In this gorgeous land that I call home we have beaches galore, we have rivers aplenty and we even have a lake or two. Conveniently located only 45 minutes away is Lac de St Cassien, a large man-made reservoir covering 3.7 square kilometres, surrounded by natural bush. The lake makes a great alternative to the beach on a hot summer's day, the main reason for us being the pedalos for hire and, unique to the area, an "Aqua Park" consisting of enormous inflatables and trampolines on the water.
St Cassien lake was created in 1966 to produce hydro-electric power and has since become a popular recreational area. Nature lovers as well as water sports enthusiasts are well catered for as the western part of the lake is given over to a nature reserve, la Réserve de Fondurane. Ancient forests, around 180 species of bird, and Roman remains can all be found here. But let's be honest, that isn't why we go there!
We go for the pedalos and the "bouncy castles" all located in the most popular and busy part of the lake. And we're certainly not alone. The word popular is there for a reason - it is, very. But don't let that put you off. We went recently in August, in high season, and found ourselves our own private little beach, just a short walk from the café and jetty. We couldn't actually see anyone else except the odd passing kayak and could only hear the sounds of people having fun across the water. From our little picnic spot we could dive off low rocks and swim in the perfect temperature water - it was 25°c. It makes a lovely change to swim in fresh water after a summer of salt and chlorine.
The Aqua Park opens at 10 am and my tip is to get there in time for this and not too much later as queues form pretty quickly and in the afternoon there can be a two hour wait. At 10 am the air is still cool (ish), the water clear and the inflatables aren't heaving with people (it gets very crowded with teenagers so if you've got younger kids this is even more important). 5€ gets you a half hour play which is plenty as hauling yourself up on to the giant icebergs, balls, trampolines and rolling tubes is exhausting. But jumping off is exhilerating and definitely worth the effort.
Next up is hiring a pedalo with a slide. My boys adore this, and I haven't yet met a child (who can swim) who doesn't love whizzing down the little slides into the deep lake. Pedalos take 5 people and my advice here is to have two adults (or big teens) as pedalling them into the wind can get tiring. You can hire them from 10€ for 30 mins to 75€ for the whole day. We reckon on an hour as just right. Stand-up paddle boards and canoes are also available to rent.
With its southern tip close to the autoroute, only 5 minutes drive from Sortie 36 (signed to Les Adrets, then follow Fayence after the toll), Lac de St. Cassien is easy to get to, but remains peaceful and wild in a natural environment. The lake is bordered almost completely by forested hills, and the shoreline is undeveloped, with only hiking trails to access many of the isolated coves. Power boats and jet skis are not allowed adding to the tranquility of the location. Picnic spots and ample parking can mainly be found along the D37 road from the motorway exit towards Fayence. There are a number of restaurants and hire places on the left and you can't miss the "Aqua Park" on the right at the end of a long bridge. Depending on the season pedalos can be booked in advance, for more information click here (website in French only). They, and the bouncy structures, are available from roughly mid June to late September, depending on the weather. The lake, of course, is a lovely place to go at any time of year, to walk, to picnic, to swim and to fish.
Do you like swimming in lakes? Do you prefer salt or fresh water to splash around in? As always, I love hearing from you, so feel free to leave a comment!