The smart resort of Les Sables-d’Olonne has shops, markets and regular regattas.
In November 2012, sailing enthusiasts can see the start of the notorious Vendee Globe Challenge which begins every 4 years from the Port Olona Marina.
Long stretches of fine sand, golf course, casino and the marina which has berths for over 1,000 vessels make this a popular resort year round, often busy in high season.
Les Sables-d’Olonne’s Musee de l’Abbeye Saint-Croix has interesting displays of modern art.
As a change from the beach, take the 8km trip to the Musee d’Automobile and feast your eyes on 150 classic cars, cycles and motorcycles.
The island is found off the northern Vendee coast of western France. There are 2 ways to reach the island from the mainland – the newer bridge or the more traditional ‘Passage du Gois’, a road that is completely submerged at high tide and can therefore only be used at certain times of the day.
To the north-east of the island is the town of Noirmoutier-en-Ille, the traditional port for the island and where visitors will find the chateau and church which dominates the town with its high keep of almost 20 metres.
A well preserved twelfth century medieval castle, it was originally built to defend the monks and the islanders against the Vikings. Nearby is Herbaudiere, fishing port and centre for various water based leisure activities.
Also in Noirmoutier, visitors can head for Oceanile water park with water slides and waterfalls. The western coast of the island has pleasant sandy beaches. Or visit the nineteenth century Chateau du Pelave. For more information, contact the Tourist Information Office, BP 125, 85330 Noirmoutier or tel: (00 33) 2 51 39 80 71.
Situated just off the Vendee coast of western France, the island covers an area of approximately 23km². There are 2 harbours, Port-Joinville in the north and Port de la Meul, famous for tuna and crayfish fishing. The island has long sandy beaches and dunes, woods, cliffs and coves, barren moors and marshy countryside.
To visit, there are 4 points serving the island, Fromentine (all year long), St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie (April to September), Noirmoutier (April to September) and Les Sables-d’Olonne (July and August).
There are also helicopter flights from La Barre-de-Monts. Reservations are essential. Once on the island, there are various forms of transport for hire - cars, bicycles (tours available), scooters - plus there is a bus service or taxis. Restaurants available. For more information, contact the Tourist Office tel: (00 33) 2 51 58 32 58.
Chosen and rebuilt by Napoleon as the new capital city of the Vendee in 1804 after the original town had been burned by the Republicans, the market town of La Roche-sur-Yon is a good example of the Emperor’s town planning, with wide straight avenues originally including barracks and stables and large parade ground.
A statue of Napoleon on horseback still presides over the town’s huge main square. Horses are much in evidence in La Roche where the town centre Haras National (national stud farm) spreads over 4.5 hectares (demonstrations daily until early September).
Visit the church of St Nicholas and look for the trompe l’oeil paintings in the vault of the church of St Louis. Stroll around La Roche discovering its history and interesting sites with a ‘Napoleon Circuit’ leaflet from the tourist office (00 33) 2 51 36 99 85.
Also ask for details of guided walks, including evening tours in period costume and horse-drawn carriage tours.
Amongst Vendee’s 140km of fine white sandy beaches the 8km stretch at St Jean-de-Monts is one of the best. The swimming is great for children, beaches are monitored and have special nautical activities like wind carting.
There’s plenty for children to do when they tire of the beach; mini-golf, 6-seater bikes and ‘go ape circuit’ with special children’s activities from February to November. Adults can enjoy sailing, windsurfing and jet skiing and a variety of cafes and gift shops in the new town area by the sea.
For walking and safe cycling there are seaside and dune trails, or forest, swamp and beach horse riding (00 33) 2 51 58 64 80. Golfers will enjoy Golf Club St Jean-de-Monts - a new 18-hole course with excellent modern facilities on an exceptional coastal site amongst pine woods and beside the ocean (00 33) 2 51 58 82 73.
Behind the pine-fringed dunes, the daily old town market sells local fresh produce and visitors can stroll between St Jean’s many cafes, boutiques and restaurants. To finally unwind after so much activity, why not try a session of thalassotherapy at St Jean’s marine thermal baths with one of the biggest seawater spa pools in France.