Welcome to The Village Naturiste at Cap d’Agde, once a simple olive grove but today a magnet for nudists all over the world, swelling to a population of 40,000 shameless individuals in the warmest months.
So how did this sleepy spot in the French countryside turn into the freeballing capital of the world? Back in the 50s France was recovering from WWII and in need of a holiday. So when the olive-growing Oltra family of Cap d’Agde suddenly found their land overrun with skinny dippers and nude sunbathers they decided to get in on the action.
After attaining an official ‘nude’ designation for their land back in the 60s, the Oltra Club became a popular caravan spot for nudist families from Germany and The Netherlands.
When some of the holiday-makers built houses nearby and started living in the area all year a whole town sprung up around them. Meanwhile what started out as a simple postbox labelled ‘Germany’ soon grew into the world’s first nude post office.
By the 70s the French government was looking for ways to develop the coastline in what was once a very impoverished region.
While plenty of countries make a buck from tourism only the French hit on the brilliant idea of a naked tax. Visitors to the Cap d’Adge pay €8 (AUD$12) at the gate, put their clothes in a locker and get buck naked.
To house the visitors, a giant Heliopolis hotel was designed for the town by architect, Jean Le Couteur while rail and air links to the town were established with Germany, the UK, and Scandinavia.
Today, travellers like Collin Lee Erickson from Ontario Canada cross the globe to experience a freedom seldom seen in their home countries. “It was my first-ever trip outside North America”, Collin told news.com.au, “and the most liberating experience I have ever had.”
While nude beaches exist in other countries, Cap d’Agde became the only place in the world with a nude bank, nude hairdressers, nude opticians and even a nude supermarket.
Collin believes that nudity in other countries is too sexualised. “Children pick up on this as they get older and often develop a negative attitude towards the decent, naked human body by the time they are adults.”
Instead of being clothing-optional like nude beaches in most countries, on Cap d’Agde’s naturist beach the nudity is actually mandatory.
True to the Collin’s purist ideals though, family-friendly fun is the order of the day and any lewd behaviour in public could land you in jail with a $22,000 fine.
In the evening it gets too chilly to be starkers and the whole town politely dresses for dinner, as presumably not everyone wants to cop an eyeful over their entree. When night falls the nudist families head to bed and Cap d’Agde’s streets are given over to conflict and controversy.
A SWINGING GOOD TIME
While the town was founded by true believers in the non-sexualised naturist ideal, critics claim that the town has become a magnet for voyeurs, libertines, and swingers in recent years.
The centre of the giant Heliopolis was originally a family park and swimming pool, but was bulldozed in 2005 to make way for bars and nightclubs, including a “couples only” swinging establishment.
“With regards to the ‘swingers’ environment,” naturist Collin told us, “the behaviour that occurs there is just plain immature and it is not a type of setting I would ever be comfortable with.”
Tensions between naturists and swingers came to a head when Cap d’Agde’s “boite echangiste” (wife-swapping clubs) were burned to the ground and the official Fédération Française de Naturisme withdrew their support for the resort.
“Militant naturists” were widely blamed for the blaze, though the crime remains unsolved.
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