This 5-day car tour offers a plunge into history through the discovery of the Charente Maritime’s cities of character.
Setting off from La Rochelle, you will spend a day on the île de Ré before taking on Rochefort, Brouage, Marennes and Royan and then concluding your trip on the Gironde estuary.
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The flagship city of sailing, La Rochelle continues to revolve largely around the sea, with the expansion of its marina in recent years.
Back on land, the bike is king. The city has pioneered the development of car-free days and cycle share schemes. Sail unhurriedly between its old fortified Port, its secret arcaded streets and the churches, numerous museums, aristocratic hotels and parks that make up its rich architectural heritage.
Take a stroll around the Gabut district, visiting Saint-Nicolas Tower, the Chaîne Tower and the Lanterne Tower before heading to look at Porte des Deux-Moulins which dates back to the 12th century.
MyTripTailor tip: Leave your car in one of the city’s car parks and hop on a bike to get around more easily.
Depart for île de Ré where you will spend the second day before returning to La Rochelle for the night.
Saint-Martin-de-Ré is the island’s most important town. Once a powerful military place and busy port, it’s become a charming city with narrow cobbled streets. It has largely retained the classic aspect of the Grand Siècle, beautifully maintained behind impressive fortifications now classified as a Unesco World Heritage site.
Take time to admire the fortifications overhauled by Vauban, followed by the citadel and a visit to Fort de la Prée. Designed to defend La Rochelle, this star shaped building dates back to 1620 and is the oldest military fort on the island.
It’s now time to enjoy an ice cream at La Flotte-en-Ré, the oldest port of the island which holds « Plus beaux villages de France » status, before heading back to La Rochelle.
MyTripTailor Advice: don’t miss the views from the top of the Phare des Baleines.
Leave La Rochelle to reach Rochefort by the end of the day.
On the road, stop off at Fouras. A short distance from Île-d’Aix, where the small port, old castle and casino illustrate perfectly the lifestyle and peaceful atmosphere of this seaside resort on the Charente coast. A walk through the alleys of the town is a must, as is a stroll through the woodlands of holm oaks, tamarisks and pines before visiting Fort Vauban and its triple enclosure.
Before leaving Fouras, go to Pointe de la Fumée where a 360° panorama unfolds with views, from left to right, of Fouras, Île Madame and Île d’Oléron, Fort Boyard, Île-d’Aix, the Île de Ré bridge, La Rochelle, Châtelaillon and the Baie d’Yves.
Next head to Rochefort where you can spend the afternoon walking around the Arsenal district and taking in the Marine Museum, followed by La Corderie Royale (Royal Rope Making Factory) and the Museum of Art and history.
Spend the night here.
MyTripTailor Advice: suggested activities with the children: shrimp fishing at Pointe de la Fumée and a visit to Fort Enet.
After breakfasting in Rochefort it’s time to hit the road again.
Admire the Martrou transporter-bridge, classified as a historical monument, before a stop at the Marais d’Yves Nature Reserve (located 5km south of Châtelaillon-Plage) . Next, set off for Port-des-Barques, a small fishing and oyster farming village that has become a seaside resort with a marina. To the west, a pleasant road leads to the Tombolo (coastline) connecting to île Madame. Tide permitting, you can go down to the foreshore and walk up to the cliffs and Port-des-Barques.
It’s at this point of the route that Brouage appears, an ancient fortified port which was once the most formidable on the Atlantic coast, before running aground in the marshes. The starry silhouette of its ramparts spring up from a labyrinth of inlets.
Next, head to Marennes to fill up with trace elements! Take advantage of the low tide to walk to Fort Louvois or wait for high tide to go by boat from the port of Bourcefranc (a free service).
It’s now time to head to Royan where you will spend the night.
MyTripTailor tip: In Brouage, don’t miss the 17th century ramparts; the indoor food market; stained glass windows of St. Peter’s Church and the Glacière.
Allow half a day to stroll through Royan. Along La Grande Conche, a huge 2km long beach, runs Boulevard Frédéric-Garnier, bordered by beautiful villas where figures such as Emilie Zola, Sacha Guitry and even Pablo Picasso have stayed. Go and admire the beautiful villas of Pontaillac before returning to the road.
You are now leavinge Royan for the Gironde estuary which marks the end of your tour. Cliffs hollowed with caves alternate with inviting lagoons for birds, whilst cycling enthusiasts can enjoy small, uncrowded roads. In this water (and vineyard!) laden region, traditions remain alive.
There’s no hanging around today as the programme is full! Visit the troglodyte cliffs of Meschers-sur-Gironde, the chapel carved into the rock of Mortagne, the Gallo-Roman site of Fâ and the church of Talmont-sur-Gironde before returning to Royan.
MyTripTailor Tip: children will be delighted to spend a few hours at the Marais du Rhâ leisure park.
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