Amazing Day Trips to Take From La Rochelle by Boat

Île d'Yeu draws visitors in with its dramatic seaside landscapes
Île d'Yeu draws visitors in with its dramatic seaside landscapes | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Chrissie McClatchie
1 December 2021
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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.

Lap up the coastline of La Rochelle by renting a yacht with SamBoat.

Île de Ré

Natural Feature
The port of Saint-Martin-de Re is bustling with life, France
©  Hilke Maunder / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Châtelaillon-Plage

Natural Feature
The busy beach at Chatelaillon Plage in the Charente-Maritime France
© David Jones / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Natural Feature
Colourful beach cabins at Saint-Denis-d'Oleron on the island Ile d'Oleron, Charente-Maritime, France September 2012
| © Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Natural Feature
Lighthouses of Ile d'Aix island, Charente Maritime department, France
© Amar and Isabelle Guillen - Guillen Photo LLC / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Natural Feature
France, Charente Maritime, Ile Madame on the Charente estuary, Passe aux Boeufs at low tide
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Building, Historical Landmark
France, Charente Maritime, hulking Fort Boyard as seen from aerial view
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Natural Feature
Boats moored off a sandy cove on the Ile de Yeu
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
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

Building, Historical Landmark
Le Phare de Cordouan lighthouse as seen from below
© Levi-Pascal Bohnacker / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Cruise along the coast near La Rochelle by chartering a yacht through SamBoat – no sailing experience necessary.

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