Just a short 11 miles from La Rochelle and an eon away from Minimes, and with fuel 20 cents cheaper!

Harbour staff run to take lines, excellent new shower block and restaurants around the marina which is filled with hundreds of those peche promenades. 12 minute walk into the village with a small daily market and covered fish stalls, a modest supermarket and the baker another 100 metres. You feel welcome here, though space for visitors looks limited given the distance from and the size of its neighbour across on the mainland. Perhaps that saves it.

Marina has a few bikes available for a short trip, and an overpriced bike hire shop around the port. The odd rock formations up north by the lighthouse are worth a visit at low tide and to see the surf breaking. The north-west coast is a more interesting cycle ride, but this end of the island, at least, is not as impressive as the previous two island cycle trips; perfectly enjoyable all the same.

Gavin May kindly provided the above report – 2021

As with Ile de Re and Ile Noirmoutier, this is not a ‘proper’island as it now has a road bridge connecting it to the mainland.  Of the three small marinas on Ile d’Oleron (Boyardville, Le Douhet and St. Denis) our favourite is St. Denis on the northern tip which is only 10Nm SW of Les Minimes in La Rochelle.

As the approach dries, this is another French harbour with a tidal access window, in this case, a window of around HW+/-2 over a cill which dries at 1.5m. It is popular harbour with La Rochelle boaters so we always pre-check their berthing availability at least a day before our intended visit and, if there is space, VHF-call them about an hour before our ETA. Adjacent to the cill is the fuelling pontoon where we have found their diesel prices to be amongst the cheapest of all the harbours which we visit. The long visitor’s pontoon, for over 10m in length, is on the south side of the first pontoon to port.

The Capitainerie has showers, a launderette and free bike loan for an hour to go shopping in the small village of St. Denis, where there are frequent local produce markets. We’ve enjoyed some good meals at Le Jour du Poisson and in an excellent but small back street restaurant specilising in thai and asian food called Bangkok Noi.

Just the other side of the marina breakwater, there’s a great sandy beach for swimming. Around the inside of the marina are about eight different restaurants and cafes (we enjoy the Fleur de Thym), the Office de Tourisme and a bike hire shop.

To see the northern part of Ile d’Oleron a bike is essential. The 50m high lighthouse at Pointe de Chassiron [NF1]  guards the very rocky coastline and is open to the public together as are some attractive and interesting gardens nearby. Elsewhere at Chassiron the few hotels, cafes and ice cream counters cater for the many daily tourists arriving on coaches! There are lots of flat dedicated cycle tracks through fields of vines near along the much more exposed west coast to explore before returning to St. Denis. Oleron has many small vineyards which predominantly produce economically priced dry wine wines.

South of St. Denis there’s a flat ride to hamlet of Le Douhet, where we’ve enjoyed some good lunch stops, before cycling back on the many inland cycle tracks.  At the end of WW11, Ile d’Oleron was one of the last German garrisons to surrender and there are still remnants of many WW11 fortifications on the island. A few days berthed at St. Denis has always been an enjoyable stop-over and it is another of our favourite harbours.

Article by Nick Fletcher 2021

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