Atlantic islands

Atlantic islands

In total, there are around 1,260 islands and islets along the French coast, although some only exist at low tide. These islands are mainly located off the coasts of Normandy, Brittany, the Vendée, the Charente, Provence, the Côte d'Azur, and Corsica.

  • Vendée coast

The beauty of the landscapes of the Île de Noimoutier, with its salt marshes and traditional villages of small whitewashed houses, never fails to impress visitors. Further south and a little further off the coast, the 23km² Île d’Yeu is home to a wide variety of landscapes, including long beaches, coastal dunes, as well as wild coast with imposing cliffs which provide protection for creeks of white sand.

Île de Noirmoutier (85)
Population 5,443 – Surface area 49km² - 25km long x 500m to 15km wide
Noirmoutier has been connected to the French mainland by a bridge since 1971. Although the bridge is a practical option, it is a shame to miss the island's extraordinary natural sight, the Passage du Gois, which only provides a link with the mainland at low tide. The castle, the perpetual subject of rivalry on the island over the centuries, has given rise to stories of pillage and heroic battles, without ever losing its imposing appearance. Travelling to/from one of the island's three ports or from one beach to the next, you will pass by salt marshes, forest of pine, and sand dunes, all of which add to the integral charm of the island.
More information on the Île de Noimoutier

Île d’Yeu (85)
Population 4,868 – Surface area 2,300 ha – 10km long x 4km wide at its widest point
Of all the Îles du Ponant, this is the furthest from the mainland. Throughout the year, the bustling activity at Port-Joinville never stops: admire this spectacle from one of the café terraces lining the quayside, before hiring a bicycle to explore the rest of the island. Across the island's moorland, sandy paths lead to the coast: long beaches of fine sand to the east of Port-Joinville, and steep cliffs on the island's wilder south coast. Narrow roads provide access to flower-decked hamlets dotted with low-standing whitewashed houses.
Access throughout the year from Port Fromentine (30min)
More information on the Île d'Yeu

  • Charente coast

This coastline is home to four remarkable islands (five, if you were to include Fort Boyard): Ré "La Blanche", with its villages of whitewashed houses with green shutters, narrow alleyways with a profusion of hollyhocks, and cycle tracks linking the different parts of the island; Oléron "La Lumineuse", with its natural landscapes, heritage and superb gastronomy (Marennes Oléron oysters); Aix, which has the unique feature – and perhaps the advantage – of only being accessible by boat, thus ensuring perfect peace and quiet for exploring the island by bicycle or on foot; and lastly, the tiny Île Madame, the north coast of which is dotted with several "carrelets" – a type of wooden hut on stilts used for fishing at high tide. 

Île de Ré (17)
Population 17,000 – Surface area 85km² – 30km long x 5km wide
Ré "La Blanche" is linked to the mainland (La Rochelle) by a magnificent bridge which ensures easy access to the island all year round. Its main selling points include an annual rate of sunshine that rivals that of the French Riviera, as well as a concentrated network of minor roads and lanes which are ideally suited to cycling. Its flat landscapes enable visitors to admire beautiful, open landscapes where marshland, forests, dunes and sections of the coast exposed at low tide are influenced by the vagaries of the ocean. Along its 70km of coast, Ré boasts a dozen or so charming typical villages with a traditional character, where tiny whitewashed houses with blue or green shutters line narrow streets embellished with a profusion of hollyhocks planted here and there.
History has had a major influence on this island, whose strategic position at the entrance to the port of La Rochelle resulted in the construction of impressive defensive structures bearing the hallmarks of the military architect Vauban, such as the Fort de la Prée, the Saint-Martin citadel and the old port of La Flotte.
More information on the Île de Ré

Île d’Aix (17)
Population 200 – Surface area 129ha – Tour of the island 7km
A couple of hours is all you need to tour this island, which you can explore on foot, by bicycle or even by horse-drawn carriage. The coast here is lined by beaches and oyster farms. Its fortified village, forts and coastal batteries endow the Île d’Aix with a timeless air. Perhaps the most famous event in its prestigious past was Napoleon I's brief stay here in July 1815. It was on this "petite île", as he referred to it, that he spent his last three days on French soil before his exile to St Helena.
Access throughout the year from Fouras (20min)
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Île d’Oléron (17)
Population 20,000+ – Surface area 175km² – 34km long x 15km wide
Located between the Antioche strait (pertuis) to the north, which separates it from the Île de Ré, and the Maumusson strait (pertuis) to the south, which separates it from the Arvert peninsula, Oléron "La Lumineuse" (a nickname it has been given due to its long hours of sunshine) is the largest French island in Europe after Corsica. It is connected to the mainland by an impressive 3,027m-long bridge which provides easy access.
Its surface area is almost twice the size of the neighbouring Île de Ré, with a relatively flat landscape which makes it perfect for discovering by bicycle. With 80km of cycle lanes, cyclists can explore the island without having to pedal along roads that are often very busy in high season.
The first impression of Oléron is one of an incredible bright sky, colourful low houses with whitewashed walls, fragrant flora, diverse landscapes, and a gentle climate which enables mimosas to flower in mid February.
For those keen on gastronomy, Oléron is at the heart of the Pays de Marennes, where pride of place is given to the production and enjoyment of oysters of the same name. Bon appétit!
More information on the Île d'Oléron

Things to see