When author Robert Louis Stevenson penned Treasure Island, his colourful plot drew on a life peppered with interesting travels. Decades earlier, his adventures around the south of France inspired Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, a classic of outdoor literature. Meandering through the tree-clad mountains, Stevenson's idea of cool camping was definitely a little different from ours today, not least because his shabby homemade sleeping bag was so heavy a donkey was required to carry it, but all the same he knew a stunning location when he saw it – 'a smooth sandy ledge… the Tarn below… a thin fringe of ash trees… a faint sweet perfume which pervaded the afternoon air'. We couldn't have put it better ourselves. Stevenson captures the timeless beauty of this exact spot more than a century ago.
Of course things have changed a little since then and, while the Tarn still frolics through its sandy channel, the ash and Spanish chestnut trees are now a shady canopy for tents, riddled here and there. The idyllic setting Stevenson found is now a resting point for fellow travelers and Camping Chantemerle is the name it takes. Echoing the traits of the languid young wanderer, this riverside spot is unpretentious and relaxed, a campsite where time passes you by as gently as the water's flow.
Beneath ancient trees, camping pitches are spread around, indiscernibly divided from one another, all with electrical hookups if required. Around 25 of the 69 pitches are along the riverfront, though the rest still have easy access to the water, where a private sloping beach reaches down to the Tarn, deep enough for good paddling and bathing, though not quite enough for a proper swim. There's also a great swim hole at the far end of camp that's perfect for proper wild swimming. Choose between sunning on the beach beside an old bridge or hopping along the rocks that cluster on the riverbanks as you head upstream towards a deeper gorge. Head this way in the evenings to perch quietly on the bank to catch a glimpse of the resident beaver family, bobbing along in the water pushing branches on their noses.
Back at the campsite itself there is plenty to entertain, with an outdoor play area, table tennis and a pétanque court, along with an established bar/restaurant that is careful to avoid any holiday parkish car-crashes like karaoke nights and conga trains. Instead the humble, local food in a simple café setting reflects the personality of imitable owner Nicole and her friendly team, who make Camping Chantemerle the place that it is. French speaking, half German/half American there's no need to worry about any language barriers here. Warm, welcoming and full of local knowledge Nicole is the go-to person when you finally drag yourself away from the riverside and decide to explore the rest of the surrounding area. Ensconced in the Parc Nationale des Cévennes with picturesque rural settlements dotted amongst the hills, it is difficult to go wrong. Like our wayward traveller Stevenson, tie your laces, point your finger and go explore. A wondrous landscape awaits.
Riverside pitches are just a few meters from the water with rocks to the edge and a separate sandy beach backed by a few sun loungers. The River Tarn is ideal for paddling and bathing, though not deep enough for a proper swim (making it particularly safe for children). There's also a stretch for proper wild swimming. Look out for beavers in the evenings. The Robert Louis Stevenson hiking trail goes right through the campsite, past the reception, an excellent long distance footpath. Mail can be posted and recieved at reception, where there is also a free Wi-Fi hotspot, some tourist info and ice creams for sale. Showers and toilets are relatively old and simple but immaculately well kept. There is also a laundry room. A games room and outdoor playground are ideal for children with table tennis, table football, and a pétanque area. There is also a great book exchange library with a variety of different languages to be found. Games can be borrowed for free. Bikes can be rented and campers can even hire a donkey for the day for a spot of trekking.
Everyone: caravans, campervans, tents, families, couples, dogs...
The first port of call is often The Gorges du Tarne, 5km away, a tumultuous section of the same river that slides lazily past the campsite – it's perfect for wild swimming. Cévennes Évasion Voyages Nature (0033 4 6645 1831), based in Florac, arrange walking via ferrata, rock climbing and spéléologie (potholing), while Canoe 2000 (0033 4 6648 5771) organise canoeing. Both operators have excellent English and guests of Chantemerle get a 10% discount at both. The stunning Cévennes National Park is full of natural wonder such as the vast Causses limestone plateaus (including Causse Méjean and Chaos de Nîmes le Vieux), the Aven Armand cave (0033 4 6645 6131), Jonte Gorge, Panorama du Roc des Hourtoux (0033 4 6648 5748), and the wild roaming Przewalski horses. For the best views, you can try paragliding with Antipodes Millau (0033 5 6560 7203), who are open all year round and organise trips from €70 per person. Back down on ground level, try the Dargilan caves in Meyrueis (0033 4 6645 6020), discovered in 1880 by a shepherd who was hunting a fox. A beautiful riot of ochres, yellows, saffron, and pinks, they are well worth a visit.
Food & Drink
Freshly-baked bread and croissants are available from May to September at reception. There is an excellent bar/restaurant (La Bergerie) open throughout the entire season. Overlooking the river, it serves regional specialties as well as popular pasta dishes and pizza. This is not an onsite karaoke-style holiday bar but a surprisingly reputable spot and don't be surprised if local folk also turn up for the evening - always a good sign. That said, this is not a fine dining establishment but an unpretentious setting for enjoying some authentic French homecooking. For dining out, head to Florac, 4km away. Try probably the best crepes in the region at Au Pecher Mignon (0033 4 6645 1428) or if you really want to push the boat out, La Lozerette (0033 4 6645 0604) in Cocures (just 800 meters walk from campsite) serves refined French cuisine in a gorgeous setting. For those cooking back at camp should go via La Maison des Paysans (0033 4 6631 2207) for a wealth of local produce for sale and a small cafe inside.
Mid April – mid October.
The river gets a little deep around the bridge. There's also an amazing, beaver-inhabited swimming hole at the far end of the campsite. It has a gentle current but the part right in front of the beach is only knee-deep so safe for the little ones.
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The Owner Says
We wanted camping Chantemerle to be a campsite where we would feel good as campers. This is why we fell in love with camping Chantemerle : nature, very green surroundings, old trees, space to hang up a hammac, shade and sun, large pitches, a river to listen to and to swim in, a beautiful old bridge, a bit isolated, a beaver family to observe, lots of amazing walks and magnificant sites to visit, sport activities nearby and a good bar/restaurant directly on site (overlooking the bridge/beach/river). Chantemerle also has an exchange library to take or leave a book in 4 different languages, board games to borrow, boules to borrow for a game of pétanque, a free of fee Wifi Hotspot to be connected & talk to loved ones, but no organized activities, that is our kind of camping and that is what Chantemerle is all about. We can organize bike rentals, canoe-kayak, cannoying, via Ferrata, climbing, walks, or a donkey to walk with for a couple of hours or a day. We have 8 mobil homes, 1 tipi and 1 caravane for rent. We have an onsite restaurant "la Bergerie" which is right by the river overlooking the beach/bridge/Tarn, we serve local products and dishes as well as our famous pizzas, home made desserts... You can also come for a drink, cold draft beer, an expresso or afternoon icecream, there is always someone around to serve you. We have fresh bread, croissants, pains au chocolat ... delivered fresh to recetpion april through november. We have, over the years, meet many campers from Europe and further away, some of which we keep in touch with, some that became friends and other we just look forward to seeing again one day. If this all sounds like your kind of vacation or just a stop over for a few days, you might love it here. We try to help you in all ways we can, we do speak english, german, italian and french as mother tongues and are happy to indicate to you some sites not to miss and things to do while you are in the Cevennes.
Voilà, à bientôt peut-être !
Leave the N160 at Florac following signs to Bedoues (D998). 2km after leaving the N160 you will cross the River Tarn. Immediately after the bridge the campsite is on the left.
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Rated ★★★★★ over 8 reviews
Peaceful, quiet, beautiful
Best campsite ever!
A brilliant week
Beautiful campsite in a fantastic region! The site sits right on the River Tarn and it's possible to site for hours watching the wildlife and just chilling. It's just 3 miles along the Stevenson Trail by foot or mountain bike(for the experienced!) to Florac. Nicole (American) cannot do enough to make your stay comfortable and she has a great local knowledge. The site restaurant serves good food, the sanitary facilities are clean, spacious and functional, the pitches have as much sun or shade as you like to choose and you can swim in the river too! There is also a resident beaver who puts in frequent appearances at dusk. For me it was the wild swimming in deep pools and fast flowing natural flumes at numerous locations on the Tarn together with the beautiful village of Florac that were the icing on the cake. I would totally recommend this site and will definitely be returning soon.
Perfect real camping
Our family (Dad, Mum and two pre-teen daughters) spent the middle two weeks of July on this wonderful campsite. We hit the peak of a heat-wave with temperatures in the mid to high 30’s every day, but comfortable mid-teens overnight due to the mountain climate. This enabled us to spend hours on end in the water, exploring the stunning ‘off the beaten tracks’ swim holes and deserted shady places to paddle and watch fish and the beavers.
I could seldom drag the family away to explore the wonderful gorges, rugged high country and beautiful, unspoilt villages, because they loved being in and around the campsite and river so much!
We had a fantastic and spacious pitch next to the river, restaurant and near the facilities. These were always clean with good warm showers, a good washing machine and washing up facilities.
The hosts were excellent and informative. Nicole deserves a very special mention as she was wonderful when acting as my multilingual ‘PA’- organising emergency treatment for a deep cut my daughter had and a later clinic appointment for her check-up.
The restaurant is excellent too, great simple food and amazing salads!This is a beautiful, quiet, relaxing and exciting place to stay. We all thought it was the best place we have ever camped! Just about the perfect campsite.
I spent 8 days at Chantemerle and wished we didn't have to leave. It is a beautiful place, and the surrounding villages are beautiful as well. Be sure to try out all the different swimming spots (ask Nicole, she knows) not just the bit of river accessible from the campsite. If you can tear yourself away, there are lots of other activities for a range of abilities: horse riding, walking, biking, canoeing/kayaking not to mention fantastic local markets. Don't miss Florac, it is a a lovely little town and the river goes through it.
All the facilities are good, we travelled by train so stayed in a mobile home, which was very nice, but I was envious of those who had pitches right by the river. The laundry area was a real plus and soap is provided, the restaurant is great. Kids,dogs, people from all over were there and it had a really friendly vibe. Wifi junkies sit around the tables at reception where they can get access, and the on-site shop stocks basic essentials plus toys and books to borrow. What more can I say? The owners have obviously made an effort to create a pleasant family-friendly campsite and they have succeeded! Should really be more than 2 stars.
We just got back from a week holiday at camping Chantemerle and we absolutely loved it!!! If it weren't for circumstances at my end then we'd have booked up already for next year.
I read previous reviews about the washing facilities, well they must have been upgraded since then because these were brilliant, kept very clean and modern.
It's a lovely peaceful campsite with just the noise of the flowing river.
My 3 little ones really enjoyed swimming in the river and paddling around the rocks watching the fish-tip-definitely take a snorkel and mask and some shoes to wear in the river because although a lot of it is sand, the rocks can be very slippery.
In the evenings we watched the local beavers in their natural environment.
its a very beautiful setting and lots to do, walks to go on etc. The owner, a very lovely lady speaks excellent English and is so friendly.
I would highly recommend this campsite as a must visit!
Wonderful campsite, fantastic service
I visited Camping Chantamerle with my friend for a weeks short notice holiday at the end of October. The setting is absolutely beautiful, with the river running right past the end of the pitches. We were the only campers there (only because of the time of year), with two other mobile homes for company so we had our own space and beautiful views. The lady who runs the campsite is friendly and very knowledgable about the surrounding area, so gave us some great recommendations of drives and places to visit we might not have found in the guidebooks. She also speaks perfect English which helps with the more complicated directions! There is loads to explore in the surrounding area, but we did spend time walking the paths around the campsite, exploring the river and chilling on the rocks which was really magical. The restaurant is lovely, with locals turning up there for a meal out which in France is the best review you can get! Highly recommended and the whole surrounding area is stunning. I'm definitely coming back!
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