The Vendée corniche, in France (Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez)
Port of Rochefort in France
Nantes city in France
Aerial view of the atlantic coast in Saint Gildas, prefailles
Castle in the Port of La Rochelle
Path in the dunes towards the beach
Crossing dunes, cities, beaches and salt marshes
This section of the Vélodyssée® includes 9 tranquil and beautiful stages; short, and virtually flat, they offer the time to enjoy breaks, picnics, visits and swims between the cycling. You will follow the Loire estuary, followed by the Jade Coast to the Côte Sauvage: sea, beaches, sand, dunes, swamps, marshes, characteristic rocks, cornices, lighthouses, small ports, seaside resorts (St-Brévin- les-Pins, Pornic, St-Jean-de-Monts, St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, the Sables-d’Olonne), historic cities such as La Rochelle and Rochefort punctuate your trip, sometimes charming, sometimes amazing, always interesting.
Ref : 819
From Nantes, the departure for your trek is cultural: your route (marked out) follows the “Loire à Vélo®” trek, which is also the “Estuaire Nantes – Saint-Nazaire” artistic route. These are contemporary art works celebrating the Metropolis Nantes – Saint-Nazaire and its estuary. You will come across some on the south shore such as Bouguenais, the Château de Pé, or La Martinière. The maritime atmosphere of the small port of Paimboeuf reminds you that the se ais close by; a few miles further along from Pointe de Mindin, you will arrive in Saint-Brévin-Les-Pins.
Saint-Brevin-les-Pins is a flourishing seaside resort spread out along sandy beaches. In Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef, the excellent biscuits bear the town’s name. Further on, at Pointe St-Gildas, sand gives way to rocks and heathland; the view, from Croisic to the Ile de Noirmoutier, is beautiful. Beautiful beaches encased in small rocky coves mark your route to Pornic, a charming fishing port. The Marais Breton-Vendée is your gateway to reach Bouin.
After the pretty Port des Champs and Port du Bec, you will spy the Passage du Gois, only passable by road at low tide for the Ile de Noirmoutier. A few detours through the marshes and further along, in Daviaud, just before La Barre-de-Monts, the Ecomuseum promises a fun and poetic immersion into the world of the Breton-Vendée marshes. You can complete this stage by heading along the Côte de Monts, which runs from the Fromentine lighthouse to the south of Saint-Jean-de-Monts.
MyTripTailor Tip: Between La Barre-de-Monts and Notre-Dame-de-Monts, make a detour (3km total) to the panoramic water tower in Kulmino. An elevator climbs to the top where you can admire an exceptional view.
Ocean, marshes, dunes, forests make up the landscapes until St-Hilaire-de-Riez. Then, at the Corniche Vendéenne, just before you reach the pretty and busy fishing port of St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, you will find the striking spectacle of rocks shaped by continual erosion from the sea. In Brem-sur-Mer, Le Havre de la Gachère is an old fishing port and charming old village that lives on thanks to oyster farming and salt marshes. Marshland, bordering the Forest of Olonne, will take you to Les Sables.
In Les Sables, walk along the three ports, the Remblai lined with beautiful 19th century villas, the Quartier du Passage with its narrow streets and old houses. Afterwards, join the cycle path along the rocky coast: take a look at the Puits d’Enfer (Shaft of Hell), an amazing fault. After Bourgenay, be careful as the Cul d’Âne is a passage that can become submerged during high tide. Next, from St-Vincent-sur-Jard to La-Tranche-sur-Mer, the cycle path crosses the Forest de Longeville and offers a pleasant ride between the sea (Plage des Conches) and pine trees.
The Casse de la Belle Henriette, at the exit of La Tranche, is a nature reserve that houses one of the last lagoons of the Atlantic coast. You cross it towards La Faute-sur-Mer, hit hard by storm Xynthia in 2010 (600 properties flattened). The route then leads into the “désséchés” (“dry”) marshes of Petit Poitou. In Marans, you’ll find a pretty port, connected to the sea, and an amazing church with its glass bell tower. Ride along the Canal de Marans to La Rochelle and you have arrived.
This short step leaves you time to visit La Rochelle. Begin at the Old Port, enclosed by the towers of la Chaîne and Saint-Nicolas and dominated by the Tour de la Lanterne which offers a superb panorama of the city from its balcony. Via Porte de la Grosse Horloge you can reach the old town for a pleasant stroll through its pretty arcaded streets lined with chic old mansions. After this, it’s time to head to Rochefort, particularly if you’re tempted by some time on the beach and in the sea in Châtelaillon.
As with the day before, it’s sightseeing in the morning and cycling in the afternoon. The Quartier de l’Arsenal in Rochefort offers a fine lesson in military naval history, particularly if the Hermione is docked: its visits are always exciting. Follow this with the majestic Corderie Royale. Shortly after the impressive Rochefort –Martrou Transporter Bridge, the last of its kind in France, a greenway takes you directly to Marennes. Feel free to break away to admire the Citadelle de Brouage, an example of a fortified port prior to Vauban.
MyTripTailor Tip: the younger ones will love the Hermione accro-mâts course (included in the ticket): climb the sails, go from mast to mast – in total safety – what an experience, what a memory!
Why not enjoy some oyster tasting in Marennes! In any case, you will love this final step that takes you along a dream route, a greenway in the shade of pines, between dunes and the ocean, to the Lighthouse of La Coubre. There is a final and pretty view of the Bonne Anse Bay, followed by the beaches in Palmyra and the Grande Côte which offers a final chance to bathe in the sea. The seafront, the Corniche de Pontaillac, with its belle-époque villas, is a magnificent gateway to Royan.
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