Poitou-Charentes' bucolic coastal beauty

Poitou-Charentes’ Atlantic coastline has beguiled visitors for centuries. With over 460km of coastline and 110km of beaches, those lucky enough to have strolled the divide between endless ocean and rural France have never failed to be mesmerised by its beauty.

The old port town La Rochelle is the focal point of activity along the coast. During its 1000 years it has played host to salt merchants and wine exporters, and now welcomes tourists from around the world who come to enjoy its wealth of activities and captivating history.

This diverse area of France is easily and quickly accessible from England, either by boat, road or just a three-and-a-half hour train journey from London. All of the major budget airlines fly to either La Rochelle or the nearby Poitiers, the two mainland highlights of the region.

La Rochelle also acts as a gateway to islands from where the awe-inspiring beauty of the coast can be fully appreciated. Ile de Re is accessible by a three-kilometre bridge, and the trip across the water is well worth while for upon the other side lies the ‘White Island’. With 100 kilometres of cycle tracks stretching across this picturesque isle it is best explored on two-wheels. Traditional houses with colourful shutters will be discovered among ‘Les Beaux Villages de France’. Visitors can stop at La Flotte’s famous old market to peruse the cheese and wine that are so synonymous with the region. Or perhaps pedal north to the stretches of beaches taking in Ars-en-Re’s coloured bell tower, a landmark among navigational circles.

Off the Poitou-Charentes coast, the largest island is Oleron, also known as ‘the Luminous’. The island can be explored by foot, bicycle, or for the more daring, horseback. Sandy beaches are bordered by luscious forests while the famous Marennes-Oleron oysters are fattened up in the plethora of ponds, all of which combine to make Oleron the most adventurous of Poitou-Charentes’ mesmerising islands.

Yet if it is a quieter experience you’re in search of, the tiny paradise of Aix may be the destination for you. There are no cars or buses on the island, and it can only be reached by boat, making it a genuine island getaway. With just 120 inhabitants the three kilometre long isle, which is situated between Re and Oleron, can be navigated by bike or on foot in about three-hours.