, slide, solarium, steam rooms, sauna and cafeteria.
The outdoor park (1,100 squaremetres) has a capacity for 1,200 people and comprises children’s rubber-ring slide, a pool with a beach and intermittent waves, paddlingpool, three giant slides and lots of quiet shaded areas, grassy or paved.
This is located on the Ponant lagoon, with an opening to the sea. Open all year round, power boats and jet skis can be hired as well as canoes and rowing boats.
With the exception of the golf club, which is a half-an-hour walk from the first choice self-contained apartments we use, all the rest of the facilities are just a five minute walk away.
There is an embarrassment of choice here:
ii. Three discos
iii. A multitude of bars and restaurants for you, and esplanade entertainment for the kids. For those of you who remember Manitas del Plata, he has an apartment here and plays live frequently in and around the marina bars.
Two expressways link La Grande Motte to the A9 motorway, giving access from the East and the North.
Montpellier Mediterranean airport is 10 Km away. There are several flights from Paris daily as well as Ryanair from Stansted.
There are many connections daily thanks to the high-speed TGV trains that arrive in Montpellier station, from where there is a regular shuttle service to La Grande Motte.
There are regular all-year-round connections:
•Montpellier – La Grande Motte, and
•Nîmes – Aigues Mortes – Le Grau du Roi – La Grande Motte.
For those of you in possession of your own yatch, the port of La Grande Motte reserves 137 berths for visiting craft, and has a total of 1,374 berths.
Click to visit The French Hiker’s Guide to Holidaying in the Hexagon and France self-guided walking, trips, trails, places & themes.