Tourist Information, Vendee History, Accommodation, Photos, Reviews, Maps,
Ile de Noirmoutier
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Welcome to an underwater wonderland with fish, marine creatures and
flora from various oceans of the world. There are displays by sea lions
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.
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
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