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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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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