Ile-d'Aix, Charente-Maritime tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Ile-d'Aix (Poitou-Charentes region)

Visit Ile-d'Aix (Poitou-Charentes, France)

Ile d'Aix is quite a small island, just 2 kilometres long, on the Atlantic Coast. The island is reached by ferry from Pointe de la Fumée, 2km along a peninsula from Fouras and 30 km south of La Rochelle (summertime only - ferries also leave from La Rochelle and Oléron).

The industry of the island is currently based around oyster culture, with tourism also playing an important role.

Ile d'Aix history

It is useful to know a little of the history of the island since it plays an important role in a visit. Originally the island was heavily fortified, with fortifications added by Vauban, the renowned 18th century French military engineer, then subsequently improved again by Napoleon, in order to protect the naval base at Rochefort on the coast of the mainland. Fort Liédot was also used as a prison during the French Revolution, then later in both the Crimean and First World Wars.

The island is also well known as the island where Napoleon had a splendid house built. Unfortunately he was only able to spend a few days in the house, in July 1815 while he made his plans to escape to America, before his plans changed and he was exiled to Saint Helena instead.

Exploring Ile d'Aix

Napoleon Museum painting

A pleasant island to amble around the Ile d'Aix is virtually car free (just fireman, dustbin collection etc), and there are several trails crossing the island (the northern part is more forested, the southern part more exposed).

If you don't like walking, bike hire is available and horse-drawn carriages also carry visitors around the island.

The forts are the main attraction, particularly Fort Liédot which is to the north of the island and now used for occasional outdoor events in summer and can be visited. The fort is broadly square, with the substantial fortifications and rooms surrounding an inner courtyard.

To the south of the Ile d'Aix you can also see the Fort de la Rade, an important fort until the early 19th century when Fort Liédot was built.

Just off the coast of the island is Fort Boyard, and reached by boat, this sturdy 19th century fort was subsequently used as a prison - and more recently as the base for a popular French television game of the same name.

In the small town around your arrival port there are a selection of restaurants, and shops providing basic requirements. (The restaurant at the Hotel Napoléon looks very tempting but a bit too expensive for us. Next visit perhaps...)

Museums on Ile d'Aix

The two museums here owe their existence to a certain Baron Napoléon Gourgaud, descendant of the Baron Gaspard Gourgaud who accompanied Napoleon when he was sent into exile on Saint-Helene.

The house which Napoleon owned is now a Napoleon Museum, with a wide collection of paraphernalia related to his life and other military events from his career, including an extensive collection of painting, miniatures and busts.

Close by, there is also an African Museum on Ile d'Aix, featuring the hunting collection of Baron Gourgaud and various artefacts he brought home from his expeditions in Africa. As you might expect from an African explorer and hunter in the early 20th century the collection contains some rather surprising items!

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

See also:

Map of Ile-d'Aix and places nearby

Visit near Ile-d'Aix with France This Way reviews

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Charente-Maritime

Address: Ile-d'Aix, Poitou-Charentes, France || GPS: latitude 46.012, longitude -1.172

Plan your visit to Ile-d'Aix, Charente-Maritime

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Jardins de la Boirie: remarkable garden (13 km)
  • Aquarium de La Rochelle: aquarium (16 km)
  • Jardins du phare de Chassiron: remarkable garden (16 km)
  • La Rochelle: secteur sauvegarde (16 km)
  • Rochefort: town of art and history (18 km)
  • Brouage Fortifications: grand site of france (19 km)
  • Hiers-Brouage: site of natural beauty (19 km)
  • Forêt de Saint-Trojan: site of natural beauty (20 km)
  • La Flotte-en-Re: most beautiful village (23 km)
  • Saint-Martin-de-Ré citadelle (Vauban fortifications): heritage site (26 km)
  • Forêt domaniale de la Coubre: site of natural beauty (29 km)
  • Ars-en-Re: most beautiful village (34 km)

The French version of this page is at Ile-d'Aix (Francais)