Oléron, the ultimate nature destination, located 1h from La Rochelle and 1h15 from Cognac, is also an island infused with its past. Cardinal Richelieu gifted it with a citadel, Napoleon Bonaparte had Fort Boyard built here .
Wander across the island and discover its many other treasures
The seasoned tourist is familiar, of course, with the famous creators’ village at Château d’Oléron, but, you need to head off deeper inland on the island, to Dolus d’Oléron, to discover other talents. On the small port of La Baudissière, 14 artists and craftspeople have also restored former oyster farmers’ huts and set up their workshops and exhibition galleries. The vibrantly-colourful string of huts along the edge of the channel invites to admire highly-original, exclusive creations.
Once you filled up on 100% local wares, a stop-off at the beach is a must. And when the tourist season is in full swing, it’s great to get away from the crowds. The discreet, wild Nouette Beach is a gem if you wish to be alone. Nouette, fringed by the National Saumonards Forest, is definitely worth the effort to get to. Its fine sand, its crystal-clear water and its oyster beds creating checkered patterns over the water appear as if by magic after a few dozen minutes' walk through the forest along the bridle path.
In dinosaurs’ footsteps
Exploring the island also means pursuing the adventure to Chassiron Lighthouse. Here, traces of dinosaurs were discovered a few years ago. Since his childhood days, Dominique Abit, lighthouse operator, has spent time strolling across the cliffs of Saint-Denis d’Oléron looking for fossils. “We came across loads of traces and remains of dinosaurs”, states the man who created the association Dinoléron. In 2011, an excavation site was officially set up and has since led to the excavation of pieces of dinosaur dating back 150 million years, analysed by palaeontologists.
It was also a passion for the past and the desire to breathe new life into a tradition which led Amandine Glinche and her partner, Guillaume Bonnati, to take over the Cristal du Saunier salt plant. This holding, located along the Perrotine Channel, between Sauzelle and Boyardville, was rehabilitated three years ago after decades of neglect. Since then, the new salt farmers have been perpetuating the tradition in this historic salt village, and ensure their products are of exceptional quality.