Ever heard of the French island called Ile de Re? No? Me neither for a long time. With an exception of many visits to Paris, a road trip on Cote d´Azur and the French Alps where I used to spent my winter skiing holidays, I really don´t know much about France. Such a shame though, as it is a beautiful, big & very diverse country. But as a result of happy events in the past couple of years I am lucky enough to call this little island my second home now. Or the third, depends how we look at it. Anyhow, I have visited it quite a few times already and I guess it deserves a post.
The island is only around 30km LONG and is easily reachable via a BRIDGE connecting it to LA ROCHELLE on the coast of continental France. The best way to get around is with a CAR, possibly during a longer road trip on the FRENCH ATLANTIC COAST. You can of course always rent a car at one of the closest AIRPORTS – there is a smaller on in La Rochelle, but most connections will bring you to either NANTES or BORDEAUX.
Famous for its high number of SUNNY DAYS PER YEAR, dreamy SAND DUNES dotted with PINE TREES, SALT MARSHES, wild BEACHES, yummy OYSTERS, charming little VILLAGES, CYCLING PATHS and more, this wonderful island is a popular spot for summer holidays. There are numerous SMALLER HOTELS and lots of CAMPSITES, not to mention a great choice of PRIVATE ROOMS & APARTMENTS. Here, you can eat good, buy some really neat clothes & souvenirs, relax on the beaches, take long walks, enjoy the fresh air and charge up your batteries. For the more active ones there is plenty to do as well . From swimming to cycling, kite surfing and more. Read more about what you which places to visit, what to see and do in the next lines.
RIVEDOUX-PLAGE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
This is the first village you come across when you exit the bridge. You can see it is surrounded by 2 LONG SANDY BEACHES, one on the left and one of the right side. Here is seems to be the perfect spot for KITE SURFING. In the neighbouring bays you can see the OYSTER´S GROWING GROUNDS. Besides the beach, there is also a nice GREEN AREA with lots of PLAYGROUNDS – it makes a nice first stop, especially if you are visiting with kids.
SAINTE-MARIE-EN-RE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
If you follow the road on the southern side of the island, this is the next town you pass. Tucked between the VINEYARDS and the SEA, this is a slightly more peaceful village, which still has everything one needs for a perfect vacation. It is ONE OF THE OLDEST VILLAGES on the island, with charming houses, a SANDY BEACH which is ideal for long walks, RESTAURANTS, MARKETS, BAKERIES, PLAYGROUNDS and more.
Everywhere on the coastline around here you can´t miss to nice the EXTREME DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOW AND HIGH TIDE. The sea surface can slide up and down for over 5 meters. Due to this the beach will look much different at different times of the day. In the time of low tide, walking around might be especially interesting as you spot little crabs, shells, fish and algae.
LA FLOTTE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
Another PEACEFUL AUTHENTIC VILLAGE on the northern side of the island, that will greet you with lovely BARS and RESTAURANTS, a smaller MARINA and again, beautiful SHOPS. Let´s also not forget the harmonic ARCHITECTURE and one of the most interesting MARKET PLACES around here, dating back to the MEDIEVAL TIMES. You can buy lots of delicious LOCAL PRODUCTS here, but for those who are feeling more like relaxing there is also a BEACH of course.
SAINT-MARTIN-DE-RE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
This is one of those places you simply have to visit while on the island. Besides being on UNESCO´s WORLD HERITAGE list, this town is most known for its marvelous CITADEL with CITY GATES, dating back to the 17th Century. You will find everything here, from shops, markets, museums, marinas, bars & restaurants to more convenient like supermarkets and bank offices. Allegedly you can find the best ice cream here as well.
I recommend going up the stairs of the CHURCH TOWER for one of the best views on the ocean and the city below. There is a smaller VIEWING TERRACE on the top, just perfect for that. Another interesting feature here are the DONKEYS which live on the meadows around the city.
LE BOIS-PLAGE-EN-RE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
Now, if you are just a tiny bit obsessed with sandy beaches, your heart races faster with the sounds of the waves and the wind doesn´t bother you, this is the place to be. Besides ONE OF THE NICEST BEACHES on the island, which is fully packed in the summer months by the way, you can spend your time between restaurants, bars, shops, markets and a beautiful PINE FOREST. Might be the best place to stay at & making it your base for some days, enjoying sunsets on the beach with a glass of wine and a plate of oysters.
During our last visit we had some fun with KITE FLYING, which is a great thing to do here with the kids since there is usually at least a little wind breeze. It is also the perfect place for longer walks, also in the winter time, with amazing views on the ocean on one side and sand dunes on the other.
If you are more of an active and sporty kind of person there is nothing to worry about as well, you will find many possibilities, from BEACH VOLLEY to WATER SPORTS. For beginners and those who would like to refresh their surfing skills there is also a SURF SCHOOL here. This October the weather was still warm enough for us to swim, or better said – for the bravest of us to SWIM. The Atlantic is not known for its warm waters anyway, so Autumn swims are probably more of an exception I reckon.
PHARE DES BALEINS LIGHTHOUSE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
At the END OF THE ISLAND, on its western most part, you find a 57m high LIGHTHOUSE, next to which an older one from the 17th Century (29m high) is still standing. In the older one, there is a MUSEUM today and overall this in just ne of the places you absolutely have to visit during our visit to Ile de Re.
You might sweat a little bit while climbing up the winding stairs inside the lighthouse, but believe me, it is all worth it at the end. The VIEWS on the Atlantic ocean and the island from the platform on the top are just stunning. And sometimes, if you are very lucky, you can even spot a WHALE swimming by.
ARS-EN-RE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
I read the other day that this SMALL VILLAGE towards the end of Ile de Re is ONE OF THE MOST PICTURESQUE ONES in the whole country of France. I could actually agree with that, it is really lovely and it has a nice laid back feel to it. I heard it is also popular amongst French celebrities, so you might even run into someone famous, you never know. Again, really lovely shops and coffee places here and some great CYCLING OPTIONS on top of that. A late breakfast or a BRUNCH with a visit to a local CHURCH is a good choice too.
SALTPANS & NATURE RESERVE | ILE DE RE, FRANCE
In the north-western part of the island, between the villages of ARS-EN-RE, LOIX and LES-PORTES-EN-RE there are some really great WALKING and CYCLING PATHS, which lead you through wonderful SALT MARSHES. Salt was a major export product for hundreds of years so it plays an important role in the area.
Besides the salt pans there is also a NATURE RESERVE where all the BIRD WATCHING LOVERS and others will enjoy the outdoors. Bring a binocular if you are into nature and animals. My favourite time to visit is just before sunset.
Besides salt, natural soaps, algae products, local wine and potatoes, salty caramel candy and more, you simply can´t leave without trying the OYSTERS. I know it´s not everyone´s cup of tea, but still, if where then here. They are really yummy and the price is OK too, compared to some other countries which have to import them. You can buy them basically on every market and even in a 24hrs VENDING MACHINE. But if you don´t know how to open them, I suggest you rather order them in a restaurant.
Sunset, good company and a glass of good French wine is always a great way to end the day, isn´t it? Especially if followed by a yummy dinner. Yup, definitely a place to enjoy life and relax. Love coming back here every time, although I have to admit I like it the most either in Spring or in Autumn when it is much more peaceful and quiet. If you are ever around here, do take the road across the bridge at La Rochelle, it´s totally worth it.
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