Appreciated for its natural scenery and balmy climate, the Ile de Ré offers tourists a truly relaxing getaway. This idyllic island attracts many visitors during the summer yet still has a remote feeling. The island offers ten kilometers of pristine sandy beaches and a wild terrain of pine forests, marshes, oyster beds, hollyhocks, and fields of rosemary.
Ever since the international playboy billionaire class decided to park their yachts in the Côte d’Azur, well-to-do French vacationers desperate to look away from the vulgarity have turned their gaze westward.
On the Atlantic Coast, the water is choppier than the Med, the air sometimes more bracing, but the company is a lot more familiar, favoring sailor shirts and espadrilles over sequins and Versace. Among these Atlantic idylls, Île de Ré, a skinny, 19-mile-long island off the coast of the bourgeois town of La Rochelle, has the most allure and the true heart of the Seaside Chic.
A Cape Cod-style hangout of terra-cotta-topped, whitewashed fishermen’s cottages frequented by the les meilleurs d’entre nous (the best among us) in a phrase commonly used by the French to refer to their elite.
Ile de Ré benefits from a microclimate that gives it almost as many sunny days per year as Marseille, but with a much more rarefied air. Coastal Charente-Maritime is steeped in maritime culture and tradition.
The Ile de Ré is a paradise for sports enthusiasts; sailing, surfing, and cycling are popular activities. The UNESCO-listed village of Saint Martin-de-Ré has everything on tourists’ wish lists: a quaint ambience, colorful fishing harbor, stylish boutiques, trendy cafés, and gourmet restaurants.
The Ile de Ré has two Plus Beaux Villages (Most Beautiful Villages): the quintessential port village of Ars-en Ré, with its winding medieval streets, charming whitewashed houses, and Romanesque-Gothic church, and the village of La Flotte, which delights with its attractive fishing port and evocative ruins of a 12th-century Cistercian abbey.
Oyster farmers on the nearby island of Oléron produce some of the finest briny bivalves in the world, while the sauniers on Île de Ré follow centuries of tradition as they harvest, by hand, the fleur de sel so appreciated by the world’s top chefs.
The best beaches on the Ile de Ré are Le-Bois-Plage-en-Ré, with its expansive sandy shoreline, and the pine forest-fringed La Conche des Baleines, which is a great place for swimming.
The Ile de Ré is a 30-minute drive from La Rochelle, the island is connected to the mainland by a three-kilometer bridge.