VW California Hire Europe

campervan hire europe

Most summers we (Matt and Petra) take at least a fortnight away in a new VW campervan from our Sussex home for an adventure across the seas (or English Channel at least) to continental Europe. The VW California Ocean is perfect for the warmer climate of continental Europe. With the side awning out, with table and chairs, suddenly it’s a much bigger campervan!  For just £20 extra per day we really do recommend a VW California hire Europe road trip to really get to know the vans and utilise all the amazing campervan features.

In 2020 we travelled to the stunning mountain sided Italian lakes of Como and Lugano. We enjoy bbqs, walks, swims and paddle-boarding. In 2022 we are planning to go to Croatia and Slovenia.

We wanted to share a few campervan hire Europe experiences with you, so has compiled an itinerary of selected campsites. Each one has been tried and tested; taking a preference to well situated (for walking and cycling to picturesque villages) and smaller sites. Use the maps to get an idea of where each campsite is situated, then click on the links if you are interested in finding out more.

Our East Sussex base allows easy travel via Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal (1hr 30min drive) or ferry from nearby Newhaven (20 mins) or Dover to Calais, Dunkirk or Dieppe. Our Euro travel option comes WITH insurance, breakdown AND all required euro driving safety gear.

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Campervan Hire Europe: Itinerary 1- South West France – 7 plus days

We most recently travelled to South West France in  2019. A very achievable and excellent first European road-trip for families, outdoor enthusiasts and tourers alike. Sunshine, rivers, wine, chateaux, unspoilt villages, lakes, stunning sandy surf beaches and mountains. With a week you won’t get much further than the Loire valley, Isle de Re or Dordogne. With two weeks the Basque country and the Pyrenees and even northern Spain can be comfortably reached. 

Destination sunset view at dune du Pilat, Arcachon

We strongly recommend driving the empty roads through Normandy via Rouen & Le Mans on the A28 and completely bypassing Paris. Also, we often get an afternoon/evening ferry and do some night driving to crack on through quiet roads.  Whilst tolls roads are expensive they can be avoided (using the ‘N’ routes nationale roads), but are fast and worth it if you are pushed for time. The only busy section is outside Bordeaux. Don’t forget the autoroute aires are free to stay in and I’ve found safe. Municipal campsites (aire municipale de camping-car) are very cheap (e.g. £5-£10) often in excellent locations but will have just one or two toilets but good for a couple of nights. It makes sense to alternate campsites below between the out and return trip. 

1 Foret D’Ecouves, Normandy

Matt Likes: Beautiful forest camping just a few KM from Allencon and the A28 motorway.

2 Loire Valley 

Samuar – Aire De Camping Car (good municipal river campsite)

Camping by the river Loire


Matt Likes: Vast ranges of campsites along the immense river. Castles, tick! Vineyards and wine tasting, need I say more? Most campsites have pools and are by the river. Cycling is very popular and you can hire bikes easily.


3 L’ll De Re



Lovely pitch at Grenettes campsite

Matt Likes: Lots of campsites! The perfect relaxing escape on an island joined by a bridge from La Rochelle. Easy bike rides, seafood, beaches and lighthouses. Very Nice villages (Saint Martin, Bois Plage, Ars-en-Re).

4 Dordogne, Perigueux

Matt likes: A great place to crash-out with plenty of shade, superb location for exploring the river, villages and a very well equipped campsite.

5 Arcachon 


Arcachon beach

View of the dune from Tohapi camping

Matt Likes: I’ve stayed at both campsites just below Europe’s stunningly highest sand dune (dune du Pilar) between the campsite and beach. Lovely sunsets, trees for shade, bike rides, birdwatching and paragliding off the dune. Reports that it is busy in high summer. Arcachon is a nice seaside town, the massive bay has stunning birdlife and Bordeaux is nearby too.
6 Bicarosse
Le Camping Du Lac and excellent nearby municipal campsite on the quay are right on the lake.
Matt Likes: Pine wooded campsites by the sea or around the massive warm and calm Lac du Bicarrosse in this well known gorgeous surf destination. Prefect for lazy days and fun adventures.

7 Hossegor

Renowned as one of Europe’s top surf spots. Lovely beach & lake, beautiful tress, pretty villas and nice town too. Camping Oceliances has good shade and facilities. Cheap basic local authority alternatives in the woods outside town and the beach car park at nearby Cap Breton.

8 Biarritz and Saint Jean Du Luz 

Matt Likes: Classy spa resort, surf mecca and pretty fishing village all in one. Stay outside at the Pavilion Royal, one mile south with its own private beach, there is no better campsite! Tamaris plage further South nearer the beautiful old town of St Jean Du Luz is a great beachside campsite area.


9 Lescun, Vallee d’aspe, Pyrenees 

Matt Likes: Simple campsite with stunning views of the Cirque (mountain bowl). Lovely Village, the Pyrenees don’t get any better. On the famous GR10 Atlantic to Mediterranean national walking trail You can drive on to Spain too!

10 Laruns, Vallee d’ Ossau Pyrenees

Camping Valentin


Transhumance through Laruns

Nice hedged pitch with view

Verdant mountain view

Located at the start of the high valley

below the mountains, this is a great walking base close. If you are here in early July see the Transhumance and then the Tour De France passing through this medieval town with all you need for your Pyrenees base, you wont want to leave!

11 Auch, Gascony Near Toulouse

Matt Likes: Nice small campsites with with views of Pyrenees. Good location to stop before heading South East France or heading back north.

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Campervan Hire Europe: Itinerary 2- North East France, Belgium & Luxembourg

Quiet once off the Autoroute and massively underrated this areas has fabulous historic cities, great food, history, culture, wonderful forests and quiet countryside. An easy long weekend or lengthen the trip by going down to the Ardennes forest.

1 Ypres, Belgium
Matt likes: only an hour from Calais, surprisingly lovely rebuilt walled medieval city of Ypres with ramparts and moat. The place to explore world war 1 history, enjoy a bike ride and have gorgeous Belgium beer after. Stay in the small Jeaugstadion campsite 5 mins from the centre or free on a municipal emplacement by the moat.
2 Bruges, Belgium
Matt likes: One of Europe loveliest cities, canals, squares, churches, towers, plus you can walk everywhere. The famous Memling campsite is automated for easy access and walkable (40 mins) to the centre or a short bus ride.
3 Bastogne, Belgium
Matt likes: Nice place with lots of history on the edge of the Ardennes forest. Great for outdoor walks and biking.
4 Larochette, Luxembourg
Matt likes: Great site in lovely countryside around the Ardennes and very cheap fuel in Lux.
5 Saint Omer/Cassel
Matt likes: St Omer is an old medieval town in French Flanders, a good touring base. Nearby smaller Flemish Cassel is recommended.  Quiet La Chaumiere is halfway to Calais and a popular ferry stop off.
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Campervan Hire Europe: Itinerary 3- Italian Lakes

Campsites right by the lake allow for plenty of watersports as here on Como

Outdoor enthusiasts will love this longer trip (ideally not less than two weeks) which has the ultimate lakes and mountains destination of Como. If you like walks, paddling about, good food, relaxed friendly hospitality and great sites this trip is for you. Lake Garda is a slightly further alternative but Como is arguably much nicer. We know people who will drive this in one go, but that’s not the point if you have a California Ocean, slow down and enjoy the ride. Start or finish with a campsite from our North East France and Belgium itinerary above or camp up at a roadside aire for free.

1 Alscace, France

Au Clair Ruisseau

Matt likes: Very close to the dramatic Rhine with nearby beautiful timbered houses and villages for a pleasant and relaxed tour round. Get your croissant order in the evening before. Has a natural swimming lake with a fishing area and plenty of shade.

2 Lucerne, Switzerland

Camping Lido Lucerne

Matt likes: This lovely compact Swiss city on lake Lucerne (Luzern) is a nice day stop-off or relaxed overnight before you arrive at the busier Italian lakes

3 Porlezza, Lake Lugano, Italy

Camping Darna

Roof bed lake view, Camping Darna, Porlezza, Lugano.

Matt likes: Right on the lake, for relaxed swims and paddles. Dharna is one of the first Italian lakes campsite you hit after leaving Lugano city and Switzerland. It’s a big but spacious site with pool and excellent bar/pizzeria, this is what camping in Italy is about. Nearby excellent walking and views to Lake Como.

4 Domasso, Lake Como, Italy

North Wind Camping and Gardenia or Europa

Matt likes: With tens of campsites at the northern end of the lake this well serviced large village is the base for watersports and mountain walks. It also has a smattering of lakeside bars and village cafes. The summer ferry runs down the lake to Menagio, Belagio, and Como town for lovely day trips to beautiful villages and lakeside villas. North Wind and Gardenia are simple adjacent lakeside sites with a great vibe and ice cafes. Europa is smarter, part of a hotel but very nice and has a pool as well as being lakeside!

5 Black Forest, Germany

Muellerwiese camping, Enzklösterle Matt likes: the every popular Blackforest national park makes a perfect two or three day stop off on your out or return journey once through Switzerland. Enzklösterle is known as the Blueberry village and is a great place to explore with shady forest walks. The campsite is conveniently located in the small village centre. The local cafes do a variant of the famous black forest gateaux with blueberries and also a lovely cocktail known as a Heidi!

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