Discover Ile de Ré

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The Ile de Ré is a perfectly preserved island paradise with good beaches, lovely seaside villages and a chic atmosphere, lying just off La Rochelle mid-way down the Atlantic coast. It's an excellent choice for family holidays or for couples.

Some 30kms long, it has a distinctive, naturally beautiful landscape. The south side of the island is fringed by sandy beaches; the north side is all oyster farms, salt marshes and inlets plus a couple of glorious harbours - St Martin and La Flotte.

See some stunning Ile de Ré photos on Pinterest.

Despite its recent growth as a chic holiday resort, the island still boasts a thriving working life, and the villages have retained their authentic French feel - they are true villages-by-the-sea. As well as tourism oysters, mussels, wine and asparagus are the chief products of the island.

The villages are amazingly charming and pretty - low-rise, whitewashed houses, terracotta roofs, shutters in subtle shades of green-and-blues, nothing over-manicured.

There are 60 kms of cycle paths, and the flat landscape makes it easy-going for gentle rides from village-to-village. It's the best way to explore the island, and hiring is easy.

There are lots of spots for sailing, windsurfing, kite-surfing, paddle-boarding and surfing too. Equipment hire and lessons are widely available. Foodies are very well catered-for, good restaurants abound and the village food markets are a delight.

A few island highlights:

» St Martin de Ré - the island's capital - is a mecca for yacht-owners who spend a few hours ashore indulging in the harbour's seafood restuarants and brocantes (do we sound jealous?). If ever St Martin de Ré is too crowded, La Flotte is a smaller, less well-known version and not to be missed.

» La Couarde - a real village-by-the-sea: a lovely central square with church and al-fresco restaurants, tall winding narrow streets, colourful shutters, tasteful homeware boutiques and galleries. Next to fantastic beaches. A delight.

» Beaches - for waves head to the south coast beaches at La Couarde, Le Bois Plage and Sainte Marie de Ré. There are some good surf spots along this stretch of coast too. St Martin & La Flotte have a couple of lovely sandy spots on the gentler north coast, and there's a long sandy stretch of beach all around Les Portes

» The lighthouse Phare des Baleines is worth a detour too - the views are wonderful and the clear waters will lure you in for a swim soon after!

» The ride to from la Couarde  to Ars en Ré is lovely. Follow the track around the salt marshes into the pleasant village square for refreshments.

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