Exploring The Exclusive Vendée Islands Part III: Île d’Oléron

L’île d’Oléron, the picturesque party island.

L’île d’Oléron is the biggest isle among all of the Vendée islands. Nicknamed “The Luminous Island,” l’île d’Oléron is well-known for its stunning beaches, postcard-style landscapes, and endless cycling lanes. Numerous groups of friends rent houses to enjoy the island’s many advantages. On the agenda: nautical sports, bar outings, and many encounters guaranteed!

Here is a little history on this island: in the beginning, l’île d’Oléron was inhabited by wild animals and covered with forests. As time passed, the island was dominated by several different countries, including: France, and England which led to turbulent times. It is only after the 1793 Revolution that oyster culture and vine cultivation started to develop on Oléron. From 1940, the island was under German occupation until it was freed in April 1945. You can visit the monument that was built in commemoration of the Oléron’s liberation.

HOW TO GET THERE

There are three options to reach the island.

By car, l’île d’Oléron is approximately a five-hour ride from Paris. You can also take the bus or the train where the voyage is cut in half as you will have to change trains at La Rochelle. Expect a four-hour train ride in total.

Finally, for bus travelers, board at Paris Bercy, change buses at La Rochelle, and you will reach your desired destination… 10 hours later!

SEE

30 km long, l’île d’Oléron – like all the other Vendée lslands – is great for cycling fans. Lighthouses, museums, fishing harbors, 200 km of cycling lanes; the island is a true paradise both during summer and autumn. The climate of the island is very mild, which makes the experience even better.

La Citadelle du Chateau d’Oléron

17480 Le Château-d'Oléron, France

This is a must-see if you are ever on this island! Newly restored, the citadel is at the origin of the influx of tourists. Built in 1630 under the direction of Richelieu, the edifice had a defensive purpose. Later on, the citadel served as a prison during the 1685 Revolution, and in 1945 it was partly destroyed in a bombing raid. Today, the citadel hosts concerts and art exhibitions. One-hour guided tours are offered to experience this impressive former fortress.

The entrance of the fortress
The entrance of the fortress. FACEBOOK La citadelle du Château-d’Oléron

Le Port des Salines

Rue des Anciennes Salines, 17370 Le Grand-Village-Plage, France

Located at the heart of the island, Le Port des Salines is a harbor completely dedicated to the history of salt culture. It is the perfect occasion to buy some artisanal products and meet local artisans. We suggest taking a guided tour to fully enjoy this experience. Big bonus: at the end of the tour, you have the opportunity to taste the locally produced salt. Other activities are offered, such as: a tour of the salt marshes cabins, a boat ride to admire the flora and fauna of the region, and much more. Colorful, original, and historical; Le Port des Salines is a must-see to understand the island’s history, and the saunier’s interesting work.

Le port des Salines
Le port des Salines. FACEBOOK Le Port des Salines

EAT

Oléron is immensely popular among the French youth. Each summer, bars and nightclubs have their usual clients that return while everything is immersed in a great atmosphere! If you are searching for a fun-filled summer vacation, this is the island to visit!

Le Relais des Salines

Village Pêcheurs, 17370 Le Grand-Village-Plage

This charming little seaside bistro is the best spot to enjoy some fresh, and local seafood. Set in a former ostreiculture (oyster farming) cabana, have a seat on the terrace for a breathtaking view of the marshes. The cuisine is creative, and every dish is meticulously prepared. A la carte: hake, mussels and fries, fresh oysters, and much more. Try the round of roasted whiting and colonnata, it will leave you satiated! Pair the dish with a great wine from the restaurant’s extensive list, and you have a great meal for a reasonable price!

Le Relais des Salines on the marshes
Le Relais des Salines on the marshes. FACEBOOK Le Relais des Salines
The round of roasted whiting and colonnata
The round of roasted whiting and colonnata. FACEBOOK Le Relais des Salines

De l’île aux papilles

Angle de la Place Camille Mémain17310, Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

You have to know this spot to find it! Hidden behind the town square in a narrow alley, lies De l’île aux papilles. With a purely home-made cuisine using only local products, you will taste delectable dishes, such as: beef carpaccio with goat cheese, hack filet, quinoa and langoustine emulsion, fish filet with shellfish risotto, and numerous more. Chef Riandière brings a touch of freshness to the plates. The restaurant has another advantage: its eco-friendly nature! “Gourmet bags” are offered if you haven’t finished a meal or your bottle of wine, the remaining water is used to water the plants, and almost half of the furniture was created by local artisans. Green, hidden, and delicious; what more is there to want?

The restaurant's entrance
The restaurant’s entrance. FACEBOOK De l’île aux papilles
Verbena, lemon, and strawberry cake with sorbet
Verbena, lemon, and strawberry cake with sorbet. FACEBOOK De l’île aux papilles

Le Bus Stop

1bis Rue Aliénor d'Aquitaine, 17310 Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Set near the town square, Le Bus Stop welcomes you in a dynamic ambiance. Cocktails, beers, charcuterie boards, tapas; everything you need to have a festive night. Don’t let the bar’s appearance mislead you, the atmosphere is worth it! Bonus: Le Bus Stop is a great spot in summer as well as in winter when you can take a seat in its cosy retro lounge with some delicious hot drinks. On warmer evenings, enjoy the outdoor terrace with a mojito! The bar is the perfect place to sip on a drink while playing darts with friends. The staff is extremely attentive and friendly. Casual and upbeat, we highly recommend checking out this bar!

Le Bus Stop
Le Bus Stop. FACEBOOK Le Bus Stop

STAY

The island is fully equipped to welcome tourists. Either in a bed-and-breakfast or a cozy hotel, discover the choices we recommend.

Les Jardins d’Aliénor

7-11 Rue Du Marechal Foch, Le Château-dʼOléron

This elegant, but modest hotel is the gem of Oléron. Set in the center of the citadel, certain rooms have a remarkable view on the ocean. The ambiance of the hotel can be described in two simple words: soothing, and intimate. Les Jardins d’Aliénor offers eight simple rooms, fully equipped. The décor is a combination between modern and ancient, creating a refined touch. Either with children, family or just between friends; the hotel provides every type of room to make your stay easier. Equipped with a cozy patio, a massage parlor, and a lounge; Les Jardin d’Aliénor has everything you want (and need!) on vacation. In addition, the hotel is within walking distance to the beach, the Oléron Castle, and the town center. Book your room, rent some bicycles, and relax.

Les Jardin d’Aliénor main entrance
Les Jardin d’Aliénor main entrance. PHOTO Les Jardins d’Aliénor
The cute patio
The cute patio. PHOTO Les Jardins d’Aliénor

Le Grand Large

2 Avenue de l'Océan, 17550 Dolus-d'Oléron

Le Grand Large is the only four-star hotel on the whole island. Set in the middle of the dunes with a view on the ocean and the forest, it is the perfect opportunity to admire the wild nature of Oléron. It is located in the only area that wasn’t impacted by construction. With an indoor gym, a pool, a modern lounge, and a beautiful dinning room; Le Grand Large embodies the ideal peaceful retreat. As you first get a glimpse of the hotel, you can’t help but question the design choice. Why create a contemporary state-of-the-art hotel in such a simple place? The contrast between modern and modest is very well displayed, and you will eventually see the poetic side there is to this (bold) choice. Le Grand Large offers the perfect Vendéen getaway.

Eve stayed two weeks on the island.

Le Grand Large hotel
Le Grand Large hotel. FACEBOOK Hotel Le Grand Large
The pool overlooking the dunes and the beach
The pool overlooking the dunes and the beach. FACEBOOK Hotel Le Grand Large
Eve McGuardian

Contributor

Eve was born and raised in NYC and later on, moved to Paris. She grew up in an international home and is fluent in both French and English. Every chance she gets, she travels; either to discover a new culture or as a volunteer in an organization. The most memorable cities she has been to are: Ischia, a little island off the coast of Naples for the people, Istanbul for the culture, and Paris for the architecture.

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