Ile de Re Guide


Ile de Re in europe map

Ile de Re overview

Imagine a flat sandy island, with pretty villages every 3-5 miles, glorious beaches and French cuisine, less than 2 hours' flying time from the UK.  You could be thinking of the Ile de Re (pronounced "Eel duh Ray" and strictly spelt île de Ré but you will see variants such as Il de Re, Isle de Re and Ile de Ray). The island is linked by a modern bridge to the outskirts of the ancient fortified town of La Rochelle. Together, these two holiday areas are famous for the battles of the Duke of Buckingham and Cardinal Richelieu as described in Dumas's Three Musketeers.

 

Nowadays the Ile de Re is a favourite holiday spot for wealthy Parisians who spend August here, a month best avoided by everyone else as the prices are high and the small island becomes horribly crowded. But outside of the peak season of July and August, from early May through to late September you will find a quiet, unspoilt paradise offering over 100km of cycle paths and weather that is usually warm and sunny (if a bit windy, on occasions). 


A week is enough for the Ile de Re, as it is only about 20 miles from the bridge from the mainland to the far tip. The island is so small you might want to make a tour of it from one centre, but we can also show you how to do a multi-base, week long holiday. There are no trains but there is a fine bus system and bike hire/repair shops in every village to keep you mobile even if you have a breakdown you can't fix yourself.
 

Gastronomically, there is an obvious focus on seafood but the island also boasts a fair-sized cooperative winery, a brewery, a chocolatier and a biscuit factory, all of which can be visited.  Shellfish tasting places abound, some of which also offer wine and simple snacks. These make a nice change from a restaurant or cafe for lunch. Or buy bread and cheese, a quiche and a cake or two and have a picnic on the beach or in the woods.

Whether you are a regular cyclist or have never taken a cycling holiday before, the Ile de Re is a good choice. It is well provided with multiple bike paths (almost entirely traffic free), pleasant places to visit and spend the night, bicycle hire and repair shops and regular bus routes. Children love the beaches and places such as the forts and lighthouses, but there is plenty for adults too - including some stylish shops and galleries thanks to all those Parisian visitors. It is about as bike-friendly as you can get.

Not sure if a bike trip on the Ile de Re is for you?  Have a look at what a typical day would be like.

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Estimated costs

Holidays on the Ile de Re are not generally offered by travel agents or tour operators outside of France.  Accommodation and other costs are on the high side for France (eye-wateringly so in the peak season), but standards are also high. Our estimate of the cost of a reasonably comfortable holiday (ie staying in medium quality hotels, and eating and drinking moderately well) and assuming you rent a bike, based on riding for 7 days and two people sharing a room for 6 nights is:

 Item Calculation  Cost in Euros 
 Bike hire    €10/day per bike for 7 days  140
 Hotels  €85/night for 6 nights  510
 Food and drink  €50 per person per day, for 7 days  700
 Public transport    20
 Extras  say €20 per person  40
      

 

 

 

 

 

making €1,410 in total, or €705 per person.

 

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Ile de Re route guide

The network of bike routes is so dense that you can easily get from village to village.  The cycle paths are mostly traffic free but you will be riding on the road in the villages themselves.  You can download a full bike route from the Ile de Re official tourist board website.  The map below shows the positions of the villages and the sheer flatness of the island.  Rollerbladers (inline skaters) use the bike paths too because most of them are well surfaced and smooth.  We also offer a Google Ile de Re Map for your use. 

In the table below are links to the websites of the 10 island villages and others that you may need to plan your holiday, including La Rochelle on the mainland, and the less occupied Ile de Oleron to the south of the Ile de Re. The website for the whole island is comprehensive but slow and frustrating while the smaller village sites are more friendly and just as informative.  If you explore them you will discover all that the island offers, from old fortresses and medieval fish locks to Abbey ruins, German pillboxes and lighthouses. There are many sailing clubs and you can also go out to sea on a catamaran or a motorised cruise. 

Villages East to West
 Key site
Hotels
Rivedoux-Plage   Limited
La Flotte  Fortress Many
Ste-Marie-de-Re  Brewery Limited
St-Martin-de-Re
 Fortress, Waterpark
Many
Le Bois-Plage-en-Re
 Winery Average
Loix  Salt museum
Limited
La Couarde-sur-Mer
  Limited
Ars-en-Re  Port Average
Les Portes-en-Re
  Limited
St-Clement-des-Baleines
 Lighthouse Limited
     
Other sites    
Ile de Re   Many
La Rochelle
  Many
La Rochelle Aquarium
      -
Ile de Oleron   Limited


Information on each village can be obtained from its web site by clicking on the village name above.  For those that do not provide an English version, see the advice on web translation below.  

The island would make a great single centre holiday for a week or you could move every couple of days.  For example you could stay at these places:

  • Days 1 and 2.  St Martin, Hotel Le Galion. A great, small hotel with an underground car park for the bikes.  (It's also only a short walk from a large public car park where you could leave your car for the rest of the week when you move on.) Based here you can tour the central area going out to Loix and down to the beaches in the south.
  • Days 2 and 3. La Flotte, Hotel La Galiote. 10 minutes' walk from the centre of town, whitewashed buildings with secure parking.  From here you can focus on the east end of the island and perhaps make a trip to La Rochelle.
  • Days 4 and 5. Ars en Re, Hotel Le Parasol. The rooms are a bit motel-like but this hotel is hidden amongst the pines and the restaurant has an excellent reputation.  A good base for the west end of the island.
  • Days 6 and 7. Ste Marie, Les Vignes de Chapelle. This eco-hotel is a bit expensive but using a booking agent you may get a good deal. The swimming pool and jacuzzi make it a good place to rest after the week's rides.
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Web translation

A lot of the smaller tourist websites are written in French only.  This should be no barrier to you using or them as Google offers a number of translation solutions.  Our preferred option is the Google toolbar which can be downloaded, as the quality of translation is reasonable and in most cases the web page will appear in English as you read down it.  This means it is always up to date and integrated with the website.  (When doing Google searches remember to try the alternative spellings and mis-spellings such as Il de Re, Isle de Re, Ile de Ray, etc.)
 
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