6 things you need to know about the Contis lighthouse

Published on 11/12/2023

In the Landes, less than an hour from Le Vieux Port campsite, the Contis lighthouse reveals its secrets in 6 captivating revelations. Immerse yourself in the history and uniqueness of this emblematic monument on the Côte d'Argent.

1. The only lighthouse in the Landes

The Contis lighthouse, located at Saint-Julien-en-Born in the Landes region, is the only lighthouse in the Landes department. It stands equidistant between Biarritz and Arcachon, not on the open sea, but in the Landes forest, 700 metres from the ocean.

2. A lighthouse that has stood the test of time and the elements

Built in 1862 under the reign of Napoleon III, the Contis lighthouse withstood an earthquake in 1873 and narrowly escaped destruction during the Second World War. The foundations and the body of the lighthouse column are made of garluche, a local ferruginous stone, coated with a highly resistant Portland cement mortar.

DID YOU KNOW? Local residents tell of a day when the lighthouse lantern mysteriously disappeared. It is said that the keepers had hidden it to prevent it being used by the German occupiers. The lantern was found after the war, and the lighthouse was able to continue guiding sailors in complete safety.

3. A unique "Barber Shop" look

The Contis lighthouse is one of the few barber pole lighthouses in the world. Originally, it was entirely white. In 1937, local artist Louis Lucien Bellocq, known as "Menoune", added two spiral-shaped black stripes to make the building more visible during the day.

4. A bit of sport, 192 steps to climb and a breathtaking view

Access to the top of the lighthouse, 40 metres high with 192 steps to climb, requires a bit of exercise, but nothing insurmountable. However, if you are prone to vertigo or claustrophobia, don't bother, as the last few steps of the spiral staircase are rather steep and narrow. For the rest of you, the view from the top is breathtaking. Once at the top of the lighthouse, a panoramic view awaits you. The view of the Landes forest, the Côte d'Argent and the ocean is breathtaking. The wow effect is guaranteed!

5. A lighthouse visible from far away

The Contis lighthouse is equipped with a Fresnel lens with a range of 43 kilometres, emitting four white flashes every 25 seconds. In its early days, the lighthouse was powered by rapeseed oil, then whale oil and petrol. It was electrified in 1933. The Contis lighthouse was manned by lighthouse keepers until 1999, when it was automated. Today, it is remotely controlled from Bayonne.

6. A small museum to discover

Inside the lighthouse, a small museum tells the story of the monument. There are busts of Augustin Fresnel, inventor of the lens, and Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré, chief hydrographic engineer for the French Navy. This is an opportunity to better understand the crucial role played by these figures in the history of lighthouses and beacons.

Information, visits and prices for the Contis lighthouse :

- Access: Chemin de la lanterne, Contis-Plage, 40170 Saint-Julien-en-Born (50 minutes from our Landes Le Vieux Port campsite.

- Adult rate: €3, child rate (aged 3 to 12): €1, free for children under 3.

- Opening dates: April to September.

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