Ile de Ré, an Ideal Daytrip from La Rochelle

Posted on 10. Jun, 2011 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

When I planned my trip for La Rochelle, I made sure to keep some time for the lovely Ile de Ré, which I only heard great things about. The peaceful island is linked to La Rochelle by a pretty impressive 3 kilometers long bridge, which costs 9 euros to cross (but trust me, I have no words to say how much it is worth it). Sunglasses, camera and water bottle… and I was ready to explore this little piece of heaven.

What first stroked me is the low tide - I had never seen anything like that before. After all, it was only my third visit to the ocean in my entire life, so I had no idea that parked boats would rise up and down during the day, according to the tide. That was a bit of a science check!

Ile de Ré, Abbaye, tourism, ruins

Ile de Ré

Back to my favorite and much more whimsical topic: sightseeing. The first interesting stop on Ile de Ré is the Abbaye des Châteliers ruins, between the villages of Rivedoux and Saint-Martin.  Set in a poppy field near the see, it is not only a magical place, but also a very well conserved one. Many ruins in Europe are only a couple of feet tall, when you’re lucky - sometimes it’s only foundations. But this abbey still has intact walls, which allows the visitor to truly envision what it once was like. And it’s totally free of charge!

Afterwards, you can make a stop at the nearby village of La Flotte, to admire the beautiful small port, seafront markets and restaurants, filled with cute and famous local treats. One of the main produce developed on Ile de Ré is salt, which is hand-produced and extremely tasty. There are many specialized recipes made with this salt, but my favourite one is the salty caramel, either as a spread or as ice cream.

Ile de Ré, beach, lighthouse

Ile de Ré

Next in line is the village of Saint-Martin, the most important one on the island because of its fortifications and lighthouse. Do take the time to wander in the market (despite the gazillions of bugs) to find truly unique, vintage and local pieces. I found a vintage 50s dinner napkin holder, beer coasts, and bottles of local wines, mostly white and rosé.

A bit further north is set the Phare des Baleines, which boasts the highest lighthouse of Ile de Ré, along with amazing views of the region and the Atlantic ocean. Going up the 357 steps of the lighthouse is easy on the mind but hard on the cardio - getting down, however, is an awful experience if you tend to have vertigo, so be prepared! You will find at the feet of the lighthouse both a sand and a rock beach - make sure to check out the rock sculptures park! I found the water to be much warmer there than at other beaches on the island, so keep that in mind if you’re half-lizard like me.

Ile de Ré, plage, lighthouse, beach

Ile de Ré

We ended our day in Bois-Plage, which was recommended to us as the best beach of Ile de Ré. While it is very clean and cute, the water was absolutely freezing! I couldn’t even bring myself to put more than one toe in there. We shortened our activity and indulged on an equally epicurean local wine at the restaurant La Chaloupe, in Rivedoux, where I had the most amazing steak fries in my entire life!

While we were only there for a day and had the time to explore many areas, I strongly suggest to stay overnight in Ile de Ré, especially if you plan on working that tan for a couple of hours. Each village is different and is worth the detour, and the hundreds of charming B&Bs should convince you to book a night.

Ile de Ré, restaurant, beach, pub

Ile de Ré (now that'a dinner with a view!)

For more information on Ile de Ré, make sure to visit the Tourist Office website.

Have you been to Ile-de-Ré or other islands near La Rochelle?

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4 Responses to “Ile de Ré, an Ideal Daytrip from La Rochelle”

  1. Brenna [fabuleuxdestin]

    10. Jun, 2011

    My students went there on a class trip this year and I was so jealous. Looks so beautiful!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Katherina

    15. Jun, 2011

    An old ex-boyfriend used to spend his summer in Ile-de-Ré. I hoped to be invited someday…. unfortunately, we broke up before summer! argh! :)

    Reply to this comment

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  1. Food in La Rochelle - Oh la la, what an experience! - December 26, 2011

    [...] by, idyllic Ile-de-Ré, in order to expand our odyssey for food in La Rochelle. Not only did we completely fall in love with the island, I also had the best steak fries of my entire life, hands down. It was huge, it was not good for my [...]

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