La Vélo Francette cycle route passes through the beautiful countryside of the Charente-Maritime, starting in the Marais Poitevin and ending up in La Rochelle with its lively old harbour. This is the last stage of this national cycle route, and its canal and riverside-itinerary allows you to park your trusty two-wheeler awhile whilst you explore the inland waterways by row-boat, canoe, motorboat or yacht.
The Vélo Francette, all that’s best about ‘la belle France’!
This 600+ km-long cycle route offers a great chance to wend your way through the highways and byways of France, the old-fashioned way!
From Ouistreham, in Normandy to La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, this quintessentially French cycling holiday will give you a fresh perspective on the country! The Vélo Francette route is the perfect way to discover (or reacquaint yourself with) the charms of a France untouched by time, a wonderful heritage that’s half-hidden away and numerous picture-perfect towns and villages – all from the vantage point of your saddle!
The starting point: Bazoin, gateway to the Marais Poitevin
It seems only natural that the Vélo Francette route should enter Charente-Maritime at Bazoin, more specifically, on one of the foot-bridges so typical of the Marais Poitevin region. Before you get going, take a while to savour the peace and quiet of this wonderfully laid-back place.
Although Bazoin is not one of the better-known tourist destinations in the Marais Poitevin, it’s still possible to hire a boat here and enjoy a boat trip down the river.
Just a few minutes’ journey away is the Pôle Nature du Marais Poitevin nature reserve visitor centre in Taugon – ideal for anyone wanting to dive in and find out more about the story behind this incredible Regional Nature Reserve – a place like no other in France.
La Rochelle by bike
The route runs alongside the Sèvre Niortaise river, which forms the backbone of the Marais, and the Canal de Pomère, as far as Marans, a pleasant riverside town. Take the time to explore this town where the river reigns supreme – the marina, the old town, the Beauregard windmill and the village church with its strikingly modern bell tower are all worth seeing.
At the marina, you have two options to choose from: a second boat trip on whatever style of vessel takes your fancy or continue your journey by bike. It’s worth remembering that from this point on, this cycle route joins up with another countrywide route, La Vélodyssée.
Next, it’s a straight run through to La Rochelle by bike, a journey that will take you through a unique natural setting along the canal connecting Marans with La Rochelle, a dynamic city that’s always been shaped by the sea. There are many feats of civil engineering (bridges and locks) and fauna and flora to be seen, as well as small villages within easy reach. The canal itself is a protected site of special environmental interest for almost 9 km of its length. Its well-maintained towpath brings travellers to within sight of the famous Towers of La Rochelle, marking the final stage of the Vélofrancette!
Finally you can dismount and enjoy a well-earned break and a drink at the Old Port!