5,000 berths, split between the old port and Minimes, which is truly vast covering the area of a small village and a 30 mins walk into town.

That in itself is a bit confusing but the simplest way to town is to walk the edge of the various marina basins and then follow parallel to the main La Rochelle channel and on into town.

The Water taxi from far-right corner of the marina where you entered, 3 Euros, and bus, 1,35 Euros, vaguely in the far right corner towards the beach, in a street. Lucille?..behind Domino’s pizza. Yes, you did read that right….An OK but small sandy beach in the same direction.

Compared to the old town, Minimes, of course, feels a bit remote and lacking in charm, and is mind-bogglingly vast.

1 euro for the showers. The pontoon layout is somewhat confusing, but staff are probably on hand to direct you to your berth. Incidentally, the water taxi seems to have only one speed, full ahead, so if you are over in the far right by the pickup point, keep your eyes very well peeled. Bars, restaurants and an enormous expanse of marine-related industry here, so, dare I say it, a good place also to get something fixed.

Of the three basins in the town and old port, only one is really available for shorter stays, through the towers and straight in front of you, all tide access. The locks off to your right are only for the other two old town basins but are not necessarily open to visitors, unless by pre-arrangement. The all-tide pontoons have mainly bars and restaurants overlooking on two sides, but 50 metres or so back from the quay edge so you are not overlooked. Remote and tranquil..perhaps not.

Showers etc are 5 mins walk over to the Bureau and here you lose out- two showers and two toilets in a very communal and open room, and a euro coin to use the shower. Madame was shaving her legs in the sink…I’ll brush my teeth elsewhere. The most expensive marina we have come across.

Under the clock tower and arch is a supermarket 100 metres away, bakers to hand, and a very good and painfully expensive market  500 metres away vaguely off to the right with fish so fresh it looked as though it was still breathing.  Shops under ancient arches, upmarket and international, there is a very grand feel to the place. So, in the old port, you get it all, though not a lot of available space and pretty questionable facilities. Up to you which marina might suit you best, though in season you might not have a choice. All in all though, if you need to get stuck somewhere for some time waiting for the weather, get stuck here, and the place is, well, undeniably special.

Gavin May kindly provided the above report – 2021

Minimes marina, photo by Gavin May

The official web site is in English and can be found here www.portlarochelle.com/en/

La Rochelle marina consists of 4 marinas / basins, the which in total holds 4,588 berths including 464 for visitors. Impressive!

The marinas layout is available from this pdf – www.portlarochelle.com/wp-content/upload…

Contact information

Minimes port – 17026 La Rochelle Cedex 1
Tel: 00 33 (0) 5 46 44 41 20
Fax: 00 33 (0) 5 46 44 36 49
V.H.F. channel 9 – 24h/24 non-stop

Tides – maree.info/127

The fuelling in the outer marina is restricted to Euro300 a time but there is a pump that can deliver more. Further information to follow.

The Vieux marina has a bridge which needs lifting in order to get in.

The Vieux port – photo by David Harland 2019

The approaches to La Rochelle are uncomplicated and allow 24hr access. If arriving from the north via the Pertuis Breton, you’ll pass under the very attractive bridge linking Ile de Re with La Rochelle and the mainland. The north and southbound traffic route is clearly marked with lateral markers. SW of the bridge is an area, called the Rade de la Pallice which can have both strong tidal currents and much marine traffic. Once in the roughly NE direction channel leading to La Rochelle, there are easy transits to follow. There are no less than four berthing options of which the largest, by far, is Les Minimes marina, reputed to be the largest in Europe with 4,600 permanent berths and (supposedly!) 400 visitor berths.

We’ve usually berthed here because it is closer to the sea, quieter than the three other marinas (which are closer to the city centre, is closer to any marine or chandlery support and it has a good swimming beach. Although it is a huge marina, the designers have broken up the layout into four quite separate areas which certainly helps reduce the scale.

The visitor’s berths are situated at the southern end of the first basin to starboard after entering the marina, called Le Bassin de Lazaret. Occasionally there are Capitainerie ribs on hand, but we have found that a prior phone call to the Capitainerie, asking about berthing availability, does help. Occasionally, we’ve been surprised (despite making prior enquiries) to find much of the visitor’s area taken up by boat company sale promotional events or other sailing regattas.

Near the entrance is a long fuelling pontoon. There are good showers and a launderette in the Capitainerie and a range of basic food shops and several adequate restaurants only 100m from the visitor’s berths. There is a safe sandy beach nearby.

A regular solar-electric ‘Bus de Mer’ runs from near the visitor’s berths, through the twin towers guarding the city and into the ’Vieux Port’ (which is predominantly the ferry harbour) and takes about 10 minutes. From here you are in the heart of this old and well-maintained walled city centre, with many interesting buildings.

The walk from Les Minimes into La Rochelle takes around 35 minutes, or maybe 15 minutes by bike. La Rochelle is easily accessed with a TGV station, the airport about 3 miles north of the city and fast road links and easy car hire. We have met family here many times who have flown out from the UK to enjoy a few days holiday on board.

Article by Nick Fletcher 2021