Sport & Leisure in the Vendée

The Vendée is crisscrossed by network of trails for those who would like to walk, ride or cycle. Those of a more water loving nature can explore the many rivers and streams which thread their way through the marshlands by rowing boat or canoe. Anglers will find much to please them in the region. The Vendée has an enormous number of beautiful sandy beaches and activities by the sea include water sports such as windsurfing, kite surfing, catamaran sailing, scuba diving and much more. Golfers can enjoy beautifully manicured greens along with sea views in Saint Jean de Monts, Port Bourgenay and Olonne sur Mer. Also on the coast of the Vendée, two sea-water therapy centres offera superb treatments.

Kite Flying

Kite flying in the Vendée

Kite flying in the Vendée

Kite flying can be enjoyed by anyone at any age. Many years ago kites were simple diamond shaped affairs which were largely un-aerodynamic and difficult to get off the ground. The modern kite of today is an altogether different proposition. These kites can go up to several metres in size and require great skill and in a strong wind, great strength if they are to be successfully flown. Kite Festivals often take place and these are great places to learn by watching other people performing manoeuvres with their various kites. If you intend to fly your kite at a beach resort, be sure to comply with the rules and take particular care not to fly large kites where there are many people around. You will very often find that kite flying is banned on the Vendée beaches after 11 AM.

Surfing in the Vendée

Surfing in the Vendée

Surfing on the Atlantic Ocean

Owing to the fine swells coming in from the open ocean, most of the Vendée coast offers excellent conditions for surfing. However the best spots for surfing tend to be the places where the waves are very well formed and where the ways start to break quite a long way out at sea. Most of the beaches are suitable for surfing beginners obvious as long as there are waves but the more experienced surfers, there are several spots along the coast which are particularly more suited and these include: La Sauzaie, Bretignolles-sur-Mer, and La Tranche. Be sure to be sensible and avoid dangerous beaches especially those which have rocks hiding just below the surface. It pays to know your limitations!

The surfing community in general tends to be a close-knit community with its own trendy places that surfers like to hang out in and chat and share gossip. If this is the sort of place that you like to frequent then you will find that Germaine’s bar in Les Sables d’Olonne is worth a visit as is the Bud House Café in the Village des Conches at La Tranche,-sur-Mer.

Kite surfing in the Vendée

Kite surfing in the Vendée

Kite Surfing

This is another very popular sport on the coast of the Vendée. The 2008 Vendée Kitesurf Pro was held at Saint-Gilles Croix de Vie in 2008 and will definitely stay in everybody’s memory with about 50 competitors coming from all around the world and more than 20 nationalities. 4 disciplines were run in 6 days (Freestyle, Wave, Course Racing, Best trick), numerous trophies were awarded and all in all it was a truly extraordinary show. Another good spot is Fromentine, north of St Jean de Monts where the bridge crosses to Noirmoutier. Fantastic kitesurfing here with a designated launch area in the summer. Be sure to follow the rules there ie. must have a helmet if you have a board leash. In Summer, the wind is not predictable but there can be plenty of good days. La Tranche Sur Mer also has a kite beach but you will be well advised to wear something on your feet due to the mussell beds at low tide.

Windsurfing  in the Vendée

Wind Surfing in the Vendée

Wind Surfing in the Vendée

Another watersportwell suited to the vast beaches of the Vendée. The best way to learn to windsurf is probably by taking a course. Otherwise you might find yourself being easily discouraged as this particular sport can be very difficult and even dangerous if not practised carefully and initially needs correct supervision. You will need to allow at least 3 to 4 hours to learn the moves and at first balance tends to be the biggest problem. After a while however you will really begin to enjoy the sensation. Special note: be particularly aware of the fact that wind coming off the land can push you right out to sea!

Sand-yachting (Sailing on Land)

Sand-yachting on the coast in Vendée is a very popular recreational sport. France’s western coast has some of the longest beaches in the country and climatic conditions particularly favour Sand yachting with the number of sunshine hours per year and favourable wind conditions. This is a sport which can be practised throughout the whole year and it really is accessible to anyone to practice in complete safety providing due care is taken. On the spacious wide flat sandy beaches and with the long runs available on this beautiful coast Sand yachting can be an exciting pass time wholly in harmony with the wind and the sea.

Casinos and Gambling

casinos in the Vendée

Casinos in the Vendée

French seaside resorts tend to be the location of casinos in the Vendée. They are to be found in Les Sables d’Olonne where there are two, La Faute-sur-Mer, St-Jean-de-Monts, St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and at Pornic to name but a few. Most of the casinos in the Vendée are welcoming establishments with a fairly casual atmosphere but one or two of the more strict casinos may ask for identification or a passport upon arrival to prove that you are over 18. The casinos also very frequently offer places to eat or drink even if you are a non player. Roulette and blackjack tables don’t tend to open until 10 PM but on the plus side gaming can go on until 4 am in the morning. Another point to note is that certain gaming rooms charge an admission fee although this doesn’t tend to be more than a few Euros.

Bird Watching

The Vendée region just happens to be on the migratory routes for many species of birds. Accordingly very large numbers of birds are visible especially in the spring and the autumn. Avocets, lapwings and terns or nest here as two stalks in the areas of the open marshlands between the months of April and September. In the winter time, the mudflats provide wonderful entertainment at high tide with thousands of wading birds advancing and probing the mud for food as the water rises around them. Herons and egrets can frequently be seen on the salt meadows along with other marshlands birds. Another area which attracts migrant species is Aiguillon Bay. There are also many observatories in the region.

Ballooning  Over the Vendée


Ballooning above the Vendée

Ballooning has to be one of the most exhilarating pastimes on offer in the Vendée. The French refer to a hot-air balloon ride as a Montgolfière which was the name that Joseph and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier coined for the type of balloon that they created and flew over France for the first time in 1783. It would be filled with air, heated to produce buoyancy and it was usually made with a silk and paper fabric. Whether or not the Montgolfière would stay aloft tended to depend upon the temperature of the air within the balloon, at that time this reduced its usefulness for other than recreational purposes.

Hot-air balloon pilot, Damien Merceron and other pilots in the region offer hot-air balloon rides over the serenely beautiful landscapes of the Vendée. For a truly romantic ride, the best time to secure a hot-air ride is in the early hours of the morning or at sunset.

Girl horse riding in the Vendée

Horse riding in the Vendée


If you’re a lover of horseback riding, the Vendée provides a host of opportunities to indulge your passion whilst at the same time exploring the region’s countryside. Whether you choose to ride on the coast, or across the Bocage and the marshes or even in the beautiful Mervent-Vouvant forest, you will find that this area is perfectly suited to this pass time. The Vendée has various centre équestre or riding schools where you will find instructors who hold varying certificates of competence. If you see the sign: “Poney clubs” in the Vendée, this refers to riding stables as opposed to the pony clubs which we would in Britain. Centres to try may be found at La Garrelière de Saint Maurice des Noues with Béatrice and Bruno Ripaud, and L’Etoile, a professionally run place to ride and Coëx , inland from St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.