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The different sides of the Île de Ré: discover these 10 villages

Written on : 12 July 2019
By : Clarisse Haurogné

A mild climate and sunshine all year round, authentic natural landscapes and the most exquisite culinary traditions, Île de Ré is a real corner of paradise whatever the season. However, the island is not nicknamed Ré la Blanche for anything. There is a palette of colours with incomparable charm and a lifestyle preserved throughout the centuries to discover during your family holidays or a weekend on the Ile de Ré. 
 
If you are fascinated by traditional houses with green shutters and flower-filled alleys of hollyhocks, then you will enjoy this article. Here is a list of the 10 villages with the typical charm of the island. 

Rivedoux-Plage

Let's make our first stop at the village of Rivedoux-Plage. Located at the entrance of the island, this last one is the first village you will reach after crossing the bridge of Ré. The village is bordered on each side by two huge stretches of fine sand. Rivedoux-Plage was originally a defence point of the island due to its strategic location and was once dependent on its neighbour Sainte-Marie-de-Ré before becoming a commune in 1928 and a popular holiday destination for tourists. 
 
With an area of 4.6 km2 and a little over 2,300 inhabitants, Rivedoux-Plage is the smallest municipality on the island. The north of the village is rather family oriented and invites you to calm and stroll while the south will please lovers of idleness and water sports more with its 2 km of fine sandy beach. 
 
Discover: the ramparts of the Redoubt built by Vauban, the vertiginous lighthouse of Chauveau, the Manoir d'Hastrel, the ideal jetty to walk and learn about angling and the oyster parks. 

Sainte-Marie-de-Ré

If you are attentive, you will have the opportunity to see the village bell tower from the Ré bridge which will guide you to the south coast of Ré la Blanche. Located between the ocean and the vineyards, Sainte-Marie-de-Ré is one of the oldest municipalities on the island and its construction dates back to medieval times. Here, we recommend leaving the car behind because this preserved place is much more pleasant and quiet to visit by bike or on foot. 
 
The village is renowned for its liveliness and joie de vivre. Enjoy activities that vary with the seasons, from outdoor concerts to garage sales, not to mention the sea festival or even the small daily markets. Local craftsmen and merchants will also welcome you with open arms to help you discover the traditions of the region. 
 
Discover: the squares of Antioch and Les Tilleuls and their charming little shops, the path of the 5 landscapes, the thalassotherapy centre, former winegrowers' and millers' houses. 

La Flotte

To the north of Sainte-Marie-de-Ré is the charming village of La Flotte, also one of the oldest on the island. It was first a fishing village before becoming a popular tourist attraction. And for good reason! It's important historical and cultural heritage, its port, has narrow flowering alleys and it's medieval market makes it famous. La Flotte is now classified among the "Most Beautiful Villages in France". 
 
The village is particularly appreciated for its lively marina and classified as a "Blue Flag" (eco-label for environmental management efforts). This one accommodates numerous boats, sailboats and old rigging. Take the opportunity to stop at one of the many restaurants, bars and ice-cream parlours to taste the delicious local specialities. 
 
Discover: the medieval market, the Abbey of Châteliers, the Platin museum, the Prée fort.

Saint-Martin-de-Ré

Saint-Martin-de-Ré is the historical capital of Île de Ré and must during your stay on the island, the village has a unique seaside charm. This municipality of 2,700 inhabitants is entirely organised around its port and is protected by immensely fortified walls. The village centre is lively all year round and harbours a wealth of treasures. Old alleys, markets, historic residences and small shops, you will be totally seduced by Saint-Martin-de-Ré. 
 
However, the main attraction of the village remains the fortifications and the citadel of Vauban, both built in the 17th century. These were used to protect the area from potential enemies and then, later, prisoners were gathered there before being sent to New Caledonia and Guyana.
 
Discover: the Citadel and fortifications of Vauban, the Maison de la Vinaterie, the Ernest Cognacq museum, the observatory bell tower, the Cible beach

Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré

The seaside resort of Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré is located on the south coast of Ile de Ré and has 2,410 inhabitants. It is characterized by its kilometres of beautiful beaches labelled Blue Flag in 2015 and its dunes hiding a vast wooded area full of cycle paths. You will also find many archaeological remains from prehistoric times, proving that humanity already lived on this territory millions of years ago. 
 
The village is also appreciated for its warm centre, its many small shops, its daily market during the season (the most important on the island) and of course its winding streets lined with hollyhocks. 
 
Discover: the Bellère mill, the village church and its stained glass windows decorated with marine motifs, the Malakoff Tower, the Clos Marin, the anchor of the Cristina Rueda, the Wine Cooperative.

La Couarde-sur-Mer

Extensive beaches, vineyards as far as the eye can see or salt marshes, that's what awaits you at La Couarde-sur-Mer. This small village of 1,200 inhabitants is located in the heart of Île de Ré and has a unique charm. Considered the ideal starting point for cycling, La Couarde-sur-Mer is a veritable labyrinth of flowered alleys and seduces with its picturesque little port called the Chenal de Goisil.
 
On the south side, you will find long dunes lined with pine forests and hiding huge beaches of fine sand extending over 5km. It is the opportunity to practice many nautical activities such as kite surfing, fishing on foot or sailing, or to enjoy idleness on the fine sand. 
 
Discover: the music kiosk and its many concerts, the market, the beach of La Couarde, the salt marshes.

Loix

This mosaic territory gives the feeling of being on an island on an island. Spreading over 670 hectares between land and sea, Loix is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Fier d'Ars and the salt marshes. Only two cycle paths provide access to it, the first along the sea and the second winding through olive trees, woods and salt marshes. The Loix peninsula is classified as a tourist resort and has been awarded the Citaslow label, a label that promotes a wellbeing culture. 
 
Discover: the Pointe et Fort du Grouin, the salt marshes, the ecomuseum of the Marais Salant.

Ars-en-Ré

Lovers of tranquillity and history, Ars-en-Ré is the ideal holiday destination for you. The village has been classified among the "Most Beautiful Villages in France" for its alleyways paved with flowers of hollyhocks steeped in history and its pretty little white houses with green shutters. The latter is entirely articulated around its church built in the 7th century and its bell tower in its famous black and white colours. Rising to about 40 metres, it is used to guide boats to the entrance of the bay and the port. 
 
Fishing enthusiasts will also be delighted because, at low tide, the Fier d'Ars becomes a huge expanse of mud and sandbanks. A sailing school is also located on the bay to teach water sports to your children. 
 
Discover: the Romanesque and Gothic church of Saint-Etienne, Le Martray, the foreshore. 

Les Portes-en-Ré

Les Portes-en-Ré

Located at the northwest tip of the island, the village of Les Portes-en-Ré is appreciated for its authenticity and relaxing lifestyle. So, if you like tranquillity, you will love discovering the charming little white houses with green shutters nestled in the flowered alleys of hollyhocks in winter. During the sunny days, the village comes alive and the shops, restaurants and terraces fill up. A market with irresistible colours and flavours also takes place every day during the season. 
 
This village is unique in its location in the heart of a protected and authentic environment. Located in the middle of the salt marshes, Les Portes-en-Ré is home to the Nature Reserve of Lilleau des Niges, a true wildlife paradise where thousands of birds from Africa, Europe and North America come to rest all year round. You will discover hundreds of different bird species such as the little eagle, the white stilt or the gull, but also a multitude of plant species living together in this corner of wild paradise. 
 
Discover: the Place de la Liberté, the Maison du Fier, the ornithological reserve of Lilleau des Niges. 

Saint-Clément-des-Baleines

A small village of 700 inhabitants located at the western end of Ile de Ré, Saint-Clément-des-Baleines lies between the wild coast and a sandy beach. You will find the largest beach on the island, the beach of La Conche, its wild and rocky coasts, ideal for fishing on foot. 
 
But the village of Saint-Clément-des-Baleines is particularly famous for its lighthouse overlooking the entire area. The Whale Lighthouse is certainly the most visited place on the island. It was built in 1825 because many boats ran aground on the Retaise coast as well as some whales. 
 
Discover: the whale lighthouse, the whale tower, the beach of La Conche, the lock of La Moufette.