This tour of the three islands off the coast of Charente Maritime has been put together for those that want an amazing cycling holiday (about 350k over 4 days) and also a bit of beach time on the wild sandy beaches of this great region with its rich maritime history.
Day One: the beautiful island of Ile de Ré (95km)
Also known as the Hamptons of France, the island is home to pretty villages boasting trendy cafés and bars, white washed houses sporting climbing rose and clematis, hollyhocks and geranium as well as a vineyard or two, oyster farms, wide open beaches, flocks of migratory birds, the famous Phare du Baleine lighthouse and the island’s rather unusual symbol of a donkey in shorts. The animals were covered up to protect them from flies and mosquitoes as they worked in the salty marshes.
It’s about a 95k round trip so there’s a bit of distance to cover but there’ll be plenty of time for a stop in one or more of the pretty villages and a swim on the beach before heading back to La Rochelle for the night.
Day Two: the tiny, car free island of Ile d’Aix (45km)
Once famously visited by Napoleon, the circumference of the island is approx. 10km along paths and through pine trees. Its quiet beaches have views over to Fort Boyard, which was built to protect Rochefort from British Royal Navy incursions.
We will cycle down the coast and along the peninsula to the small ferry port of Fouras and spend the afternoon on the island before returning to the mainland to spend the night in Fouras.
Day Three: Ile d’Oléron (100km)
Ile d’Oléron is France’s second largest island after Corsica. Its eastern side is home to oyster farms and their brightly coloured huts dot the landscape.
The western side is covered in pine trees and has the nicest beaches… so we’ll head over there then!
Setting off in the morning, we’ll go through the old naval port of Rochefort and stop for a quick rest at the walled citadel of Brouage which was a Catholic stronghold in the fight against Protestant La Rochelle in the late 1600’s. From here we’ll cross the bridge on to the island and head to La Cotinière which is the biggest fishing port in the area – your fish will be fresh! We’ll leave our things at the hotel and the afternoon can either be spent cycling up to the lighthouse de Chassiron at the top of the island and back via the eastern side of the island or lazing on the beach.
If you do the full lap of the island, the total for today will be about 100k so a slap-up dinner will be in order and then bed.
Day Four: Ile d’Oléron back to La Rochelle (85km)
Heading back to La Rochelle via Marennes is the last day.