Northwest of Bordeaux, along the western shore of the Gironde Estuary – formed by the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers – lie some of Bordeaux's most celebrated vineyards. To their west, fine-sand beaches, bordered by dunes and lagoons, stretch from Pointe de Grave south along the Côte d'Argent (Silver Coast) to the Bassin d'Arcachon and beyond, with great surf.
On the banks of the muddy Gironde, the port town of Pauillac (population 1300) is at the heart of the wine country, surrounded by the distinguished Haut-Médoc, Margaux and St-Julien appellations. Extraordinary châteaux pepper these parts, from the world-famous Château Ducru-Braucailllou on its southeast fringe to Château Margaux, with striking cellars designed by Lord Norman Foster of Thames Bank. The Pauillac wine appellation encompasses 18 crus classés, including the world-renowned Mouton Rothschild, Latour and Lafite Rothschild.