As soon as school was out for summer, we jumped in the car and headed straight for Île de Ré, which is an island off the west coast of France near La Rochelle. We’d visited this magical place only once before and just for a day trip, when we were on holiday a 40 minute drive away in the little village of Sainte Hermine (I must write up another travel blog post on the place we stayed there, it was truly gorgeous, but anyway I digress) and we’d always said we should go back and spend some time on Île de Ré, so we were really excited to be ‘doing it’ properly this time.Getting There:
We live sort of South-West London area and decided we would drive and take the Euro-Tunnel, mainly because my husband is happy to do long drives and also it meant we could load up the car and take our own bikes for the kids (we hired bikes for us whilst on the island as we didn’t want to go to the bother of bringing our own, the kids ones fit in the boot if we take them apart). Door to door it took us about 12 hours or so, but that was with us only making one en route stop once in France – once we were off the Euro Tunnel we powered on there, thankfully the kids don’t require frequent loo stops! If you’re not up for driving, then fly into La Rochelle and you could hire a car there to drive the rest of the journey (about 40 mins) or I believe you can pick up a bus.
EVERYONE cycles on Île de Ré. Literally everyone. There’s a huge network of cycle paths and the island is pretty flat, so it’s easy and really lovely to just jump on your bike and cycle around all over the place. There’s also a cycle hire shop virtually on every corner, so you can pick up some wheels really easily. Our kids, aged 6 and 4 years, were able to comfortably (more or less) cycle everywhere, but if you have children that are younger or not so keen to get on their bike, you can also hire kids seats to attach to your own bike or those trailers that the kids sit in to get ferried about like royalty. We hired our adult bikes (a mountain one for the husband, a city bike for me) from Cycland in La Flotte – they have shops all over the island.
Where to Stay:
We booked an AMAZING Airbnb property in La Flotte, it had three bedrooms and was just perfect for us (2 adults, 2 kids). There aren’t many hotels on the island, so an Airbnb is a good option, I also spotted what looked like a cute apartment/guest house type place (only saw it from the outside though) called Le Mole in La Flotte, which had a great location near the port and looking out to the sea. In terms of where to stay, La Flotte was gorgeous and we also visited Le Bois Place en Ré – a very pretty seaside town – and Saint Martin de Ré, another charming port town like La Flotte but a little bigger. Any of those would be a great place to stay. While visiting Saint Martin de Ré, I spotted Hôtel de Toiras, which is situated right in the port (great location) and looked gorgeous, so it you’re looking to splash the cash (it is 5 stars) then I’d be tempted to have a look. For us, staying in the Airbnb was a great option and gave us a taste of ‘living’ on Île de Ré, which we loved.
Where to Eat:
Starting of course with dessert… you MUST have an ice cream at one of the La Martinière artisan ice cream shops that area all over Île de Ré. The ice creams there are AMAZING. As a family, we worked our way through a number of flavours – the mango was the biggest hit with the 6 year old, while the 4 year old majored in chocolate, also a firm favourite of mine along with the rum and raisin (me, not the 4 year old).Of course, being an island, it’s all about the seafood and, in particular, the oysters. You’re never far from a plate of oysters on Île de Ré – sadly for me, they’re just not my thing, but the husband feasted on them almost daily. Look out for signs stating ‘Huîtres’ if you’re into eating salty snot (as I said, really not my thing) and definitely make a little pilgramage to Cabanajam, an oyster shack right on the beach that is just gorgeous for super fresh seafood (I had the langoustines, delicious) and I recommend an accompanying glass of rose for the perfect holiday lunch.Other places we ate and ate really well were:
Le Nautic, family friendly restaurant in La Flotte – lovely and relaxed dining with a great view of the port in La Flotte.
Les Viviers, amazing seafood restaurant (but does do other things) in Rivedoux Plage, the husband and I both had fresh lobster literally picked out of the tank we were sitting next to (apologies to anyone who objects to that!).
Hotel Restaurant Le Grand Large in Rivedoux Plage, delicious and family friendly also, right on the seafront.What to See:
Cycle your way around the island and just take in the beautiful beachy scenery that is all around, as well as the pretty fields of sunflowers and lovely green, flat landscape. Visit the main little towns and harbour villages/ports that scatter the island – La Flotte, Saint Martin – all gorgeous places to wander and browse the shops, enjoy an ice cream, Instagram yourself to death (seriously good Insta-worthy backdrops all around!). Someone said to me you’ll feel like you’re in a Farrow & Ball colour chart and indeed, that is exactly how you’ll feel – beautiful shades of grey, blue, green all around you. Gorgeous.If you fancy taking a trip off the island and are up for a theme park day with a difference, I can highly recommend Puy du Fou – it’s an enormous park that’s divided into zones that include Viking, Roman, Medieval… but instead of it being chock-full of rides, they actually put on huge spectacular shows with a cast of thousands and amazing animals. Honestly my description can barely do it justice, but if you have a chance to go then I urge you to – it is all in French, but despite that, the kids really enjoyed watching the shows and were mesmerised for the whole day. They’ve been asking to go back ever since!Where to Shop:
Each of the harbour towns have a plethora of gorgeous little boutiques and shops that are perfect for browsing and shopping to your hearts content. There are beach bags a plenty, amazing boho linen dresses, pretty scarves, espadrilles and embellished sandals… I could go on… a few places I’d recommend you swing by include:
Black Flamingo, Boutique N.U.E and Lazzara in Saint-Martin-de-Ré. In fact, Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a brilliant place for lovely shops, so definitely make a trip there if you’re looking to buy a few bits and pieces.
19 La Suite… concept store in La Flotte. Plus, if you’re looking for an authentic food shopping market experience then the daily market in La Flotte is DEFINITELY worth a visit – we went every few days because we were staying around the corner and regularly picked up yummy cheese, cured meats, vegetables and fruit. The kids absolutely loved doing the food shop there, it was fab.
What to Wear:
Île de Ré is a very relaxed, very casual, beachy place so no need to pack your smartest clothes or your heels – definitely leave those at home! Weather wise, it was cooler in the evenings than I’d expected so bring something warmer to throw on for those nights out. I wish wish wish I’d brought a cashmere shawl, which would have been the perfect holiday essential, but you live and learn. I lived in denim shorts, easy throw-on tops/shirts and dresses. I’ve popped the links below to anything that’s still available:
These Mango sunglasses are almost identical to the Prada ones I lived in, but substantially cheaper
The Stella & Dot White Tunic that my daughter and I both have, here’s a link to the girls one and it’s in the sale.
Cara Nooky sandals in rose gold glitter