Bernezac.com - the Island of Oleron, France, French Atlantic Coast

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The island of Oleron

The island of Oleron is the most Southern of the islands of the French Atlantic coast. You can visit there all the year round.

The island of Oléron has been a holiday destination since the development of sea bathing, during the second half of the 19th Century.

The bridge which connects it with the mainland since 1966 has made it easily accessible. The summer months are particularly busy but it is worth spending at least a day of your holiday, if you are staying in the region, visiting and discovering Oléron.

We would like to offer you on this page, information to help with either the organisation of a day visit or quick location of places to stay on holiday.

And above all, remember that you can visit there all the year round, in autumn or in the spring and at the end of winter when the mimosa is in flower.

It is the most Southern of the islands of the French Atlantic coast and the west coast is influenced by the Gulf Stream.
Its climate is gentle which is shown by the presence of the mimosas and it is sometimes called the Island of Mimosas.

From the mainland to  the island of Oleron

The point of departure from the mainland is obviously the town of Marennes where the D26 road leads to the bridge.

Crossing the bridge there are beautiful views of the coast, very different from high tide to low tide, at which time you will be able to see the oyster beds.

After crossing the three kilometres of the bridge, you have three options: either take the westward direction Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, or take the eastward direction Le Château d'Oléron, or take the central D734 road and follow this for 30 km to the lighthouse of Chassiron at the extreme northern point of the island.

The west coast, facing the ocean, is the continuation of the west coast of the peninsula of Arvert, Côte Sauvage and Forêt de la Coubre.

Westward, the first place to stop is Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, a very old seaside resort.

The beach, with its promenade, offers a magnificent circular view, from left to right, of the bridge of the island of Oléron, the bridge of Seudre, the beaches and the forest of Ronce-les-Bains.

At low tide, the sea goes out a very long way and uncovers a vast stretch of beach.

The Grande Plage of Saint-Trojan, facing the sea on the West , is accessible through the forest and by a tourist railway, boarding point at the Saint-Trojan railway station.

The national forest of Saint-Trojan, with its pines and holm oaks, is the biggest forest on the island, and stretches for eight kilometres, up to the beach of Vert-Bois and then La Rémigeasse and La Perroche, which are the beaches of Dolus d' Oléron.

After La Rémigeasse, the small coastal road continues on to La Cotinière.

La Cotinière is the most important fishing port of the island and one of the ‘big three’, with La Rochelle and Royan, of Charente-Maritime. The fishermen of La Cotinière concentrate on the principal sorts of fish, sole, sea dace, langoustine.

Three kilometres further inland, the D274 road leads to the "Capital" of the island, Saint Pierre d' Oléron.

At Saint Pierre, take the D734, to go to Saint-Denis d'Oléron, passing through Chéray and Saint Georges d'Oléron, to reach the most distant point North of the island and the lighthouse of Chassiron.

 

The lighthouse of Chassiron

The lighthouse of Chassiron, 46 metres in height, is open to the public. The reward for climbing to the top of this lighthouse is a magnificent panorama over the island of Oléron, the island of Aix, the island of Ré, La Rochelle. Saint-Denis d'Oléron has an important, well protected marina.

Boyardville and Fort Boyard

On the east side, you shouldn't miss Boyardville, its marina and the beach from where you will get a good view of the famous Fort Boyard.

Boyardville was the departure point for the men who built Fort Boyard. Le Château d'Oléron, three kilometres east of the bridge, is an old fortified town with its citadel strengthened by Vauban.

The landscape of the east coast is, in the south, facing the mainland and the estuary of the Charente, similar to that of the Seudre. We recommend following the oyster road between Le Château and Boyardville. The small coastal road, signposted " Route des huîtres " from Le Château d'Oléron, winds between channels, oyster huts and "claires".

The east coast is really, in its southern part, the domain of the oyster producers.
Still in the oyster area, Ors, close to the bridge, deserves a visit for a walk along the channel between the colourful oyster huts.

Oléron lives not only from the sea but also from the soil

Through the variety of landscapes and the picturesque villages with their low houses, one realises that Oléron lives not only from the sea but also from the soil.

In particular, the vineyard is important for the local economy. Vines are cultivated very low to resist to the west wind which can destroy them. On the other hand, there is practically never a harmful frost.

Once, the wine was mostly intended for distillation for the production of cognac and pineau.

The vineyard covered 4 000 hectares before the crisis of the phylloxera, in 1860. It is about 800 hectares today, which is five times smaller than before.

The market for cognac having declined, the wine growers turned to the production of pineau and of local wines. The main vine is the white ugni for the wine of distillation, but now the wine growers plant Sauvignon, Colombard, Cabernet and Merlot vines.

The main production is of dry white wine, which is the perfect accompaniment for oysters, but the production of rosé and red wine is also a growing market.

A quality policy and the opportunity of having a local market made up of tourists and holiday-makers ensures the future of the vineyards of the island.

When Oleron was an island

From the 1960's, with the fast expansion of tourism, the ferries were no longer sufficient to transport the cars of the tourists to and from the island.

Since the opening of the bridge in 1966, Oléron isn't really an island any more. It is perhaps the moment to recall the ferries which used to cross between Le Chapus and Ors.

From the 1960's, with the fast expansion of tourism, the ferries were no longer sufficient to transport the cars of the tourists to and from the island.

The General Council of Charente-Maritime decided at that time to construct a bridge. The work was, for that time, a remarkable technical exploit.

It was the first one of a series which completely transformed the movement of traffic in the region. The bridge of Seudre in 1972, the bridge of the island of Ré in 1988 and the bridge of Rochefort on the Charente in 1991 were built after the construction of the bridge to Oléron.

The postcard of the title, produced at the beginning of the 1950's, shows a ferry in service at that time carrying an advertisement for the first fair of the island of Oléron at Saint Pierre.

The old ferry

The photo opposite, taken in 1960, shows the ferry "Admiral Duperré" , sailing majestically on a calm sea, and protected from damage when docking at the landing stage, by a belt of old tyres.

La Cotiniere

The fishing port of La Cotinière was enlarged in 1979, trawlers used the port and the scene previously depicted on the postcard of the 1950’s changed dramatically.

At that time, the Chapelle des Marins, built in 1967 on the dune on the right side of the port, did not exist.

Shrimps were the big speciality of the small boats.

The auction, fish sale, was not yet computerised!

The lighthouse of Chassiron

The lighthouse of Chassiron was already encircled white and black.

The current lighthouse dates from 1836. It replaced the first lighthouse built in 1685.

The lantern was equipped with electricity in 1930.

 

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