Pinail Nature Reserve
Located in northern Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Pinail National Nature Reserve lies between Poitiers and Châtellerault, around the town of Vouneuil-sur-Vienne, in the Vienne.
The 2km discovery trail will take you right to the heart of the unique landscape of the Brandes de Poitou. Between peat bogs, pools, moorland, and millstones, you’ll learn all about the history of the plant and wildlife you find along the trail.
In summer, guided tours run every Wednesday and Sunday from 5pm to 6.30pm, and monthly in the low season.
Located on the coastline of the Charentes, between La Rochelle and Rochefort, the 192 hectares of the Yves Marshes Nature Reserve are home to a diverse range of habitats: silty foreshore, marshland and reed beds, and wetland meadows... These are home to richly diverse flora and fauna, and lie on one of the main migration routes.
Guided walking and cycling tours.
The Dauges Peat Bog
30km north of Limoges, the Dauges Peat Bog Nature Reserve encompasses some 200 hectares and a number of natural habitats of historical interest: marsh, peat bogs, peat moorland, grassland, dry moorland, and woodland, including a remarkable beechwood and holly forest.
You can tour the reserve from the Visitors’ Centre, using a handheld computer provided by the local council for free: “Gpto”. It is filled with anecdotes, stories, and information about the main varieties of plant and wildlife you can spot on the trail. On the second half of the trail, make sure you take on the crossing of the “tremblants” a thick layer of peat moss (typical in this environment) that make you feel like the ground is shifting beneath your feet.
Top tip: even in summer, take a good pair of walking boots!
Maison de la réserve, Sauvagnac,
Tel : +33 (0)555 398 020/Fax: +33 (0)555 398 786.
Open July and August, 10am to 6pm.
Moëze-Oléron Nature Reserve
A true haven of peace and tranquillity, where land meets sea! And you can find it in Charente-Maritime, between Île d’Oléron and Rochefort. Four footpaths with hides and viewing platforms help you explore the reserve’s different habitats: polders, salt marshes, dunes, and mud flats.
Free educational trails start from the Nature Centre. Guided tours from €2 to €7, free for kids aged under 6.
Dunes et Marais d’Hourtin Nature Reserve
Just one hour from Bordeaux and Arcachon, the Dunes et Marais d’Hourtin Nature Reserve encompasses the beach, national forest, and Hourtin’s own forest, and stretches from the sea to the lakes behind the dunes, and to lakebeds and swamp.
You can explore the reserve on a number of signposted trails on foot, horseback, or bicycle, setting off from Contaut, Piqueyrot, and Hourtin Plage. Look out for the Contaut Lagune educational trail that crosses the marsh on an amazing wooden platform (accessible to visually impaired and people with reduced mobility). Free guided tours with qualified guides.
Arès and Lège Cap Ferret Salt Marshes
At the heart of Arcachon Bay, this natural haven covers some 330 hectares that change character with the seasons: from a veritable savannah in summer, to a luxurious forest in winter.
You can get to the salt marshes from the oyster-farming port in Arès, or from the resin worker’s cabin in Lège-Cap-Ferret. Alexandre takes care of the guided tours, and is more than happy to share his passion for the local area with you. Expect to spend two hours there.
Don’t forget your binoculars for a spot of birdwatching!
The Courant d’Huchet Nature Reserve is home to a coastal wetland. It forms an umbilical cord that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Etang de Léon lake. It is a place where multiple habitats, wet and dry, coexist, made up of fresh or brackish water. Around 900 meters long, it will take you into a whole other world.
A number of walking trails are available to you to explore alone, with a guide, or aboard a little boat.
Located in the Landes, 25 minutes north of Bayonne and 40 minutes west of Dax, the Marais d’Orx is a major French nature reserve for birdwatchers. Some 247 species have been recorded in the different habitats, and can be spotted throughout the year.
Free to visit 7 days a week, guided tours available upon booking (incurs fee). The website posts lots of events for the general public: perfect for kids!