Known as “the jewel of the Atlantic,” Ile de Re is a picture-perfect island off the western coast of France. Welcome. The focus of ecotourism on this breathtaking UNESCO-listed island is preserving the variety of its natural resources and fauna. This gives it a distinct, unspoiled beauty, including broad, sandy beaches, historic towns, lush salt marshes, woodlands, and wineries. You may explore this on an electric tuk-tuk, paddleboard, or bike! Take a few days to relax and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle while doing all the must-do activities on Ile de Re (Re Island).
Things to do, Île de Ré
Despite being a small island, Ile de Re offers a wealth of breathtaking sights and activities. Most activities occur in natural settings, and there is plenty to learn about both the past and the environment.
It’s ideal to spend three days seeing everything. But the lovely weather, leisure, and authentically French ambiance can entice you to stay longer!
SUP Through the Marshes
One of the best ways to take in Ile de Re’s natural surroundings is by stand-up paddleboarding. Once you’ve mastered standing up, you may explore hidden locations, glide through the gorgeous marshes, and discover more about the flora and animals that call this biologically rich area of the island home. The marshes are renowned for being the origin of salt production, and a guided SUP tour is a fantastic chance to learn more about this industry’s background and the people who work in it. Typically, tours run for two hours.
Visit the Island’s Villages
The settlements on Ile de Re are just as gorgeous as the surrounding scenery! As you travel throughout the island, stop at a few and see their picturesque churches, stone homes with green shutters, and winding streets.
See the quaint village of Ars-en-Re, one of the ten communities on the island, which is well-known for its recognizable church spire that can be seen from all around the place. Given its cobblestone alleys, vibrant shutters, and climbing flowers, Ars-en-Re is undoubtedly one of France’s most picturesque villages.
Here, take a morning stroll through the streets while sipping coffee and savoring a freshly made baguette. Alternatively, if you want more action, several bike lanes head away from the harbor. It is ideal for cycling due to its level terrain and offers the best views of the nearby windmills, salt marshes, and woodlands.
Hire “fat bikes” for an exciting experience. These are bikes with oversized tires that are excellent for off-roading.
The gorgeous southern village of Sainte-Marie-de-Re, situated on the coast and encircled by vineyards, is another must-see village on your journey to Ile de Re. This community is centered on the ocean, and visitors from all over the island come here to enjoy the cliffside walks, fishing, and surfing. Once you’ve had your fill of the salty sea air, visit the town to see the church and the fantastic markets.
Explore Saint-Martin-de-Re, an ancient village at the island’s opposite end. Being situated inside a fort fashioned like a star is this stunning location’s most striking feature. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 because of its exceptional history and preservation.
One of the best things to do on Ile de Re is to see the fort, but the hamlet is also fantastic! Explore the historic streets with their winding lanes, quaint cottages, and landmark wells, and stop at one of the many excellent restaurants or cafes. Remember to ascend the bell tower for sweeping views of the hamlet and the surrounding countryside.
Discover the Vineyards
Have you really been to France if you haven’t had the wine? Ile de Re is just one example of the nation’s reputation as one of the world’s top wine producers. There are many wineries to visit because the island is covered in 700 hectares of grapes.
Spend a few hours at Domaine Arica, an organic winery with enthusiastic and amiable owners Marie and Simon. In addition to sampling the wine and learning about grape varietals, you can pick up one of their beautifully designed bottles and learn about tasting skills. The estate’s breathtaking setting—straight on the ocean’s edge—makes it worthwhile.
See the Salt Marshes
If you buy salt in France, it most likely originated in the Ile de Re! Unique salt marshes can be found on the island, and salt has been extracted here since the Middle Ages. Better yet, traditional methods are still used for salt farming.
We suggest going to “Pick Sel,” a marsh managed by Romain, a salt manufacturer. As one of the island’s last 100 Sauniers (saltmakers), he still harvests salt using traditional methods. There used to be more than a thousand in the 19th century! He is an enthusiastic teacher who will tell you everything there is to know about making salt, including the distinctions between Fleur de Sel and coarse salt and how the salt marsh interacts with the natural world. Undoubtedly, one of the best things to do on Ile de Re is to see the salt marshes!
Tip: Romain’s items are available Tuesday through Sunday at the “Mail de la Couarde” market if you cannot visit the salt marsh.
Visit an Oyster Farm
Around the world, oysters are a specialty of France that are either loved or hated as a luxurious aphrodisiac. One of the most important things to do on Ile de Re is to learn about their harvesting process, regardless of your dietary preferences. To learn more about the three-year cycle from breeding to the plate, stop by an oyster farm, such as the one owned by the Bouyer family!
This family has raised oysters on the Ile de Re for many generations. Today, fifth-generation oyster sellers Katherine and David can be found in markets and dining establishments across France. However, they are still regarded as a local specialty on the island, and you may sample them in the on-site store.
Nature Reserve: The Maison du Fier
Nature and wildlife are essential for all who live on the Ile de Re. The Nature Reserve of Lilleau des Niges is one of the best locations to witness birds in their natural habitat. It is in the middle of lush salt marshes in the island’s north, a popular destination for migratory birds.
The Birds Protection League runs the reserve, and walking is prohibited in the middle to preserve the tranquility of the surroundings. Still, many bike and walking pathways trudge along the reserve’s perimeter, making it a fantastic way to see them!
Visit the Maison du Fier, a museum on the history and ecology of the salt marshes in an old salt shed, before going for a stroll.
Summer hours are 10 AM to 12.30 PM and 2.30 PM to 6.30 PM.
Four euros for entry
A complimentary audio guide is included with the cost of admission. However, you can rent telescopes and binoculars before beginning the nature reserve loop. Here are the rental equipment pricing. Make reservations for a guided nature walk if you want to learn more.
Getting to Ile de Re
A bridge connects La Rochelle, located on France’s western coast, with Ile de Re, located directly across the water. In about three hours, fast trains connect La Rochelle with Paris. You can go to the island via bus or cab, which crosses the bridge. The trip may require up to one hour.
Be advised that you must pay to cross the bridge if you are driving to Ile de Re. In peak season, this can cost up to 16 EUR. However, 80 percent of that is covered by an eco-tax that protects the island’s scenic surroundings. Worthwhile to pay.
Leave the car behind and go everywhere by bicycle or foot once you’re on Ile de Re! This is the finest way to experience the island’s natural beauty and the most tranquil way to view it. Hiring an electric bike is highly recommended if you wish to go a longer distance.
Where to Stay (Campsites)
Ile de Re is a camper’s favorite because of its natural marvels. The most well-liked and affordable places to stay are the campgrounds dispersed over the island.
However, you don’t have to bring your tent and sleeping bag because there are other, marginally more pleasant options. As an illustration, consider the log houses at Campsite Huttopia on Ile de Re. From your cabin in this beautiful setting, surrounded by forests, vineyards, and the coastline, you can experience the natural world.
Best Places to Eat, Ile de Re
France is famous for its delicious cuisine! Ile de Re is no exception, and you can find delicious bistros, cafes, and bakeries all over the island. It’s also a hub for markets, where you can buy locally-made fresh produce. Everything listed below has vegetarian options available.
- Les Q Salés
- La Cabine de Bain (incredible food!)
- Cafe de la Plage
- A Cote de Chez Fred
- La Plaga (on the beach)