Now that we have a car here in Switzerland, we can indulge in one of our favorite pastimes – piling into the fun-mobile and heading off for parts unknown with no idea where we might end up. On a random weekday, Travis got home from work while the sun was still shining in a bright blue sky. We headed toward Lake Neuchatel less than 30 minutes from our house. We didn’t have a specific destination, but it’s not surprising that we ended up in the town of Estavayer-le-Lac. Since we gravitate toward castles, the spires of the historic Château de Chenaux, or Chenaux Castle, drew us in. Follow in our footsteps to see what this beautiful little town has to offer!
Leaving our car parked in the center of town, we meandered along the narrow cobblestone streets. Travis dashed into a boulangerie for some fresh pastries while I waited outside with Touille, then we continued on down the hill until we found a trail along the shores of the lake.
The trail extends quite a ways in both directions around the lake from town. You can walk as much or as little as you want.
Swim, Paddle, or Just Relax at Estavayer-le-Lac Beach
Despite the clear weather, the temperature was bitingly cold with a wicked wind whipping off the lake. We eventually ended up at a lake-front park, Estavayer-le-Lac plage (beach).
In summer, this is an awesome place to hang out!
It has a large sandy swimming area, miniature cabin rentals, a giant water slide, and a bizarre pulley system in the water. We later found out that Lake Neuchatel is a mecca for water sports. You can rent SUPs or kayaks, and the pulley system is for water skiing without a boat.
We pretty much love all water sports. We came back later with friends and rented SUPs here. You can find more info about the Estavayer-le-Lac beach, SUP rental fees, and more in our post 9 Reasons to SUP Lake Neuchatel.
Sitting on a picnic bench in the sun, we watched the swans bobbing and enjoyed our apple and vanilla pastries while Touille chased sticks.
The beach is dog friendly, which is a bonus.
Bird Watching at The Grande Gouille
Just beyond the park, we stumbled across La Grande Gouille, a small pond a stone’s throw inland from Lake Neuchatel.
The pond is a small section of the Grande Caricaie, the largest wetland in Switzerland, which stretches for about 40 km along the southern border of the lake.
Visitors to La Grande Gouille can climb an observation tower for bird watching and walk the boardwalk through the waving grasses surrounding the pond.
For a longer, pretty hike through the wetlands, see our post Hiking the Grande Cariciae. We include a custom hiking map of the short and easy trail, including free parking.
Explore Estavayer’s Historic Chenaux Castle
The entire time we were wandering through town, we could see the spires of an imposing fortress or castle on the hill in town. We still didn’t know what it was.
We could see it from the lake’s edge, imposingly perched on the hill, and slowly zig zagged our way up residential streets until we found a long, narrow stairway up the hill.
The stairs spit us out near the castle, offering a fantastic view of Lake Neuchâtel and its affluent lakefront homes, replete with swimming pools, below.
Curving along a sidewalk sandwiched between the hillside with a steep drop-off and a concrete wall bordering homes, the Chateau de Chenaux came into full view.
With the exception of a small plaque at the entrance that provides the date of construction, there’s not much information about the castle on site.
It’s currently in use as a police station, so we weren’t able to take a tour of the interior.
Since the exterior gates were open, we wandered throughout the grounds and marveled at the well manicured lawns, reflecting pool, and massive brick towers.
One last attraction in town that is very unusual and worth mentioning is the Musée des grenouilles. We typically prefer outdoors attractions when we’re traveling, but this is one museum we couldn’t overlook.
Intrigued? Find out what it’s like inside Switzerland’s very own Dead Frog Museum.
If you happen to have a chance to visit the beautiful little town of Estavayer-le-Lac, we highly recommend it.
From the wetlands to the castle, the old city walls to its new water-ski contraption, it truly has something for everyone. Even if you don’t do anything but pop into a bakery for a pastry and sit on the beach during your visit, we guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
Don’t miss these other beautiful castles in Switzerland.