When you think of a European summer holiday, the French west coast probably doesn’t pop into your head. But take it from us; it’s worth a visit! You may have heard of the Route du Soleil, the Côte d’Azur and the beaches, but somehow the west coast isn’t so popular. It feels a bit unfair, because it’s absolutely gorgeous. We drove down in our campervan to 2 of the most beautiful French islands; île d’Oléron and île de Rè.
The French West Coast
About 5,5 hours south of Paris you’ll find île d’Oléron, famous for its oysters and perfect for beautiful bike rides. The town Château d’Oléron has a charming harbour. The coloured houses contrast nicely with the blue skies and some actually house little shops, ateliers or even a bicycle repair shop. Obviously the oysters and shellfish don’t come fresher here!
Down on the west side you’ll find the prettiest beaches and the calmest sea. From Vert Bois to Dolus and La Menounière, your pick! If you’re cycling from Château, it will take you about 45 minutes to get to Matha, right in the middle of it all. There are beaches on the eastern side as well, but most of them have pebbles instead of sand, and the water doesn’t quite reach the coast.
On the upside; that’s where you can spot people collecting oysters!
Where to eat
- Chez Mamelou, for the freshest oysters ever
- Le Drugstore for fabulous seafood
- Les Vagabonds for what else, more seafood!
- Oléron Huitres Normandin, a little oyster shack by the road
- Le Merluchon, know island wide for their fish and chips
Where to sleep
There’s a lot of campings on the island where you can also rent cabins, like camping La Brande and Camping Ostréa, the latter being run by a very cute older couple. The following are good midrange hotels:
Ìle de Ré
Île de Ré lies just above île d’Oléron and so a bit closer to Paris, which is one of the reasons why this island attracts a different type of tourist. You’ll encounter the more affluent French, and a lot of them own a second home on the island. But don’t worry, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that it’s a beautiful flower island, perfectly suited for cycling as well!
The cutest town has to be Saint Martin de Ré (a World Heritage Site) with its pretty harbour with lots of small yachts and surrounded by cafes and restaurants. In town, you can climb the clock tower for a 360 view. The streets around the church are worth wandering around and in summer, you’ll find a weekly little art market on the church square.
Looking for a beach? Le-Bois-Plage-en-Ré is the most popular and quite busy in summer, but there are plenty quieter beaches that are just as pretty.
Where to eat
- La Cabane du Feneau. Pricy, but worth it!
- Kokot. Not for the food, but the cocktails
- Le Bistrot du Marin. For good, honest food
Where to sleep
Île de Ré is great for camping, (pick the community campground right by the city centre), but there are a lot of cute hotels to choose from!
Don’t forget; France is perfect for road tripping, especially the French West Coast. Not so busy and less expensive!