Île d’Oléron – An Active Holiday Guide
A lazy spit of sand jettied off the French Atlantic coast, Ile d’Oléron could be mistaken for a secret pacific island if it wasn’t for its proud Charente-Maritime heritage and famous French cuisine. The second largest island after Corsica, Ile d’Oléron is an adventurers playground, criss-crossed with cycle tracks and packed with outdoor activities set to a backdrop of rugged, Atlantic countryside.
Famed for its ancient architecture, lush greenery and a stunning coastline rich in natural flora and fauna ideal for the outdoor enthusiast. Connected to the mainland of BourcfrancleChapus by an impressive tollfree bridge, holiday makers can get to the island by ferry or using public transport to cross the waterway via the bridge. Connected to France’s main roads by the A10 from La Rochelle, Rochefort and Bordeaux, getting to Ile d’Oleron is an easy 45K from the intersection at Saintes.
Île d’Oléron Highlights
Proudly flying the blue flag at magnificent sandy beaches all along the coastline, explore an endless choice of water sports and beachbased activities from surfing, sailing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and sand yachting. More than just a beach resort, the island is also home to two natural wildlife reserves for migrating birds and native animals, Ile d’Oléron has thousands of hectares of untouched marshlands and abundant forests to explore on bike or on foot.
Offering up a slice of island life, the humble sand spit has a bustling seafaring history. Explore the capital of Saint Pierre d’Oléron or drive on to the port side towns on the western tip and feast your eyes on the picturesque villages, meandering through forests and vineyards on your way.
Never left wondering where to eat, Ile d’Oléron is famed for its local gastronomy and as one of many oyster cultivators on the Atlantic strip. Stop off at one of their signature, brightly coloured shacks that offer up regional delicacies like mimosa infused herbs, locally sourced sea salt, fresh seafood and fruity wines.
A sandy walkway leads to a blue flag beach on the Ile d'Oléron | © OT Ile d’Oléron
La Rochelle – Île de Ré (1 h 16 min)
Pharmacie De Bonnemie, Route des Mirouelles, 17310 Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron.
La Poste, 4 Rue du Général de Gaulle, 17310 Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron.
Taxi Saulnier Anthony, 1 Rue des Tonilles, 17550 Dolus-d'Oléron.
ParkingWhilst hopping over to the sunny island is free of charge, parking isn't. We recommend cycling or public transport in lieu of the trusty fourwheeler due to the congestion and lack of available parking at the beach front. If you do want to park, tariffs start at 2€ per hour at the seafront and free parking can be found around the city limits up and down the island.
A five hour limit for parking at the beach and over enthusiastic traffic wardens during summer can land you in hot water and a wad of fines if you’re not careful. The cheapest and easiest solution is to ditch the car all together and use the island’s free beach bus that ferries holiday makers all over the island. Alternatively, Ile d’Oléron has many kilometres of good cycle paths that meander along the coast and can be a great way to get out and explore the island.
With strategically placed hire shops dotted the length of the island, 17 Velos is the most convenient and affordable bike rental company. Found in six prime locations in and out of major towns, the local hire shop offers a click and collect service, pick up and drop off from major campsites and the freedom to change or repair your bike at any of their shops. Choose between a range of bikes at competitive rates including: beach cruisers, road bikes, mountain bikes, tandems, kids bikes, trailers, child seats and a selection of handy accessories.
Île d'Oléron Activities
Superb sea kayaking on the east side of the Ile d’Oléron | © OT Ile d’Oléron
With sand banks and barrels to suit everyone, Ile d’Oléron is renowned as a great spot for surfing thanks to its tremendously varying wind and tide conditions that offer something to satisfy all water sports fans. Seasoned pros can head out to la pointe de Chassiron, a reliable rocky spot with frequent waves or surf the renowned sheltered spot in SaintDenisd’Oléron at la pointe des Boulassiers. Learners can take advantage of the sheltered bays with lapping waves on the south side of the island. Learn the basics with local surf school, Kabana surf who offer lessons and hire for groups and individuals on the Grand VillagePlage.
Consistent westerly winds blow in from the Bay of Biscay all year round and with its 30 km of wide sandy beaches, île d’Oleron is a hotspot for kitesurfing on France’s Atlantic coast. Oléron Kitesurf based in Village de Sauzelle offer taster sessions from 50 € or introductory lessons from 3 hours to 15 hours from 100 €.
Blessed with a unique microclimate and immense, smooth sandy beaches, Ile d’Oléron is considered one of the best places for sand yachting in France. Accessible to everyone, the high velocity sport which can top speeds of 60kmh is practiced up and down the coast, with associations and hire companies operating at Dolusd’Oléron, Grand Village Plage and Saint Trojan les Bains beaches. Try your hand at a spot of land yachting with Diabolo Fun who offer group lessons from September onwards at €28 per hour.
Boasting a diverse geography between sea and marshland, canoeing or kyaking are the best ways to experience Ile d’Oléron’s rich protected nature reserves. Traverse the channels and marshes around Boyardville, La Brée les Bains, Châteaud’Oléron and GrandVillagePlage to see some of France’s most beautiful bird wildlife and native flora and fauna. Take a group trip around the nature reserves, oyster farms, sheltered coves and open ocean with a two hour guided tour from local excursion specialists, Sur Une Ile.
With a network of around 100 miles of cycle tracks winding between marshes, forest and sea front, cycling is the best way to experience the island. Take a day trip to the lighthouse at Le Phare de Chassiron in SaintDenis, pedal through the Saumonards forest at Boyardville or discover the marshes around the Château d’Oléron in the south of the island. Easy to navigate, the many cycle lanes around the island are flat and smooth with picnic areas and oyster huts available along the way for cheap and easy midday snacking.
With several mooring points all over the island, you can take part in the island’s long history as a famous maritime destination. Oléron has 3 harbours (Le Douhet, Boyardville and SaintDenis d’Oléron) which are available for personal and rented boats. The east coast of the island has the most favourable conditions for first timers, with the Marennes basin and the other side of Oléron more challenging for expert sailors. From dinghies to ships, take to the seas with numerous skipper schools and cruise excursions available up and down the coast. Get your sea legs with Wind Oléron and their Catamaran lessons for groups and individuals at Perroche bay on the west coast of the island.
Where to stay
Nestled in the heart of MarennesOléron in PoitouCharentes, Laguna Lodge is built on the foundations of a 17th century farm. A gorgeous Spanish style villa with its own white sandy lagoon, this is an otherworldly experience that teams the privacy of villa living with all the five-star perks of a top hotel. Offering ten independent self catering villas, the unique holiday resort borders a 2000m purposebuilt Balinese lagoon with white sand and traditional pavilions which look out to the breathtaking view over the marshlands and the Tower of Broue, a relic of an 11th century fortified castle.
27 Rue de la Bergère, 17320 Saint-Just-Luzac. Tel +33 (0)5 46 85 01 02
Set in an unspoilt alcove on the most westerly point of the island, Village Chassiron is a collection of rustic chic traditional Romany trailers and themed accommodation options sleep inside a quaint powder blue trailer or even, the inside of an old boat! A weird and wonderful gem, the enchanting paradise sits 300 metres from the closest beach and is renowned as a bird watching mecca as it is located right under the migration root for seasonal birds. Sleeping 25 per accommodation option, these self catering cabins are a welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of city living.
17 rue des Pérots, 17650 Saint Denis d’Oléron. Tel +33 (0)5 46 76 80 56
Ecolodge – Signol Camping
A five-sleeper stilted tent overlooking the forest, this fashionable glamping option situated in the Signol camping site is a quiet and serene twist on traditional camping. Removed from the larger campsite, this canvas safari tent adds some well deserved luxury to your camping experience. Fully catered, switch to insideout living thanks to its fully equipped kitchen and panoramic terracecumdining area. An into the wild experience without any of the discomfort, sit back and relax with the local cicadas in the trees and the faint sound of the ocean before you.
121 Avenue des Albatros, 17190 Saint-Georges d’Oléron. Tel +33 (0)2 51 20 41 94
Au Calme des Figuiers
A romantic setting for lovestruck couples, this threestar chambre d’hote set in a classic blue clapboard villa with a quaint garden and friendly service is a charming alternative to camping and hotels. Newly renovated, ‘Au calme des Figuiers’ is located just in the middle of Oléron Island half way between le viaduct and le phare de Chassiron, in the little town of St Pierre d’Oléron. A peaceful getaway with all those little luxuries a holiday deserves, embrace the serenity of this beautiful villa and explore the surrounding town and beach just a stone’s throw away.
39 avenue de Bonnemie 17310 Saint-Pierre d’Oléron. Tel +33 (0)6 78 92 84 09
Where to eat
Le Jour Du PoissonA contemporary yet rustic fish restaurant, Le Jour du Poisson offers up gastronomic delights straight from the sea to your plate. A seasonal menu offering up regional delicacies and traditional dishes, this is great food at sensible prices. Choose between simple filleted fish caught off the straights of the island, or go for something a little more exotic like creamy shrimp risotto. A down to earth place that prides itself on first class grub and friendly hospitality, discover this little gem down a side road in St Denis. 3 rue de l'Ormeau,17650, Saint Denis d'Oléron. Tel +33 (0)5 46 75 76 21 [hr]
KilucruA transcontinental fusion of east meets west, this contemporary sushi restaurant takes traditional Japanese recipes and adds a French twist for a lip smacking contrast of freshly caught fish and exotic flavours. Choose between classic dishes like maki, sushi, sashimi and wakamé or go for their taster menu and try something new. A fair price for hand rolled sushi, dinner for two costs around €50. Take a break from traditional fish restaurants and come taste this exciting fusion food right in the heart of St Pierre d'Oléron. 77 Rue du Port, 17310 St Pierre d'Oléron. Tel +33 (0)5 46 75 21 65 [hr]
Les Poissons RougesNestled in between the sleeping oyster huts on the lazy port of Saint Trojan les Bains sits a night time delight, Les Poissons Rouges. Offering grandma's recipes with a modern twist, this new restaurant has all the foodies talking. Offering an extensive menu of classic dishes like the humble oyster platter, to creative Thai shrimp and cognac langoustines, Les Poissons Rouges bridges the gap between old and new French cuisine, creating a mouth watering marriage of fresh produce and even fresher ideas. Quai Raoul Coulon Le Port, 17370 Saint Trojan les Bains. Tel +33 (0)5 46 76 00 04 [hr]
La GuitouneA family-feel restaurant specialising in mussels and heartwarming classics, this delightful ramshackle restaurant is a firm favourite with locals, serving up unpretentious surf and turf style dishes locally sourced from neighbouring fishermen and butchers. Tuck into scrumptious côte de beouf with lashings of chips, sky high moules mariniere, juicy beef burgers and seafood salads – all at prices that won't break the bank. 59 Avenue de la Malconche, 17190 Saint Georges d'Oleron. Tel +33 (0)5 46 76 58 38
Where to drink
A cool and contemporary barcumrestaurant in SaintGeorgesd’Oléron, this Balinese inspired bar is a whitewashed ode to the tropical islands, offering exotic cocktails and regional tapas on the port. Boasting a sophisticated décor and a well heeled clientele, this is the perfect place to star gaze over a bottle of crisp white or a punchy cocktail. Lay back on one of their Lazy Boy bean-bags and relaxed to one of the many acoustic acts that play during early evening in summer.
1119 avenue de la Durandière, au Port du Douhet, SaintGeorgesd’Oléron. Tel +33 (0)5 46 85 60 48
A cheap and chic local’s haunt loved not just for its nightlife, but for its standout cuisine as well. The perfect pit stop after a day exploring the port, take a load off and bask in the sunlight on their rigged terrace with a beer in one hand and an assortment of tapas in front of you. Known for its live music scene that pulls in a mixed crowd from all over the island, choose your nights wisely as their weekly music gigs are a standing room only affair.
Avenue du port, Le Château d’Oléron. Tel +33 (0)6 65 31 25 86
An après-surf hangout right on the shore, this reclaimed beach shack is the hottest spot for after sun pints and rubbing shoulders with the locals. Renowned as a popular bar for professional surfers and salty haired babes, this unpretentious beach bar is the alternative place to be come sunset. Offering up seafood tapas and reasonably priced drinks, during summer this small sandy community is a cultural hotbed off laid back holiday makers and friendly natives.
Plage des Huttes, 17650, Saint Denis d’Oléron. Tel +33 (0)5 46 47 98 97
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your trip to the Île d’Oléron, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Happy holidays!
About the author
Self-confessed foodie and outdoor sports aficionado, Aimée Whistler has been scoping out hidden gems across France for over five years. From shredding backcountry powder to savouring the finest backyard cuisine, get first-hand suggestions from Active Azur’s most committed Francophile.