Dreaming of a road trip by the sea? The Atlantic Loire Valley is a real gem of western France, with a varied coastline stretching for over 450km and accessible within a few hours’ drive of the ferry ports in Brittany and Normandy. There are renowned resorts such as La Baule with its nine-kilometre bay, one of the most beautiful in Europe. Les Sables-d’Olonne is the pearl of the Côte de Lumière, famous as the departure point for the Vendée Globe round-the-world sailing race. You can even go island hopping in the region, on Noirmoutier – where the sunsets are sensational – and Yeu, an area of outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. Simply pack up the car (bikes and camping gear optional) and set sail for an adventure.
When it comes to coastal adventures, the Atlantic Loire Valley has an amazingly wide variety – some more unusual than others. The real superhero activity is flyboarding, which has you propelled high above the waves by a powerful jet of water, from a turbine attached to a board. Try it at Atlantic Jet Evasion in La Baule. There’s also kitefoiling, using a similar-sized board to kitesurfing but with a wing attached, also allowing you to hover and fly above the water’s surface. Reaching speeds of up to 55km/h, you’ll have an exhilarating ride – and GlissEvolution in Pornichet or Maximum Glisse in La Barre-de-Monts are the places to aim for. If you’re keen to share the paddleboarding experience with friends, giant SUPs (measuring five metres long by two metres wide) act as enormous rafts that can carry up to 10 people. You can have fun with this at Eole Voile in Pornichet or Wave School in La Tranche-sur-Mer. Polynesian dugout canoeing is another great group adventure, with each person assigned a specific role on board. For this, Caval Kayak on Île d’Yeu and Canoe Kayak Presqu’ile Cote d’Amour in Pornichet are the best centres.
Find out more: 4 outstanding nautical activities
Keen hikers and cyclists have a wealth of beautiful routes to keep them occupied in the Atlantic Loire Valley. The 23 kilometres between Saint-Jean-de-Monts and Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in Vendée zigzag through fragrant pine forests, while the nine-kilometre route from Saint-Nazaire to Pornichet in Loire-Atlantique weaves its way between fisheries on stilts, forgotten old forts, hidden coves, ochre rock and fine sandy beaches. Out on Île d’Yeu , the Ponant path takes in the island’s western side via a 21-kilometre route from Port-Joinville. It showcases idyllic little beaches, remarkable dolmens and the great lighthouse and the 14th-century chateau.
When it’s time to laze on the beach, get off the beaten track and head to some of the best-kept sandy secrets in the region (but you didn’t hear them from us). The aptly-named Plage Tahiti is a miniature paradise stretching from Pouliguen, whose sublime turquoise waters are often cut off from the cliff access at high tide. Off the coast of La Baule bobs a tiny triangle of land that even most locals don’t know about – accessible by boat, it hides a little beach beside the ruins of a bar-restaurant that was open in the 60s, which affords an incredible view of the bay. Even in lively Saint-Jean-de-Monts you can escape the crowds at Plage du Petit Sochard, a wild wonder flanked by paths and pretty dunes of fine sand.
Other ways to explore the coastal riches of the Atlantic Loire Valley are canoeing through the maze of Vendée salt marshes , or venturing out to Île Dumet aboard a schooner and learning how to sail. When it comes to pampering on this part of the coast, it’s all about thalassotherapy, harnessing the natural properties of sea water to deliver invigorating treatments. There are plenty of spots to indulge in the local seafood, too: look out for rustic oyster shacks for an unmistakeable taste of the area. A staggering 13,000 tonnes of oysters are harvested each year from the Loire estuary to the Bay of Aiguillon, traditionally dressed with white wine vinegar and finely chopped shallots, and accompanied by a dry white wine such as Muscadet. In Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, the sardine is king, grilled with lemon or made into pâté. Make sure you take a few tins and bottles home to extend that holiday feeling!
From travel to the port to exploring when you get there, taking your own car to the Atlantic Loire Valley offers the freedom and reassurance you need. Sailing with Brittany Ferries is a hassle-free experience, with various ticket types allowing you to choose the level of flexibility you need. The company is constantly reviewing and updating its health-related procedures to ensure that everyone travels safely. Fresh sea air is supplied in all public spaces – including cabins – and there’s plenty of space to roam around, wherever you are on board. We can’t wait to welcome you back to France again.