Additional Location Information
Situated at 13 km from La Rochelle on the west coast of France, Ile de Re is connected to the mainland by an elegant 3kmtoll bridge. The town of La Rochelle itself has a fast TGV train service to Paris and La Rochelle-Laleu airport is only 7km away from the island.
With a coastline stretching some 70km, Ile de Re is made up of ten villages, where the traditional architecture of the region prevails. The little low houses, whitewashed walls, blue or green shutters and a riot of colourful hollyhocks typify this charming island.
To truly appreciate this enchanting island, you need to relax, move down a gear, and leave your car parked up. A network of over 100km of flatcycle tracksmeans that all the family can discover the villages, beaches, and forests at a leisurely pace and for the most part, well away from the roads. You will enjoy discovering the marshes where oysters are grown and salt, known as ‘white gold’, is harvested. The island is known for its production of ‘fleur de sel’(flower of salt).
From your Ile de Re accommodation, little fishing and yachting harbours, villagemarkets, ecomuseums and bird sanctuaries are all easily accessible by bike. There are numerous cycle hire shops with all manner of two and three wheeled inventions to transport even the very young and no hill is over 19m above sea level.
The best beaches for sunbathing on Ile de Re are in the south where you can choose from 10km of white fine sand to lay your towel. Le Bois Plage en Re, one of the most popular and picturesque and like many of the southern beaches, has a beach club for children. For quieter beaches, head for those on the southwest coast, close to Phare des Baleines (the lighthouse).
Horse riding is also popular in Ile de Re. While on the water, visitors are spoilt for choice with canoeing, sailing, boat trips, windsurfing, water skiing and surfing.
And the locals - the Rétois –as they are known – are noted for their hospitality on this sun-kissed island.
With 2600 hours of sunshine per year, the vineyards of the Ile de Ré receive as much sun as Nice in the south of France. The exceptional microclimate ensures the maturity of all products cultivated here. The land is dominated by sandy soil, ideal for vine growing, across 650 hectares of the island.
Wine, Pineau and Cognac:The Ile de Ré produces Pineau, "Vin de Pays Charentais" and Cognac. Pineau, a regional speciality, is a liqueur carefully mixed from selected cognacs in one part to three parts of grape juice. It's a delicious alternative to sherry, and also enjoyed as an aperitif in these parts. Coopérative des Vignerons de l'Ile de Ré âï¿½ï¿½ Here you can visit the wine stores, also wine tasting: In the stroreroom, advice is given by oenologist and professional winemakers. Coopérative des Vignerons de l'Ile de Ré is situated at Le Bois Plage en Re.
Salt:Salt was once one of the principal treasures of the Ile de Ré. Today it has lost much of its economic value but it's quality and taste are still very much present, and consumers continue to appreciate its dietary qualities. After being abandoned for generations, the salt marshes are again in production and Ile de Ré salt is seeing an increasing share of the market. At the present time 80 salters produce an average of 2500 tonnes per year, depending on climatic conditions. The Ecomusée du Marais Salant is in Loix, in the heart of the salt marshes, the ecomuseum gives you a glimpse into the history of the "white gold" that gave the island its prosperity in bygone days, the salt worker's way of life and expertise, the ingenious system for carrying seawater to the salt pans etc. There are individual and group visits. Salt and "fleur de sel" are on sale in the shop.
Oysters:The island is the perfect environment for the farming oysters. Each oyster is cultivated for 4 years before arriving at the market stall, by which time the farmer has tended to it upwards of thirty times. Fine oysters are grown in the open sea. Fine de clair oysters are refined in artificial basins for the last two months before sale. The Speciale de clair is a more meaty beast, grown at a lower density of shells per given area, allowing them to benefit from more abundant nourishment. You'll find oysters in all the markets on the island and around the region, but they can also be bought directly from the farmers at the oyster beds. The oyster is a food that you can eat as much of as you want, with a wonderful taste and excellent dietetic properties. The huitriÃ¨re de Ré can be visited.
The Potato:Ile de Ré new potatoes owe their nationwide fame to their early readiness and their excellent taste. They're on the shelves in early April, well before other new potatoes grown on the mainland. The Ile de Ré new potato was the first to be honoured with the title "Appellation d'origine contrôlée", the A.O.C. usually reserved for fine wines and cheeses. Five different varieties grow here, two soft-bodied, the Almaria and the Starlette, while the Roseval, Charlotte and Amandine have a firmer texture. The exceptional Ile de Ré country, with its sunny, gentle climate, caressed by marine breezes and filtering limestone soil has succeeded in getting the attention of the consumers.
Natural elements on Ile de Re :The sand dunes extend over more than 16 miles, exposed to the mercy of the elements - sea, wind and visitors! Initiatives have been taken to preserve their rich and fragile environment - particularly the installation of groines and palissades to keep the sand in place, but also the planting of Maram and other hardy grasses which bind the sand. There is a fragile ecosystem along the vast, flat beaches between the high and low-water marks. Be careful with the inhabitants! Life is going on under each stone - fish, shellfish, and crustaceans abound. You are asked not to collect shellfish close to the oyster beds, and also to respect the minimum sizes where you do fish.
Forests:They are becoming more and more abundant on the island. The national forestry commission now manages more than 400 hecatres here, where the gentle climate promotes the development of many mediterranean species. The forests fill a number of functions, limiting soil erosion, forming a protective wind-shield for the sand dunes, not to mention providing a visually appealing backdrop to the countryside. We're all responsible for this natural heritage, so do respect the forest when you visit it.
Marshlands:Over 1500 hectares of the Ile de Ré are marshlands, or wetlands, all created by the the island's human inhabitants towards the end of the middle ages. One fifth of this area is still in use for salt production, while other wetland basins have been taken over by the oyster farmers. Several sea inlets supply a complex waterway network where shallow water and sunshine promote the growth of phytoplankton which forms the basis of a rich and varied food-chain.
Places to visit :
Abbaye des ChÃ¢teliers : In the 12th century, Cistercian monks founded one of the largest abbeys in central and western France. Unfortunately, it was subjected first to attacks by the English and then to the ravages of the religious wars. After that, most of its stones were taken to construct the Fort de la Prée one kilometre away. The little that remains is nevertheless enough to conjure up a picture of its former splendour.
Parc de l'Arche de Noé âï¿½ï¿½ Amazonia - Wander among hundreds of live parrots in a splendid flower park. Discover the very rich collections of the 8 museums presented in this exceptional place which has earned a mention in the major tourist guides. A visit not to be missed!
Fort de la Prée - Situated at La Flotte, this 17th-century fortress is regularly open to the public. The oldest fortification of the Ile de Ré bears witness to the history of France. The Redoubt - recently brought out of oblivion, this fort has been the witness of the whole history of the village of Rivedoux Plage. Among all other fortress built on the island throughout the reign of Louis XlV, it was one of the most exposed and thus deserves to be considered as one of the most representative of these shores. By asking his engineers to erect the Redoubt, Louis XIV has still in mind the notorious landing of Buckingham in 1627 on Ré, and his aim was to strengthen the coastal defence of the island, assuring thus the security of both La Rochelle and Rochefort.
Saint-Martin is a delight with its harbour, its narrow streets, its wells, and its architecture dating from the 17th century. You can take a 1h30 guided tour to explore the charms of its flowery lanes.
Phare des Baleines - There are two famous sentries on the site : the present-day 'Grand Phare' (tall lighthouse) (1854) and the 'Vieille Tour' (Old Tower) ordered by Colbert and built in 1662. The 'Grand Phare' can be visited all year round. For its ascent, you will climb 257 steps to reach the height of 60 m with a panoramic view at 360Â°. It is well worth the effort and the gift shop at the bottom is, unusually, second to none.
Water sports:The waters around the Ile de Ré are loved by yachtsmen, windsurfers, canoeists and all watersports enthusiasts. For novices, experienced sailors or just for the funseeker, several schools here are more than ready to impart the secrets of the wind and the waves. If you feel ready to weigh anchor for a picnic on the Ile d'Aix, or to take a tour around fort Boyard, you'll find all the equipment and expertise you need on the island.