Our Charente-Maritime itinerary was an improvised holiday in France. Bordered by five French departments, Charente-Maritime enjoys a mild climate and is one of France’s most popular destinations. Its Atlantic coast has 463 km of coastline, of which 230 km on the islands, such as Ile d’Oléron opposite of Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus and Ile de Ré linked to La Rochelle. And three rivers, the Charente, the Seudre, and the Sèvre Niortaise, cross the region’s lush green countryside. Perched on the hills, the vineyards in Charente-Maritime produce some of the most famous spirits in the world, such as Remy Martin and Hennessy.
In Germany, schools have Easter holidays, but not in France. Therefore, we had a good time exploring this less crowded and less expensive area without hassle. We could not plan our Charente-Maritime itinerary before our holiday. After the holiday, we realized how many activities we had done within a week. Below is the detail of our one-week Charente-Maritime Itinerary:
- 1st Day: IIe d’Oleron
- 2ed Day: Fort Louvois and Salt marshes on the island of Oleron
- 3rd Day: ile de re (Plage des bidons V) La Rochelle
- 4th Day: In the holiday house in Bourcefranc
- 5th Day: Cognac Tasting in Cognac, France
- 6th Day: Dune beach, Le Phare de La Coubre, la Palmyre, Royan, Grottes du Régulus
1st Day: IIe d’Oleron
From Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus, we passed the long bridge connected to the island and turned to the left towards the Forest of Saint-Trojan. The beach, Plage de Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, is behind the forest. I walked on the vast beach aimlessly, watching the waves rippling gently. There was no clump of seaweed washed on the beach. Looking far out, I saw a line of nickel-silver, the horizon!
Several lovely beaches stretch kilometres along the blue Atlantic, a paradise for beachgoers in the summer.
Stroll around the imposing ramparts near the citadel of Le Château-d’Oléron
The citadel and ramparts surrounding the medieval district of Le Château-d’Oléronare are accessible year-round. The ramparts of the site offer a panoramic view of the Natural Reserve of Moëze-Oléron. It is interesting to watch how the tides change the landscape of the port.
Explore colourful oyster huts
Around lunchtime, we strolled in the port of Château-d’Oléron and surprisingly discovered many colourful huts, Cabanes de créateurs (the designer huts). They used to be oyster huts. The artists, from sculptors, and jewelers, to cutlers, have been developing and repainting those huts for years. My eyes were drawn to a blue hut, a red one, and a yellow one at the waterfront. What a perfect place for photographers!
Hiking at the northern tip of the island
In the late afternoon, we drove to the northern and had a cliff walk around the lighthouse, the Phare de Chassiron. The round walk around the lighthouse rewarded us with rocky coastal views. However, the sunset was still struggling through the rainy clouds, giving us a lightning chance to capture the views. Some places have warning signs since the cliff has erosions. We had to take precautions walking on the cliffside.
2ed IIe d’Oleron (Fort Louvois and boat trip in Salt marshes on the island of Oleron)
From the garden, we could see Fort Louvois when it was clear weather. Before we took the boat trip in salt marshes on the IIe d’Oleron, we made a stopover there. This 17th-century maritime fortification is easy to reach at low tide on foot and by boat at high tide. The street to the fortification was still wet since the low tide started and covered by seaweed. Therefore, the walking path was very slippery.
Bost trip in Salt marshes in Le Grand Village Plage
A large area of the island is salt marshes. Several salt producers welcome visitors to share their passion, offering tours introducing salt farming works and history. We hired a boat at Le Port des Salines and spent about 45 minutes in the canals among the salt marshes. It was a boat rowing activity for our son. So, after the boat trip, we still spent some time there seeing the salt marshes on foot.
3rd ile de re (Plage des bidons V) La Rochelle
Ile de Ré
In the summer seasons, Ile de Ré is where you’ll find half of Paris having its holiday there. Strips of uninterrupted golden fluffy sand beaches cover much of the island’s coast. This tiny island is connected to La Rochelle via a toll bridge.
Around lunchtime, we drove to Plage des bidons V on the western side and found ourselves nearly alone on the beach, other than two horse riders. There were some wild plants on the beachfront, which I could not tell the name.
The old harbour of La Rochelle is the centre of the town and is very busy. But the first thing that caught my eyes was the graffiti on the walls. They were all huge but nicely painted. From the centre of the harbour, we could see three medieval historic towers of LA Rochelle. One of them, the Lantern Tower, served as a Lighthouse and prison throughout its history.
Well, the strongest impression of this place is the number of its restaurants. Within the entire old town, we saw restaurants and bars offering fast food, homemade French food, international food, and gourmet dishes. Since most eateries open around 19:30, we had plenty of time to examine menus.
4th In the holiday house in Bourcefranc
In the early morning, we woke up and saw large tar-black clouds moving towards our place. We had a quick check where to spend the day but sadly learned that the whole area would be a rainy day. We got up early enough and had breakfast, hoping the weather changed mercifully.
Suddenly, I heard the first splatter of rain tapping on the window, and then the drops were drumming on the terrace. The rainfall became intense in the next hour. We had planned to visit several places, but none of them had good weather. So, it was game playing and book reading day.
5th Cognac Tasting in Cognac, France
Because the weather turned better, we were able to follow our Charente-Maritime Itinerary, visiting the town of Cognac and joined a Cognac Tasting tour. Cognac is not only the famous spirit but also the place where the spirit is produced. We planned to see the touristic town and the historic house of Rémy Martin. But unfortunately, the house was under renovation and preparing for the upcoming 300 year’s celebration. Discontented with the situation, we went to its shop next door to buy cognac as planned.
There, we got a chance to join a cognac tasting tour. The one-tour was not free, but it was the only English tour of the week during the off-season. Since we were unsure which brand or product to buy, it was a chance to know the secret of this premium spirit.
6th Lighthouse of La Coubre and Grottes du Régulus
Climb up the Lighthouse of La Coubre
The Lighthouse of La Coubre is the tallest in the Charente-Maritime, with a height of 64 metres. It was easy to climb up the tower, despite of narrow stairs. Once on the top of the lighthouse, we had views of the beautiful coast and changing dunes.
Grottes du Régulus
Continue driving toward the south, and after having a quick stop at la Palmyre, we decided to have lunch at Royan. Royan is a seaside resort with endless shores of the ocean and its five sandy beaches proudly flying the Blue Flag.
Located 12 km from Royan, the Grottes du Régulus (Caves of Régulus), a municipal troglodyte site, is open to the public for a few months of a year. There are a few caves along this stretch of coast. But this one is a municipal.
Travel tips for planning Charente-Maritime itinerary
Where to stay
We stayed in Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus. The holiday house is just on top of the cliff and next to the sea. Every morning, I watched the sun shining over the coastal area and the sun disappearing behind the horizon in the evening. It was such a wonderful house with a whirlpool in the garden. Every room has a fully equipped bathroom. There are many different types of accommodations in the region, but you should book ahead if you plan to have a holiday there.
The best holiday bases would be La Rochelle, Ile de Ré, and IIe d’Oleron. If we went there in the summertime, we would add several beach activities to our Charente-Maritime itinerary.
How to get there
- You can reach Charente-Maritime from five nearby airports: Bordeaux, Nates, La Rochelle, Biarritz, and Limoges.
- Budget travellers can take long-haul buses, for example, Paris – La Rochelle or Bordeaux – La Rochelle. Find all the destinations on the Flixbus website.
- TGV sells tickets from Paris Montparnasse to La Rochell. The ride is about 2H50.
- If you prefer to drive, motorways A10 and A83 will take you to La Rochelle.