Cycling around La Rochelle and the île de Ré

Environmentally-friendly, quick, easy, a little bobo but not too much so: in La Rochelle as well as on Ré, everything rimes with bikes. Hear! Hear! On both sides of the bridge, getting around can be easy and green. With their “Accueil Vélo” (Bikes Welcome) label, the Hotel Saint-Nicolas will most certainly convince you to make the two-wheel locomotion mode your preferred choice. In the “beautiful and rebellious” city of La Rochelle and on the “dearly loved” island.

La Rochelle has 160 kilometres of cycling paths dedicated to the “petite reine”, the queen of the roads, that are waiting to take you back in time through the Saint-Nicolas and Saint-Sauveur quarters or even to bounce along the cobblestoned Rue de l'Escale which alone represents the rich history of the area. The streets are yours to explore: alongside the archwayed buldings that house the shops in town, the centuries-old trees in the Charruyer Park, the beautiful façades of the houses in the chic La Genette quarter, all illuminated by the particular light that eminates from the sea, never far off. Park your bike along the costal tracks, play hide-and-seek with the horizon prior to exposing yourself to the heights of the cliffs along the ocean. Take a look at the Fort Boyard, and why not have a break on the Chef-de-Baie beach. Leave your mount to rest and make the most of this beautiful sandy and green setting, much cherished by the inhabitants of La Rochelle.

From La Rochelle to Ré over the bridge

After treating yourself to a break, just a few pedal strokes away, you come upon the bridge that links the continent to Ré. On the other side, a bucolic, unique and dreamlike island awaits you. First of all, the villages with their beautiful alleyways covered in hollyhocks, the white houses with their green shutters and the pictoresque ports. Once you ride along the cycling paths on the island, this is when you feel the true spirit of Ré.

Take the rather busy La Flotte to Saint-Martin and Le Bois-Plage to La Couarde tracks and then head North at a peaceful pace towards Loix, an island within the island. You will be surrounded by salt marshes and oyster beds up until the “Pointe du Grouin”. The ride is beautiful and as is the case everywhere on the island, the land is flat so it's easy going.

A bit further on, in the midst of the nature reserve “Lilleau des Niges”, make sure to spend some time to contemplate the migrating birds. Right up North, you can also cycle through the Lizay national park towards Petit-Bec with its transparent sea and surfing spots. Once you get there, right on the tip of the island, explore the various beachs; Trousse-Chemise, Patache, Gros-Jonc.. or just choose one to look out onto the ocean at. Les Portes-en-Ré is right nearby so why not give a it visit too. But don't forget, La Rochelle is quite far away for the return trip!

If you are too tried to face riding all the way back to La Rochelle, during the months of July and August, there is a bus (the “Vélobus”) that runs from Sablanceaux, just before the bridge, to Place de Verdun in La Rochelle for only 1.30€ one way. This could also be a solution for the way out, especially if you are riding with small children, as the bridge can be a battle to ride if the wind is up. You cannot, however, take the La Rochelle yellow city bikes out to the island.

(Published on December 14, 2015)

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