Vendée: Sables-d’Olonne – Our Tips for a Successful Stay

For a getaway or a holiday, the late season is one of the best times to discover the Sables d’Olonne in the Vendée.

But by the way, Les Sables d’Olonne is where and what can be done? It is the largest seaside resort and no longer a “resort” on the Vendée coast, located 1h30 south of Nantes and 1h30 north of La Rochelle .

The agglomeration has more than 50,000 inhabitants and seven communes. Always oriented towards the sea with a well-established maritime tradition linked in particular to its fishing activity , it has developed thanks to tourism and its large sandy beach,  often referred to as “one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe”. At a time when the fashion of the baths of sea makes its appearance, that is to say in the years 1860.

Known in the entire world

In recent years, the city has taken another growth by hosting prestigious nautical events that have made it known around the world as the single-handed race around the world without assistance and nonstop the Vendée Globe,born in 1989.

We come to Sables d’Olonne for its beach, its hinterland ( marsh and forest ) for all kinds of hiking, events, gastronomy, well-being or relaxation.

The Paracou beach, La Chaume, with all the charm of a wild beach To get there, except by road, the TGV which arrives directly in the station of Sables-d’Olonne , (trains direct from Paris all the year, to count 3h30), an airfield, the closest airports being those of Nantes-Atlantique and La Rochelle-Ile de Ré .

Do not miss

To discover the city, its neighborhoods: the Penotte island and shell sculptures on the facades of houses, the Embankment and villas of the XIX th and early XX th , the district of the Thatch, scenic, accessible by sea bus, “The ferryman”, with its old fishermen’s houses and its narrow streets, the fishing port , fourth of France for the value of landed products, the marina , starting point of the sailing races, the forest of Olonne-sur -mer stretch over more than 11 km, the 1400 ha of marshes of Ile-d’Olonne and Olonne-sur-mer.

The Penotte Island district, facades decorated with seashells in downtown Sables-d'Olonne
The Penotte Island district, facades decorated with seashells in downtown Sables-d’Olonne (© Antoine Martineau)

For an unrestricted view of the city and its surroundings, we recommend climbing to the top of the Arundel Tower , located in La Chaume , cradle of the city. That’s the stubble that starts everything: the first port, the first inhabitants.

The quai de la Chaume, which leaves towards the large jetty gives this impression of slenderness towards the horizon at 360 °. A coastal path leads from the Priory Saint-Nicolas , joining the flagship Armandèche overlooking one of the barges off, then plage of Paracou , wilder, which gives a beautiful view including sunset, on the long beaches of fine sand, the dunes and the forest which follow each other as far as the eye can see.

1400 hectares of marshes in the immediate vicinity of Sables-d'Olonne
1400 hectares of marshes in the immediate vicinity of Sables-d’Olonne (© Antoine Martineau)

Other things to see and do:

  • The Rue de l’Enfer, listed in 1986 in the Guinness Book of Records as the narrowest street in the world
  • The Well of Hell, a natural fault in the rocks
  • The pebble dune of Cayola
  • Local churches and chapels with ex-votos from shipwrecked survivors
  • Saint-Jean d’Orbestier Abbey, former Richard Coeur de Lion hunting reserve
  • The Canal des Loirs and adjoining hiking trail
  • The village of Olonne and its heritage
  • The panoramic tower of the Church of the island of Olonne with exceptional view of the marshes
  • The visit of the auction
  • The Central Market in the Baltard style
  • The MASC Museum (one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in France for its collection of works by Chaissac, including Brauner)
  • The Blockhaus-Hospital Museum, a fine example of restored heritage

For housing

Hotels , campsites “outdoor hotels”, guest houses , vacation homes, furnished rentals  : from the simplest to the most star, the choice is wide and for all budgets.

Pour une pause détente luxueuse, on peut s’arrêter au Côte Ouest Hôtel thalasso & Spa ****, établissement qui fait partie depuis 2016 de la collection d’hôtels haut de gamme « Mgallery by Sofitel » connue pour ses valeurs de singularité, d’élégance et de considération. Décoration de style Paquebot des années 30 à l’intérieur, un cadre idyllique face au Lac de Tanchet et l’Océan pour horizon, cet établissement accueille un espace concept thalasso & spa moderne au goût du jour, équipé d’un parcours hydromarin, salle de fitness, cabine de cryothérapie.

 Côte Ouest Hôtel thalasso & Spa
 Côte Ouest Hôtel thalasso & Spa (© Nathalie Chevré)

A tea or coffee break is also recommended, the terrace facing the sea, quiet, sunny is an irresistible attraction.

For a relaxing “nature” , we will remember the Camping Petit Paris **** at Château-d’Olonne which offers wooden caravans in a rural area. Ile aux Oiseaux *** in Ile- d’Olonne has a cozy nest, in fact an accommodation with a quirky design, a real suite called “The Enchanted Nest”.

"Ile aux Oiseaux" at Ile-d'Olonne
“Ile aux Oiseaux” at Ile-d’Olonne (© Bird Island)

The guest rooms that stand out on the destination Les Sables d’Olonne are:

  • The Farms of Newfoundland in Ile-d’Olonne, 5 ears of the traveller spirit
  • the Epicurean House in Les Sables-d’Olonne , a stylish Belle Epoque seaside villa decorated in modern colors
  • the Logis de la Venerie 3 ears, remains of character located in Olonne-sur-Mer , soft and warm atmosphere, located in peace, at the gates of the city.
Newfoundland Farms (© New Earth Farms)
Newfoundland Farms (© New Earth Farms)

To eat

  • The seafood restaurants and fish located on both sides of the channel that leads to the 3 ports.
A large choice of seafood restaurants on both sides of the channel
A large choice of seafood restaurants on both sides of the channel (© Antoine Martineau)
  • From April to September, depending on the weather, the beach restaurants for an atmosphere in the water: large beach and beach Tanchet.
  • The wine bars like the Cave is Rebiffe on the embankment or the label on the fishing port.
  • More atypical: the Fish & Chips Trailer next to the Fish Market of the fishing port, recipe based on fresh fish directly from the fish auction of Sables-d’Olonne
  • The ultimate: the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Cayola , with a breathtaking setting, facing the sea, at Château-d’Olonne.
Beach restaurants or how to restore your feet in the sand
Beach restaurants or how to restore your feet in the sand (© Nathalie Chevré)

The addresses to feast

  • The Glacier Rose petals on the embankment: Ice cream master ice cream makers with new fragrances such as lemon basil, prunes of Armagnac, violet, orangina …
  • The Chocolaterie Carré Gourmand on the embankment with the specialty “Pavements du Remblai”
  • The “Amanda” Sea View Tea Room , Navarin Square, Embankment: homemade cakes, exceptional hot chocolates
  • The producers  : farm sales of local products, wineries, salt workers huts in the marshes
  • The Fish Market of the fishing port for the freshness of its fish and shellfish, all the year. The Sablaise specialty: the sole that gave rise to the creation of a Brotherhood of the Sole

For a break (in season)

  • La Cabanajus, La Paracou car park: 100% natural fresh fruit juice
  • The Bar de Sauveterre , snack, fast food, beach of Sauveterre
  • Le Margouillat beach hut, Granges beach: calm and pleasant surroundings
  • Picnic area at the Salary with a view of the marshes
  • Aloha Bowls  : Juice bar and smoothies on the embankment
Picnic area overlooking the marsh
Picnic area overlooking the marshes at Sables d’Olonne

Closeby Places of Interest

Practical information: 
For any information, contact the Tourist Office Destination les Sables d’Olonne or consult the website of the tourist office.

The huts of salt workers to buy salt and discover the work of salt workers, Ile-d'Olonne
The huts of salt workers to buy salt and discover the work of salt workers, Ile-d’Olonne (© Antoine Martineau)