French Coastal Magic: A 6-Day Charente-Maritime Itinerary

Setting out our Charente-Maritime itinerary was an impromptu decision for a springtime getaway, a spontaneous decision made nearly at the last minute. Nestled amid five French departments, Charente-Maritime stands out with its mild climate, securing its position as one of France’s most cherished destinations. Along its Atlantic coast, stretching 463 km, lie captivating islands, including Ile d’Oléron near Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus and Ile de Ré, gracefully linked to La Rochelle.

The region’s picturesque landscape is woven with three rivers—the Charente, the Seudre, and the Sèvre Niortaise. Perched on hills, the vineyards of Charente-Maritime yield some of the world’s most renowned spirits, like Remy Martin and Hennessy. Having spent numerous holidays in southern France, this was the perfect time to venture into this French wonderland, especially following the awe-inspiring Brittany trip that left us with unforgettable memories.

In Germany, schools have Easter holidays, but not in France. This turned out to be a blessing as we enjoyed exploring this less crowded and more affordable area without any hassle. Our Charente-Maritime itinerary was not planned in advance, and only after the holiday did we realize the multitude of activities we managed to experience within a week. Here’s a detailed account of our one-week adventure in Charente-Maritime:

  • 1st Day: IIe d’Oleron
  • 2ed Day: Fort Louvois and Salt marshes on the island of Oleron
  • 3rd Day: ile de re (Plage des bidons V) and La Rochelle
  • 4th Day: In the holiday house in Bourcefranc
  • 5th Day: Cognac Tasting in Cognac, France
  • 6th Day: Dune beach, Le Phare de La Coubre, la Palmyre, Royan, Grottes du Régulus
Grottes du Régulus, France
Beach Plage de Saint-Trojan-les-Bains

1st Day: IIe d’Oleron

Beach walking

From Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus, we crossed the expansive bridge leading to the island and took a left turn towards the enchanting Forest of Saint-Trojan. Beyond the forest lies the picturesque Plage de Saint-Trojan-les-Bains. I strolled along the vast beach without a specific destination, entranced by the gentle ripples of the waves. Not a single clump of seaweed marred the pristine shore. As I gazed into the distance, a gleaming line of nickel-silver stretched across the horizon, creating a charismatic view.

Stroll around the imposing ramparts near the citadel of Le Château-d’Oléron 

The citadel and ramparts embracing the medieval charm of Le Château-d’Oléron are open for exploration throughout the year. Wander along the ramparts to enjoy a panoramic view of the scenic Moëze-Oléron Natural Reserve. During our walk, we observed how the tides dynamically shape the landscape of the port.

Beach Plage de Saint-Trojan-les-Bains
Colourful oyster huts on IIe d’Oleron, France

Explore colourful oyster huts

Around lunchtime, our leisurely stroll in the Château-d’Oléron port revealed a delightful surprise – the vibrant Cabanes de créateurs (designer huts). Originally used as oyster huts, these colourful structures have become canvases for artists, including sculptors, jewelers, and cutlers, who have transformed and garnished them over the years. My attention was drawn to a blue hut, a bold red one, and a sunny yellow one lining the waterfront. It felt like the perfect spot for photographers!

Hiking at the northern tip of the island

In the late afternoon, we headed to the northern part and took a cliff walk around the iconic Phare de Chassiron lighthouse. The circular path offered breathtaking views of the rugged coastline. Although the sunset battled rainy clouds, it created a mesmerizing atmosphere for capturing scenic moments. Caution signs marked some areas due to cliff erosion, reminding us to tread carefully along the cliff’s edge.

The citadel and ramparts on IIe d’Oleron, France; Charente-Maritime Itinerary
lighthouse, the Phare de Chassiron; Charente-Maritime Itinerary
La Rochelle Harbour, France

2ed IIe d’Oleron (Fort Louvois and boat trip in Salt marshes on the island of Oleron)

Fort Louvois

From the garden of hour holiday house, on clear days, we had a perfect view of Fort Louvois. We decided to make a pit stop at this 17th-century maritime fortress before our boat trip through the salt marshes of Île d’Oléron. Accessible on foot during low tide and by boat during high tide, the path to the fort was damp and covered in seaweed due to the receding tide, making it quite slippery.

Bost trip in Salt marshes in Le Grand Village Plage

A significant portion of the area is covered by salt marshes, and we had the chance to explore this unique landscape. Many salt producers warmly welcome visitors to share their knowledge and passion, offering insightful tours about the history and workings of salt farming. We decided to hire a boat from Le Port des Salines and enjoyed a pleasant 45-minute excursion along the canals within the salt marshes. Our son particularly enjoyed the rowing activity on the boat. After the boat trip, we took some extra time to explore the salt marshes on foot.

Salt marshes in in Le Grand Village Plage, France
Fort Louvois, Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus France

3rd ile de re (Plage des bidons V) and La Rochelle

Ile de Ré 

During the summer months, Ile de Ré becomes a favorite holiday spot for many Parisians, with its long stretches of pristine golden sandy beaches lining much of the island’s coastline. Accessible via a toll bridge, this little island is a charming getaway connected to La Rochelle.

Around lunchtime, we headed to Plage des Bidons V on the western side and discovered that we practically had the beach to ourselves, except for two horse riders. The beachfront was adorned with wild plants whose names I couldn’t quite identify.

La Rochelle

The old harbour of La Rochelle bustles with activity, and my attention was immediately drawn to the vibrant graffiti adorning the walls. These large, beautifully painted artworks added a unique charm. From the heart of the harbour, three medieval towers of La Rochelle stands prominently. Among them, the Lantern Tower, with its rich history, served dual roles as a lighthouse and prison.

What struck me most about this place was the abundance of its restaurants. Throughout the entire old town, a plethora of dining options awaited, ranging from fast food and homemade French delicacies to international cuisine and gourmet dishes. With most eateries opening around 19:30, we had ample time to peruse the menus.

Beach Plage de Saint-Trojan-les-Bains;Charente-Maritime Itinerar
La Rochelle Harbour, France

4th  In the holiday house in Bourcefranc

In the early morning, we woke up to the sight of ominous tar-black clouds heading our way. Quickly checking our plans for the day, we discovered that the entire area was in for a rainy day. Despite the disappointment, we got up early, had breakfast, and kept our fingers crossed for a change in the weather.

Suddenly, I heard the first splatter of rain tapping on the window, and soon the drops were drumming on the terrace. The rainfall intensified over the next hour. Our plans to visit various places were dashed by the gloomy weather. Instead, it turned into a day of playing games and reading books.

5th Cognac Tasting in Cognac, France

As the weather improved, we were delighted to resume our Charente-Maritime Itinerary. Our next stop was the town of Cognac, where we eagerly joined a Cognac Tasting tour. Cognac isn’t just renowned for its spirit; it’s also the very birthplace of this distinguished beverage. Our plan included exploring the charming town and visiting the historic house of Rémy Martin before the tour. However, to our disappointment, the house was undergoing renovations in preparation for its upcoming 300th-anniversary celebration.

We entered the adjacent store hosting the cognac tasting tour, the sole English tour offered for the week during the off-season. With uncertainty about which brand or product to choose, the tour provided us with insights into the secrets of this premium spirit. After the tour, we joyfully proceeded to purchase some of the coveted cognac, staying true to our original plan.

Giant casks for cognac aging; Charente-Maritime Itinerary
Remy Martin Old House in the Town of Cognac, France

6th Lighthouse of La Coubre and Grottes du Régulus

Climb up the Lighthouse of La Coubre

The La Coubre Lighthouse stands as the tallest in the Charente-Maritime, reaching a height of 64 metres. Despite the narrow stairs, the climb to the top was easily manageable. From the lighthouse’s summit, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the picturesque coastline and the ever-shifting dunes.

Grottes du Régulus

Continuing our journey southward, we made a quick stop at La Palmyre before deciding to enjoy lunch in Royan. This charming seaside resort features expansive oceanfronts and proudly displays five sandy beaches, each adorned with the prestigious Blue Flag.

Situated just 12 km from Royan, the Grottes du Régulus (Caves of Régulus) present a fascinating troglodyte site that opens to the public for a limited period each year. This stretch of the coast features several intriguing caves worth exploring.

Grottes du Régulus, France
Lighthouse of La Coubre
Dunes at the foot of the Lighthouse of La Coubre; Charente-Maritime Itinerary

Travel tips for planning Charente-Maritime itinerary

Where to stay

Our holiday house in Bourcefranc-Le-Chapus is atop a cliff, offering breathtaking views of the coastal expanse. Mornings were greeted with the radiant sun illuminating the seaside, and evenings bid farewell as the sun dipped beyond the horizon. The house itself was a delight, featuring a relaxing whirlpool in the garden and well-equipped bathrooms in every room. While there are various accommodation options in the region, it’s advisable to secure your booking in advance for a seamless holiday experience.

For an unforgettable holiday, consider making La Rochelle, Ile de Ré, and IIe d’Oleron your primary bases. In the summer, you can blend various beach activities into your Charente-Maritime itinerary, adding sun, sand, and coastal delights to your getaway.

How to get there

  • Air Travel: Reach Charente-Maritime conveniently from five nearby airports—Bordeaux, Nantes, La Rochelle, Biarritz, and Limoges.
  • Long-Haul Buses: Budget travelers can opt for long-haul buses, such as the Paris-La Rochelle or Bordeaux-La Rochelle routes. Check out all available destinations on the Flixbus website.
  • High-Speed Train (TGV): Experience a swift journey from Paris Montparnasse to La Rochelle with TGV. The ride takes approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes.
  • Car Travel: If you enjoy the freedom of the open road, take motorways A10 and A83 for a scenic drive to La Rochelle. Choose the mode of travel that suits your preferences and embark on an exciting Charente-Maritime adventure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.