SEX ON THE BEACH: Why a Newbie Naturist Should NOT Visit Cap d’Agde!

We’ve been at least a half dozen times over the past twenty years, usually staying for two or three nights en route to another naturist destination. But this time, we were simply making a day visit with a couple friends – one a confirmed naturist, the other, new to the concept, but most certainty social nudity curious.

We did the best we could to prep them for this visit to the Naked City. For our naturist friend, this was something of a pilgrimage, having read so much about the most expansive naturist enclave in the world. And to be sure, depending where you’re looking on the internet, the place sounds like naturist Utopia. 24/7 nudity – in the shops, restaurants, and even in the post office. You can easily think you’ve got a good pulse on the place on the web without bumping into the language about foam parties and libertines (swingers) if you’re simply searching for the ultimate naturist destination.

On previous journeys, my wife and I have typically stayed in the modest Hotel Eve, tucked away at the edge of the village. While we’ve seen a few amorous couples there over the years, they have typically remained just within the lines of acceptable public display of affection. We understand “amorous”, and like to think we have cultivated a good appreciation for such in our 30+ years of marriage, but we have never chosen to imbibe in the libertine scene, nor are we likely to put our own affections on public display. 

Admittedly, my wife and I hold differing perspectives on the sexual pulse of Cap d’Agde as you pass a club with pole dancers on the way to the grocery store, or a woman walking by in a negligée that simply exaggerates the body parts that a bikini typically covers up, while keeping her partner close by on a studded collar and leash. “There’s some wild and crazy going on in our midst,” we say. I have always thought it to be a bizarre study in humanity. While she has never felt like we’ve put ourselves in a particularly threatening situation, my wife finds the whole environment someplace between disquieting at least, and disturbing at most. 

Until this time…

I had given a brief history of Cap d’Agde – the great naked city of France – to our friends in the car on our way down the autoroute from Provence, including the details of the original charter that still permeates the regulations to be acknowledged at the entrance today, banning overt sexuality and a wide array of other inappropriate behaviors. Some online reviews even tell stories of being denied admission at the gate due to the lack of an affiliation with a legitimate naturist organization.

In the meantime, I’ve kept up on my reading about the place over the years: the opening of a new “genuine naturist hotel” that hosts getting to know you parties on the terrace (along with alluring photos); the arson reports related to the total destruction of the most prominent swingers’ club (and the subsequent rebuilding) a few years back; and the varied reports of just what happens on the beach, especially around the time the sun begins to set. We certainly had an awareness of all that from our previous visits, but we simply weren’t prepared for what awaited us on this visit.

Once parked with clothing safely secured in the car, we made our way into the heart of the town where we consumed copious amounts of vin rosé beneath the relieving protection of misters that ameliorated the blistering heat during this prolonged heat wave in the South of France. We each ventured down to the beach now and again – the familial section of the beach near all the restaurants and shops – noting an occasional couple riding the waves locked in a suspiciously euphoric embrace. It was the typical intergenerational mixture of young families to senior citizens, with a near 100% compliance with the total nudity regulations. This was the Cap d’Adge we had experienced in the past.

Having made 8:00 pm dinner reservations, the defining moment arrived when we decided to take a stroll down the naturist beach as the sun was beginning to set. I suppose timing is everything on occasions like this, but we were hardly a few meters beyond the first beach bar when we came upon women on their knees pleasing their partners, then circles of spectators watching various displays of human sexuality – and as often as not, a circle of men, gazing on the event, pleasuring themselves in a participatory sort of way.

I should reiterate at this point that we (and thankfully, our friends who were with us) are of the live and let live variety of human. “Do what you want as long as it’s not invasive or hurtful to the other people around you.” But I have to say, this was a country mile beyond the world of bizarre. For me, it was something akin to a visit to the city zoo. “Ah, do you think we’ll see the monkey lick the other monkey’s butt today? And why doesn’t that bear ever come out of his cave!” What it wasn’t, however, (at least for me) was the least bit erotic. And my wife was (quite appropriately) offended by a woman who was simply gyrating in the sand to the pleasure of a circle of dozens of lonely-looking men. Naturist values be damned – this was in no way what we’ve come to associate with the pervasive values of social nudity in France!

It’s impossible to know the psychology at play amidst the people “playing” on the beach that day. Were they liberated? Desperate? Or just out having a good time with strangers and friends? Is that appreciably different than some of the groping and such that goes on at a New York City night club any night of the week? 

Regardless of intent, what Cap d’Agde is not is the naturist Utopia the forefathers set out to create, if simply imagined through the eyes of a person who travels half way across the world to visit this iconic naked city. Even given our recurring experiences with the place, our wandering trek through the sexcapades, as perceived along side our young naturist friends, was simply over the edge! What if an eager husband has been working for years to convince his partner that naturism is a holistic movement intended to embrace body acceptance in a non-threatening environment? It’s difficult to imagine that if Cap d’Adge were the first stop on a journey of naturist exploration that the reluctant partner would ever go near another “naturist place” EVER – again!

I suppose this is really a microcosm representing the confusion in the general public’s perception of social nudity to begin with. We keep trying to convince people that it’s not just one giant orgy in the making, except… when it is! And in this case, the naturist charter that supposedly governs the place has been completely undermined by the actual law of the land. While Cap d’Agde is advertised as the great naked city, it is actually the primary destination for, well… MANY giant orgies, which in turn generates copious amounts of revenue through tourist taxes from the tens of thousands who go there each year to experience exactly that.  I might add that this is not an effort to condemn such activities, nor do I have a desire to pass judgment on people who enjoy such an environment, but if one is trying to make a case for non-sexual social nudity, Cap d’Agde is not going to do much to help your case.

I’ve tried to imagine the dinner conversation for the young families who stay there for weeks at a time each summer. “Mommy, why were those men all standing in a circle around that woman this afternoon?” Perhaps that simply becomes a teachable moment over macaroni and cheese, but such a conversation would require a level of tolerance that most Americans could never imagine. Be that as it may, but just a word to the wise…

If you are curious about social nudity and you’re eager to find out what it’s all about, there are about three-hundred naturist centers in France alone. Cap d’Agde may not be the entry point you were hoping for.  

Photos were found on a Google images search. If you find one that belongs to you, we will be most willing to remove should you ask.

The “Right to Bare All”… and other news from Ile du Levant

If you’re a keen advocate for naturism, and you haven’t yet made a visit to Ile du Levant, you need to move that up on your bucket list. It’s one of a handful of places that has self-identified as the birthplace of naturism. (Germany and Croatia contend for this distinction as well!) At the very least, it seems to be something of a naked renaissance town at the moment, but more about that later.

Part of the adventure of coming to the naked island in France is catching the ferry from the port of Le Lavandou. Since the boat makes two stops, one at Levant, and the other at neighboring Port Cros, it’s fun to play the “I wonder who will get off the boat on which island” game. This time, the boat was quite full, and nearly every person on board disembarked at the first stop – Ile du Levant!

Mind you, we had been in transit for nearly twenty-four hours having made our way from Newark Liberty Airport, through Brussels, then on to Marseille. After another two hours in the car, and a 40-minute ferry crossing, I was itching to embrace the late day Provençal sunlight, free from the bondage of North American travel-wear!  Thirty meters up the path from the port, a quick bathroom stop, and voila! Naked!!

A few years ago, we brought long-time friends from California along with us to experience this little naturist mecca first hand. They would not call themselves naturists, but have been willing nakation companions over the years. Our friend Tom was particularly intrigued with the history of the island, the prevailing rules regarding nudity, or more acutely, “Why were there so many people walking around the island fully clothed?” Eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the sky, and so many a passers-by wearing jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. What’s up with that?

Fair question, I think, particularly on this landmass isolated from the prudish nay-sayers who might suffer the oppression of unwanted nudity. NOBODY comes to Levant without the expectation of seeing naked people. And it seems even more peculiar to me that someone might come here without the expectation of becoming an enthusiastic clothes-free participant. Tom prodded our innkeeper about the politics of it all, unpacking the complicated history of this naturist hamlet island with nearly a hundred years of controversy in defining how naked is naked. (See: Another Round of Crazy on Ile du Levant)

Now, several years later, we’re back for a weekend of naturist serenity and solitude, and I, for one, plan to get my money’s worth! While anecdotal at best, it seems this is not an uncommon perspective amidst visitors from North America, as evidenced by the only other couple at breakfast who were as naked as we were. Perhaps some people come here simply for the pleasure of lying au naturel on the beach or striving for no tan lines by the pool. Or maybe the French people think nudity to be such a non-issue, with so many places “in the neighborhood” to get naked on the day-to-day, that they lack some of the zeal of the prudish American who has waited all year (or years!) for the privilege to bare all.

We have experienced this again and again during our European travels, going to great lengths to find places where nudity is not only allowed, but required– as is the case on the coastal path just beyond the port of Ile du Levant. (Explicit signage near the port tells you where you can’t be naked, where you can be naked, and where you must be naked!) But on this morning trek, we found the demographics to be about 50-50, some fully nude, some donning beach cover-ups, and others dressed as if prepared to take on the Appalachian Trail in early October. Really!?

There is a sub-plot to all of this, pertaining especially to residential naturist places, which Ile du Levant most certainly is. (We’ve experienced this at La Jenny as well.) With increasing frequency, it seems that families have purchased homes in these naturist communities two or three generations back. The home stays in the family, but the naturism gene didn’t carry forward. 

“Hey! We have this lovely home near a beautiful beach in France!”

“Isn’t that one of those places with loads of naked people?”

“Oh yeah… you’ll encounter some of the crazy nudists, but don’t worry about it! You don’t have to get naked with them!”

As with the evolution of any neighborhood, I suppose such unintended outcomes are inevitable, but if it’s a total naturist experience you’re seeking, there’s a compelling case to be made for camping establishments that cater to young family tent-campers – the most transient of communities where the main attraction is the right to bare all. If you didn’t want to get naked, you simply wouldn’t go there.

Which takes us back all the way to our very first experience with Ile du Levant sometime back around 2006, when we came out on the ferry for a day trip for our first exploration of this historic naturist landmark. My wife and I still reminisce about her reticence to get naked that day, despite the hype about a naturist island and her confirmed affinity for naked travel.

“Are you sure we can be naked here? Why aren’t those people naked? Really, I can be topless in the village?”

We laugh about it now, but for the novice naturist, this can be quite a conundrum! As my friend Tom learned from our innkeeper that day, the modus operandus at most naturist places is simply that… “You have the right to bare all,” but there are few places that even attempt to impose any sort of regulations for mandatory nudity. “As you wish” seems to be the presumptive rule of the land.

So last night we frequented one of our favorite bistros on the island where the wait-staff were attired in their typical apparel; sandals and full-length aprons with ample butt cleavage on full display below the apron tie. While they actually advertise that nudity while dining is permitted, if not actively encouraged, I found myself – again – in the midst of that proverbial third grade dream when you realize that you’re the only one in the room with no pants on. (Except, in this case, for the waiters, of course!) It’s a small island, and by now, we’d seen at least half the people in the restaurant earlier in the day, fully nude by the pool or along the sea. But here at dinner, most everyone was fully adorned, some of the women rather provocatively so in sheer fabric that would never make muster for the church covered-dish dinner or a PTA meeting. As I made my way to the restroom, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was the singular freak-show for the evening, dressed in a button-down shirt, but nothing below. Perhaps I was, but alas, we are here in the land of as you wish, and if anyone batted an eye, they were most discrete about it. 

But it was a beautiful evening, on a naturist island, and I simply couldn’t resist the all too infrequent… right to bare all!

As to the renaissance – it seems there are more 20-30 somethings on the island than we’ve seen in recent years, and at least during the day, more naked people than we’ve encountered on previous visits. They say young naturism is on an upswing in France. Maybe the young naked people we reclaim the naturist vision on this remarkable big rock off the Cote d’Azur!

I ❤️ Naked Walks: Our favorite places for naturist trekking (Part One)

Seems simple enough. Take off your clothes… and walk!

As it happens, neither of us have ever considered ourselves even remotely athletic. In fact, one could argue that a big part of what drew us into naturism in the first place was simply coming to terms with our own bodies. Neither of us had the talent nor the desire for championship skiing or body-builder weight-lifting, let alone the determination to train for bicycling across Europe. But a good brisk walk? We’re all in! Especially if it can be done in the buff.

And so it goes… that the main criteria for naturist places that garner our highest marks are those that offer the opportunity to move. In the best case, that means at least an hour’s walk at a brisk pace of about four miles-per-hour, which is about as fast as most people can walk before breaking into a run.

Doesn’t matter to us if it’s a circuit around an expansive naturist resort, or a walk along the sea where nudity is tolerated, as long as it doesn’t require getting dressed. So here is Part One of our recommendations for naked walking, hoping this will inspire a few readers to share their favorite places with us for future exploration.

CROATIA: Hvar and Istria

The naturist resorts on the Istrian peninsula are among the largest to be found anywhere on the planet. We are particularly fond of Valalta and Koversada – two resorts that face one another on opposing sides of the Lim Fjord near Rovinj. Each offers a wide variety of accommodations, and you can come pretty close to clocking your four miles simply by walking the periphery of each resort. During our last visit to Valalta, we finally figured out how to hire a water taxi from one resort to the other so we could enjoy the amenities of each, which has the potential of doubling your mileage, including a walk across the bridge to Koversada’s naturist island with our favorite fish restaurant.

Naturism is practiced throughout the Dalmatian Islands, but becomes less common as you work your way south toward Dubrovnik, due in large part to the increase of traditional tourism in the south. We have found some lovely resorts and beaches on Rab and Krk, but in terms of naked walking, our most satisfying stay was at Palmižana on a small island near Hvar, where walking naked on the trails and shorelines of the island seemed completely acceptable to the locals. Not that we passed lots of other naked people, but nobody seemed much concerned about our nudity. That works.

*See the comments below from Dalmaitian Traveler on the topic a naturism in Croatia. Insightful, I think.

FRANCE: Cote d’Argent

The Cote d’Argent, or Silver Coast of France, refers to the wide, infinite beaches of the Gironde Peninsula west of Bordeaux, on the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest corner of France. Despite the fact that the weather is not as dependable as that on the Mediterranean, this is where one will find the largest naturist centers in France, including Arnaoutchot, La Jenny, Euronat, and CHM Montalivet.

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we are partial to La Jenny, due in large part to the fact that a walk from one end of the resort to the other and back to your chalet will likely take the better part of an hour even if you resist a deviation across the dunes to the beach. If you really want to stretch your legs, you can walk for miles on the beach in either direction without worries about needing to cover up. Even if you have enough stamina to make it to the next village up the coast where most people are donning swimsuits, it seems the locals have grown accustomed to the random naked person wandering along the surf, and scarcely bat an eye.

Interestingly, there is a bike path that runs behind the dunes for much of this coastline, and from time to time, notice goes out that the gendarmes are “patrolling the path” to issue citations to those who think they can cross from the resort to the beach without at least covering one’s genitalia. We’ve never been the subject of such an interrogation, but it all seems pretty absurd, since anyone traveling the bike path will have certainly encountered naked people through the wire fence while passing the resort. Should someone stop anyplace in this region to have a peek over the dunes to the beach, chances are better than not they will be accosted with naked bums – young and old. But back to the point, we typically keep a pareo handy just in case, but rarely bother to wrap up, even at the risk of being caught with our pants off.

FRANCE: Ile du Levant

I’ve written quite a lot about Ile du Levant over the years as we tend to visit annually, if only for a long weekend each year. We think it’s just the right balance of civilization and wilderness, with several excellent restaurants (some of which encourage naked dining!) and a seaside trail that is especially inviting early in the day before the heat makes the walk back up the hill into the village too intense. (We’re fond of staying at Heliotel near the center of the village at the top of that hill, which means a steep climb at the end of any trek to the sea.)

Nudity on Ile du Levant is more complicated than one might think, (see our previous blog post, “Yet another round of CRAZY on Ile du Levant“) with strict rules pertaining to nudity near the ferry port, as well as a quirky policy that allows you be completely naked in the town square as long as you don’t stop to chat with a friend, in which case, you’re required to wear “le minimum” or face a potential fine. Reportedly, nobody ever gets more than a warning, and even those are seemingly rare, but it’s an ongoing controversy that keeps the French naturist community abuzz. It’s easy to find your way around the island without crossing the square, though you can’t get to the island’s only sandy beach without passing the port, which requires covering up for a minute or two until you’re a hundred meters or so around the corner. Of course, the curious people on the ferry will still see naked people if they’re looking for them, some who appear delighted to smile and wave to passengers from the rocks just beyond the port area. Yet another exercise in prudish futility.

FRANCE: Origan Village Naturist

I think France boasts well over 200 naturist establishments, though we think Club Origan is particularly special, if only for the naked walking potential. Situated about an hour north of Nice in a steep valley in the Var, the resort lies just above the village of Puget-Theniers. Accommodations range from tent camping to modest portable type bungalows, but it’s the location that makes the place. Since the property line extends well up the hillside toward the ridge, a trail looping from one end of the resort, along the ridge, and down the other side provides a solid hour-and-fifteen minute daily workout, providing you’re in good enough shape to scramble up the mountain in good time. The views are spectacular, and the mountain-top blue skies are exactly what you’d hope for when you think of the South of France.

Alternatively, you can make your way past the front gate and about another 20 minutes down the gorge to the river where apparently locals who ride the commuter train up the valley have grown accustomed to the naked people frolicking in the water. In either case, summer days in Provence can become unbearably warm, so we try to work out our day to take on the mountain while the air is still cool. And since you never actually leave the property of the naturist resort, you don’t need to worry about covering up en route.

CORSICA: Beaches, mountains, and waterfalls

While officially part of France, Corsica has a culture that is uniquely… well… Corsican! I suppose that an inherent peril of being located in such a strategic location just off the coast of mainland Europe is that just about every modern civilization has tried to overrun the Corsican people at one time or another, but as of this century, the people on Corsica speak French (and Corsican!) while the people on the next southerly island – Sardinia – speak Italian. Fortunately enough, with the French language comes a proliferation of naturist places, making Corsica the preferred naturist destination of these two Mediterranean islands.

The long, sandy Linguizzetta beach on the eastern coast of the island must harbor at least a half-dozen naturist resorts, several of which cater specifically to sun-seeking Germans. We once stayed at Riva Bella, which is essentially isolated from the others, and more recently at Bagherra, where you can walk naked directly to the beach and keep right on going north for several kilometers until you might notice a sign that indicates the end of the naturist beach, where we then found a woman who spends her days yelling at naked people (like us) who disregard that sign and keep walking.

We are also fond of La Chiappa, where – in addition to enjoying the amenities there – you can make the 40-minute trek on the seafront trail around the cape of the island to a sweet little beach called Tahiti Plage where you’re likely to find a balanced mix of textiles and naturists, young and old, peacefully co-existing. There’s even a modest snack bar hidden in the trees, but you’ll need to cover at least your waist should you wish to stop in for refreshments.

Corsica has some interesting options inland as well. Especially stunning early in the season (before things get too dry) is the secluded and rustic U-Furu naturist camping that offers a 30-minute walk up to a series of pools, and if you’re timing is right, a progression of waterfalls. A great place for a picnic and some stunning naked photo ops.

On our last visit to the island, I picked up a trail guide to the vast network of hiking routes on the island, and we found a couple that were particularly remote where I was brave enough to get naked even though my wife was not so brazen. The few people we passed along the way seemed unfazed by my lack of clothing, though I had a pareo handy in case we came upon a family. One trail led to another remote waterfall where sunbathing on the adjacent rocks was simply too enticing to resist. It seems on an island the size of Corsica, the possibilities are endless.

Naked lunch on the trails in Corsica

We have also found excellent naked walks on the Canary Islands, the Greek Islands of Crete and Gavdos, on Mallorca, as well as mainland Spain, which will be good fodder for the sequel to this post. We have also found beaches in Uruguay and Australia expansive enough for a viable walk, and I’ll also give a shout-out to our favorite place on US soil located in the high-desert above San Diego where you could probably walk for days along the abandoned railway tracks.

In the meantime, if you know of a great place for naked walks that we haven’t found already, please comment here so we can go find it and explore.

Life is too short to go walking with clothes on!