Ode to the Vendée... The green Vendée. The blue Vendée. The Vendée of the Poitevin marshes, of the seascapes. The red and white Vendée with its logo, present everywhere. The emblem of its flag is displayed at the entrances to the department, on communal signs, but also stuck with conviction on the rear window of cars registered 85! A Vendée with evocative names: Puy-du-Fou, Les Sables-d'Olonne, La Tranche-sur-Mer or Noirmoutier. And then there are the islands, the fiery coastline and the peaceful countryside... A vast department that cultivates its diversity with a certain pride.
Discovering the salt marshes of the Vendée
At the foot of the Atlantic Ocean, 250 km of coastline, 140 km of beaches, 18 seaside resorts. Before stretching out to the north in a string of beaches as far as the eye can see, the Vendée coast is reserved for salt marshes, home to thousands of birds and waterfowl. Salt has long been the main source of wealth in the department. To appreciate the importance of the white gold in the history of the Vendée, follow the salt-marsh guides who organise visits during the summer. Alternatively, take a boat trip from Le Perrier. A little further south, in the town of Sallertaine, you can go by canoe to discover the "étiers", the other name given to these canals. Beauvoir-sur-Mer, the "capital" of the salt marshes, is the gateway to the island of Noirmoutier via the Gois
Long before the construction of the bridge, to which access is now free, this ford was the only way to get to the island. The Gois is discovered twice a day for only four hours, because it can be crossed only at low tide
Noirmoutier and the island of Yeu, seaside pearls of the Vendée
Noirmoutier conceals treasures of beauty nestled around its salt marshes, near the immaculate beaches or behind its woods. The wood of La Chaize is the most visited site on the island. Do you come here to admire the combination of arbutus trees, holm oaks and maritime pines or for the elegant villas nestling around the trees? Certainly for these two reasons, but also for the serenity of the place, since tranquillity is the key word. You can enjoy it in La Guérinière, Barbâtre and its neighbour, L'Épine; typical villages that are a delight for photographers or simple walkers. Hire a bike and lose yourself in the narrow streets to admire the whitewashed houses covered with pink tiles. A few miles from the coast, you can reach the island of Yeu by boat as there is no road access. Piers await you at the ports of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Fromentine and Les Sables-d'Olonne
A long necklace of beaches for lazing around
Back to the mainland, to the "largest sandbox in the west". Welcome to Saint-Jean-de-Monts, a real paradise for youngsters! In Saint-Jean-de-Monts, along its 8 km of fine sandy beach, our little ones are invited to take advantage of the many play areas, clubs and activities specially designed for them
The same dynamism can be found in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, which combines three assets: a seaside resort for children and their parents supported by the Family Plus label, a nautical town to encourage the practice of sailing for children and adults and finally a fishing port. While strolling along its quays, you will be seduced by this place known to all sailors, a beautiful place that hosts a fleet masterful: dozens of fishing boats are sheltered in the port offering a charming taste to the place. First port of France for sardine fishing, please! It is preferable to inquire at the auction, in order to attend the unloading of the fishes which are still wriggling in their salted tubs. Going down again, you will be seduced by the fine sandy beaches which are a double invitation to swim and sunbathe.
In fine weather, apart from its shores where it is good to bask, the basin of Sables-d'Olonne remains the major attraction for visitors. The fishing tradition is strongly established in Les Sables, so don't miss the chance to say hello to one of the most important ports on the Atlantic coast
Further south in the department, the fine sandy beaches creep in one after the other. More than 13 km of sand cover La Tranche-sur-Mer, the fun resort of the Atlantic coast, where surfing enthusiasts have a blast in the Vendée rollers.
The unmissable Poitevin marshlands
The Poitevin marshland stretches over three departments, the Deux-Sèvres, Charente-Maritime and Vendée. Here, you will be in communion with one of the most respectful parts of the natural space, the least concerned by the commercial aspect of a particularly touristy sector. Authenticity is preserved with sincerity, and the boats do not follow one another in a line. Through this labyrinth of canals and rivers, thousands of duckweed form a green carpet on which we will sail. The discovery of the luxuriant flora is a guaranteed change of scenery, especially if you have taken care to ask the elders of the villages for advice on the best routes. Installed in a traditional boat, called "plate", you will enter a magnificent green setting. Here you are, a thousand leagues away from your hectic lives, no need for frills: you feel good here. A visit to the marsh in the torpor of summer is pure happiness. The serenity of the place is reminiscent of another country, Italy, where a boatman also guides us through the canals and alleys of a serene city. No wonder that "Green Venice" is the other name of the Poitevin marshes.
Heading north towards the Herbiers region, a stopover in the town of Fontenay-le-Comte, classified by the national heritage as one of the most beautiful detours in France, is a must. Renaissance buildings, curiosities from the Middle Ages, private mansions, rich bourgeois residences, the city has an immensely rich heritage
A family trip to the Puy-du-Fou, to go back in time
On the road to Puy-du-Fou, the relatively windy Mont des Alouettes is one of the highest points in the department. Admittedly, we are far from our beloved Alps or Pyrenees, but this plateau is one of the best natural observatories of the Vendée, where hills and valleys are harmoniously associated with rivers. The natural alliance of water and wind explains the greater presence of mills
But the fame of the Vendée owes much to the famous Puy-du-Fou park. In the north-east of the department, on more than 40 hectares in the heart of the town of Les Epesses, you can take a journey through the centuries. During the day: make way for the first historical and ecological theme park in France where you can discover history while having the time of your life. At night: make way for the biggest night show in the world. On a giant stage of several dozen hectares, we enter the great History alongside more than a thousand actors through a sound and light show of unequalled quality. If you wish to attend the Cinescénie, anticipate your visit to the Puy-du-Fou and book your evening, as this gigantic sound and light show is only offered on Friday and Saturday evenings until September. Not to be missed!
When is it on? In all seasons, of course, but to fully enjoy the joys of the Vendée, summer is the best time.
How to get there. By car (A87), by plane (Nantes) or by train (La Roche-sur-Yon or Les Sables-d'Olonne), everything is possible. To get to Yeu Island, you must take the sea route: daily crossings (35 to 45 minutes) from Fromentine in particular.
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