What to see and do around the Ile de Ré
The first French island to be awarded the “Pays d’art et d’histoire” label, the island of Ré has preserved and shared its rich heritage, including its fish locks built between the 13th and 15th centuries, its beautiful residences, its military fortifications, its lighthouses or bell towers and its charming ports. As for nature, the preserved biodiversity of the Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve can be discovered on foot or by bike. Around the island, the city of La Rochelle with its old fishing port, its aquarium and its old town is a pleasant place for a day trip, which can be reached via maritime shuttles or by hiring a boat on the island of Re. On the way to Oleron, discover also the island of Aix and the famous Fort Boyard.
Nature and landscapes of the Ile de Ré
The Ile de Ré is set against a backdrop of unspoilt nature and some of the richest biodiversity in the region. Among the natural sites that fascinate visitors are the beaches and the salt marshes. The picturesque lanes and typical houses with their shimmering colours are also part of the scenery, as are the medieval churches and the fishing and yachting ports.
Between nature and heritage, the island of Ré offers a wide range of activities: balneotherapy, water sports, boat trips, hiking, cycling tours, cultural visits, strolling through the charming villages or lazing on the most beautiful beaches of the island. Tourists who are just passing through appreciate alternative ways of discovering the island, such as a storytelling tour, an itinerary in an electric TukTuk or renting a gyropod. Among the most popular activities are the climbs to the observatory bell tower of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, the Baleines lighthouse in Saint-Clément, and the bell tower in Ars. The port of the walled city of Saint-Martin is also a popular destination. Must-do activities on the island include a visit to the medieval market in La Flotte, discovering the donkeys in their breeches in Saint-Martin, and learning to sail, surf or paddle. Take advantage of the many cycle paths that criss-cross the island, starting with the Ile de Ré bridge, which run along the fine sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast, through the salt marshes and the many villages of the island, such as Le Bois plage en ré or La Flotte en ré. On the other side of the bridge, the port city of La Rochelle is always a popular place to visit, especially in the evening. Its large aquarium, located in the city centre opposite the port, is one of the largest private aquariums in Europe.
Water activities on the Ile de Ré
Several nautical activities await you on the Ile de Ré. Among them, the sea trip is proposed under different formulas. It can be a one-hour discovery of the island’s surroundings and of La Rochelle; it can also be a half-day or a full-day trip and/or fishing at sea, lasting six or eight hours…
Visitors can also discover the Rhaetian landscape by stand-up paddle or canoe. This type of trip takes you to exceptional sites such as salt marshes and nature reserves. The proximity of the Atlantic Ocean has also greatly influenced the local products of the Charente Maritime department in New Aquitaine.
You can also go to one of the many schools established on the island of Ré to learn a particular activity or to improve your level. Surfing, sand yachting, windsurfing, wakeboarding… the range is very wide.
The villages of the Ile de Ré
How to get to the Ile de Ré?
There are various means of transport to reach the island of Ré:
By car, motorbike or camper van
The journey from La Rochelle, the nearest town, takes about ten minutes.
The nearest train station is La Rochelle. Here are the journey times according to the departure points:
Paris-Montparnasse – La Rochelle : 2 h 30
Nantes – La Rochelle : 2 h 40
Bordeaux : 2 h 16.
Many holidaymakers are tempted by the experience offered by the Inter-Îles Cruises, from April to September. These exotic escapades, departing from La Rochelle, take about an hour to reach the island of Ré.
By plane or helicopter
Several airlines serve La Rochelle-Île de Ré airport, including Air France, Easy Jet and Ryanair. Several flights are from Paris-Orly. It is also possible to opt for a helicopter transfer to discover the island and its surroundings.
What to do on the Ile de Ré?
Here are 10 places worth visiting on the Ile de Ré:
- Le phare des Baleines, in Saint-Clément
- Notre-Dame-de-Ré Abbey, in La Flotte-en-Ré
- The Fort La Prée, in La Flotte-en-Ré
- The church of Saint-Martin, in Saint-Martin-en-Ré
- The church of Saint-Etienne, in Ars-en-Ré
- The port of Ars-en-Ré
- The port of La Flotte-en-Ré
- The port of Saint-Martin-en-Ré
- The port of Rivedoux Plage
- L’Ecomusée du marais salant, in Loix
Taste the Rhaetan gastronomy
Visitors can enjoy a rich and varied gastronomy. The island of Ré is well known for its oysters and salt.
Salt production has been an important part of the Rhaetian economy for centuries. The salt marshes are both tourist attractions and active production sites. They extend from La Couarde to Les Portes-en-Ré and Loix, via Ars and Saint-Clément-des-Baleines. Among the main products offered by the salt producers’ cooperative are coarse salt, fine salt and fleur de sel.
People also come to the island of Ré for its oysters, whose beds extend from Rivedoux to Les Portes-en-Ré. La Ré Blanche is also known for its jams and honey. Among the addresses offering jams made from fruit grown on the island are Les Confitures du Clocher (Ars) and Le Jardin de Lydie (Bois Plage). To appreciate the fine crystallisation of Rhétais honey, you can go to Abeille Rhétaise (Rivedoux Plage) or Abeille de Ré (Loix).