Tourist Information, Vendee History, Accommodation, Photos, Reviews, Maps,
Ile D'Yeu or the island of Yeu lies 10 kilomeres off St. Jean de Mont on
the North Vendéen coast. Even though it is a small island it has all of
the landscape features of the Vendée. The east coast of the island has
sandy beaches and dunes backed by pine forests, a feature typical of the
mainland coast. Along the west coast sandy coves are dotted amongst low
granite cliffs, which bear a striking resemblance to those on either
side of Les Sables D'Olonne and those on the north and east coasts of
the Ile de Noirmoutier. Incredibly even though it is such a small island
it still has areas of marais and bocage.
By far the most popular method of getting to the island is by ferry,
although it is possible to reach it by helicopter from La Barre de Mont.
The ferries leave from Fromentine all year round, but in the summer
months they also leave from La Fosse on the Ile de Noirmoutier, and
St.Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. The ferry journey takes about 45 minutes
arriving in Port-Joinville, a colourful fishing harbour and the main
town on the island. Port-Joinville buzzes with activity, fishing boats
and pleasure craft are constantly entering and leaving the harbour and
there is a regular stream of tourists disembarking from the ferries. The
many shops, bars, cafes and restaurants that line the harbour side are a
hive of tourist activity which all adds to the balance and vibrancy of
this charming working town.
Depending mainly on the length of your stay, there are a variety of ways
that one can use to see the sights of the island. There are several bus
trips designed for the day tripper which will take one around many of
the attractions and give one a taste of the island. For the more
independent traveller there are cars for hire, allowing one more
freedom, but as with the bus there are many places that one will not be
able to access. The ideal way to get the most out of the island is by
hiring a bike, which are readily available. The Ile d'Yeu is only 10
kilometres long and 4 kilometres wide but with a 46 kilometre coastline
one will not be able to dawdle if one is determined to see it all in a
day. There are 3 well marked cycle routes the longest being 30
kilometres which will probably take 5 hours 30 minutes. One may however
just wish to take in the atmosphere of Port-Joinville, perhaps to eat a
leisurely meal in one of the restaurants along the harbour front, do a
bit of shopping in the quayside shops, or have a stroll around the
backstreets of this quaint little town. If however one is staying on the
island for longer in one of the many hotels, B&B's, Gites or camp
sites, one can unravel the island’s charm at a much more leisurely pace.
Eating out on the Island can be a bit of a disappointment, apart from
the restaurants in Port-Joinville there is only one other restaurant on
the island, in Port de la Meule and even that great French tradition of
the bar/cafe is a rarity on the island. If one is lucky one may find a
mobile ice-cream/drinks wagon on some of the beaches, but best advice is
to take one’s own refreshments.
The other disappointment regarding restaurants on the island is the
quality of the food that they serve. We had been warned by my French
neighbour that the restaurants on the island were unsympathetic, but it
wasn’t until we tried to eat that we began to understand what he meant.
It would not be unreasonable to expect that an island that claims
fishing and tourism as its main industries would have excellent fish
restaurants serving fresh local produce. The reality is that most of the
restaurants that we tried had a poor selection, especially of fish, on
offer and what little there was in the main was of mediocre quality and
served without fresh vegetables. The exception was the locally grown
mussels which could be found in most restaurants, were served in several
different ways and were delicious.
The island has had a human presence since the Neolithic period, and
bearing witness to this are the many Menhirs(standing stones) and
Dolmens (burial chambers) which can be found all over the island. The
Romans however do not seem to have had much of an interest in the island
as little evidence has been found of their presence.
Religion played a central role in the development of the island during
the medieval period. St. Martin and St. Hilaire came to the island in
the 9th century to preach evangelism and
they were followed by the monks from the Abbey of Bangor in Ireland who
constructed a monastery dedicated to St. Hilaire.
In the 10th century St. Sauveur, the then capital of the island saw the construction of its church.
Fortification of the island took place in the 16th century to guard
against a perceived seaward threat and to control smuggling which was
prolific at that time. The threat never materialized which meant that
the defences were never tested. Of this fortification only the Vieux
Château build on a rocky outcrop, which becomes an island at high tide,
The sea has always played a vital role in the prosperity of the island,
but for two very different reasons. Firstly, the island was the
departure place for many religious missionaries to Africa, The Americas
and other places in the New World. This was evidenced in the fact that
for a long time the island was called "Ilsle Dieu" or God's island. The
second reason was of course fishing. Port-Joinville was the first and
largest Cod port of France and the fishing vessels voyaged across the
Atlantic in search of their catch. Around the beginning of the 20th
century the port became more important for tuna fishing, a trade that
still exists to this day. The fishing industry now consists of deep sea
fishing for cod, tuna and other pelagic species, and local inshore
fishing for tuna, crabs, lobsters and last but by no means least mussel
The picture postcard cottages, small harbours and men of character make
this an interesting island and wherever there are beautiful landscapes
and colourful people artists are never far away. The Ile d'Yeu is no
exception, there seem to be a large number of art galleries on the
island, along with art exhibitions of every description. Whether one is
an artist or not, the appreciation of the beautiful natural landscapes,
the history, and the colourful characters will all make a lasting
impression for one to take away and cherish.
Port de la Meule pretty picture postcard fishing village.
Vieux Château. Ruins of the medieval fortress
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