Le bassin de Marennes

The different municipalities that make up the multi-faceted Marennes basin share a common geography, economy, history and even political history.   Saint-Sornin, Le Gua, Nieulle sur Seudre, Saint-Just-Luzac, Hiers-Brouage, Marennes and Bourcefranc-Le Chapus are the seven communities concerned.

A notable heritage

The Marennes basin has an exceptional heritage: for example, the citadel of Brouage with its ramparts and iconic watch-towers, Fort Louvois (the last fortification built under Louis XIV) or the 11th century tower at Broue, all that remains of a military site.  The 85m spire of Marennes church or La Gataudière château, former home of the co-called “father of rubber”, François Fresneau are yet more examples of this inventory.

Outstanding fauna and flora

The marshes of the Marennes basin are a superb setting for fauna and a welcoming home for migratory and other birds.  Herons, egrets and swans know this area well.  In the spring, the casual stroller can see storks nesting in the marshes around Brouage.  In fact the marshland of the basin is an immense area of semi-wilderness where nature rules.

Activities and traditions

It’s impossible to describe the Marennes basin without mentioning oyster-farming and the little ports with their multi-coloured huts and fleets of barges.  Here is produced something unique: oysters “en claires” – fattened oysters.

It’s here in these former salt-marshes where salt production created the wealth of the area for centuries, that the famous “green, special and baby” fattened oysters are produced.  The fleet at Le Chapus harbour is varied – there are still oystermen’s barges but also fishing-boats and mussel-producers’ barges for here is produced yet another speciality, the farmed mussel.  Throughout the basin, agriculture and cattle-raising are major economic activities.

A holiday destination “par excellence”!

Marennes-plage is perfect for the youngest children – fine sand, no currents, no waves and best of all a grandstand view of the Ile d’Oléron.  The extensive range of cycle-paths enables the basin to be visited by bike.

La Cité de l’Huître, situated along the Cayenne channel at Marennes tells the incredible story of the oyster.  At Saint-Just-Luzac, the Moulin des Loges is a fine example of human ingeniousness since the mill operates by harnessing the tide. The Château of La Gateaudière is home to an adventure park up in the trees suitable for all ages.  Last but not least the water-sports lover is well catered for in the various aquatic parks.

Bourcefranc-Le Chapus

fort louvois bourcefranc le chapus
Bourcefranc-Le Chapus, the last (or first!) municipality on the mainland is in fact two villages – Bourcefranc (from “free town”, ie exempt from taxes) and Le Chapus (Latin, “caput” = head).  Today it’s the most important oyster port in the whole of the Marennes-Oléron basin.
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Le Gua

village le gua
The most easterly municipality of the area, Le Gua is marked by the juncture of salt and fresh water, and has a remarkable diversity of landscapes and activities.
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brouage citadel
Hiers-Brouage, as its name implies, consists of two villages, joined in 1825. The municipality is situated on over 3000ha of marshland with an exceptional natural environment and a highly-rated heritage.
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chenal cayenne marennes
Marennes, at the heart of the Marennes-Oléron basin is famous for the quality of its oysters but it’s also a dynamic administrative and urban centre with a range of activities. 
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Nieulle sur Seudre

marsh nieulle sur Seudre
Nieulle sur Seudre is known for the salt-marshes that have formed in the river Seudre. Most of the dwellings are concentrated on a little island in the former gulf of the Seudre and the inhabitants share a kindred spirit.
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moulin des loges saint just luzac
Saint-Just-Luzac, as the name implies, is a combination of Saint-Just and Luzac and is the largest municipality in the Marennes canton.
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church saint sornin
Until 1902, the neighbouring municipality of Nieulle sur Seudre was part of Saint-Sornin, which has maintained the authenticity that gives it its charm – little flower-bedecked streets and, in the heart of the square, the superb Romanesque church of Saint-Saturnin. 
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