Ile de Re, Poitou-Charentes: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Ile de Re in Charente-Maritime

Visit Ile de Re (Poitou-Charentes, France)

MAP & PLACES TO VISIT

Ile de Ré is an island, reached by a long modern bridge, north of La Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime department. Quite a large island - about 30 kilometres long - Ile de Ré is a very popular holiday destination on this sunny coast of western France.

The island principally attracts families looking to relax in a peaceful environment where the children will enjoy themselves on the sandy beaches and there are picturesque villages for the adults to explore.

Exploring Ile-de-Ré

central square in  Ars-en-Ré

Ile-de-Ré has very different characteristics in high-season - when tourists far outnumber residents - and off-season when the island reverts to its traditional activities of salt and oyster production.

The island has two distinct characteristics with sandy beaches along the south-western side, and salt and oyster beds along the north-eastern coastline. The more important towns and villages are found along the northern edge, and 'seaside resorts' along the southern edge.

To reach Ile de Ré you need to cross the toll bridge from just north-west of La Rochelle (quite expensive at 16.50 euros return, so you might find you stay on the island more than you expected)!

All facilities are available on the island including supermarkets and petrol stations and many holidaymakers never feel the need to leave the island at all during a visit.

Ile-de-Ré beaches

long sandy beach on Ile-de-Ré

Ile-de-Ré has lovely beaches, especially along the southern and western coast.

The most popular beaches are in the area between Le Bois-Plage and La Couarde in the centre of the southern coast and along the stretch of coast between Saint-Clément-des-Baleines and Les Portes-en-Ré to the north-west.

- The central part of the island around Le Bois-Plage is closer to the principal village of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, so it is easy to pop across for an ice cream in the harbour from here! Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré is also the principal holiday resort on Ile-de-Ré, has a lively market and an attractive setting partly backed by pine forests.

- The beach at Saint-Clément-les-Baleines is a lovely sandy beach and popular with surfers, but is rather slower to get to. Well worth visiting at least once during your stay here!

Towns and villages

You can visit the town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré and its attractive harbour on the northern side of the island. Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a bustling town during the holiday season and a visit is among the highlights of a trip to the island.

There are also two of the 'most beautiful villages of France' on the island at Ars-en-Ré (to the west of Ile-de-Ré) and La Flotte-en-Ré (to the east). Other villages to discover on Ile-de-Ré include:

  • Rivedoux, a resort at the entry to the island
  • Loix, on the peninsula along the north-eastern coast
  • Saint Clement des Baleines, a small village to the north-west
  • Les-Porte-en-Ré, a quiet village at the north-eastern end
  • La Couarde sur Mer and Le Bois Plage en Ré, halfway along the south-western shore both with good beaches
  • Sainte-Marie, the village to the south as you enter Ile-de-Ré

Other attractions

abbey ruins on Ile-de-Ré

Other sights on the island, apart from the appeal of the natural environment and beaches, include one of the tallest lighthouses in France at the western tip (the Phare des Baleines, built by Vauban in the 17th century) that can be climbed for far-reaching views out to sea and back across the island itself.

You can also see the ruins of an abbey (the Abbaye des Chateliers) in the south-east near La-Flotte-en-Ré.

Another unusual experience also presents itself - you can explore the salt marshes of the north around Loix by canoe to better appreciate the unusual environment that Ile-de-Ré offers.

Cycling Ile-de-Ré

Ile-de-Ré is a very bike-friendly island, with numerous cycle paths across the island - both along the coast and crossing the island - enabling cyclists to avoid the roads. There are numerous cycle hire shops.

Note however that these cycle paths are very busy with leisure cyclists and are not ideal for 'serious' road bike cyclists - and the roads are rather congested with cars, especially during the peak summer months.

Note: we also saw lots of cars arriving carrying bikes and being stopped by police - be sure your bikes are loaded correctly on your car eg not obstructing the number plates if you don't want to be stopped and forced to unload your car just before you get to your destination!

Many other water sports and boat-trips are also available.

Attractions nearby

Although the Ile-de-Ré itself has all you need for your visit we strongly recommend that you spend a day at La Rochelle, just across the bridge from the island. It is a large town with a great deal of historical interest, a lovely harbour, a popular pedestrianised centre and one of our favourite towns in France!

You can find more local travel ideas in the Charente-Maritime guide and the Poitou-Charentes guide.

See also:

Map of Ile de Re and places to visit

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Address: Ile-de-Ré, Charente-Maritime, Poitou-Charentes, France || GPS: latitude 46.2, longitude -1.409

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The French version of this page is at Ile de Re (Francais)