Come and explore the unspoilt natural environment of the île d’Oléron and the bassin de Marennes, a place where the land meets the ocean!
The île d’Oléron and the bassin de Marennes is a unique and remarkably diverse region. Its stunning natural environment encompasses a wide range of beaches, woodland, critically important marshes and several nature reserves. The local flora and fauna can flourish in these protected areas, free from harmful human interference. Here, we go from sand dunes to cliffs, from forest to vineyards, from man-made oyster channels to tidal fish weirs – an incredible abundance of different habitats in the one place! One excellent solution is to take to the saddle and cycle off to explore some 160 km of dedicated cycle paths, enabling you to enjoy all of these landscapes.
L’île ‘lumineuse’, (the island of light, as it’s frequently referred to), is an amazing playground for young and old alike. Its wide range of beaches makes it suitable for many different water sports. The eastern coast is sheltered and ideal for family-friendly swimming, whilst its western side is wilder and more exposed to the wind and the full force of the ocean. Here, a huge range of activities are available for lovers of the sea, including sailing, wind surfing, surfing, land sailing and kayaking.
Did you know that the île d'Oléron, with a surface area of 175 km², is the largest French island barring Corsica? A bridge to the island was inaugurated in 1966. Measuring 3,027 metres long, it was the longest bridge in France until the mid-70s. It’s now ranked third, behind the bridges of St-Nazaire and the île de Ré.
The island is a place that’s full of vitality thanks to the ever-present, life-giving waters of the sea. For instance, Marennes-Oléron oysters, served up in the finest restaurants, need no introduction. There are few more enjoyable experiences than to stroll past a row of brightly-coloured oyster shacks or to savour a few oysters by the sea. It’s just a delight! Be sure not to miss the harbour at La Cotinière, where you can see sailors offloading fish onto the quays. This traditional port has undergone a successful modernization programme and is now the biggest fishing port in the département.
Last but not least, the area is home to a wealth of built heritage, including a number of fortresses which are open to the public, ready to unveil their secrets…Musts include: climbing to the top of the Chassiron lighthouse, standing proudly at the ‘world’s edge’. The views of the île de Ré, the Antioche lighthouse and the fishing weirs at low tide are also worth seeing. And that’s not to forget the local star attraction, Fort Boyard.