Tourist Information,  Vendee History,  Accommodation,   Photos,   Reviews,  Maps,
Vendee Guide en Francais
Custom Search

Ile de Noirmoutier

chateau de noirmoutier
LE GOIS the causeway to the Ile de Noirmoutier
The island of Noirmoutier in the north of the Vendée is only half a mile off the coast at its closest, and at this point it is connected to the mainland by a beautiful bridge which was built in 1971, There is however a second and altogether more delightful way to get to the island and that is by way of "le Gois", a 3 mile long uneven cobble paved causeway, which is covered twice a day by up to 4m of water. Le Gois is visited by thousands of visitors a year who come to watch the road emerging from the sea as the ebbing tide recedes over the last cobbles or to see Le Gois disappear below the waves. Care though must be taken not to get caught out and find one has to climb one of the refuge markers to avoid being overwhelmed by the incoming tide. Others come to the causeway to collect the shell fish (there are quotas) that breed prolifically on the vast silted up mudflats that are only exposed at low tide. Le Gois has been used since the 16th century and (indeed) was used by the Republican troops to surprise the Vendéen army who were using the island as both a base and a refuge during the Wars of the Vendée

The Island is 20 kilometres long and at its widest 7 kilometres wide, though at La Guerniere the "isthmus" it is barely 1000 metre wide. The island covers 45,000 hectares with two thirds of it being below sea level, with some 50 kilometres of beaches. The island has a history dating back to prehistoric times, and encompasses the Romans, Charlemagne, the lords of Garneche, LoiuisXV, the French Revolution and the wars of the Vendée. For more details of its vivid and turbulent past see History of Noirmoutier. The landscape of the island is one of low lying fields, salt pans and marshes protected by sand dunes, dikes and forests of pine and holm oak trees. Around the North and East coast there are rocky granite cliffs with pretty bays and sandy coves. The highest point on the island is at the Château de Noirmoutier from which you can get a panoramic view of the island.

Apart from tourism which is the island biggest industry there are thriving agriculture, fishing and sea salt production industries.
The island’s sunny climate has enabled farmers to become renowned for producing early crops, the most famous of which is Bonnotte Potatoes. They are traditionally planted on Candlemas day, harvested in May, sold in markets throughout France and are served in some of the world’s most famous restaurants. Other potato varieties follow, and altogether some 12,000 tonnes are produced annually. Early flowers especially Mimosa in February together with other flowers and vegetable are also produced for France’s markets.

Sea Salt or "white gold", as it has often been referred to, was the reason the island first became prosperous, but it was also the reason it was fought over. From time immemorial salt has played an essential role in preserving food and northern European herring fishermen came here for their supplies. An indication of its former importance is that the Island boasts consulates from Belgium, Denmark, England and Norway. The 10,000 tonnes of salt produced annually at the beginning of the 20th century has dropped to nearer 800 tonnes today, though there is currently a resurgence in production due to both the quality of the salt and tourist interest. The island is dotted with salt marshes and the square evaporating pans called "oeillets", are separated from one another by mud walls known as "bossis". The sea water is brought into the pans via canals or "etiers", which pass through reservoirs that get progressively shallower until arriving at the pans where the final evaporation causes the salt to crystallise, it is then carefully raked off, and left in piles to sun dry.
There are about 80 establishments still producing salt on the island and many have demonstrations of the process and a shop where you can buy their produce.

The fishing industry is another of the island’s major employers and has been since the island was first inhabited. The industry is divided roughly between open sea fishing for bass, conger eels, sea bream, sardines, crabs and lobsters and the farming of mussels and oysters. The Island’s only deep water harbour is the colourful Port de l'Herbaudiere on the northern tip of the island, with the smaller crab and lobster fishing boats contrasting with the much larger trawlers, this together with the pleasure boat marina gives the port a magical atmosphere The production of mussels and oysters takes place in the Bais de Bourgneuf with one of the main outlets being the Port de Bonhomme. Oysters are grown on flat racks which are submerged twice a day by the tide, they stay in the racks for one to two years before being sold.

Sightseeing. Depending on the time you have and any handicaps that may restrict your mobility, there are a number of ways that one can see the sights of the island. As always the best way to see an island like Noirmoutier is as slowly as possible. Walking and cycling are by far the best ways especially during the busy summer months. But for those who for one reason or another cannot walk or cycle, then driving around the island following the "Route de Ile" will lead you around the lanes, through villages, and will enable you to take in the important sights and attractions “en route”, as an alternative to setting your own itinerary.
Cyclist in particular are well looked after with well marked routes that take them away from the busy roads that often choke the island during the holiday season and being almost flat you don't have to be an athlete or even particularly fit to enjoy seeing the island on two wheels.

Attractions and entertainment. With Noirmoutier being such a Mecca for tourist it will come as no surprise to find that there are attractions and entertainment to suit all comers, though many are related to the natural beauty and history of the island.

Beaches of Noirmoutier. The island of Noirmoutier has a great variety of beaches from quiet picturesque coves to the long fine sands of the Atlantic coast

Oceanile. Noirmoutier-en-Ile The island's water park with over 20 water amusements it is fun for all the family.
Château de Noirmoutier. This imposing keep of the old chateau in the centre of Noirmoutier-en-Ile is open to the public and houses a museum on the history of the island's naval artefacts even English porcelain and from atop the keep you can get a stunning panoramic view of the island.
Sealand Aquarium  Welcome to an underwater wonderland with fish, marine creatures and flora from various oceans of the world. There are displays by sea lions and more.

Hippobus. Take a horse drawn carriage ride around the salt marshes.

Ile aux Papillons. The butterfly farm on Noirmoutier has 700 butterflies from around the world in the largest glasshouse for butterflies in France.

Maison de l'Ane. The Donkey farm is always a popular choice with children and adults alike.

Mini Ville This miniature village displays houses from the various regions of France

Noirmont'Train. This is the local tourist train that takes you around the island stopping off at the different attractions

Petit Gris. This snail farm is an interesting introduction to that French delicacy of Escargos

Markets. There are markets  at:  le Herbaudier on Mondays
                                                Noirmoutier-en-Ile Tuedays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
                                                Barbatre.    Wednesdays
                                                L'Epine. Saturdays.
                                                Le Gueriniere   Thursdays.

Art Galleries & Antiques.  There are 7 art galleries and 4 antique shops on the island

Entertainment. The island has 4 discos: The Blues Bar, The Pub du Chateau, Coco Cabana and the Salt Box.
Cinema. The le Mimosa has two screens.

Restaurants; The island has a good selection of restaurants to suit most tastes and budgets. For a full list see Noirmoutier Restaurants

Photos of l'Ile de Noirmoutier

Return to find more Town & Villages of the Vendée.

Weather Forecast
Restaurants Noirmoutier
Noirmoutier photos
Video Chateau Noirmoutier
    Contact us     Advertise     Accommodation     Legal  Site Map
In accordance with the law "and Freedoms" of January 6, 1978, you have the right to access and rectify information concerning you. If you wish to exercise this right, please contact us.
© Copyright 2009-12                                                                           This Website is built with Bluevoda from Vodahost
extreme web hosting