Located in the North-West of the Vendée, Noirmoutier is an island inhabited since the 7th century when the monk Saint-Philibert put his suitcases there to boost the first salt harvests. Today, just under 10,000 inhabitants share the territory year-round and the population is multiplied by 10 in summer, because the one known as "Mimosa Island" offers the pleasures of the ocean and the softness of the coast.
The charms of a preserved and wild island
While some seaside resorts can be criticised for modifying the landscape too much to satisfy an ever-increasing number of visitors, this is not the case on the island of Noirmoutier. And it is precisely this authentic charm that constantly attracts new curious people. Here, there is no large infrastructure with too modern an appearance, but a dormitory system consisting of a few campsites and hotels, as well as the rental of housing in harmony with nature. White facades, blue shutters and rounded tiles give the houses this marine coast, so seductive.The 40 km of beaches give way to unique atmospheres, depending on the iodine air and the wild scents. From the small, very chic beaches of Les Dames and Anse Rouge, we can see the Plantier Tower, which reminds us of a lighthouse. On the large beaches of Barbâtre or Luzéronde further north, we look down at dunes as far as the eye can see and the ocean floods our thoughts. In summer, during days of bright sunshine, the sea unfolds its most beautiful bluish shades and the rocks on the beach of Les Lutins which border the Herbaudière accentuate these nuances.
The salt marshes are the other main feature of the island, which for many regular visitors resembles a small piece of paradise. They cover 1/3 of the territory and the salt workers perpetuate an ancestral know-how. It is in the respect of traditions that white gold is harvested for a 100% natural and quality product. In the summer and until the beginning of autumn, guided tours allow you to better understand all the steps necessary for manufacturing and it is not uncommon to fall under the spell of the small salt huts along the road, where the sale is assured.
These salt marshes, so dear to the local heritage, can be found in the Müllembourg marshes nature reserve, which borders the Bay of Bourgneuf. This special place seduces ornithology enthusiasts because it is the breeding ground for several waterbird species such as the gravel with an unbroken collar, the elegant avocet or even common terns. Some mammals have also taken up residence there and it is not uncommon to see a European otter or an amphibious vole there, provided they are very discreet
Discovering the historical heritage
It would be wrong to summarise Noirmoutier's attractiveness in terms of its obvious link with the maritime sector. Indeed, the expanse of land with its intriguing shape seen from the sky also shelters a rich heritage that deserves to be named and detailed. The Noirmoutier bridge has been allowing residents and visitors to enter and leave the island since 1971. Before that, maritime shuttles were set up and, above all, since the 18th century, the Passage du Gois has been used to connect Noirmoutier to Beauvoir-sur-Mer on the continent. This 4.2 km long submersible road is now part of the island's heritage and, beyond its function as a link between two pieces of land, it is the meeting place for birds that come to look for food and rest as well as for curious fishermen who come to enjoy the low tide.In addition to the road, the markers that have marked the passage since 1780 attract the eye and appear as a timeless artistic installation. Le Gois has been listed in the department's inventory of sites since 1942.
Once you have passed the first arm of land after the bridge and arrived in the widest part of the island, another monument catches the eye, perched in the distance. This is the Château de Noirmoutier, built at the end of the 12th century. A medieval type, its proud and square appearance gives it a unique charm. It offers you a panoramic view of the island, at the top of its keep, which also houses the museum whose collection traces the history of Noirmoutier. The neighbouring Saint-Philibert church, as inseparable from this universe, displays a Romanesque style in the heart and a Gothic style in the nave.
Other monuments enrich the discovery of the heritage. Along the shore between La Madeleine and La Linière, the former abbey of La Blanche emerges from an oak wood and reveals its old stones. If one cannot enter the interior, one can however, at the bend of a road, see some beautiful remains such as the Porte des Deux Lions and the facades of monastic buildings dating back to the 17th century.
The mills also have a long history with Noirmoutier. While there were as many as 48 in the 18th century, there are now only about twenty scattered here and there. Louis XVI, King of France, even owned one. There was a time when a lot of cereals were produced in Noirmoutier. And those that had an agricultural function and could also serve as landmarks for sailors, now shape the landscape, like the 4 mills of the Cour de la Guérinière that take place at the foot of the Grey Dune. This wild expanse, covered with lichens and short plants, is the best observation point for buildings that no longer play with the wind but certainly contribute to the island's unique character
An island designed to welcome visitors
It's a reality: Noirmoutier attracts many visitors in summer, who come to enjoy all that the Atlantic coast has to offer to relax and have fun. But there is no way to denature the island. It has been designed to be welcoming, while respecting the environment. Thus, the municipality very quickly showed its willingness to develop bicycle paths to encourage tourists to use bicycles. With 83 kilometres of trails and 3 thematic circuits, Noirmoutier is part of a green tourism. It is possible to share a friendly moment while discovering exceptional sites such as the intimate village of Le Vieil, the port of l'Herbaudière or even Le Bois de la Chaise, in search of the most beautiful bourgeois houses before stopping in a sheltered creek.
In both summer and winter, the city centre of Noirmoutier-en-l'île has a large number of alleys that house buildings, shops and places steeped in history. In fine weather, the atmosphere comes alive with shops that open their doors wide, exhibition spaces that bring a touch of culture and the market that displays its most beautiful displays and where life is good. Noirmoutier enchants, fascinates and makes you want to come back to it, over and over again.
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