Ile de Re Travel Guide
No wonder Ile de Re is the number one holiday destination for Parisians. Located over a causeway from the city of La Rochelle, this stunning French island oozes class whilst retaining its characterful charm. The white buildings sit beautifully against a backdrop of blue skies, and the pretty pink Holly Hocks add colour to the cobbled village lanes. If you think this sounds like the perfect holiday destination for you, then please read on to discover more about this beautiful, laidback island.
Getting There from the U.K.
Ile de Re is located just off the west coast of France and is accessed via a 3km bridge from the city of La Rochelle. The easiest way to travel there is to fly into La Rochelle Airport and then to hire a taxi over to the island. Alternatively, if travelling by car, the drive from Calais to Ile de Re is about 720km. To break this journey up, I’d highly recommend stopping off at the medieval city of Rouen. This beautiful city sits on the River Seine and offers so many historical attractions, along with a great variety of restaurants and bars. If staying there for only 24 hours, you’d definitely be spoiled for choice!
Getting Around the Island
Cycling is undoubtedly the best way to travel around Ile de Re. The island is almost completely flat, measures only 30km in length and 5km in width, and has 110km of easy cycling paths to enjoy. This makes it a great holiday destination for families; the children are quite happy to cycle along the designated flat paths, especially if they know there’ll be a beach (or an ice cream parlour!) at the end of it!
Ile de Re is filled with bike hire shops. We booked our bikes online, ahead of our visit, and can highly recommend the shop Beach Bikes. They have hire shops in most of the island’s villages, which is ideal if you need any bike maintenance whilst you’re out and about!
There are ten villages on the island of Ile de Re and all are connected by cycle paths. Here’s a quick summary of our three favourites:
Saint-Martin-de-Re: This is Ile de Re’s capital and is the preferred base for most. Not only is it very central but it’s also considered to be the heartbeat of the island, and probably the liveliest. People also stay here to enjoy its port, ramparts, beaches and abundance of shops and restaurants.
La Flotte: This medieval village is built around a beautiful, picturesque harbour which is filled with coffee shops and ice cream parlours. In the months of July and August, it also hosts a wonderful street market, with a huge variety of appetising local products.
Ars-en-Re: If you like antiques, then this is the place to visit! It’s full of bric-a-bracs and art galleries. It boasts the largest harbour on Ile de Re and is also known for its historical church with distinctive steeple.
Ile de Re is surrounded by white, sandy beaches which stretch for miles along the coastline. During our stay on the island, we managed to visit six and these were our three favourites:
Le Bois-Plage-en-Re: This gorgeous beach was perfect for spotting little hermit crabs. Our children loved waiting for the tide to go out and then catching (and subsequently releasing!) the little fellas. The beach was also relatively quiet when we visited (mid-July) so there was plenty of space for castle-building!
La Plage de la Cible: As we were staying in Saint-Martin-de-Re, this beach was right on our doorstep. It was probably the most popular beach we visited and we could definitely see why. The facilities were very good; with public toilets, a great beach restaurant / bar and several lifeguards. The kids also enjoyed the light breeze on this side of the island and relentlessly played wave-jumping!
Foret Domaniale-de-Re: This was a little treasure that we stumbled across on our last day. It was situated right next to a forest, which was great for offering shade on those warmer days. There’s quite a stretch of sand too, which is great if you fancy a lazy stroll whilst admiring an incredible view of the island’s coastline.
During the holiday season, most of the villages host a market in the morning. Every day, we would cycle to a different village, visit the market for some yummy local products and then taste them alongside our picnic on the local beach thereafter. The markets are all extremely colourful, offering an abundance of delicious foods, artisan crafts and local memorabilia. Out favourite market was in La Flotte as it led you through the medieval streets and then out onto the local harbour.
With amazing seafood, crisp white wine and incredible ice-cream and crepes on offer, you really are spoilt for choice with regards to eateries on the island. We tried our best to sample the cuisine (and drink!) of several establishments, but these were amongst our favourites:
Cote Jardin (Saint-Martin-de-Re): Great for an evening meal. The outside terrace was beautifully decorated and the service was great. The food was simple but very flavoursome.
George’s (Saint-Martin-de-Re): Great for a pre-dinner drink, looking out across the harbour. I’m sure this would also be a great spot to watch the sunset, whilst drinking excellent French wine. However, due to having two children in tow, we sadly never managed to experience this!
La Martiniere (La Flotte and Saint-Martin-de-Re): This cute café specialises in light French cuisine and is also famous on the island for its incredible ice-cream! We visited their cafes in both La Flotte and Saint-Martin-de-De. Their croque monsieur are also delicious – and served with a twist!