Noirmoutier island is about 10 miles long and connected to the mainland by both a bridge and a tidal causeway road near Fromentine. The island (which perhaps technically it is not) is generally flat and low-lying. Whilst we have been around the island by car, the only practical harbour for us is L’Herbaudiere, on the northern tip of the island. Approaching from the north (or from the west via the buoyed channel called the Chaussee des Boeufs) there are numerous rocky outcrops, which are well marked.
We time our entry and exit into the marina to avoid LW+/-2. Passing through the narrow gap in the breakwater can be interesting (especially if you meet another boat leaving the harbour at the same time!). Once inside the harbour divides into two distinct parts – to the west for fishing and commercial boats whilst to the east is the small marina.
The marina staff are always most helpful. We usually email them a few days ahead to check if they can offer us a berth and, if so, then ring them on the day of our arrival giving our ETA. The convenient fuel pontoon is just below the Capitainerie where we’ve found diesel fuel prices are often cheaper than on the mainland! Ashore, there’s a launderette operated by the Capitainerie, a good sailmaker, two chandlers and several engineering companies near the commercial harbour.
L’Herbaudiere is only a small village but, to us, it’s really appealing for that reason. Around the marina complex there are several good eateries. In good weather, we always enjoy meeting with Jane who runs a small bar called the ‘Bar a Huitres’, which overlooks the marina, for some local Fiefs Vendee white wine and oysters. Above the marina is a restaurant called L’Auberge de Cesar where we’ve enjoyed some great barbequed meals. The main crossroads is the hub of the village where all incoming and outgoing traffic must pass. Here there’s a small family-owned café with outdoor seating overlooking the commercial harbour and even a boulangerie just across the road, so this is our normal early morning coffee venue.
Nearby is the large Beneteau production factory making Beneteau Trawler Yachts and Monte Carlo motorboats. The boats are shrink-wrapped before being road transported and stored on the car park adjacent to the crossroads. It’s always interesting seeing their destinations – such as Russia, the USA, UK and many other parts of the world.
Due to its location well offshore from the French mainland coast, Noirmoutirer was heavily fortified by the Germans in World War 2 and formed part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ which was designed to protect their submarine pens at Lorient and St. Nazaire and counter any invasion by the Allied troops along this coastline s. As a result, there is still much evidence of former artillery and lookout buildings on the island. Ile Noirmoutier has many flat cycle tracks and we always enjoy the cycle ride (about 45 minutes) from L’Herbaudiere into Noirmoutier town passing on the way some of the extensive salt-extraction lagoons which produce about 3,000 tonnes of sea salt each year, Throughout Noirmoutier we see the speciality new potatoes only produced on the island (a variety called Bonnette) being grown in the light sandy soil. On these salt lagoons, there is much interesting wildlife. Noirmoutier town has a reasonable range of shops. In summary, we’ve always enjoyed the times when we’ve put into L’Herbaudiere.
With thanks to Nick Fletcher – 2021