Take a look around Île d’Oléron, one of France’s islands known for its beaches and farm fresh oysters
Situated along the western coast of France, Île d’Oléron (Oléron Island) offers a calm seaside escape away from the landlocked parts of the country.
The average Parisian or international tourist will be familiar with Île de Ré (Ré Island), a bit north of Île d’Oléron. In truth, I’ve been told that Île d’Oléron is typically overlooked in the more luxurious, sophisticated shadow of Île de Ré.
What makes Île d’Oléron special is the way it is more disconnected from the sounds of rush hour traffic on along the Périphérique, the rank odor of the metro and the pressures of being a perfectly imperfect Parisian. For a tiny island, visitors have plenty of bike trails to explore, beaches to relax, and local wines and oysters to try—it’s easy to drop the urban chains for a breath of fresh ocean air.
If you’re looking for a getaway that caters more to posh Parisian sensibilities, you may way want to book somewhere in Île de Ré—the magic of Île d’Oléron is the absolute suspension of the Parisian identity.
Here’s a breakdown of how to best explore one of France’s best-kept beachside secrets:
Where to Visit
Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron is the most populous part of the island—this is where you’ll find the larger city center, the local market, restaurants and major shops.
Although there are a number of small ports around Île d’Oléron, La Cotinière wins the prize for the prettiest port. Visitors can come by bike or park their cars by the marina to enjoy the promenade at all hours of the day. The best way to enjoy the sunset view at La Cotinière is to indulge yourself with a homemade gelato from Les Tamarins along the pier.
Phare de Chassiron (Chassiron Lighthouse) is located at the northern tip of Oléron. If you love to bike, there are many nature trails to reach the lighthouse from different parts of the island. Fact: if you were to draw a line on a map from Chassiron to the East Coast of the United States, the lighthouse will be nearly the same latitude as New York City.
Fort Boyard, accessible via boat tours, is an interesting historical ruin, because it was intended to protect French waters, but the vast architectural and logistical challenges made it difficult for any government to accomplish, including Napoleon.
Recommended Day Trips (off-island)
- Rochefort (> 1 hour away)- One of France’s old naval fortresses, take the afternoon to visit La Corderie and L’Hermione, a replica of General Lafayette’s naval warship that made the transatlantic journey to the Thirteen Colonies and helped defeat the British during the American Revolution
- Marennes (approx. 30 min away)- Looking to try a variety of local oysters in one shot? Visit the Cité des Huitres, a stretch of oyster farms in Marennes. Some of the country’s best oysters from this area—they’re a certified type of oyster known as Marennes-Oléron.
Where to Eat
My boyfriend and I found Vin Sur Vingt while wandering around Saint-Pierre’s city center. We were pleasantly surprised to find this gastronomic-seafood restaurant off of the beaten path. 14 Rue Pierre Loti, 17310 Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron
L’ESTRAN is a hotel and restaurant establishment in Château, the opposite side of Oléron from the previous destinations mentioned. The prix fixe menu is a delicious way to try the fresh local seafood. 4 Place de la République, 17480 Le Chateau d’Oléron
If you’re dying of hunger after a long day biking or hitting up the beach, order a pizza at Le Mille Pates—someone may need to roll you all the way back to your hotel!
For dessert, it’s worth re-mentioning Les Tamarins for their homemade ice cream at La Cotinière. Expect to see the line always spill out onto the boardwalk on sunny days!
*Bonus Travel Points: If you’re driving around the island and you see an oyster farm with seating, stop and see if you can do a tasting—it’s an unexpected and adventurous way to taste the local flavor of Oléron.
Remember to Bring…
Bug repellent, because of the mosquitoes are savage! I can’t remember the last time I had such awful mosquito bites…
A shucking knife, especially if you plan on eating your own oysters