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Marais Olonne
Restaurants Marais Olonne
Attractions Marais Olonne
The Marais Olonne lies North of Les Sables d’Olonne and is one of a string of salt marshes or Marais Salant which can be found all down the Atlantic coast from Guerande north of the Loire to the Ile d’Oleron in the Charente Maritime. It is an area of outstanding interest to naturalists and an important resource for the local fishing industry. Continuing north from Les Sables d’Olonne to just south of Brem-sur-Mer and centred around the village of Ile d’Olonne, the Marais Olonne takes in the communes of La Bureliere and La Salarie with the rivers Auzance and Vertone running through it.

In the Roman era this area (Gulf d’Olonne) was covered by the sea with the off shore islets of Vertone running from what is now La Chaume northwards to the mouth of the River Vertone at la Gachere. Gradually the gulf silted up and the islets were stabilised with the planting of pine trees forming the 'foret d'Olonne'. At this time the Romans visited what was then then port of
Olonne-sur-Mer to collect salt, which was so important for food preservation. Through the Middle-Ages the marshes developed with the area being of importance, for fishing as well as salt production. It was attacked by the Vikings and Normans as well as pirates and other nations who were all after the "white Gold" as salt was referred to.

Modern methods of producing and refining salt saw the trade fall into decline and all but disappear leaving the marshland to be used primarily for fishing. There has however been a resurgence in the interest in salt from the Marais due to a combination of the flavour and quality of the salt and an interest from holiday makers. Some 10 years ago the local community bought and renovated two marshes specifically to rent to new young "sauniers" (salt producers), in an effort to regenerate the industry.

Possibly the most important feature of the Marais Olonne is its natural habitat where unique flora and fauna flourish, with the sheltered saline waters being home to plants like Salicorne, obione and soude. The rich marine life is very important for both the many species of bird that live and breed on the Marais, and the thousands of waders and other migratory birds that stop off here in the late autumn on their way south.
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

The best way of seeing all that the marais has to offer is to walk, cycle, on horseback or by boat, the following list are places where you can hire boats and Bikes

L'Ile d'Olonne.   Base Canoes de l'Auzance. Rue du Courroux. L'Ile d'Olonne
                                       Tel. 06 62 41 95 90. April to September.

                        Olonne. Base de Canos les Loirs. Tel. 02 51 90 75 45.

                        Les sables d'Olonne. Base de Canoes les Salines, 120 route de
                        l'Aubraie. Tel. 02 51 21 01 19.
Bike Hire: From the Tourist office l'Ile d'Olonne.
                  Veloo de la Foret.19 ru de la Foret, Olonne-sur Mer Tel.0610 52 42 59
                   Veloo de la Foret.Boulevard de L'Ile Vertima. Les Sables d'Olonne
                   Veloo de la foret. La Pilniere. Olonne-sur-Mer. Tel. 06 10 52 42 59
                   Cycles Evasion. 32, rue Alcide Gabaret. Tel. 02 51 20 15 64.
                    Holiday Bikes. 66 Prom. Georges Clemenceau. Tel. 02 51 32 64 15.

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.