The Charente Maritime department on the west coast of France boasts the second most sunshine hours after the south coast and has literally hundreds of miles of coast and safe, sandy beaches and they are all just an easy hours drive away from our family holiday accommodation (and please note that this is a driving time within the speed limits !) There are safe sandy beaches all along the coast from La Rochelle down to Royan and beyond but we shall just be mentioning the ones you can easily get to for a day out when staying with us.
The islands of Oleron and Ré are very popular for their beaches. They take slightly longer to get to particularly in summer as traffic over the bridge – particularly to Ile de Oleron, can be quite heavy. Top tip – go early ! The Ile d’Oleron is linked to the mainland by a road bridge, so you can easily visit the island and enjoy the beaches, the fishing or the forest. The three main towns of Saint –Pierre, Saint – Denis and to the south Le Chateau are definitely worth exploring. There are also two forests the Forest of Saint- Trojan and the Saumonard Forest which are both attractive to visit and being on the east side have more sheltered beaches suitable for the younger families staying at our child friendly holiday cottages, La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies. The Oyster farms provide the main source of income to the island and are a tourist attraction in themselves (Read about Gillardeau oysters in our blog) There are numerous footpaths in the forest where you can explore or a favourite with children – Le Petit Train Touristique Forestier which will take you along the dunes and the beaches and through the forest.
To visit the Ile de Ré requires you to pay a toll over the bridge. This makes it a much more peaceful and slightly less touristy island to visit. It has a wide variety of flora and fauna and boasts more than one wildlife park. St Martin de Ré is a beautiful small town – a mini La Rochelle with its port, restaurants and pretty shops. At the end of the island is the Phare Des Baleines is one of the tallest lighthouses in France (55 meters) and has 250 steps to the top, where you have a great view of the mainland and the islands salt marshes. The island’s still produces around 2,000 tons of salt every year. The islands also boasts some fine churches and well preserved fortifications from the Middle Ages.
The Ile de Ré is a wonderful place to hire a bike (and tag along or child seats too) and take a leisurely cycle along the quiet cycle tracks and lanes. The whole island is set up for cycling with lots of places to hire bikes and lots of cycle routes. To visit the Ile de Ré requires you to pay a toll over the bridge. This makes it a much more peaceful and slightly less touristy island to visit. It has a wide variety of flora and fauna and boasts more than one wildlife park.
The Il de Ré has no shortage of beaches; the inland side tends to be more sheltered whilst the Atlantic side enjoys some great body boarding waves. Le-Bois-Plage-en-Ré , Plage des Gollandières and La Plage de la Conche are just a few choice and popular beaches.
Chatelaillon de la plage just south of La Rochelle is a popular place for its beaches and probably one of the closest. In summer it has a fun fair starting every afternoon, plenty of restaurants, bouncy castles on the beach, sunbeds to hire and always lots of activities going on for the children. You could spend a morning and lunch in La Rochelle then head down to Chatelaillon de la plage for a couple of hours on the beach.
The peninsula of Fouras stretches from Yves Bay to the Charente River. It is also historically interesting and has long been a heavily, fortified area. Originally the fortifcations were needed to fight off the Normans and then the British. Nowadays, the only invaders at Fouras are tourists ! There is a great view from the fort, along the coast to La Rochelle and across to the islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron.
Just south of Royan on the coast road to Meschers are some lovely beaches. At Meschers you’ll find the famous ‘Grottes’ well worth a visit but be warned there are lots and lots of steps ! The beaches south of Royan are far less touristy with fewer facilities but quieter and also because of the cliffs along that area of coast, there is some shade, large caves to explore and rock pools, ideal for when the tide goes out.
La Palmyre coast line north of Royan and of course Royan itself also have some excellent beaches lined with pine forests. At la Palmyre (just past the La Palmyre animal park) Dunes have been man made to provide salt water lakes, so when the tide is out
(it goes out along way) there is still water for the children to swim in and the adults to cool down in.
We have the local high and low tides listed on our noticeboard so you can plan the best time to visit the beach but be warned it really is very very busy in summer in the afternoon so unless you want to be stuck in a traffic jam looking for a parking space you really are better going first thing in the morning. After a fun filled, hot sandy day at the beach you’ll be glad to get back to the peace and tranquility of our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime department of France.