What better place to enjoy the great outdoors than in France’s beautiful Atlantic Loire Valley? With the double attraction of the Atlantic and the Loire Valley, you’re spoilt for choice of tempting destinations in this large region, just a four-hour drive from the north coast after arriving in port. With a spectacular amusement park and water activities galore, there are plenty of reasons to while away the long sunny days here.
If you love to be by the sea, aim for the seductive sweeping curve of La Baule, home to chic hotels and dubbed France’s most beautiful bay – or base yourself in the quaint fishing harbour of Pornic. Les Sables-d’Olonne is the start and finish point of the Vendée Globe sailing race, with a marina full of gleaming boats to admire. Go snorkelling around Île d’Yeu, explore the maze of Vendée salt marshes in a canoe, or venture out to Île Dumet aboard a schooner and learn how to sail. Pampering on the coast comes in the form of thalassotherapy, harnessing the natural properties of sea water to deliver invigorating treatments.
Find out more about the best water-based activities in Atlantic Loire Valley
If you’re coming with the family, how about spending a magical night in an African-style bivouac camp among zebras, wildebeest and antelope with an exotic meal and a private mini-safari? This is what’s on offer at Planète Sauvage , a zoo like no other in Nantes. Or visit Terra Botanica in Angers, a 99-acre park dedicated entirely to the plant world – with treetop tours, a 4D cinema and a 150-metre-high balloon trip. Le Puy du Fou is France’s second most-visited amusement park after Disneyland Paris – but in place of rides, it offers a feast of 30-minute theatrical spectacles re-enacting periods of history, from the Vikings to the Belle Époque. There are five hotels on site plus numerous restaurants, where staff serve you in full costume!
Planning to be in Pays de la Loire for Bastille Day on 14 July? The Atlantic Loire Valley boasts numerous special viewpoints to admire fireworks displays : the banks of the River Maine in Angers and Île Millocheau in Saumur, the jetties of Les Sables-d’Olonne, or Parc des Chantiers in Nantes.
Keen on a tipple? The Loire Valley is the third largest appellation area in France with a UNESCO-listed wine route of over 800km , where 250 million bottles of wine are produced each year. Now that the warm weather has arrived, you might fancy a romantic cycling trip through the Fiefs Vendéens or Anjou-Saumur vineyards, sampling local delicacies and chatting to winemakers en route. You can even eat right among the vines at La Table de la Bergerie, south of Angers.
Speaking of cycling, the area boasts over 3,000km of safe, signposted cycle routes for exploring its lovely landscapes on two wheels, with or without vineyard stops. Breathe in the Atlantic air along the dramatic north-south Vélodyssée , which links Brittany to the Basque Country. Or wind your way along the river from Cuffy on the Loire à Vélo , a must-do route combining all the food, wine, nature and heritage of the area in one journey.
You’ll feel like home wherever you are in Atlantic Loire Valley. Look out for the ‘Welcome c’est beau ici’ sign, which points out places where locals will speak to you in English, give you information and even help you with problems that are not necessarily related to your holiday – such as your health, your car and communicating in French. Pop in and say ‘bonjour’ to the team in the local tourist office or at the hotel reception desk.
Mad about art? Stay in Nantes to experience Le Voyage à Nantes (6 July–1 September), a 12-kilometre urban trail uniting imaginative contemporary works with iconic landmarks along a green line on the ground. The event has been part of Nantes’ cultural landscape since 2012, each year enhanced with new additions, and also extends into the vineyards from Nantes to Clisson, and along the ‘Course Estuaire’ which offers cruises from Nantes to the port of Saint-Nazaire.