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: general information
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 with crops such as sunflowers and maize interspersed with small woodlands.
Charente-Maritime coast and islands
As 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.
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).
See Ile-de-Ré and the north for highlights in the northern part of Charente-Maritime
See Ile d'Oleron and the southfor highlights in the southern part of Charente-Maritime
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 central and eastern Charente-Maritime for highlights away from the coast
For 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).
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
A picturesque village on the north coast of Ile-de-Ré, and classified among the 'most beautiful in France'
One of the most popular coastal resorts on the Charente-Maritime coast
Fouras is a popular resort with access to ferries to Ile d'Aix
The Ile d'Aix, home to Napoleons 'getaway' home, is a small island with Napoleonic forts to explore
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
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
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
St-Martin-de-Ré is perhaps the most picturesque of the small vilages on the coast of the Ile-de-Ré
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.
Visit the citadel and fortifications of this historically important town
The Ile d'Oleron is a substantial island with numerous beaches and villages to explore
See Ile d'Oleron
Visit Meschers-sur-Gironde on the Gironde estuary near Talmont to see the interesting coastal troglodyte dwellings set in the cliffs
La Tremblade is a small town close to extensive beaches and oyster fields
See La Tremblade
A town near the coast of Charente-Maritime, La Palmyre is best known for its popular zoo
See La Palmyre
The medieval centre of Mornac-sur-Seudre is very pleasant to explore
The resort of Ronce les Bains has been established on the coast for more than 150 years
Royan has a pleasant seafront and easy access to several Charente-Maritime beaches
Talmont is a picturesque village visited for the lovely 12th century roman style church
Centre and east
Non-coastal highlights in 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 is one of the newest spa and thermal towns to be established in France
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
The small Charente-Maritime town of Marans has an unusual church and very attractive gardens
Be sure to follow the ramparts walk to see Pons at its best, with the historical donjon, hospice and ramparts
The principal attractions at Rochefort are the historical naval buildings including the arsenal and corderie
The abbey church and the historical houses in the old town are among the highlights of a visit to St Jean d'Angely
Saint-Savinien is a quiet town in a picturesque raised position above the Charente river
Saintes is an ancient town with some interesting historical monuments to explore
The very quiet town of Surgeres has an attractive park around the remains of an ancient castle
Market towns & days in Charente-Maritime
All markets in morning unless otherwise stated
Ars-en-Re: every day except Tuesday (high season only)
Arvert: Wednesday & Saturday
Bourcefranc-le-Chapus: Wednesday (high season only)
Breuillet: Thursday & Sunday
Chatelaillon-Plage: Tuesday & Friday &
Dolus-d'Oleron: every day except Wednesday & Thursday (high season only)
Fouras: Tuesday & Friday
Jonzac: Tuesday & Saturday
La Bree-les-Bains: every day (high season only)
La Couarde-sur-Mer: every day (high season only)
Le Bois-Plage-en-Re: every day
Le Chateau-d'Oleron: every day (high season only)
Matha: Tuesday, Friday and Saturday
Les Mathes: every day except Monday
Meschers-sur-Gironde: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (all high season only)
Pons: Wednesday and Saturday
Rivedoux Plage: Monday and Friday
Rochefort: Tuesday and Thurday
La Rochelle: every day
Royan: every day except Monday
Saint Denis d'Oleron: Monday
Saint Georges de Didonne: Sunday and Monday, all days exc. Thursday (high season only)
Saint Pierre d'Oleron: Every day
Saint Marie de Ré: Every day
Saintes: every day except Monday
Saujon: every day except Monday and Friday
Surgeres: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
La Tremblade: every day except Tuesday
Vaux sur Mer: Monday, and Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday (high season only)
Selected tourist destinations in the Charente-Maritime department
The following sites have received official "tourist classifications"...
Zoo or wildlife park
4* Towns in Bloom
Towns of Art and History
Secteur Sauvegardé (protected historical town centre)
Listed 'Remarkable Gardens'
towns classified as Recommended Detours
Villages classified as "most beautiful villages"
UNESCO world heritage sites
Grand Sites of France
French version: Charente-Maritime (Francais)
- La Rochelle, Ile-de-Ré and the coast
- Ile d'Oleron and the southern coast
- Non-coastal highlights in Charente-Maritime
- Map of Charente-Maritime
- Market days
- Some particular highlights
- The La Rochelle airport is a popular arrival point for visits to Charente-Maritime.
- See an index of all Charente-Maritime communes