Poitou Charentes guide
All along the coast you'll find magnificent beaches and opportunities for all kinds of watersports. Inland, the lush countryside features wooded valleys, sleepy villages, and the famous Cognac vineyards. Poitiers is one of France's oldest cities, while the nearby Futuroscope attraction is the ultimate in high-tech.
A tranquil and largely unspoilt region with a stunning coastline boasting fine sandy beaches backed by fragrant pine forests, pretty marinas and bustling resorts including popular Royan. Another highlight is the chic port of La Rochelle with its waterside restaurants, picturesque shopping streets and a delightful old harbour often lively with street entertainers, artists and market stalls. For a peaceful retreat you can escape to a number of beautiful islands such as the Ile d'Oléron (be wary of naturists!) and the Ile de Ré which is reached by a toll bridge and reputed to have its own micro-climate with hours of endless sunshine. Inland has also plenty of assets; the Marais Poitevin (marshes) or Venise Verte as it is often referred to has a serene and verdant expanse of fields which can be explored by rowing boat along the canals or cycling the many towpaths.
Or visit Poitiers, one of France's most ancient towns and the equally charming Cognac which is also home to world famous brandy distilleries - take a free guided tour and sample the fabled nectar that has been produced here since the 17th century.
Places to visit in Poitou Charentes
Aquarium La Rochelle
Learn about the fascinating underwater world at this excellent state-of-the-art aquarium which is well laid out and displays beautiful fish from all over the world.
This is a unique theme park near Poitiers that is dedicated to the Moving Image with ultra-modern buildings housing white knuckle thrills, ground breaking technology and spectacular attractions.
La Palmyre Zoo
Just north of Royan you'll find this incredible zoo - with over 1600 animals it is the largest in France and highly recommended for a family day out.
Things to do in Poitou Charentes
Canoeing and white water rafting
There are numerous places offering facilities to enjoy the meandering Charente river through beautiful countryside.
Take a boat trip from the harbour in La Rochelle towards Fort Boyard (a 19th century stone fortress once featured in a tv game show), or out to the tiny Ile d'Aix.
Pescalis at Montcoutant is an international centre for nature and fishing enthusiasts, with 100 hectares of lakes set amongst woodland, fields and hedgerows with separate fishing areas for adults and children.
Food and drink
- Charentais melon
- Creamy Chabichou goats' cheese
- Oysters from the Ile d'Oléron
- Moules au Pineau - mussels cooked with tomatoes, pineau, garlic and parsley
- Desserts flavoured with angelica
- Tourteau fromagé, a delicious cheesecake
What to drink
Brandy. Pineau des Charentes, an aperitif made from brandy and sweet unfermented grape juice.