We think the Vendee is a great destination choice for families – there are great beaches, some lovely seaside towns and it’s far enough south for great weather without being an epic ride from the ferry ports.
So we asked expert Martin Holmes, of Vendee Gites, to tell us even more about the region.
Why is the Vendee such a great choice for families?
For many families, it’s the easy accessibility. At only three hours from the ferry port of St Malo, or four hours from Caen, it avoids a long fraught drive in France. The Vendee is the first point you come to in western France where you get a real change in climate and more reliable weather, so it’s a very good compromise.
The Vendee is renowned for its fabulous coastline, with a total of 140km of sandy beaches, great for family holidays. However, you don’t have to stay right on the coast and there are some lovely authentic villages just inland, offering great value holiday accommodation with the beaches still within easy reach.
In terms of visits and activities, there is a vast choice to suit all family members; surfing and most other water sports, tree-adventure parks, fun pools, historic chateaux to visit, botanical gardens, go-karts, golf and many themed attractions with interactive educational value. We often have guests coming back several years running and they say they still haven’t seen it all.
What events and attractions does the Vendee offer ?
- The Vendée Globe race
- Régates du Bois de la Chaise at Noirmoutier
- Stages of the Course du Figaro
- Reef Vendée Pro surfing event at Brétignolles-sur-Mer
- French kite-surfing championships
The development of tourism in the Vendee is firmly around a ‘green’ theme with extensive work done on providing a huge network of rambling and cycling trails. There are 1000km of cycling trails in the Vendee – the longest network of any French department.
With over 500 different festivals and events every year there is always something to see during your holiday and the local tourist office is always a good source of information for what’s-on nearby. One of our favourites, which is on a national level, is the Fête de la Musique on the 21st of June – an evening of music of all kinds in the streets of most towns.
For great ambiance it’s worth taking a drive down to nearby La Rochelle for this event, just out of the south end of the Vendee.
Where’s your favourite Vendee beach, and why?
For beaches in the Vendee, our personal favourite is the Pointe de l’Aiguillon, extending south from the main beach at La Faute-sur-mer. If you are prepared to walk along the beach for half an hour it becomes almost deserted and the sea birds make the most of the calm open space. This beach backs onto dunes and pine forest that are part of the nature reserve so you can’t get to it any other way than along the shore. Even in high season you can look both ways and only see two or three people in the distance!
For families with young children the popular beaches are usually La Terriere and Les Conches, near La Tranche-sur-mer, for great sand and lifeguards on hand. St Nicolas at Jard-sur-mer is also a good choice, combining an attractive sandy bay with rocky outcrops each end for rock-pool activities.
If there is one food or drink we should try in the Vendee, what should it be?
By far the best-known Vendee speciality that you will find everywhere is Jambon et Mogettes. Slices of grilled local ham served with white beans, slow cooked with garlic.
Otherwise, at the coast it has to be the traditional Moules-Frites – the local mussels are probably the best in France. There are some good local wines to try and we would recommend either those from Coirier at Pissotte or from Mourat at Mareuil-sur-Lay.
We have three nights in the Vendee – what must we see?
The choice is vast and it obviously depends on the ages of the children. For those with older children, our personal favourite is a day trip to the beautiful island of Yeu. You can take the ferry from St Gilles or near Noirmoutier and hire bicycles when you arrive. It’s easy to do the full tour of the island in the day, taking in the forests and sandy coves on the south side, the moorland and rocky cliffs to the north and stopping off for lunch at the picturesque Port de la Meule. A fabulous day out – your really have the feeling of being ‘away from it all’.
Of course we also have to mention the famous history theme park Le Puy du Fou, near Les Herbiers. Whilst not particularly well-known to the English-speaking traveller, this is one of the finest and biggest theme parks in Europe (voted “best theme park in Europe” in 2013). It takes you through many periods of history with absolutely stunning displays. For example, a full size roman amphitheatre with chariot races and gladiator battles! It’s a full day to see the major attractions, but many people take a two day ticket to make sure that they see it all. If you want to also do the night time Son-et-Lumière spectacle, then you need to book tickets for this around March/April for the summer dates.
Green Venice is good for a relaxing visit to wind down. There are many places where you can hire a punt or canoes to explore the tree-lined canals, (Maillezais, Coulon or Damvix for example). Either with a guide or on your own – it’s a must do.
Is there anything else we should look out for in the Vendee in 2015?
The Vendee has always been a great value family holiday destination but with the excellent exchange rate at the moment, now is the time to try it!
The weather is superb in May and June and over the past few years we have had excellent warm weather right through to September, making the Vendee a great destination for a week’s break outside the main summer holidays.
What’s new for Vendee-Gites in 2015?
There will be a couple of new properties coming on line later this year and we will be visiting a few other potential candidates that look promising. Being one of the best-known companies in holiday rentals in the Vendee, we are approached by owners all the time to add properties to our range, but we prefer to carefully select what we present and limit it to an exclusive quality range to be able to offer excellent value for money and trouble-free holidays.
Whilst our website is easily navigable on most devices we will have a new mobile and tablet friendly site later this year. Our clients praise us on the quality of the presentation, the detailed property information and the accurate availability calendars, so we won’t be making major changes to the format or content.
Martin Holmes (pictured) owns Vendee-Gites, holiday rentals specialists in the Vendee. Find out more at www.vendee-gites.com.
See our France For Families Vendee highlights here: www.franceforfamilies.com/france/vendee