Île d’Oléron, off the beaten track
Want to enjoy a holiday in a totally unspoilt environment, offering beaches, marshland and forests? Then you’ll be right in your element on the Ile d’Oléron!
Ile d’Oléron is the largest French island on the Atlantic Coast, and it boasts a diverse heritage—lots of sandy beaches, wild landscapes with its marshland and forests, quaint villages and citadels, gastronomic delights, and an immense terrain for enjoying both land and water sports. What’s more, the island is very active in protecting its environment and encouraging eco-friendly tourism: an ideal destination to recharge your batteries and soak up the positive energy!
1 | Take the little tourist train to a stunning beach
In the south of the Island, setting out from Saint-Trojan-les-Bains train station, situated just a stone’s throw from Huttopia Oléron Les Pins campsite, you can climb on board the Saint-Trojan tourist train and travel along the wildest parts of the coast.
In service since 1963, the tourist train gives you the chance to combine exploring the island with a day at the beach. During the 12-kilometre return trip along the island’s only tourist railway, you can discover all the hidden treasures of the national forest and the coast.
The first stop is Gatseau Bay with its sheltered, shady beach facing out over the mainland. An ideal spot to take a dip or enjoy a family picnic.
The journey then continues on to Oléron’s wildest beach—Maumusson beach. What is so unique about this beach? It can’t be reached by road! To get there, you need to take the tourist train or go by foot (5 km). A truly idyllic spot with its large expanse of white sand, ocean views, and uncrowded beach.
Please note that swimming is prohibited here due to dangerous currents.
The tourist train runs every day from the beginning of April to the end of October, with no need to book. It also offers disabled access.
In July and August, you can go on a magical trip on the tourist train to admire the sunset over Maumusson beach.
2 | Learn all about salt at Salines harbour
Situated between our two campsites, Salines harbour is home to a classified natural environment where you can discover everything about the history of salt production on Oleron island and all the different aspects of the traditional know-how of the salt makers.
At the ecomuseum, you can stroll from hut to hut discovering the world of salt, the real-life functioning of a salt marsh, the site’s flora and fauna, the salt workers’ tools, and the revival of this activity. The visit ends, of course, with a tasting of the island’s famous “white gold”.
A free discovery trail follows along the pedestrian route and explores the life of the salt marsh.
Avid seafarers can also hire a boat to have fun exploring the landscapes of the marshes and its rich and diverse ecosystem.
All sorts of activities for families and couples are run throughout the season from March to November including educational workshops, tastings, and an aperitif boat trip.
3 | Explore the cycle paths
What better way to explore Oléron island, than with a gentle and environmentally friendly cycle ride?
Everything has been put in place for you to enjoy some fabulous bike trips, and you can cross the entire island in complete safety along its cycle paths. More than 160 kilometres of cycle paths await you, so you can travel about the island peacefully, at your own pace, and discover its diverse landscapes with its marshland, forests and beaches. The bonus: the landscape is very flat, so cycling is easy for the whole family! Go on a gentle ride through the heart of Saumonards forest to Boyardville or discover the marshlands in the south of the island around Château d’Oleron.
The blue cycle path runs past both our Campsites, connecting the south and north of the island, from Saint-Trojan-les-Bains to Chassiron lighthouse, over a distance of 35 kilometres, taking about 3.5 hours. From Huttopia Oléron Les Chênes Verts campsite, you can enjoy quick access to the orange and red cycle paths which run through the centre of Oléron island, passing through quaint little villages, vast expanses of salt marshes, and oyster farms.
To guide you and help your get about on two wheels, the cycle network is marked with information panels and signage. A map of all the cycle paths is available at the island’s Tourist Information Centres or can be downloaded from the Ile d’Oléron-Marennes Tourisme website.
There are also lots of bike hire companies located all over the island offering bikes for every need (hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes, etc.).
4 | Meander along the footpaths
Are you a keen walker? Lots of different footpaths cross the island, and some of them even run right past our two campsites!
Oléron boasts all sorts of beautiful walks: through the forest, among the vineyards, along the beaches, through quaint villages, and in the midst of the marshland. You can explore the island throughout the seasons to discover its rich heritage and varied natural environment. Put on your trainers and take the footpaths through the Marais des Bris in Saint-Trojan-les-Bains to discover 37 hectares of wild and unspoilt marshland, or enjoy a breath of fresh air with a stroll through the Marais aux Oiseaux in Dolus d’Oléron and learn a bit more about the local wildlife as you go.
From Huttopia Oléron Les Pins campsite, you can take the little forest trails to the wild and idyllic Maumusson beach.
Around Huttopia Oléron Les Chênes Verts campsite, you can walk along the coastal paths and through the woods, to discover the local ecosystem as well as beautiful views of the ocean beaches.
Like the cycle paths, all the footpaths are signposted and well maintained. The island’s Tourist Offices will be able to let you know more about them and suggest the best routes to suit what you’re looking for.
The island is also very active in preserving its environment: preventing the erosion of the dunes, collecting waste, protecting different species… Be sure to follow the footpath signage to play your part in protecting the island!
5 | Breathe in the ocean air and relax on the beaches
Holidays are a time to relax! Ile d’Oléron boasts all sorts of beautiful beaches along its continental and ocean shores, each different from the next: golden sand, rocks, pebbles further north, coves and long dunes. There’s something for everyone!
Here are some of our favourites:
– Vert-Bois Beach: located just a few metres from Huttopia Oléron Les Chênes Verts, campsite, nature lovers will be right in their element at this wild beach with its golden sand. Situated between the national forest and the ocean, this authentic beach boasts an ideal exposure for enjoying all sorts of different water sports.
At low tide, near the Écuissière pass, you can go on a family outing with buckets and nets to hunt for crabs and other shellfish among the rocks.
The beach is lifeguarded in the summertime.
– Maumusson Beach: only accessible with the tourist train or on foot from Saint-Trojan-les-Bains and Huttopia Oléron Les Pins campsite. A little paradise.
Swimming prohibited due to dangerous currents.
– Fort Royer Beach : a small, intimate beach located just behind the Fort Royer oyster harbour. What’s so unique about this beach? The seashells that are found washed up all over its golden sand.
The beach is not lifeguarded.
– Huttes beach: located on the west coast of the island, this 5-kilometre sandy beach faces out over the Atlantic Ocean and is exposed to the winds. Water sports fans will be right in their element at this spot, which is renowned for surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing and body boarding.
The beach is lifeguarded in the summertime.
– Saumonards beach : a beautiful, sandy beach located on the edge of Saumonards forest, offering stunning views of the famous Fort Boyard and the island of Aix.
The beach is not lifeguarded.
6 | Follow in the footsteps of Vauban at the Château d’Oléron citadel
Château-d’Oléron is one of the most renowned cultural sites on Oléron island.
It owes its tourist appeal above all to the major restoration of the Citadel, and to its pretty oyster huts, which have been brought back to life by local artists and craftsmen who have turned them into workshops.
It was Pierre d’Argencourt who drew up the plans for the citadel ordered by Richelieu, designing it on a grid plan, with two doors. Vauban later improved it by extending its defence system. It was mainly used as a prison before it was bombed in 1945. It has since been restored little by little and now houses exhibitions, concerts and a whole host of events.
You can visit the citadel free of charge throughout the year (except during the Jazz en Feux festival which takes place in August). The views of the ocean from the ramparts are breathtaking!
Many different guided tours are also organized: traditional tours, educational tours, theatrical evenings, and outings on the tourist train.
For a culinary adventure, there are some fantastic eateries at Château d’Oléron:
– La Croix du Sud: a unique location facing out to sea, a colourful décor, and fresh produce to eat on the terrace or in the yellow shack.
– Le Restaurant du Port: local cuisine and seafood served at the oyster harbour, with views over the sea, the citadel, and Oléron bridge.
7 | Visit the oyster-farming villages
On Oléron island, oyster farming and fishing are century-old activities, still to be discovered at the many little oyster harbours with their traditional multicoloured huts. Our two favourite sites: Fort Royer and La Baudissière.
Situated amidst 10-hectares of marshland, Fort Royer is one of the oyster harbours that has most retained its traditional appearance.
This delightful village is dotted with colourful wooden huts, which immediately catch the eye, set amidst the oyster beds and channels. In the past, the huts were painted with the remnants of the paint used for the boats. Today they are still used for their original purpose of storing the tools and equipment needed for oyster farming. Some of them have been tastefully decorated, and you can see pretty little marine knick-knacks on their windowsills. You can learn all about the trade of Marennes-Oléron oyster farming here: its traditions, the farming of oysters, their cultivation in the oyster beds, and the efforts to protect this fragile ecosystem. Various guided tours, workshops and walks are run by the Site Ostréicole et Naturel de Fort-Royer, above all so you can observe the oyster beds at sea.
To discover more about oyster farming, you can continue your journey along the Route des Huîtres to the oyster channel at La Baudissière. There, you can admire the colourful huts dotted alongside the channel, which have been turned into workshops for artists and craftsmen, who open their doors to visitors. Ideal if you are looking for traditional souvenirs: paintings, handcrafted lamps, decorative objects, textile creations, and so forth.
Carry on past the oyster farms to the Pointe de la Baudissière to discover beautiful panoramas of the sea. There, you can enjoy stunning views of the channel where the sea pulls out at low tide to reveal the oyster beds.
And why not enjoy a romantic interlude sampling some oysters on your way back home as you soak up the tranquil setting?
8 | Paddle board through the marshes
Many of the island’s sites are open to paddle boarding, whatever your level.
Let yourself drift along the channels which wind through the ancient salt marshes. In these tranquil sites, you can discover a charming and unique landscape, where you can totally connect with the surrounding nature. As you travel along the water, you will be able to observe the flora and fauna and may even have the chance to pet the horses that roam freely in the area. Guided paddle boarding tours are offered to discover the Vauban fortifications, Gatseau Bay, which was classified Natura 2000, and the marshes of Saint-Pierre d’Oléron and Boyardville.
Fancy trying a paddle board yoga session? Focus on your breath, listen to your body, and move through a series of simple postures. Your mind will soon be at rest and you will be enveloped by nature for a relaxing interlude on the salt water.
Equipment hire and guided trips are possible all over the island, we recommend Salicorne and the Oléron SUP.
9 | Admire the breathtaking views from Chassiron lighthouse
Chassiron lighthouse at the northern tip of the island is a real must during any stay on Oléron island.
Facing out over the ocean with its 46 metre-high, black and white tower, the lighthouse can be seen from up to 35 kilometres away by day and its fire is visible from up to 52 kilometres away on a clear night. Its 3 black bands were added to make it more visible by day in the fog and to differentiate it from the Phare des Baleines lighthouse on the Ile de Ré.
If you’re feeling brave, you can climb up the 224 steps of its staircase to the lantern to enjoy incredible panoramas of the island, the ocean, the mainland, and the Ile de Ré.
You can reach the lighthouse by bike from our two campsites along the blue cycle path. It is open every day throughout the year. Just below the lighthouse you can explore the little coves between the island’s steep cliffs: the perfect place to watch the sunset while enjoying an evening picnic. At low tide, the rocky shoreline offers a beautiful landscape entirely composed of curves thanks to the traditional fish locks built in the shape of a horseshoe.
10 | Hit the water
If you’re a fan of water sports, you’ll be right in your element on Oléron, which boasts some incredible spots on its ocean coast for board sports, and on its continental coast, which is much more protected, for sailing about in the waters around Fort Boyard.
The best spots for surfing and bodyboarding are on the sand banks of Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, Le Grand-Village-Plage, Vert-Bois and Les Huttes, which offer some great, varied waves.
The Pointe de Chassiron is best for experienced surfers, or if you prefer sheltered spots, head to Saint-Denis D’Oléron at the Pointe des Boulassiers.
With the shifting tides, conditions can change very quickly, so everyone can have fun in waves to suit their level.
Surfers, kitesurfers and windsurfers can enjoy the water to the max all year round on Oléron island, because even during storms, it is the only place on the Atlantic Coast where you can still go kitesurfing and windsurfing!
At the surf schools you can learn in complete safety and the instructors will be happy to advise you on the best spots and equipment so that you can make the very most of your session.
We recommend Diabolo Fun on Huttes beach and Kabanasurf and Surfari at Grand-Village-Plage, who offer equipment hire and lessons in all the different water sports.