Summer on the Île d’Oléron

After a looooong winter and what seems to have been a short spring, we’re now in the middle of summer! Mid-July to mid-August is when everything shuts down in France and it seems like all of France is on vacation. A popular summer destination is the Atlantic coast. Sitting off the coast of the France is the Île d’Oléron, or Oleron Island, the largest island off the French Atlantic coast.

Location of the Île d’Oléron (Oleron Island)
Courtesy of Apple Maps

I had never heard of this large island before. It was recommended to me by my Physical Therapist, who told me that the island was less touristy and cheaper than its more-famous neighbor island, Île de Ré, but was equally well-known for their salt and oysters. Once my PT said “oysters”, I was all in!

Although the Île d’Oléron is an island, it’s very close to the coast of France and takes just about a 10 minute drive over a bridge from the mainland. Unlike Île d’Ré, there is no charge to cross the bridge. Here are some of our highlights from this island:

Le Château d’Oléron

I’m saving the best for…well…first! This was the first place we visited and my favorite. Despite its name, a château no longer exists in the town called Le Château d’Oléron. Go figure. What there is is a citadel built in the early to mid-17th century over the ruins of a medieval château. It was built to protect Cardinal Richelieu from his nearby town of Rochefort. Damaged during World War II, there isn’t too much that remains.

The citadel, not the château at Le Château d’Oléron
These guys have been guarding this citadel a little too long, methinks…
The Tour de France was going to pass by here the week after our visit, so they had all these bikes all over the place

My favorite part of the town was the oyster port. These little shacks were once places for oyster farmers, but have now been converted into colorful shops, art galleries and restaurants. It was fun to stroll through these streets and roads, occasionally stopping in shops to buy salt and other gifts.

One of the bridges has these oyster shells with written messages

Saint Pierre d’Oléron

Can I recommend a town just for a restaurant? Because I’m willing to do that for De l’île aux papilles! This restaurant, well-recommended by a friend, was absolutely worth the stop into this town. If you do go, making reservations is necessary. We tried to go there on Sunday afternoon to make reservations for Sunday evening, but nope, there was nothing available. Thankfully we were staying for a few days, so they were able to accommodate us the following Wednesday for lunch. We’re so happy to we made the drive back into this town. The restaurant purposefully has a short menu so they can focus on what they do have. Everything is locally sourced from the island or the surrounding area, as can be seen on a map in the restaurant or on their website. The name of the restaurant means “from the island to the taste buds” (it sounds so much better in French), but it’s true – our taste buds came out of that meal very happy!

This is where I discovered the wonderful taste of tarragon. I loved it so much that I bought a tarragon plant when I returned home.

Boyardville

So I have to be honest – we’re not really beach people. Sure, I love the beach and I love to see it, but I would rarely spend all day there. However, after a meal like what we just had, we didn’t want to do much else but lay on the beach to let our food digest. The beautiful beach of Boyardville allowed us to do just that.

We had a 5-10 minute walk through these trees to get to the beach
One of the beaches near Boyardville. Fort Boyard, built in the 1800’s under Napoleon, can be seen in the distance. It’s now well-known as the site for a famous French game show of the same name.

Saint Denis d’Oléron

Saint-Denis lies at the northern tip of the Île d’Oléron. Here you can view the unique black and white lighthouse and the crashing waves of the sea below.

La Cotinière

This was a cute little town on the western coast of the island. Sadly we got here a little too late to explore the town, but we were not too late to have dinner here! We were intending to visit a fish ‘n chips stand, but on our way there from the parking lot, we were diverted to this cute little restaurant called Local with cute patio seating and a seafood bar right outside. I got a seafood platter and it was so much food! These platters are usually for one person, but I don’t see how one person could possibly eat all of it. I tried my hardest, though. My mom did the unusual thing of ordering lamb at a seafood restaurant, but she said that it was one of the best she’s ever had!

The seafood platter, full of shrimp, crab, oysters and whelks.

If you like beaches, oysters and fresh seafood, I highly recommend checking out the Île d’Oléron. It’s also bike-friendly, if you’re into that (we’re not). There are also many wineries – although we didn’t get a chance to check them out, I tried some of the local wine at the restaurants and they were great. I particularly liked Le Grain Marin, an organic white wine from the local winery Favre et Fils. I would love to visit their winery the next time I return to Île d’Oléron.

So that’s it for the Île d’Oléron! Coming up next on the blog: My visits to Oléron’s more well-known cousin, the Île de Ré, La Rochelle and the area of La Tremblade!

Until next time,

S


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One response to “Summer on the Île d’Oléron

  1. Pingback: Île de Ré: A Beautiful Island with Plenty of History | Je Parle Franglais·

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