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Ile d'Olonne

The small town of Ile d'Olonne is truly the heart of the Marais Olonne and the salt marshes. This small community on the crossroads of the D38 and D87 is both the centre of one the regions most important nature reserves and also the centre of salt production on the marais salent.
It was Salt or "white Gold" as it is often called that made Ile d'Olonne a former salt workers village, into the salt merchants town. Originally the area was on the coast, on what was the Gulf of Olonne with the island of Vertone (now the forested coastline) giving it protection. The sea receded and the area silted up forming the marshes. The Romans came here for salt and from the middle ages the area was plundered by pirates, Normans and even other nations all eager to get there hands on the white gold.
Today the trade is seeing a resurgence due to the quality of its product and the tourist interest. 10 years ago the community bought and renovated two marshes for rent to new young "sauniers" (salt producers).
There are various producers where you can not only buy the produce but they offer explanations and guided tours during the season.

The marais Rivolier with Andre Raffin.He will tell you stories of his craft.
le marais of Avocettes , Yohan Eveno works on the ancestral knowledge.
la Salorges of Vertonne offer guided tours every day from July to August at 11h and 18h.

Church of l'Ile d'Olonne.It is possible to get a great view of the marshes from the top of the church tower. The tower is open everyday in July and August from 10h to 12.30h and 16h to 19h.

The marais Ile d'Olonne is located on the migratory flightpath of hundreds of thousands of birds such as ducks, waders, spoonbill and ospreys which use the marshes as stop-overs to recuperate on their long journey between Africa and Northern Europe. It is also the breeding ground for many other water birds such as Sheldrake, Herons, Stilt and Avocets.

Bird Observatory. Just outside the town in the direction of Olonne-sur-mer is a wooden bird observatory with an tremendous view over the wetlands. It is reported that some 180 different species of bird have been observed here. During July and August there are organised visits with telescopes provided though you can visit at any time of the year. Open July-August daily from 9.30 to 18.00 further details Tel. 02 51 33 71 79

Festival to trades and crafts. Held annually it is a colourful and interesting array of crafts, local trades, music and art.  2010 the 24th and 25th July.
Wednesday Evenings (July/August) Night time markets, concerts, Painting and story telling

Walks and cycling. This is by far the best way to see these impressive marshes. There are way maked routes and guide booklets are available from the local tourist office. You can discover the smugglers routes, observe the birds and natural flora and fauna, all at your own pace.

RestaurantsL'Etelle. 2,Rue du Centre. Tel. 02 51 20 71 70.
See also restaurants Marais Olonne

Museum de la Petite Gare. This small museum which traces the railway of Olonne which ran up to 1949 is open in July and August, Entre is Free.

Chemin du sel Horse driven carriage rides that stops at each of the main attractions and you have a guided tour. The tours are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays in July and August and can be booked from the tourist office in the town.

Karting. Mecamax Circuit. L'Ile d'Olonne.
Tel 02 51 33 11 82.
On the D32 Route de Challon.
850m circuit. 45 karts. +Quads
Open all year. July/Aug 10h to midnight 7/7. Sept/June 14h to 19h Closed Mon/Tue.

Canoeing. Canoes can be hired from;
                                       Base Canoe de l'Auzance. Rue du Courroux. L'Ile d'Olonne
                                       Tel. 06 62 41 95 90. April to September.

Camping; Camping L'Ile aux Oiseaux. Rue Pre Neuf.  Tel. 02 51 90 89 96

Photo Gallery of the Ile d'Olonne

Return to find more interesting towns and villages in the Vendee
Restaurants Marais Olonne
Photos Ile d'Olonne
Attractions Marais Olonne
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