Fort Boyard depuis l'île d'Oléron

Island delights

Oléron, Ré, Aix, Madame… Charente's four beautiful islands, emerging in the middle of the Pertuis d’Antioche, just off the coast, boast one-of-a-kind personalities despite their closeness. A portrait of these sisters as perfect individuals with their strong characters.

They're known as miniscule and luminous, they're said to be chic, wild and popular, you reach them by boat, by a viaduct and even by walking at low tide, they're neighbours and isolated, occasionally rivals, yet inseparable. The four Charente islands, officially meeting the characteristics of an archipelago, appear sometimes more inclined to advocate their singularity than to highlight their kinship. These ties are undeniable however, as seen by just how much their "carrelets" fishing huts, their hollyhocks, their more or less impressive forts, their oyster beds and their salt marshes resemble each other. Their geological bedrock, declared as identical, is indeed a shared element, that can be traced back to the secondary and tertiary eras of the Bassin Aquitain. They bathe in the same water of the Pertuis d'Antioche that laps around them, whose name conjures up the times when Knights Templar departed from Saintes and Rochefort, heading for the conquered principality in Byzantine territory.
These Charente islands, never very far from the continental coastline - less than a kilometre for the closest and around six for the most distant - can in no way be mixed up. They boast considerable morphological differences, immediately perceived through their sizes, which varies from 0.78 km2 for the smallest (Île Madame) to 174.39 km2 for the largest (Île d'Oléron), and have developed distinctive characters down through the ages.

rochefort-ocean-ile-madame-ferme-aquacole-cheval © Marika Domenici - OT Rochefort Ocean-800

Île Madame, the smallest island and the closest to the Charente coastline, is without a doubt also the wildest and the one that's changed the least. It can be accessed via a tombolo, a pebbly bar, known as the "Passe aux Bœufs", visible at low tide, and features a handful of buildings yet is the only uninhabited island.

Plage Ile d'Oléron

At the other end of the size scale we discover the large Oléron (174 km2, versus 0.78 for Île Madame), which reigns as the second most populated island in metropolitan France - behind Corsica. It was the first to have been equipped with a bridge, in 1966, it is also the most urbanized, yet has preserved its double advantage of its long beaches and oyster-farming wealth. This rather popular and casual island is traditionally opposed to the presumed snobbishness of Île de Ré. Because, according to proponents of the two islands, which form the boundaries of the Pertuis d'Antioche, Oléron and Ré have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Yet, this is not exactly right because, in addition to the similarities mentioned above, they see each other with a good eye. This aside, we should mention that when the fine weather comes around, it actually cyclically sets them increasingly apart. Ré and Oléron, state some of the natives, are like Cap Ferret and Andernos. Or, for those who don't understand regional references: they're like Saint-Tropez and Palavas. Basically, it feels like a Mediterranean exaggeration. No kidding…

saint-martin-vue-du-ciel-RETOUCHE©DESTINATION ILE DE RE-Yann Werdefroy-800

Île de Ré, half the size of its southern sister, and more recently attached to the continent by its bridge (1988), has probably kept its island identity more, which has charmed holidaymakers envious of a particular art of living. Philippe Solers, Lionel Jospin and Fabrice Lucchini are among the VIPs who own houses on the island, famous thanks to the song by Nougaro.

rochefort-ocean-ile-aix-plage-anse-croix-phare © Julie Paulet - OT Rochefort Ocean-800

Those who shun all signs of ostentation prefer to find solace on Aix. The island, which is small yet not tiny, located roughly in the centre of the Pertuis d'Antioche, is seventy times smaller than Ré. It can only be accessed by boat and is generally presented as the most secretive and most authentic island. Like its neighbours, it fosters its reputation cult status. Each island carefully cherishes the specific charms that rumours endow them with.

Carnet d’adresses iliennes

Port de la Flotte en soirée - Ile de Ré

Getting there by boat :
• Service maritime de l’île d’Aix à Fouras - Tél. 05 46 41 76 24
• Croisières inter-îles – Tél 05 46 50 55 54 www.inter-iles.com
• Croisières Alizé à La Tremblade - Tél. 05 46 85 63 09 ou 06 62 68 81 69
• Croisières Fourasines à Port-des-Barques et Rochefort - Tél.05 46 84 02 42 ou 06 17 92 81 65
• Navipromer à La Rochelle - Tél.05 46 01 52 96 ou 06 08 31 04 62

Sleeping in style :
• La Maison Douce 25 rue Merindot à Saint-Martin-de-Ré – Tél. 05 46 09 20 20
• Les Jardins d’Aliénor 11 rue du Maréchal Foch au Château-d'Oléron – Tél.05 46 76 48 30
• Hôtel Napoléon Rue Gourgaud à l’Île-d'Aix – Tél.05 46 84 00 77

Sleeping casually :
• Le Poulailler de l'Ile de Ré 5 rue Etienne d'Hastrel à Saint-Martin-de-Ré – Tél.07 70 59 03 47
• Le Square Hôtel 2 Place des Anciens Combattants à Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron – Tél. 05 46 47 00 35
• La Maison Familiale Rue Marengo à l’Île-d'Aix – Tél.05 16 84 91 56

Eating :
• Chez Mamelou - Route des Huîtres, Chenal de la Baudissière à Dolus-d'Oléron – Tél. 05 46 75 44 41
• Les Poissons Rouges Port de Saint-Trojan-les-Bains – Tél.05 46 76 00 04
• Le Drugstore 5 Place de la République au Château d’Oléron – Tél.05 46 85 02 66
• L'Ecailler Quai Senac Port de La Flotte en Ré – Tél. 05 46 09 56 40
• Cabanajam Chemin du Chaffaud Le Vert Clos à Saint-Martin de Ré – Tél.05 46 66 45 89
• Ferme Aquacole de L'Ile Madame – Tél.05 46 84 12 67
• Le Bar Beau Teint rue Gourgaud à l’Île-d'Aix – Tél.05 46 82 59 11 ou 06 65 15 59 38

Visiting :
• Site ostréicole de Fort Royer - La Perrotine (à côté de Boyarville) à Saint-Pierre d’Oléron - Tél.05 46 47 06 48
• Le Grain de Sel d’Oléron à La Brée Les Bains (Oléron) Visite du marais salant commentée par le saunier – Tél.05 46 76 86 79
• Cabanes d’artistes : Couleurs Cabanes au Château d’Oléron Tél. 06 89 71 25 69 – • Cabanes de la Baudissière Chenal de la Baudissière - Route des Huîtres à Dolus d'Oléron
• Le Phare des Baleines 155, route du Phare à Saint-Clément-des-Baleines (Ré) -
Tél.05 46 29 18 23
• Ecomusée du Marais Salant - Route de la Passe à Loix – Tél.05 46 29 06 77
• Réserve Naturelle du Lilleau des Niges Le Vieux Port aux Portes-en-Ré - Tél.05 46 29 50 74
• Musée de la Nacre Place de l'Eglise à l’Île-d'Aix – Tél.05 46 84 66 17

Leisure activities :
• Vélo 17 - 111 Avenue de Bel Air à Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron – Tél.05 46 47 14 05
• Aloha canoë Oléron - Chenal de la Pérotine - La Saurine (entre Boyarville et Sauzelle) à Saint-Georges d'Oléron – Tél.06 61 69 75 78
• Maison de la nature de l’île d’Oléron 2 route des Huîtres au Château-d’Oléron – Tél.05 46 47 72 77 www.oleron-maison-nature.org
• Absolument Canoë 13 bis rue de la Fantaisie à Loix (Ré)– Tél.06 08 31 44 01 ou 05 46 29 07 91

Ile d'Oléron 

RELATED
ARTICLES 

Île d’Oléron, ever-so popular with tourists during the summer for its unspoilt nature, also abounds in heritage...

It's the last week of the Easter holidays, and I've decided to give my grandchildren (aged 4 and 8) and their parents, a...

Looking for a holiday that manages to do active and relaxing all in one? Rendez-vous 2.5km from the village of Dolus...

Although Dordogne is much better known for its castles and gastronomy, it has a wealth of incredibly enchanting gardens...

Here are a few thrills-guaranteed getaway ideas for everyone, an invitation to discover Nouvelle-Aquitaine from the sky....

Welcome to a region where you can enjoy incredible fishing, one of the richest in France with its 5,000 km of waterways,...

RELATED
ARTICLES 

Île d’Oléron, ever-so popular with tourists during the summer for its unspoilt nature, also abounds in heritage...

It's the last week of the Easter holidays, and I've decided to give my grandchildren (aged 4 and 8) and their parents, a...

Looking for a holiday that manages to do active and relaxing all in one? Rendez-vous 2.5km from the village of Dolus...

Although Dordogne is much better known for its castles and gastronomy, it has a wealth of incredibly enchanting gardens...

Here are a few thrills-guaranteed getaway ideas for everyone, an invitation to discover Nouvelle-Aquitaine from the sky....

Welcome to a region where you can enjoy incredible fishing, one of the richest in France with its 5,000 km of waterways,...