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Île d’Oléron

Île d’Oléron

France’s largest island (after Corsica) is blessed with hugely varied landscapes, from pine forests, marshland, sand dunes and salt beds to rugged cliffs and long, pale sandy beaches. In the summer months the sea breezes are heady with the scent of mimosa and oleander.

 ile-d-oleron-charente-maritime

The coast is almost one long beach of fine, white sand, so it’s easy to find a perfect spot to relax. Two beaches whose natural setting is combined with amenities (cafés, etc.) are la Plage de Gatseau (near Saint-Trojan, in the east) and la Plage de Planginot (close to la Brée-les-Bains, to the north).

Parts of Grande Plage, another popular beach on the west coast, are reserved for naturists, while stretches facing the Atlantic are great for surfers.

ile-d-oleron-lighthouse-chassironWith such varied landscapes, the Île d’Oléron just begs to be explored, and if you follow the coast you enjoy a succession of constantly changing sea views. To see things differently, if you have the energy to climb the 224 steps to the top of the impressive lighthouse at Pointe du Chassiron (on the north of the island) you’ll be rewarded with a truly breathtaking panorama of the coastline. Inland, the landscape becomes marshy and drained by waterways, with oyster nets hung above the muddy banks. There are forests, too, with a mix of oak and maritime pines, not to mention mimosa and feathery pink tamarisk.

Cycling is a popular way to see the island, and it‘s easy to rent bicycles and go your own way or join an organised tour. See the tourist office for details.

The Marais aux Oiseaux bird sanctuary was founded as a hospital for injured wild birds, but now has a mix of both wild, domesticated and caged birds. More than 300 species have been cared for, including egrets, spoonbills and the rarely glimpsed kingfisher of the marshes and you’re also likely to see deer. Les

Grissotières, Île d’Oléron; tel 05 46 75 37 54; www.centre-sauvegarde-oleron.com

If you feel like seeing a typical Oléron village, with coloured cabins and bobbing boats, take a trip to Port des Salines. You’ll see oyster farmers, as well as the salt pans being worked for sea-salt, another thriving island industry. If you wish, you can hire a rowing boat to see the marshes from the water, or keep your feet firmly on dry land and explore the network of footpaths.

TOURIST OFFICE

There are several tourist offices across the island with the main office on the mainland: 22 rue Dubois Meynardie, 17320 Marennes, +33 (0)5 46 85 65 23, www.ile-oleron-marennes.com

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