Ile d’Oléron | Off the beaten track
8 things to do on the island
8 things to do on the island
The largest French island on the Atlantic coast, it has the advantage of a very diverse heritage: fine sandy beaches, unspoilt natural diversity with its marshes and forests, villages and citadels full of character, delicious cuisine and an abundance of places perfect for sports, both on land and on the water.
What’s more, the island has a growing number of initiatives aimed at protecting its environment, which make for an eco-friendly holiday – ideal for recharging your batteries and filling up on positive energy!
Stay at one of our Campings Huttopia Oléron Les Pins and Oléron Les Chênes Verts and set off to see the island’s little treasures by foot, by bike or on the water.
On the south of the island, departing from Saint-Trojan-les-Bains station, only a few metres from our Huttopia Oléron Les Pins campsite, you can step on board Le P’tit Train de Saint Trojan for a ride to the island’s ‘wild coast.’
The little train, which has been running since 1963, gives you a chance to combine a day at the beach with a picturesque ride. This 7-mile return journey on the island’s only tourist railway will take you through the unspoilt environment along the coast and the edge of the national forest.
The first stop is at Gatseau bay, where the sheltered and shady beach faces the mainland. An ideal spot for a swim or a family picnic.
The train continues on to the wildest beach on the island, Maumusson. What’s different about this beach is the fact that you can’t get there by road! You have to either take the tourist train or walk for 3 miles. It’s an absolute paradise with its vast expanse of white sand, panoramic view of the ocean and small numbers of visitors. Please note that swimming is not permitted due to dangerous currents.
The P’tit Train runs every day from the beginning of April to the end of October, with pre-booking not required. It is also accessible to people with reduced mobility.
In July and August, it offers a magical evening experience, giving you the chance to admire the sunset from Maumusson beach.
Located between our two campsites, the Port des Salines is a wonderful slice of nature granted the status of Nature Centre by the regional council. It reveals different aspects of the history of Oléron salt production and the salt farmers’ know-how.
The Ecomusée (ecomuseum) will take you from hut to hut through the world of salt and you’ll get a fascinating look at how a salt marsh works, the plants and wildlife that live in this environment, the tools used by salt farmers and the revival of this activity. The route round the site finishes, of course, with a chance to taste the famous ‘white gold.’
There is also a walking path with a series of informative signs exploring the world of the salt marshes.
Would-be sailors can hire a boat for a fun way to see the marsh and its abundant and diverse ecosystem.
Many activities for families and couples are offered throughout the season from March to November, such as educational workshops, tours with tasting sessions and boat rides with drinks and nibbles.
What better way of seeing Oléron than on a bike? It’s an eco-friendly way of getting around
and the area is well set up for it: cycle routes have been built that allow you to get all over the island in complete safety. The almost 100 miles of paths are a great way to explore stress-free at your own pace and see all the diversity of the island’s scenery with its marshes, forests and coastline.
A big plus is that they are not very hilly at all, so they’re suitable for all the family!
You can easily cycle right through Saumonards forest to Boyardville, for example, or explore the marshes of the south of the island near Le Château d’Oléron.
The blue route passes past both of our campsites and goes all the way from the south to the north of the island, from Trojan-les-Bains to Chassiron lighthouse. Allow around 3.5 hours for the 22-mile journey.
From Huttopia Les Chênes Verts, you can quickly get to the orange and red routes, which will take you to the centre of Oléron via small, traditional villages, vast expanses of salt marsh and oyster beds.
To guide you and make your journeys on two wheels easier, the cycle network has signage with information and directions. A map of all the routes is available at the island’s tourist offices or to download from the Île d’Oléron-Marennes Tourisme website: https://www.oleron-island.com/
Plus, there are cycle hire companies all over the island that can provide the right bikes for your outings (hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes, etc.)
Do you prefer two feet to two wheels? There are many walking paths going all around the island, and with some, you can start at our campsites!
There are plenty of options for scenic walks on Oléron: through the forest, along rows of vines, on the edge of the beach, in charming villages or in the heart of the marshlands. You can roam the island in any season, exploring its wealth of heritage and variety of natural environments.
Tie up your trainers and set off along the paths in the Marais des Bris in Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, a delightful 37-hectare protected natural area, or take in the fresh air while also learning a bit more about the local birds on a walk round the Marais aux Oiseaux in Dolus d’Oléron.
From Huttopia Les Pins, you can take little paths through the forest to the idyllic and unspoilt Maumusson beach.
Coastal and woodland paths around Huttopia Les Chênes Verts offer a chance to learn about the local ecosystem and take in beautiful views of the beaches and the ocean.
As with the cycle routes, all of the walking routes are very well built and signposted. You can get information about them in the island’s tourist offices, where the staff will be able to offer advice on the best options for you.
The local authority is making great efforts to preserve the natural environment: fighting dune erosion, collecting waste, protecting species, etc. Make sure to obey all signs on the trails to play your part in protecting the island!
You’ve got to have a bit of relaxation on holiday, right? The island of Oléron has a large selection of beaches, some facing the ocean and some facing the mainland, all different. Fine sand, rocks, or pebbles to the north, small coves or long dunes… There’s something for everyone!
There are some that we particularly love:
Le Château-d’Oléron is one of the island’s top cultural sites. Its popularity with tourists is largely owed to the major restoration work carried out on the citadel and also the efforts of a number of artists and craftspeople who are giving old oyster shacks a new life.
It was Pierre d’Argencourt who drew the plans for the citadel on the orders of Cardinal Richelieu. It was built in a grid layout with two doors. Famous military architect Vauban improved it, extending its defence system. It was mostly used as a prison, before being bombed in 1945. Having been restored bit by bit, it now houses exhibitions, concerts and other events.
The citadel is open to the public for free all year round (except during the Jazz en Feux festival that takes place in August). The view of the ocean from the ramparts is not to be missed! Many guided tours take place: classic tours, educational visits, night-time tours featuring performances from actors and tourist train rides.
For foodies, here are a couple of recommendations for restaurants in Le Château d’Oléron:
There is a long history of oyster farming and fishing on Oléron, as you can see from the many little oyster farming villages with their traditional multi-coloured huts. Our top two are Fort Royer and La Baudissière.
Fort Royer, set in a 10-hectare area of marshland, is one of the villages that have best retained their traditional appearance.
The village is dotted with coloured wooden huts, spread out among the oyster fattening ponds and tidal channels and which catch the eye straight away. In the past, they were painted with what was left over from the paint used for the boats. They have retained their original use as storage for the tools and accessories needed for oyster farming. Some are tastefully decorated and you can spot pretty, seaside-themed little ornaments on the window sills.
Here, you can learn all about oyster farming in the Marennes-Oléron region: the traditions, the growing stage in the oyster beds, the fattening stage in the fattening ponds and the measures in place to protect this fragile ecosystem.
The Site Ostréicole et Naturel de Fort-Royer association runs various guided tours, workshops and walks, to see the offshore farms for example.
To continue your exploration of Oléron’s oyster farming heritage, take the Route des Huîtres (oyster road) to La Baudissière channel. You’ll be greeted by the wonderful sight of the coloured huts lining the channel. They have been renovated to host artists and craftspeople, who work there and have them open to visitors. Ideal if you’re looking for little souvenirs typical of the region: paintings, handmade lamps, ornaments, textile products, etc.
Walk through the oyster beds to the headland, the Pointe de la Baudissière, to admire the beautiful vista of the sea and the channel. It offers a stunning view of the strait, where the sea retreats at low tide to reveal the oyster beds.
And on the way back, why not stop and enjoy oysters for two, in this place that gives off a feeling of complete serenity?
There are many places on the island where you can go stand-up paddle boarding, whatever your level of experience.
Drift along the channels that wind through the old salt marshes. These tranquil places give you the chance to experience an unusual environment with its own special charm, where you’ll find yourself as close to nature as you can get. As you paddle along, you’ll be able to spot the plants and wildlife and you can even stroke the wild horses that come to say hello.
Guided paddleboard tours are available, where you can see the fortifications built by Vauban, the Natura 2000 site Gatseau bay or the marshes of Saint-Pierre d’Oléron or Boyardville.
Or how about a bit of paddleboard yoga? As you work on your breathing, listen to your body and do a series of simple poses, your mind very quickly floats free and, surrounded by expanses of salt water, you’re engulfed in nature for a truly relaxing experience.
Equipment hire and guided sessions are available all around the island. We would especially recommend Salicorne or Oléron SUP.
At Huttopia, we are passionate about nature and wide open spaces. (...)