Claudia Dowell
Features Editor

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Claudia Dowell discovers there's far more than pitches and hook-ups on one campsite on France's Atlantic coast.

On the south bank of the estuary of the great Loire river is the charming coastal resort of Saint Brevin-les-Pins. It gets the latter part of its name from the pine forests planted by locals in the 19th century to preserve its miles of sand dunes.

Since that time, it has been a favoured holiday resort with a casino, and if you take a bike ride to the neighbouring town of St Michel-Chef-Chef, you'll pass some grand villas. It's a wonderfully relaxed and safe place for a family campsite, which is where Sunelia Vacances comes in.

To parody the words of M&S Simply Food, this is more than just a campsite; this is a spa, this is a restaurant and bar, an indoor and outdoor pool with flumes and this is a glamping village with luxury lodges. It also has around 90 pitches nestled among the trees for caravans and motorhomes.

We hired bikes direct from the site, we had massages and had our bodies pummelled with jets of water, we had breakfast and dinner in the restaurant and watched the family entertainment in the bar. And we had a fitness work out in the pool, too.

Kids will love it. There are organised children's clubs, games pitches and play areas as well as the spectacular outside pool.

Beyond the campsite

There is plenty to see beyond the site gates. St Brevin les Pins is in the Loire-Atlantique department. Head north over the St Nazaire bridge - high enough for ships to pass beneath - and you will reach the ship building port of St Nazaire, an important submarine base for Germany during World War II. You can experience what it was like to live and work on a submarine by visiting the French submarine Espadon (French for Swordfish); space is tight and stairs are steep, so it's not for the claustrophobic.

West of St Nazaire are the salt marshes that stretch between La Baule Escoublac to the east, Le Croisic to the west and La Turballe to the northwest. It's a vast area and worth a visit for the birdlife alone.

The medieval walled town of Guerande, with its church, restaurants and shops is the principal town in the area and a delight to visit as is Le Croisic with its fantastic views out to sea.

South of St Brevin-les-Pins is Pornic, a popular seaside resort that was hosting a festival during our visit. Wander along the quayside and look for a boat called the Fleur des Ondes, which offers oysters and local wine tasting. We spoiled ourselves and had lunch in the rather splendid looking Marius restaurant, which is housed in the town's former casino.