11 Reasons Why You Must Visit Ile De Ré

One of Ile de Rés many picturesque marinas
One of Ile de Ré's many picturesque marinas | © Gaël Chardon / Flickr
Kate McCaffrey

Home to glorious beaches, vineyards, salt marshes, and authentic French villages, Ile de Ré has been the second home of fashionable Parisians for generations. Here are 11 reasons to visit this peaceful idyll for yourself and discover why it is so beloved.

It’s bordered by idyllic, sandy beaches

Seemingly endless stretches of pale, soft sand and gorgeous sea surround Ile de Ré. While there are more popular beaches (Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré is usually the busiest) there are many quieter, more peaceful expanses of sand to discover. You can stumble across the untouched beaches of La Couarde-sur-Mur or La Noue and feel like the first person to walk down the sandy dunes and gaze out to the immense Atlantic horizon.

It feels intimate but not confined

Small enough to drive from one end to the other in 40 minutes, Ile de Ré has an intimacy that’s comforting and local without leaving you feeling restricted. With a resident population of around 20,000 spread across the island, there’s never a feeling of being crowded, despite its small size. Quite the opposite, the landscape appears to unfold for miles.

Local island life in the main town, Saint-Martin-De-Ré

There are cycle routes for both the seasoned cyclists and family beginners

This is undoubtedly the best way to get around the island. Bicycle shops are in most towns and can be rented for reasonable prices. Residents cycle all the time, often to fill their baskets with local market produce. There are dedicated cycle lanes alongside roads and specific cycle routes to follow. Cycle at your own pace through open fields and vineyards, leafy squares and gorgeous little villages. You can hug the rugged coastline and admire the beaches, or explore the salt marshes and oyster bays which can only be accessed by bike.

Cycle routes on Ile de Ré

The colours are stunning

Across the island you will see shuttered houses in the softest pastels lining lightly cobbled streets of taupes and greys. There is a distinct colour scheme that reflects the simple way of life and natural coastline. The pale blues and khakis, the mellow creams and lilacs are seen in architecture, fashion and art. It’s as if the island has been painted in gentle watercolour strokes. At dusk and dawn these colours come alive, the light sparkles on the water and glides across buildings. Make sure you have your camera ready, although no picture really does it justice.

The bridge connecting the island to the mainland is iconic

Built in 1988, the 3km bridge is the only entry point into the island, other than by boat. It offers stunning views as you both leave behind mainland France and enter the island. Open 24/7, a small fee is paid at the toll gate on your journey into Ile de Ré, though there is no fee leaving. Leave your cares and worries behind as you drive across the bridge into a peaceful haven.

Bridge to Ile de Ré

It is the Parisian equivalent of the Hamptons

It’s no surprise that this small island becomes the summer haven of fashionable Parisians, who flock here to their second homes, escaping the hustle and bustle of city life. Ile de Ré is the epitome of understated French chic. There is no garish glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur. Instead there is an elegant nonchalance, a low-key sophistication that only the French can do so well.

It’s close to the historic city of La Rochelle

A strategically important harbour since the 12th century, La Rochelle became known as the gateway to the Atlantic and is on the other side of the bridge to Ile de Ré. Aside from having an airport for easy access, the city itself is well worth a visit. It has a rich history as an international port city, a hub for English, German, and Dutch merchants. In the Wars of Religion, La Rochelle became the main fortressed hub of illegal Huguenot worship. This history can be seen in the surviving old port, and is documented in various museums.

The historic old port of La Rochelle

You can easily avoid the tourists

The beauty of Ile de Ré is that it’s a tranquil snapshot into the simple life of local residents. Be careful when you visit though, as the summer season sees thousands of tourists, mainly French, descend upon the island. Try visiting in May or September for a quiet alternative, still with beautiful weather. The calmness of local life is the real essence of the island.

The incredible, classic cuisine

Influenced strongly by its position in the Atlantic, exquisite seafood is certainly the meal of choice. Elegant simplicity is seen equally across Michelin-starred restaurants serving multiple course tasting menus and beach shacks serving oysters and prawns straight from the sea. Depending on season, the island abounds with different local produce. In the spring there are the famous potatoes, asparagus and broad beans. In summer, tomatoes, peaches and cherries. All year you can find locally produced wine, beer, cheese and biscuits showcased in gorgeous little family-run wine bars dotted across the island. Try La Part des Anges in La Couarde-sur-Mer for a cosy wine bar; La Cabanajam near Saint-Martin-de-Ré for fresh seafood; and Saint-Martin’s Le Bistrot du Marin for a real local experience.

Oyster beds

The beautiful harbours

A crucial part of the historic activity of the island, and still an important hub of activity, many towns have gorgeous harbours where boats are moored. A must-see is the harbour at La Flotte, a charming, authentic village now classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The waterfront is a main attraction, where visitors and locals alike sip wine and watch boats come and go.

The main town is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Saint-Martin-de-Ré is the main town on the island, the mini capital of Ile de Ré. Home to some of the best restaurants, bistrots, bars, and ice cream, it is situated within fortressed walls and around a gorgeous waterfront. Saint-Martin is also a World Heritage site. In the 1670s, the famous French military engineer and Marshal of France, Vauban, was commissioned to overhaul the island’s defences. He enclosed this town in extensive fortifications and modern city walls still standing today. Climb the bell tower of the church for a panoramic view of the terracotta-roofed houses and donkeys grazing in striped shorts (a local tradition).

The rooftops of Saint-Martin-de-Ré
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.