Vendee: tourism and sightseeing
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The Vendee is loved by both French and foreign visitors as a centre for family holidays on the long, gently sloping sandy beaches and for the popular family entertainment
The Vendee is a very popular area for visitors, especially those with children and those who appreciate the beaches and the family entertainments and attractions of the area. There are many places to visit and things to do in Vendee ... but most children apparently prefer to paddle than to look at cities and castles!
Vendée beaches and coastal resorts
In a department that attracts more than five million visitors a year, most visits to Vendée are concentrated in one of the many seaside resorts, with their long gently sloping sandy beaches and family friendly facilities. Vendee is best known as a centre for beach holidays, and for good reason. The Vendee beaches are perfect for children and great for windsurfers and birdwatching, and are often backed by pine forests, ideal for cycling.
Some parts of the coast are rather built up with holiday homes, others are lined with grand 19th century villas, and others backed by attractive pine woods, some are easily accessible and some require a bit of effort, but one thing is certain - you will certainly find a family beach to your liking somewhere here in Vendee!
Travelling from north to south along the coast of Vendée you quickly reach the island of Noirmoutier, visited for both the beaches and for the towns and villages such as Noirmoutier-en-Ille.
Popular seaside resorts here include Notre-Dame-de-Monts, the most northern of the long sandy beach resorts in Vendée and also among the most visited, and Saint-Jean-de-Monts, among the most lively resorts in northern Vendee. Off the coast here you can enjoy a day following the coast path around the Ile d'Yeu, and relaxing on the island's beaches.
The resort of Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez and the town of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie are only a short distance apart and together make an interesting destination: the popularity of Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez is clear as soon as you walk in the sunshine along the long sandy beach here and Saint Gilles Croix de Vie is one of the liveliest towns, ports and beaches on the Cote de Lumière.
Continuing towards the south, Bretignolles-sur-Mer is a small resort with a very long beach while Sables d'Olonne is one of the most upmarket resorts in this part of France and stays active into the evening with lots of restaurants and entertainments.
Talmont-Saint-Hilaire, the port at Port Bourgenay and the nearby beach at Plage de Veillon together make for an interesting destination: see Port Bourgenay.
The port town of Jard-sur-Mer has easy access to attractive beaches either side of the town harbour, and the town of Longeville-sur-Mer is just a few kilometres from the family friendly and surfing beaches at Le Bouil, Le Rocher and Les Conches.
With 'Station Kid', 'Famille Plus' and 'Blue Flag beach' awards La Tranche-sur-Mer is a popular family-orientated resort and at the southern end of the Vendee 'Côte de Lumière' La Faute-sur-Mer is on a peninsula lined with beaches and covered with forests.
See our guide to the beaches in Vendée to help you choose where to stay.
Towns and villages away from the beach
The eastern regions of Vendée are less visited than the coast but there are several interesting towns and villages to explore including Vouvant, classified among the 'most beautiful villages of France'.
There are several pretty villages, often little more than hamlets, that you will pass as you travel around the department, often without a particular noteworthy 'highlight', but no less enjoyable for that. Among them the village of Nieul-sur-l'Autise is visited for the 12th century Abbey of Saint Vincent.
One of the prettier market towns in the Vendée is Fontenay-le-Comte, officially listed as a 'town of art and history', where you can visit the castle and the historic centre. Lucon towards the south of the department has an interesting cathedral to visit.
Another highlight to the east of the Vendee is to be discovered in the unique marsh areas of the Marais Poitevin on the border between Charente-Maritime and Vendée, and on the edges of the Marais-Poitevin, you can visit the evocative ruins of Maillezais abbey.
Other attractions and entertainments in Vendee
As well as the resorts, towns and villages of Vendée there are other reasons to take your holiday in the department and the region has various popular family attractions including:
- the very popular Puy du Fou theme park - various special events and historical re-enactments take place in a carefully designed setting of France through the ages.
- Bluebeard's castle at Tiffauges has various displays and spectacles laid on for entertainment
- the water park at Oceanile, Noirmoutier
- the quiz-pathfinder games at Chateau de la Guignardiere.
Most regions of Vendée have some sort of festival or display close to hand, especially during the summer months - ask at the tourist office close to where you are staying.
Historical monuments in Vendee
Although less numerous than in the Loire Valley to the east there are a sprinkling of historical monuments to discover in the Vendee, including:
- the ruined abbey at Maillezais is on the border of the Marais Poitevin marshes
- the abbey at Nieul-sur-l'Autise is also in the Vendee department
- the 'Logis de la Chabotterie' is an interesting and entertaining way to learn about life in the region pre-Revolution
Nature & Outdoors
There are several ways to enjoy the natural environment of the Vendee department:
- there is more to the island of Noirmoutier than salt, enjoy one of the marked out nature trails
- the marshy region north of La Rochelle at Marais Poitevin - is a peaceful and unique marshland region
- take a boat out from the northern coastline of Vendee to explore the quiet island of Ile d'Yeu and its old chateau
- The Massif Forestier of Mervent-Vouvant is an extensive (13,000 acres) region, largely wooded, and criss-crossed with rivers, footpaths, cycle trails etc and has a lake where water-based activities can be pursued. It is in the south-eastern Vendee. Visit also the nearby village of Foussais-Payre.
- Many of the popular beaches are backed by extensive forets with marked nature trails to enjoy
Vendee is a 'cycle friendly' department and various routes are laid out, both along the coast and inland, and varying in length from about 20-65 kilometres - ask for the brochure 'Les sentiers cyclable' in any Vendee tourist office.
Map of places to visit near Vendee
See more places, tourist attractions and local markets at visiting Vendee
See a list of all Vendee communes
French version: Vendee (Francais)