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Der Leuchtturm Phare de Balaines, Bild: Eo naya / shutterstock

Île de Ré – paradise on the French west coast

Dreamlike sandy beaches, a wonderfully healthy sea breeze, picturesque villages, breathtaking dune landscapes, French culture, charm and unforgettable memories – this and much more is offered by the idyllic island of “Île de Ré” in the west of France.

A pearl in the Atlantic Ocean

The beautiful Île de Ré is located in the French department of Charente-Maritime, not far from the neighboring islands of Île-d’Aix, Île d’Oléron and the famous Fort Boyard fortress. Via a toll bridge from the nearest large city of La Rochelle, the “Ré la Blanche” – as it is often called by the locals – is connected to the mainland. With a length of 2926.5 meters, the spectacular structure can be crossed by car, on foot or by bicycle. The latter is considered the most popular means of transport on the almost 85 km² island.

Attractive holiday destination for everyone

Beaches on Ile de Re
The Île de Ré offers spacious stalls, Image: Alexander Demyanenko / shutterstock

Whether families, couples or singles – the Ile de Ré welcomes thousands of visitors from near and far every year and inspires not least with a wide range of leisure activities. As a real magnet for sports lovers, nature lovers and those seeking relaxation, the island convinces with a wonderful landscape and that certain something. Numerous accommodation options for every taste and in every price category enable the perfect holiday experience. While the classic campsites with mobile homes, tents and pitches are particularly popular among families and adventure seekers, charming holiday homes invite you to linger quietly. You can also relax extensively in one of the luxurious hotels with corresponding spa and wellness facilities – the Île de Ré leaves nothing to be desired!

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Beach and swimming fun on the Île de Ré

The flagship of the “Ré la Blanche” are the numerous beautiful and long sandy beaches. They allow you to relax, bathe, do sports and play for hours – attention: don’t forget sun protection! Windsurfing, kitesurfing, catamaran sailing and many other water sports offer pure joy and joie de vivre in the Atlantic Ocean, which is up to 24 °C warm during the high season. The picturesque and protected dune landscapes around the island also provide a romantic feel-good ambience. During low tide, passionate fishermen like to go on the rocky outcrops equipped with landing nets and accessories in search of delicacies such as oysters, crustaceans, fish, mussels and more – a real highlight for all beginners and professionals of all ages.

Other leisure activities on the island

Ile de Ré
The bicycle is the typical means of transport on the island, Image: Zzzz17 / shutterstock

With the constant scent of the magnificent pine and cypress trees on the nose, the island’s forests are ideal for relaxing walks, bike rides or horseback rides. Visitors will find bicycle rentals in almost every village. Because of the more than 110 km of car-free cycle paths, the bicycle is the main means of transport on the Île de Ré. Around the Port de Saint-Martin-de-Ré, the pretty harbour of the island’s “capital”, anglers, boat owners, day-trippers, shoppers and gourmets come together. The regular markets in the different municipalities of the island are another special feature. In the midst of the French lightness and serenity, you can stroll, haggle and marvel at the market stalls. From freshly caught fish, crunchy vegetables and fruit to antiques, clothes and lots of knick-knacks, every visitor will find what they are looking for here.

Popular sights and other special features of the island

It often characterises the postcards and souvenirs of the Île de Ré: the “Phare des Baleines” – a lighthouse built between 1849 and 1854. The plateau of the 57-metre-high tower can be visited via a 257-step, imposing spiral staircase. Once at the top, visitors can expect an outstanding panoramic view over the island and the expanses of the ocean. At the foot of the building there are various shops and restaurants to explore.

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The associated beach is a popular bathing beach, where on some days waves up to three meters high can be observed – perfect for surfing! Ruins of the monastery of Notre-Dame-de-Ré or the Fort de la Prée fortress allow those interested in culture to take an exciting journey into the past. The Parc de la Babette near Saint-Martin is a popular place for a leisurely stroll and a little round of mini golf. In addition, the island’s mascots, the “Ânes en culottes”, can be admired here. It is the endangered large donkey breed of Poitou donkeys, which wear real “pants” and are culturally important. A real highlight for children is a short riding tour on the back of a donkey.

Culinary delights and culinary specialties

Fish and seafood dominate the menus in the island’s many attractive restaurants – but fresh ray, tuna, mussels, lobsters and oysters are only a small part of what the island has to offer in terms of excellent food. Also perfectly grilled steak with spices from the region, classic pizza, vegetarian and vegan – everything is possible here! A local specialty of the island comes from the traditional salt marshes, which visitors can visit at any time in a guided tour. Many bike trails lead right past the gardens and offer a glimpse of the culture. The precious fleur de sel and the coarse salt of the Île de Ré are in a class of their own and are highly regarded around the globe. In addition to a wide range of regional wines, it is also a popular souvenir for loved ones.

The Île de Ré offers the best conditions for a dream holiday – and not only in summer. Romantic walks along the coast, the healthy air, hospitality and peaceful forests make the island an attractive destination even in the cooler seasons.