Charente-Maritime Activities and Things To Do On Holiday

Giraffe at La Palmyre Zoo, Charente Maritime, France

Go to Palmyre Zoo

This is one of the most popular zoos in France. Opened in 1966, it extends over 18 hectares, including 14 landscaped gardens, offering visitors the opportunity to observe over 1600 animals (130 different species) in an environment close to their natural habitat. The average duration of visits is 4 hours. The zoo offers sea lion, parrot and cockatoo shows.

Open all year round. Wheelchair accessible. Free parking. No dogs. Offers places for relaxing and eating inside the park. For more information contact: (00 33) 5 46 22 46 06.

Visit the Aquarium at La Rochelle

The aquarium offers the chance to survey the diversity and beauty of all the oceans of the world. Visitors can see precious and fragile corals, go through a tunnel of jellyfish, pass beneath a powerful wave and encounter several species of shark. On the first floor, there is a tropical atmosphere resembling the mangroves of Florida with shoals of piranhas. There are Caribbean Sea and Indo-Pacific aquariums and an interactive display area. Tel: (00 33) 5 55 46 34 00 00.

Visit the Jardins du Monde, Royan

Visit this park of just over 7 hectares of landscaped gardens and go through one of the largest orchid greenhouses in France. There are bonsai trees, butterflies, a flooded garden, and Mediterranean gardens with an array of magnificent colours and perfumes right in the heart of Royan.

Open 1000 to 2000 hrs July and August, 1000 to 1800 hrs Sept - June.

Closed early Jan to mid-March. For more information visit: www.jardins-du-monde.com

Tel: (00 33) 5 46 38 00 99.

Explore the Caves at Meschers

Meschers is not only an exceptional troglodytique site, it is also a seaside resort and a good harbour for sailing and fishing. The sea caves are located high above the valley and estuary of the Gironde River. The caves also contain the nature museum of the Gironde Estuary. Cave houses formed out of the soft cretaceous limestone or chalk are still used by man today.

Sites open from mid-March to mid-November daily with conducted tours. For more information contact: (00 33) 5 46 90 43 66 or (00 33) 5 46 02 55 36.

Visit the Church of Ste-Radegonde, Talmont

Located 15km south of Royan, the village of Talmont itself is a delight, with white painted houses and hollyhocks everywhere. The Church of Ste-Radegonde, built in 1094 in a solid Romanesque style with square tower, was a stopping place for pilgrims en route for Compostela where they either set off by sea towards the Bay of Biscay, crossed the Gironde Estuary or by-passed it in the direction of Bordeaux.

Set on a rocky promontory overlooking the Gironde with spectacular views from its little cemetery, the church and its beautiful sculptures are a popular tourist attraction. Wait until evening in summer when the visitors have gone to enjoy Ste-Radegonde lit by the setting sun.

Take a Tour of the Oyster Beds at Oleron and Re, Visit the Oyster Museum at St Trojan, Oleron

The oyster beds of Oleron and Re are an essential part of island economy. At Fort Royer in Boyardville on Oleron there are tastings and guided visits in summer (and off season weekends) to a protected area of oyster beds, traditional oyster-men’s huts and botany trails.

Details at local information centres and from the ‘Terres Marines’ association. Take a tour of the oyster beds from La Flotte on Ile de Re and enquire locally about oyster farm visits to places like La Retaise near La Courade where you can buy direct.

Visit Musee Ostreicole in an oyster fisherman’s cabin at St Trojan-les-Bains on Oleron and the new discovery centre near mainland Marennes on the La Cayenne Channel - full of entertaining information about the role of the oyster. The bridge linking Oleron to the mainland goes over the famous Marennes-Oleron oyster beds. Watch oyster boats laden with their gastronomic delicacies plying back and forth.

Have Fun at the Chateau des Enigmes, Pons

Three hours of mystery and adventure for all the family in the Renaissance chateau and surrounding park. Revisit 1330 on the trail of the Knights Templar. Open each day April to early Nov. Tel: (00 33) 5 46 91 09 19.

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