This 1200+ km cycle route boasts beautiful ocean backdrops!
From Roscoff in Brittany to Hendaye in the French Basque Country, France’s longest cycle route is an epic experience offering a different approach to discovering the best that France’s Atlantic coast has to offer. The Vélodyssée travels through Charentes between Marans and Royan – the best part of 150 enchanting kilometres! It’s time to get into the saddle…
Marans to Rochefort
From the Vendée and the Pont du Brault bridge (which marks the point where the Vélodyssée crosses into Charente-Maritime), it’s not far to Marans, a pleasant riverside town built along the banks of the Sèvre Niortaise and a gateway to the Marais Poitevin region.
The route follows the canal between Marans and La Rochelle, with the famous towers of La Rochelle’s old port signalling the start of this amazing section of the itinerary. Take time to hop off the bike and make the most of La Rochelle on foot – this is a lively city with the sea in its veins.
If you’re in La Rochelle on Saturday or Wednesday, be sure to stock up at the central market. Its stalls spill out of the impressive covered marketplace onto the adjacent streets, giving out the most delicious aromas.
You’ll continue your cycle trip along the coast, where you can enjoy splendid views of Fort Boyard, fishing cabins built on stilts (carrelets) and the marais d’Yves nature reserve and marsh. While in Rochefort, a city built on the banks of the Charente river, don’t miss the tours of the Corderie Royale (the royal ropeworks) and the frigate ‘Hermione’. The town is packed full of fascinating museums and other must-see attractions.
The Côte sauvage: Wild Coast here we come!
Once through the marshlands, you’ll arrive at the Marennes basin, heartland of Marennes-Oléron oysters. You’ll definitely have to stop a while to sample the local oysters, either in a traditional oyster farm hut or in the port town of La Tremblade, which is worth a visit in itself.
There’s some shade to be had in the nearby forest of la Coubre, not to mention peace and quiet and that very special scent, a blend of ocean air and pine, that’s so evocative of seaside cycle holidays. Just a short side-trip along the cycle path leading to the lovely beaches of the Côte sauvage will get you back into the sunshine – and into the ocean – much to the delight of the kids!
The route continues to the glorious Bonne Anse bay, where the magnificent la Coubre lighthouse stands guard. From here, it’s just a few turns of the wheel to the Côte de Beauté (the Beautiful Coast). Although this is the beginning of the end of your epic journey through Charente-Maritime, the last few kilometres to Royan are amongst the most memorable of the whole journey! This seaside resort is an open-air showcase of architectural styles. Belle Époque properties rub shoulders with 1950s villas and buildings designed by the architects of the post-war reconstruction period. Simply fascinating!
Once arrived in Royan, it’s all you can do to resist the temptation to turn around and try out the Vélodyssée in Charente-Maritime in the opposite direction!