L’île de Ré, nicknamed “The French Hamptons.”
More “exclusive” than Noirmoutier, l’île de Ré, is often compared to the Hamptons: a summer destination for the wealthy. Generations come together every summer in the family home, catching up, organizing dinners, and enjoying aperitifs in front of the sunset. More than an island, for some, l’île de Ré is a French tradition.
Here are a few fun facts about the history of this island! Originally, l’île de Ré was not an island, but rather an archipelago combining four little isles: Saint Martin, Loix, Les Portes-en-Ré, and Ars. Over the course of time, the four isles connected which gave birth to the island we all know today. Possessing a rich and cultivable land, the French, English, and German fought over the island. But, the wars greatly impacted the commercial exchanges which disabled l’île de Ré’s economy, fortunately, tourism took over as the island’s main source of income. Today, you can visit the monuments that are witnesses to Ré’s interesting history.
HOW TO GET THERE
The island of Ré lies between Nantes and Bordeaux, and is connected to the continent by an impressive bridge. From Paris, it is approximately a 5-hour drive and from Bordeaux, two hours. By train, La Rochelle is the closest train station, and from there a bus serves the whole island.
This island is an 85 km jewel and has so much to offer. L’ile de Ré attracts vacationers through its charm, bright-colored towns, and landscapes.
Le Phare des Baleines
155 Allée du Phare, 17590 Saint-Clément-des-Baleines
Located at the tip of the island, le Phare des Baleines is a must-see. More than 50 feet high, the lighthouse offers a full panoramic view of the island and its surroundings. Built in 1849 by the architect Reynaud, le Phare des Baleines is considered to be one of the highest lighthouses in France. Its name – The Whale Lighthouse – was inspired by the fact that numerous whales washed up on the coasts before construction. In 2012, the lighthouse was publicly declared a historical monument. Aside from visiting it, you can take a stroll in the garden, and who knows, even go for a swim.
Visiting the island’s towns
L’île de Ré is home to 10 colorful, and charming towns. From Rivedoux to Les Portes-en-Ré, discover all these wonderful, yet different villages, scattered along the coastline. Much like Noirmoutier, l’île de Ré is a great destination for cycling enthusiasts. The island is covered with bicycle lanes, which lets you explore easily, and without danger. If you wish to discover the island’s history, Saint Martin is the best choice as it is the most historical town. For the best beaches, we suggest going to Rivedoux, and le Bois-Plage as the swim is pleasant at both high and low tide, and the beaches are incredible. For night owls, La Couarde and Saint Martin are your best bets. Animation roams the streets at night, as well as a great ambiance! The lively towns also hold some great open-air markets!
Whether you prefer a seaside restaurant, or a festive bar, l’île de Ré encompasses everything. Here are our top choices.
La Cabane des huîtres de Trousse-Chemise
Route de la Levée Verte, 17880 Les Portes-en-Ré
This little seaside bar is worth the detour. Set in a bucolic scenery, the oyster bar is the perfect destination if you wish to be in complete harmony with nature. As you first step into Frank Moreau’s bar, its eco-friendly nature will astonish you. Everything is made from recycled materials, as the owner has a no-plastic policy. At lunch or dinner, enjoy seafood dishes, such as: oysters, shrimps, bulots…etc. Feet in the sand, overlooking beautiful wildlife, and magical sunsets; doesn’t it sound like a dream? If you wish to dine in a local, and festive seafood bar, this is the spot!
4 Quai Nicolas Baudin, 17410 Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Established more than 35 years ago in Saint Martin, La Sarrasine is known as the family-friendly place around the corner. Its grand reputation is reason enough to dine there. Enjoy a delicious sweet or salty crêpe on their terrace, overlooking Saint Martin’s famous harbor. The price points are very reasonable, and the personnel is detail-oriented to ensure the best service possible. Mainly crêpes are displayed on the menu, as well as: andouillette, grilled entrecôte…etc. The best part? Dessert, and a la carte: sweet crepes only filled with local products (salted caramel, artisanal jam, and even home-made spread.)
32 Route de Joachim, 17670 La Couarde-sur-Mer
La Pergola is the “hidden” bar adored by locals of all ages. This festive little spot acts as both a nightclub and a bar. It is THE place to go if you want a fun night out! Opened since 1936, great grand-parents, aunts, uncles, and parents have been there to dance, drink, and have a great time. Located near the Pergola beach and the town’s center, it is ideally placed. Composed of two open-air bars, and a lounge, La Pergola is the typical bar we need (and love) when on vacation. The multiple DJs play all kinds of music which only enhances the great atmosphere!!
10 Quai Launay Razilly, 17410 Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Located on Saint-Martin’s harbor, Le Cervane is a great choice to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the town. Locally renowned for its delicious tapas, home-made fries, and great wines, enjoy a glass of wine with a charcuterie, or cheese board. Built in 1987, this bar is a long-standing tradition for the locals, and has seen many things. On the outdoor terrace overlooking the harbor, Le Cervane is a great little spot if you wish to be in the center of the towns light-hearted ambiance.
The island offers many types of accommodation: bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, camping sites…etc. Everything depends on which town you prefer staying in. Every little village has its advantages, and charms.
Hotel le Vieux Gréement
13 Impasse Grande Rue, 17670 La Couarde-sur-Mer
Set at the heart of the island, in La Couarde, you will find the hotel at the end of a charming cobblestone road. Ideally placed, everything is within walking or bicycling distance. 19 spacious, and refined rooms are at your disposal, each uniquely decorated with an enchanting view on the town’s square. Comprising of an interior patio- rich in vegetation – and the perfect location; Le Vieux Gréement is a true oasis for any vacationer.
La Villa Clarisse
5 Rue du Général Lapasset, 17410 Saint-Martin-de-Ré
This charming villa perfectly embodies the spirit of the island: intimate and historical. Childhood home of the French hero – Ferdinand Lapasset – the villa was a private mansion until the 18th century, when it was converted into a beautiful hotel. Composed of numerous modern rooms, a romantic patio, a heated open-air pool, and an overall white theme; the hotel’s atmosphere is none other than peaceful. The gardens – realized by the famous architect Louis Benech – inscribe the hotel in a poetic setting with a touch of nature. Another great advantage is its location at the center of Saint Martin. Between the harbor, and the ancient church, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, La Villa Clarisse promises a relaxing getaway.
Eve stays on the island nearly every summer.