Charente-Maritime: tourism and sightseeing

Photo of Charente-Maritime in France

Visit Charente-Maritime, France

Charente-Maritime is a very popular summer destination, especially La Rochelle which is a lovely town set around a bustling harbour, and Ile-de-Re which is popular with families looking for a sunny beach holiday.

Charente-Maritime introduction

Ile d'Oleron

The French department of Charente-Maritime is located on the Atlantic coast of western France, in the Poitou-Charentes region. The department extends from just north of La Rochelle to the Gironde estuary (north of Bordeaux) to the south.

The department is a 'transition zone' between northern France and southern France, and some of the coastal areas have a very warm micro-climate with a great deal of sunshine, and warmer conditions than you would expect.

Away from the beaches and coast the countryside here is largely flat, with small scale agricultural and crops such as sunflowers and maize interspersed with small woodlands.

Places to visit in Charente-Maritime with reviews from France This Way

Below you can see a description of Charente-Maritime and its highlights. For details of each place (town, village, attraction...) that we have reviewed see places to visit in Charente-Maritime.

Charente-Maritime travel guide and highlights

Charente-Maritime coast and islands

Ile d'OleronAs well as the well known coastal resorts such as Chatelaillon Plage there are several popular islands off the coast of Charente-Maritime. The most well known of these is the Ile-de-Ré, just off the coast from La Rochelle with popular villages including Ars-en-Ré to the north-west, Flotte-en-Ré to the south-east, and the centrally placed fortified town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré.

The other main islands are at Ile d'Aix and Ile d'Oleron, another large and popular island with beaches and small towns to discover a little to the south of Ile-de-Ré.

You can also visit Fort Boyard, the sturdy castle on an island built by Napoleon and made popular by a French 'action' quiz show.

There are many boat excursions available from the coast of Charente-Maritime, to see the islands, the Gironde estuary, the lighthouses, the coastline...these boat trips leave from many of the ports eg Royan, La Rochelle, Meschers (for the Gironde estuary), Marennes and Fouras (to see the oyster beds).

Places in La Rochelle, Ile-de-Ré and the coast

The most visited part of the Charente-Maritime department, we recommend a visit combining a stay in the historical centre of La Rochelle and also the beaches and villages of Ile-de-Ré

Ars-en-Re

A picturesque village on the north coast of Ile-de-Ré, and classified among the 'most beautiful in France'

See Ars-en-Re

Chatelaillon-Plage

One of the most popular coastal resorts on the Charente-Maritime coast

See Chatelaillon-Plage

Fouras

Fouras is a popular resort with access to ferries to Ile d'Aix

Fouras

Ile-d'Aix

The Ile d'Aix, home to Napoleons 'getaway' home, is a small island with Napoleonic forts to explore

See Ile-d'Aix

Ile de Ré

A large island off the coast from La Rochelle, Ile-de-Ré has many attractive beaches and several small towns and villages to admire

See Ile de Ré

La Flotte-en-Re

The fortified town of La Flotte-en-Ré is one of several picturesque villages on the Ile-de-Ré coast

See La Flotte-en-Re

La Rochelle

The highlight of the department is undoubtedly the port town of La Rochelle, a lovely and interesting small city with lots to enjoy and discover

See La Rochelle

Saint-Martin-de-Re

St-Martin-de-Ré is perhaps the most picturesque of the small vilages on the coast of the Ile-de-Ré

See Saint-Martin-de-Re

Places in Ile d'Oleron and the southern coast of Charente-Maritime

Quieter than the coast to the north of the department, the Ile d'Oleron and coastal resorts to the south also have much to offer.

Brouage

Visit the citadel and fortifications of this historically important town

See Brouage

Ile d'Oleron

The Ile d'Oleron is a substantial island with numerous beaches and villages to explore

See Ile d'Oleron

Meschers-sur-Gironde

Visit Meschers-sur-Gironde on the Gironde estuary near Talmont to see the interesting coastal troglodyte dwellings set in the cliffs

See Meschers-sur-Gironde

La Tremblade

La Tremblade is a small town close to extensive beaches and oyster fields

See La Tremblade

La Palmyre

A town near the coast of Charente-Maritime, La Palmyre is best known for its popular zoo

See La Palmyre

Mornac-sur-Seudre

The medieval centre of Mornac-sur-Seudre is very pleasant to explore

See Mornac-sur-Seudre

Ronce-les-Bains

The resort of Ronce les Bains has been established on the coast for more than 150 years

See Ronce-les-Bains

Royan

Royan has a pleasant seafront and easy access to several Charente-Maritime beaches

See Royan

Talmont

Talmont is a picturesque village visited for the lovely 12th century roman style church

See Talmont

 
 

Non-coastal highlights

While it is true that the coastal regions attract most attention the Charente-Maritime also has several places of interest to discover if you venture inland!

Among these the most popular is the region of marshes and canals known as the Marais-Poitevin to the north-east of the department.

See highlights in central and eastern Charente-Maritime

This part of the Charente-Maritime lacks important historical sights and dramatic landscapes and is rather a calm landscape to escape from the crowds, which also has several interesting places to discover

Jonzac

Jonzac is one of the newest spa and thermal towns to be established in France

See Jonzac

Marais Poitevin

The Marais-Poitevin region of marshes and canals deserves exploration - take a boat trip for the best way to appreciate the unusual environment

See Marais Poitevin

Marans

The small Charente-Maritime town of Marans has an unusual church and very attractive gardens

See Marans

Pons

Be sure to follow the ramparts walk to see Pons at its best, with the historical donjon, hospice and ramparts

See Pons

Rochefort

The principal attractions at Rochefort are the historical naval buildings including the arsenal and corderie

See Rochefort

Saint-Jean d'Angely

The abbey church and the historical houses in the old town are among the highlights of a visit to St Jean d'Angely

See Saint-Jean d'Angely

Saint-Savinien

Saint-Savinien is a quiet town in a picturesque raised position above the Charente river

See Saint-Savinien

Saintes

Saintes is an ancient town with some interesting historical monuments to explore

See Saintes

Surgeres

The very quiet town of Surgeres has an attractive park around the remains of an ancient castle

See Surgeres

Nature reserves

Marais poitevinFor bird watchers and nature lovers there are several nature reserves in Charente-Maritime. Each of these also organises guided visits that will enable you to see the flora and fauna in a natural habitat.

These include the lagoons at Rochefort; the natural reserve of Marais de Moeze Oleron (on the coast south of Rochefort); the natural reserve of Marais d'Yves (coast between la Rochelle and Rochefort); the Maison du Fier (at Portes-en-Ré on the Ile-de-Ré); and the Natural reserve of the Bay of Aiguillon (inlet north of La Rochelle).

See also:

Map of Charente-Maritime and places to visit

More information

See more places, tourist attractions and local markets at visiting Charente-Maritime

The La Rochelle airport is a popular arrival point for visits to Charente-Maritime.

See an index of all Charente-Maritime communes

French version: Charente-Maritime (Francais)