Backroad cycling France
Pearls of the Atlantic: Ile de Ré, Ile d'Oléron and Ile d'AixRef CN97
Discover a labyrinth of salt marshes, enjoy a sunset on a beach with an infinite setting, cycle from island to island in search of different horizons... You will never tire of the many facets of this authentic and famous archipelago on the Atlantic coast. From La Rochelle, nicknamed "La Porte Océane", we make a first stop on the island of Ré, renowned for its villages with white houses. Then we drop anchor in Boyarville to discover Oléron, the "luminous island", which reveals its wild beaches of fine sand, but also a bewitching nature. We finish our discovery by the most Mediterranean of the Atlantic islands: the island of Aix, pearl of the Charente estuary or "little Corsica of the Atlantic", which invites us on its small 3 km crescent to flirt with paradise... A week of cycling that is both refreshing and exotic!
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This tour is E-bike compatible
- A combination of the islands of Ré, Oléron and Aix with three different atmospheres
- An itinerary composed mainly of cycle paths and following the Vélodyssée
- Boat crossings to optimise the time spent on the islands
- A visit to La Rochelle, "La Porte Océane"
- The possibility to combine with our "Nantes to La Rochelle" tour for a two week escape!
Day 1: La Rochelle
Itinerary start: On the first day your hotel room in La Rochelle is available mid-afternoon. On day 2 in the morning, yu must leave your luggage at the reception by 9am at the latest. For those arriving by car, it is possible to park in the underground pay car park of Verdun (600 spaces), located in the city centre, less than 10 minutes walk from the hotel. If you wish to drop off your car in Rochefort first, there is a free car park with 1000 spaces located Cours Roy Bry 17300 Rochefort.
The rendezvous is in La Rochelle, nicknamed the "Porte Océane": capital of the Charente-Maritime, La Rochelle is famous for its postcard-like Old Port. Guarded by the Chain Tower and the Saint Nicolas Tower, the Old Port has inspired many artists. In the old town, mansions, Renaissance houses and old timber-framed houses follow one another. La Rochelle is well worth a visit, so we will be able to enjoy it again in the afternoon of day 4, on our return from the Ile de Ré.
Day 2: La Rochelle - Saint Martin de Ré
- This morning we board the ship linking the islands off La Rochelle, our first stop: Ile de Ré!
- During the crossing, we pass under its famous bridge, skirt the coast of the island and discover the ramparts of Saint Martin de Ré.
- We then head to the eastern part of the island and its coastal villages:
- Bois Plage and its famous market.
- Sainte Marie and its white houses decorated with hollyhocks.
- La Flotte and its pretty marina.
- Back in Saint Martin de Ré, we settle into our hotel and enjoy our first night facing the ocean.
Distance : approx. 30 km and 50 m.
Day 3: Saint Martin de Ré - Phare des Baleines - Saint Martin de Ré
- Today, we head west to discover the second part of the island, up to its end dominated by the famous whale lighthouse, which certainly offers the most beautiful panorama of the island.
- We discover the villages of Ars en Ré, labelled the most beautiful village in France, Saint Clément des Baleines with its authentic little houses, and La Couarde Sur Mer, renowned for its small seaside resort in the south of the island.
- The landscapes are very varied, we cycle sometimes in the middle of vineyards, sometimes on tracks surrounded on all sides by a checkerboard of salt marshes or fresh water which glisten under the sun's rays.
- On the way, we can taste some oysters, either plain or with a touch of salt harvested by the sauniers of the Ile de Ré. The iodine air is powerful and naturally helps us to rest.
- Alternatives allow us to extend our route towards Les Portes en Ré and Loix, to explore the smallest corners of the island and discover secret beaches.
Distance: approx. 40 km and 50 m.
Extension to Loix: + 15 km
Extension to Les Portes en Ré: + 15 km
Day 4: Saint Martin de Ré - La Rochelle
- We enjoy our last moments on the island of Ré before heading back to the mainland.
- After about fifteen tortuous kilometres in the plain, we reach the gates of La Rochelle with its lively port.
- This is the opportunity to discover its old town, its old port and its various attractions which make the reputation of the capital of the Charente-Maritime region.
- In the evening, around the old port or in the old town, on a terrace or in the cosy confines of a brasserie, there are plenty of choices to have a taste of the local gastronomy.
Distance: approx. 30 km and 50m.
Day 5: La Rochelle - Boyardville - Saint Trojan Les Bains
- After breakfast, we take the boat to the south to the island of Oleron, the largest French island on the Atlantic coast.
- It is famous for its special luminosity, its fine sandy beaches, its unspoilt wilderness and its rich heritage.
- We set off on our bikes for a 40 km ride southwards to discover the centre of the island with a delicious mix of cycle paths, greenways, forests, marshes and small villages.
- To the south, we reach Saint Trojan Les Bains between the pine forest and the ocean, before settling in comfortably for two nights at our hotel.
Distance: approx. 35 km and 50m.
Day 6: Saint Trojan Les Bains - La Cotinière - Boucle Nord
- We leave for a full day to discover the central part of the island and the north (if you choose the level 2).
- From the start, we follow a shaded forest track, the most important one on the island, and giving access to some absolutely sublime sandy beaches: Gatseau beach and the Grande Plage of Saint Trojan Les Bains.
- We follow the west coast, passing by the beach of Vert Bois, ideal for surfing, before reaching La Cotinière, a small artisanal fishing port.
- The beach and the numerous cafés invite us to take a break, before continuing our journey towards the North (level 2) or the East (level 1).
- The level 2 route takes us along the "wild coast" to the Chassiron lighthouse. We discover beautiful beaches strewn with colourful cabins typical of the island, then we reach a steeper coastline with some cliffs overlooking the ocean. At the very end stands the Chassiron lighthouse. Then we go back down to the east coast, passing through the pretty little streets of the village of La Brée Les Bains and the Saumonards forest, home to some of the island's most beautiful beaches.
- We join the level 1 route which winds through vineyards and marshes on small, confidential roads to reach Le Château d'Oléron and its citadel.
- We join Saint Trojan Les Bains by a small bucolic track through the salt marshes and return to our hotel.
Distance level 1: approx. 45 km and 50m
Distance level 2: approx. 75 km and 100m
Day 7: Saint Trojan Les Bains - Rochefort
- This morning we leave the island of Oleron to reach the mainland once again.
- We join the Vélodyssée, the famous cycle path along the Atlantic coast, which we leave momentarily to discover the fortified town of Brouage.
- Then we reach Brouage, this now fortified town was originally built in the 14th century as the outport of Hiers.
- We join the Vélodyssée again, which we will not leave until we arrive in Rochefort.
- We ride along a canal that leads us to the Charente, through some facilities such as a tunnel and a metal suspension bridge to cross the river and finish our journey in Rochefort, passing by its harbour office, the last stop on our journey.
Distance: approx. 55 km and 100m.
Day 8: Rochefort - île d'Aix - Rochefort
- Our last stop is on the island of Aix, the third pearl of the Atlantic coast.
- It is the smallest of the three islands to be discovered during our trip, which we reach by boat from the port of Fouras.
- The Ile d'Aix concentrates all the diversity of the landscapes of the Charente-Maritime coastline, an island of peace and quiet, it can only be discovered on foot, by bike or in a horse-drawn carriage...
- As small as it is, the island of Aix is full of treasures with its five beaches, a dense forest that covers half of the island and a rich and fortified heritage.
- We finish our visit and take the boat back to the coast and the port of Fouras.
- We the head back to Rochefort, the final point of our journey. At the end of the day, we leave for Rochefort train station.
Distance: approx. 45 km and 100m.
Itinerary end: Your stay ends when you collect your luggage from your hotel in Rochefort, on your way back from the visit to the island of Aix. Your arrival in Rochefort may be late, depending on the time of the return boat from the Ile d'Aix to Fouras, and on how much time you wish to spend enjoying the Ile d'Aix. There are very regular trains between Rochefort and La Rochelle, which take about 20 minutes. If you wish to return by private shuttle, please see below "departure and prices".
Distances and altitude gain are an indication only and may vary.