I knew the French are crazy about Ile-de-Ré, but I personally don’t know anyone who has ever visited it. The French are usually to be trusted in their good taste, so I included Ile-de-Ré in our great summer roadtrip itinerary. I didn’t do too much research and let myself be surprised by the most idyllic villages I could have ever imagined. Maybe it is best if you go unspoiled too, but if that is not your style, I included all highlights of Ile-de-Ré in this blogpost. Out of all the destinations that we visited, Ile-de-Ré is the one I can’t wait to go back to!
Ile-de-Ré is located on the Atlantic Coast of France, near La Rochelle. You can take a ferry from La Rochelle, or you can access by bridge (summer toll € 16,50 per car). The island is known for its quaint villages, surfing, oysters, fresh fish and moors with salt pans. During the year Ile-de-Ré has about 20,000 inhabitants and in summer around 200,000. This is a popular location for the French to have a holiday home. You will also find plenty of campsites on the island as it is the perfect camping destination. We stayed at the Huttopia Campsite Côte Sauvage, which is the smaller Huttopia campsite on the island, located within walking distance to the beach. We rented bikes to explore the island as you can access the whole island by bicycle.
Ile-de-Ré features many super cute villages, such as Saint-Marie-de-Ré, Saint-Martin-de-Ré, Ars-en-Ré and La Flotte. All the houses are either whitewashed or constructed out of limestone and have pastel doors and shutters, creating a super stylish vibe. All the villages have their own markets too, where you can buy local delicacies and antiques, which makes for a quintessential activity on the island. Saint-Martin-de-Ré was my favorite village, as it features a little fishing harbor in the middle of the town and is located within the old walls of a fort. Make sure you plan your meals accordingly, as for lunch lots of restaurants open only between 12AM-2PM.
We couldn’t really explore the water sports that Ile-de-Ré has to offer, as we were visiting with a six month old, but we did get to check out the beaches. During September the beaches weren’t crowded at all and you could have these white sand beaches all to yourself. Just beware that Ile-de-Ré is located at the Atlantic Coast, so the water is quite cold year-round.
Ile-de-Ré is also known for its salt production and in the west part of the island you can find beautiful salt pans situated in between moors. We didn’t get to visit them during sunset, but they reflect beautifully once there is a pink sunset.
Surprisingly Ile-de-Ré is covered in vineyards, you will find them all over the island. It was a fun activity to cycle through the vineyards and an even more spectacular sight having a vineyard at your left hand and looking out over the Atlantic Ocean on your right.
If there is one thing France can do very well it is setting up a beach bar. You should definitely spoil yourself with a lunch at a fancy beach bar and fully indulge in everything it has to offer! We were lucky to visit at the end of tourist season, as we did not have reservations but were able to secure a table at La Cible, close to Saint-Martin-de-Ré. In my pictures below La Cible looks very empty, but it filled up quickly after we sat down.
Oysters might not be everyone’s favorite, but they are a quintessential part of the food culture on the island. I was surprised at how low-key the oyster bars were, lots of them were located right at the beach and you would get a table next to the bassins. Again, make sure to make a reservation if you want a seat at a popular bar.
This is the ruin of a church, which I found a pretty spectacular sight at the east side of the island. Unfortunately we could not visit because some lucky bastards hired it for their wedding day.