Amazing Day Trips to Take From La Rochelle by Boat

Île dYeu draws visitors in with its dramatic seaside landscapes
Île d'Yeu draws visitors in with its dramatic seaside landscapes | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Chrissie McClatchie

Old meets new in La Rochelle, one of the most important maritime centres in all of France. The entrance to the Vieux Port is guarded by two medieval towers – once connected by a heavy chain – while across town, the 5,000-berth Port des Minimes is a thoroughly modern marina that plays host to numerous sailing competitions throughout the year. Make some time in your itinerary to visit the old fishing district of Saint Nicolas for some freshly shucked oysters – a local speciality – before raising the anchor on one of these day trips by sea.

Cruise along the most amazing coastline gems with Culture Trip’s Sailing Trips.

Île de Ré

Although connected to the mainland by an expansive modern bridge, you still feel like you’ve switched to holiday mode as soon as you set foot on the Île de Ré. The flat island is a dream for cyclists with 110km (68mi) of bike paths that lead past sandy beaches, salt marshes and pretty villages. Home to a population of fewer than 3,000 people, Saint-Martin-de-Ré is its capital — with 17th fortifications now classified as a Unesco-listed site.

South of La Rochelle, Châtelaillon Beach is a long stretch of fine golden sand framed by ornate waterfront residences. Consistent Atlantic winds make this the perfect spot for kitesurfing and other watersports. Indeed, the seaside resort plays host to an annual Kite and Wind Festival. Walk the coastal promenade to the port of Bouchôleurs to work up an appetite for fresh seafood at L’Ambiance Cabane, a traditional waterfront wooden oyster cabin.

Île d’Oléron

Lit up by brightly coloured fishermen’s houses and matching wooden fishing boats, the Île d’Oléron is known as “the luminous island”. As with the Île de Ré, you’ll find charming fishing villages, sandy beaches and pine-scented pathways. The island also has a rich wine-making tradition. Make your way to the Vignerons d’Oléron in Saint-Pierre d’Oléron for a taste of the local tipple, a sweet blend of grapes and brandy called Pineau des Charentes.

Île d’Aix

The population of the tiny Île d’Aix, where Napoléon spent his last days in France before being exiled to Saint Helena, is just over 200 people – although that swells during the summer months as daytrippers make the short crossing from La Rochelle to enjoy its five beaches and waymarked walking and cycling trails. Between April and September, Les Calèches de l’île d’Aix runs horse and cart carriage tours along a 5km (3mi) route.

Île Madame

At the mouth of the Charente estuary, across from the Île d’Oléron, the Île Madame is the smallest island in the Charentais archipelago. There’s no marina (or permanent population) but daytrippers can drop anchor to visit the Ferme Aquacole de l’Ile Madame: an oyster farm that serves up sunny seafood platters at lunch between April and September.

Fort Boyard

A destination made famous by the hit TV game show of the 1990s, Fort Boyard was completed at Napoleon’s orders in 1857 but arrived centuries in the making. Visitors aren’t permitted inside, but don’t let that put you off the trip – the water-locked former floating prison is a sight to behold.

Île d’Yeu

The furthest from the mainland of all the French Atlantic islands, the Île d’Yeu has a rugged character with windswept cliffs, rocky coves and grassy moors. Along the docks of Port-Joinville, you can stock up on freshly caught sole, bream, hake and shellfish, while to the south, the charming Port de la Meule is a protected bay that serves as an ideal starting point for the GR80 hiking trail, which runs the circumference of the island.

Phare de Cordouan

This grand lighthouse, built in the 16th century, stands at the entry to the Gironde Estuary, a beacon of light for vessels as they approach and depart from Bordeaux. Teams of two guardians work on seven-day rotations to maintain the structure and also welcome visitors to the Unesco-listed site, between April and October. When coming with your own boat, you need to notify them in advance of your arrival.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

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.

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