With a coastline of about 200 kilometres, the Languedoc region offers many beautiful beaches. One of the most untainted ones is Plage de Mateille in the Aude department, situated North-East from the shoreline resort of Gruissan and flanked by the Étang de Mateille. This wide and spacious beach gives our kids enough space to run and goof around while Chéri and I try to catch them.
Protected natural area
The actual reason why Chéri and the kids love going to Plage de Mateille is because you can drive your car onto the beach. I kid you not. Well, maybe not during the high season, but in June the cars were there. Luckily, the beach is so wide that you don’t notice them very much. Although, I do think it is strange that cars are allowed on the beach, considering the beach and its surroundings are a protected natural area.
Instead of working on my tan, I decided to follow the little marked trail along the coastline. Plage de Mateille is about 1.2 kilometres long, but the set-out walk doesn’t cover this whole length. It was beautiful anyway. And surprisingly informative, with some explanatory signs (unfortunately only in French…). The Mateille beach is a so-called ‘barrier beach’, or ‘lido’ in French. This sandy coastal strip was formed over the years by the accumulation of sediments, which separated the Mateille lagoon from the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the created landscape of wetland and dunes is now home to unique flora and fauna with great ecological value.
A bit further along, it was suddenly like I had arrived at a driftwood graveyard. The high water had brought lots of beautiful weathered branches and even complete trunks to the feet of the dunes. They clearly demarcated how high the tide line comes during the winter months. This natural sea waste brings all kinds of life and objects to the shore- algae, aquatic plants, wood, shells- and helps to balance the beach’s ecosystem. Birds come here to nest and halophytes, or salt-tolerant plants, love this soil. I saw loads of wild samphire!
Going back along the beach, I passed the one and only lifeguard shack (solely staffed in summer). We usually visit Mateille in the spring or autumn, but I cannot imagine that this beach ever really gets very crowded. To emphasize the natural vibe, there is only one beach restaurant: the bohemian Mosquito Coast. Or you could try Mamamouchi on the Étang de Mateille (you will pass it on your way to the beach).