Holidays in the Poitou Charente: our top reasons to visit
Stretching inland from the Atlantic Coast along the beautiful Charente river, Poitou-Charentes is a diverse region offering idyllic islands and family-friendly beach resorts, lush countryside, heritage towns, and one of France’s most popular theme parks. So no wonder it’s a perennial winner for family holidays.
1. Family resorts
Jewel of the French Atlantic Coast is La Rochelle with its picturesque harbour, historic streets and a wealth of quality attractions that include an eclectic mix of museums and France’s largest private aquarium. It’s easy to reach from all the popular beach resorts, largest of which is Royan, situated at the mouth of the Gironde estuary and boasting five sandy, south-facing bays. Along with neighbouring St-Georges-de-Didonne, Royan has been awarded Family-Plus accreditation for its high level of facilities. Or try Châtellaillon-Plage next to La Rochelle; Fouras with its imposing fortress; or Saint-Palais-sur-Mer on a quiet, sheltered bay – all of them dotted with 19th century seaside villas.
2. Stay on an island
Many families stay on one of Poitou-Charente’s two main islands. Ile de Ré, reached by toll bridge from La Rochelle, is known as the White Island for its whitewashed houses, clear light, and salt marshes. Just 30km long and 5km wide at the widest point, it offers clean sandy beaches, ten charming villages and more than 100km of level cycle trails. South of Ile de Ré lies the larger Ile d’Oléron, accessed by a toll-free bridge and blessed with 25 sandy beaches where you can get expert tuition for a huge range of watersports. Both islands also offer nature reserves and heritage centres where you can really get under the skin of island life.
Futuroscope on the outskirts of Poitiers has welcomed more than 40 million visitors since it opened in 1987, making it the second largest leisure park in France. The attractions are unique, all based on the senses and in particular, on our sense of vision. Expect giant screens, dynamic cinema shows and innovative interactive experiences. Popular attractions include the 3-D Cosmic Collisions show; the augmented reality experience The Future is Wild; and Arthur, the 4D Adventure, projected on a vast IMAX dome. New for 2013 is a spectacular evening show, Lady O, which bursts forth from one of the largest water stages in Europe. Truly something for everyone. Read more on our Futuroscope page.
4. Do something different
There’s plenty in Poitou-Charentes to entertain the most adventurous family. Climb a lighthouse for a seagull’s eye view of the coastline; take a self-drive cruise along the Charente; and step back in time on board the replica frigate Hermione in Rochefort, once home to Louis XIV’s royal dockyard. Follow the trail of painted walls in Angoulême, comic strip capital of France; visit the Roman arena in Saintes; and take one of the colour-coded circuits around Poitiers to explore the historic streets and buildings of the regional capital.
5. Four-legged friends
Visit St-Martin-de-Ré and you may be lucky to spot ‘Donkeys in Trousers’, the traditional Poitou breed with shaggy brown hair that once worked the island’s salt marshes, clad in two pairs of protective striped trousers. Today they are a much-loved tourist attraction who often go walkabout on the village ramparts and you’ll also spot them – without trousers – at farms and animal centres across the region. Other animal attractions include La Palmyre Zoo near Royan; Monkey Valley at Romagne; and the spectacular Giants of the Sky flying display at Chauvigny.
6. Go green
Explore the magical ‘Wet Marsh’ of the Marais Poitevin, north of La Rochelle. Cruise the tranquil waterways by flat bottomed boat – especially magical at dawn and dusk – or follow the towpaths and marked trails by foot or bike. A haven for wildlife, France’s ‘Green Venice’ is also a popular destination for fishermen, but there are many quiet rivers to fish too, as well as the waters of Pescalis, a nature and angling centre at Moncoutant near Parthenay. Birds more your thing? Then pack the family binoculars. As well as a diverse resident population, the coastal marshes and bird reserves are a seasonal stopping place for visiting species. Find out more from local nature centres.
The weather.. in the Charente/Vendée is quite reliable, despite its proximity to the Atlantic. Winters are mild but a good sunshine record makes it an attractive alternative to the Côte D’Azur. For an up to date weather forecast, select here or check today’s weather opposite.
DéfiPlanet’ theme park in Dienné in the Vienne department is based on sustainable development and during your stay your children will understand how we can all help to protect the environment. Find out more here…
Further ideas from: www.visit-poitou-charentes.com
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to the Charente Maritime: