The Charente-Maritime is a French department located in the Poitou-Charentes region on the Atlantic coast of western France. The department covers an area extending from just north of La Rochelle to the Gironde estuary (north of Bordeaux) to the south. (Above: the towers of the medieval port of La Rochelle)
As this department is situated more or less halfway down the country, you could say it marks the point at which southern France begins. The coast of this region is famed for its very warm micro-climate with a great deal of sunshine, and speaking from this particular writer’s experience, it is usually a few degrees warmer than its immediate northern neighbours. Once you leave the coast of the Charente Maritime the countryside is fairly rural and agricultural and one frequently sees small woodlands as well as fields of maize and sunflowers.
More than anything, the Charente Maritime is famous for its gorgeous sandy beaches, pretty seaside towns and idyllic islands. It is generally thought to be the second sunniest department in France only been beaten into second place by the Mediterranean. This area has long been a popular holiday destination for French people and the main towns such as La Rochelle, Saintes and Royan as well as the best-known islands – Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron all retain their individual character. The beautiful naval town of Rochefort is also worth a mention.
These wonderful towns and islands have a feel of the South of France about them but unlike the Cote d’Azur, the Charente Maritime is far less expensive and much more relaxed in character. This makes it a really wonderful place for holidays wherever you want to stay – a gîte perhaps or hotel, a rental villa or even a campsite. To give you some idea of the range available, click here to visit our page on holiday accommodation in La Rochelle.
Charente Maritime Coast
The coastline of the Charente Maritime is one of the most beautiful in the whole of France and boasts dozens and dozens of beaches many of the highest possible quality both on the main coastline and the islands lying just off the Atlantic coast. Most of these beaches are protected by an organisation set up to monitor and protect the coastline and accordingly they are almost invariably very clean soft sand and very little litter.
Just off the coast of la Rochelle is a group of islands including the Île-de-Ré and it is to these islands that many fashionable Parisians travel to enjoy a similar but far more relaxing and less expensive experience than they would otherwise find in the South of France on the Cote D’Azure.