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In need of a breath of fresh sea air? This is a bike trip with a strong maritime theme, offering the opportunity to contemplate the vast Atlantic Ocean and its crashing waves. We ride a portion of the "Velodyssey" bike route from the Jade Coast to La Rochelle, via the small port of Pornic. The beauty of the Vendee is revealed as we discover a string of islands dotted along the coast: Noirmoutier, l'île d'Yeu and l'île de Ré… The light in this area is exceptional, highlighting the beauty of the Poitevin marshlands. Along the coastline, the last of the sunlight’s golden rays strike the shore, playing games of light and shade on everything they touch. A wonderful itinerary that invites you to take your time and savour the splendours of this magical part of France…
Itinerary start: France Bike Trips services begin on day 1 in the evening. Arrival at our partner hotel, evening and night in Nantes.
Rendezvous in the city of Nantes, capital of the Loire, and entrance to the estuary of the longest river in France. We strongly recommend prolonging your stay in order to make the most of Nantes. Some amongst you will have no doubt spent a few days here prior to our bike tour. The magnificent Ducs de Bretagne Castle and its 15th century ramparts (today home to the town's history museum) are well worth a visit. The Loire sets the pace of life in Nantes.
Today we leave Nantes along the Loire. Its calm and unspoilt estuary leads us gently towards the ocean and the Atlantic Coast, our guide for the next 7 days of riding. We then leave the Loire estuary behind us to join the charming coastal town of Pornic. The old medieval town and its castle overlook the small ports, not far from the pottery manufacturer, the "Faïencerie de Pornic". The familiar sound of sails and masts flapping in the sea breeze tells us were definitely on holiday... We settle into our hotel and enjoy our first night by the ocean.
Distance covered: approx. 55 km / ascent: approx. 250 m.
From here we head south on a mix of small quiet country roads and cycle tracks. The picturesque Retz area serves as a backdrop for much of the day, as we pass through the villages of La Bernerie and Moûtiers en Retz. As we pedal further south, we find ourselves between the land and the sea, surrounded by water on all sides... Difficult to tell if we're on an island or on the mainland... We cross the heart of the Marais Breton, where salt production was once the principal activity of the area. Today the Marais, and the Bay of Bourgneuf are famous for the quality of their oysters, which we'll be sure to stop and sample on our way through! The dykes and polders of Bouin announce our arrival at the end of this second stage. The sea breeze and salty air help no end in easing us into holiday mode… An island in the middle of the Marais, Bouin charms us with its architectural heritage and its 14th century church.
Distance covered: approx. 40 km / ascent: approx. 200 m
Today's cycling mainly follows the route of the Velodyssey, on a pleasant cycle track. Out to sea we can make out the coast of the island of Noirmoutier. The "island of mimosas" as it is known is connected to the continent since a bridge was built in 1971. The hum of the wind farm (the most powerful in France) accompanies us as we continue our journey south. Our route takes us across the Dain, before we visit the Port-du-Bec, which faces the island of Noirmoutier. Small quiet lanes take us through little fisherman's hamlets and alongside small plots of cultivated land, accompanied all along by the salty Atlantic sea air. Almost 20 kilometres of cycle track await us as we enter the area of Monts and its pine forests. Our route gently guides us towards the pretty seaside resort of Saint Jean de Monts, our overnight stop. Saint Jean de Monts is a lively seaside town facing the ocean, and only a few miles from the island of Yeu. The island has two very contrasting sides: the calm sheltered eastern side, and the jagged windswept western coast, lashed by the incessant waves from the Atlantic. We settle into our hotel in Saint Jean de Monts for the night.
Distance covered: approx. 45 km / ascent: approx. 150 m
Today's ride through the Vendée has all the ingredients for a superb day's cycling: a route that is mostly on a pleasant cycle track that crosses wild landscapes, small fishing villages such as Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, and a visit of the Sables d'Olonne, home to the Vendée Globe (a two and a half month round-the-world yacht race), and steeped in nautical tradition. Before joining the Sables d'Olonne, we leave the coast behind us and head inland, through the forest of Olonne and the salt marshes. The Sables d'Olonne lighthouse in sight, we are ready to put our bikes away for the night, settle into our hotel and make the most of a warm Vendean evening.
Distance covered: approx. 50 km / ascent: approx. 200 m
This fifth stage offers plenty of opportunities for swimming stops, so don't forget your bathing suits!!! Up to now the coastline has been fairly straight with long open beaches. From here the coast becomes more rugged, with little inlets, and small cliffs. Our cycle route takes us past small creeks, perfect for swimming. We pass through Jard sur Mer with its windmill and numerous beaches. The next part of the day takes us through maritime forests that stretch almost to the water's edge, offering welcome shade from the midday sun. We finish the day in Tranche sur Mer, with its large sandy beach, in the area known as the "Côte de Lumière" (Coast of Light).
We settle into our hotel for the night.
Distance covered: approx. 45 km / ascent: approx. 250 m
Already day 6 of our coastal escapade! We follow the route of the Velodyssey, which leads us towards the Belle Henriette Lagoon, separated from the sea by a narrow stretch of sand. We then ride along the coast to Faute sur Mer, small town and entrance to the Pointe d'Arcay, a pretty peninsula that stretches south for 10 kilometres. We leave the sea and the Baie de l'Aiguillon behind us, and head inland to the Marais Poitevin, one of the highlights of the area. The extensive marshland is a protected area with a rich fauna and flora, yet fortunately for us, open to hikers and bicycles. The marsh is a fascinating area, with its "dry marsh" (used for farming) and its "wet marsh" (a maze of islets and canals). We cross the Brault Bridge and its lock at Chaillé les Marais, before heading in the direction of Marans, a pleasant riverside town that stretches along the Sèvre Niortaise.
Overnight stop in Marans.
Distance covered: approx. 45 km / ascent: approx. 100 m
A fairly short last stage that leaves us plenty of time to discover the superb town of La Rochelle, capital of the Charente Maritime. For the first part of the day we continue our journey through the Marais Poitevin, following canals and passing between marshes, making the most of the peace and quiet the area offers. We then start heading west, making our way back to the coast we left the previous day. We follow a canal that leads us all the way to La Rochelle.
Distance covered: approx. 35 km / ascent: approx. 200 m
Enjoy your last day in the centre of La Rochelle, make your way through its network of streets to the old harbour, and its famous harbour towers. The Museum of the New World, the Aquarium, and the harbour towers are all well worth a visit…
Distances and altitude gain are an indication only and may vary.
Itinerary end: France Bike Trips services end after breakfast on day 9.
Please note you can take the train to return to Nantes (trains accept bicycles). A train leaves La Rochelle at 17:06 and arrives in Nantes at 18:55 (approximately 30 €).