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Long sandy beaches combined with France’s second sunniest climate make Charente-Maritime a mecca for families, couples and groups in search of swimming and water sports in an unspoilt location. There is plenty of space and great facilities for enjoying boating, surfing and beach sailing – and when you want an evening out or a day away from the beach, choose from lots of events and interesting places to visit.

Old Port of La Rochelle

This beautiful historic harbour has three outstanding medieval towers and is surrounded by stately buildings The harbour is also the biggest yachting centre on France's Atlantic coast, so you can spend many happy hours wandering through the old streets and looking at the boats. There is a real holiday buzz here with street performers, a fabulous selection of fish restaurants and welcoming bars. Elsewhere in La Rochelle are an aquarium and France’s largest zoo.

From 17th – 22th September , La Rochelle is host to Le Grand Pavois, one of the most important boat shows in the world with more than 750 boats on display, 89,000 visitors in 2012 and covering an area of 100,000 square metres.

La Rochelle

The following month, music takes centre stage with the Jazz between Two Towers festival -  one of the best known in France attracting stars such as John Scofield, Joe Louis Walker and Michelle Hendricks. The beautiful setting between the towers of the old port adds to the atmosphere.

The Sixteenth Jazz en Ré Festival will take place from 22nd to 25th August on the beautiful and popular Ile de Ré. This is an island where life is lived at a delightfully slow pace and is a great place to enjoy cycling and watching birds on the nature reserve – and maybe spotting a few of the celebrities who have homes here.  

Boat trips

Boats leave La Rochelle harbour for trips to several destinations, including the many islands off this part of the coast. The voyage to the Island of Aix includes sailing around the ancient Fort Boyard, an impressive and photogenic sight.

Oysters and Fort Louvois

Marennes is home to the largest oyster cultivation area in all of Europe, so you’ll have the opportunity to see the growing and refinement process and also enjoy savouring oysters really fresh from the sea. Between Oléron Island and the Marennes Basin, is Fort Louvois, a 17th century coastal fort built on a submerged rock between 1691 to 1694. Today, the Fort is open to the public, offering a fascinating visit.

Shopping as it used to be

The Musee des Commerces d'Autrefois is a private museum in the town of Rochefort, south of La Rochelle. It vividly brings to life the shops and daily routines of this busy port in the early 20th century, with a bar, a dental surgery, chemists, hairdressers, general hardware shop and more – all equipped with the products and machinery of the time.

For more ideas, travel information and a fantastic range of holiday accommodation, check out our complete guide to Charente-Maritime.