Île de Ré was a fun surprise.  We expected it to be beachy and quaint, but we did not expect it to be so very quiet, which was just what we needed the night we arrived.  The island feels like a sleepy Martha's Vineyard. And like Martha's Vineyard, it's far more popular with local tourists than with tourists from outside the country.

We arrived by train to La Rochelle and taxi'd over the long bridge that connects the 20 mile long island to the mainland.   We stayed on the northern tip of the island in Saint Clement des Baleines and worked our way around the island via bicycle and on foot. Next visit, I'd like to base myself in St. Martin de Ré, a more central location on the east coast of the island.

Our days were filled with beach-combing and hunting for heart shaped rocks, visiting lighthouses, shopping the island's farmer's markets, and searching for les ânes en culottedonkeys that roam the fields wearing striped red and blue pants.   We found a cafe in Saint Clement des Baleines that served cappucino in the morning and wine in the evenings and became regulars as we watched over the square. 

Where to Stay

It really doesn't matter which village you choose as your base.  You'll be close to everything.  We chose an Air BnB that we can't recommend (that's another story), but the village of St. Clement des Baleines was divine.

 The island is not known for design hotels or resorts.  It's more of a guesthouse/Maison d'Hôte vibe and there are some charming examples on the island.

Villa Clarisse 

Hotel de Toiras 

Hotel Le Richelieu 


Where to Eat

O Parloir

La Villa - a lovely terrace for cappucino in the morning, wine in the evening.  

Ré Ostréa: Simple beachside dining with fresh oysters

Marche de la Flotte - try the night market.  

Madame Sardine

Le Bistrot du Marin

Cabane du Feneau - an unassuming oyster shake with gorgeous views. 


What to Do

Rent a bicycle!  One can explore the entire island via bicycle.  

Visit Phare des Baleines with a stop at La Martiniere for an ice cream cone. 

Visit  Plage de la Conche, a lovely quiet (and family friendly) beach. 

Shop at Marie et Angele, a lovely little vintage shop specializing in military surplus, sailing staples and French worker's jackets.

Clocher Observatoire

Tour La Ferme des Baleines

Visit Abbaye des Chateliers

Buy postcards from the village bureau postale and write notes to your friends in the village square. 

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Laurie Furber
Tagged: travel journal