Discover the Isle of Aix, a corner of paradise in the Charente Estuary

Île-d'Aix
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Discover the Isle of  ...
Ah Aix Island , what a little paradise! At the mere mention of its name only picturesque images : the ocean, Fort Boyard, the sandy beaches, the sun, nature. The only island of Charente Maritime accessible exclusively by boat breathes relaxation and tranquility . For reason, only the vehicles of the islanders living in the year are authorized to circulate on this island of 3km long and 600 meters wide . So, a taste for adventure, a desire for the open sea, a dream of sailing? Departing from the port of Saint-Martin on the Ile de Ré, I embark on the “ Chevalier Arlequin ” boat of Croisières Inter-Iles for a dream day on the island of Aix. On the program: play the Robinsons, explore the heritage and bask in the sun on one of the sumptuous beaches. A day full of surprises in perspective.

A superb "pebble" accessible by sea with Inter-Island Cruises

Aix Island      Aix Island
The charm of the port of Saint-Martin, the starting point of my stopover on the island of Aix

This sunny spring morning is the effervescence on the Quai Georges Clemenceau of the small port of Saint-Martin de Ré , the historic capital of the Ile de Ré. With nearly a hundred passengers on board , the Croisières Inter-Iles ship is about to set sail for the island of Aix. Here, no majestic bridge like its neighbors in Ré and Oléron, the only option is the boat to access this tiny island in the Charente archipelago, bathed by the Bay of Biscay .

To the delight of all, this day begins with a 1.5 hour boat trip to discover the coastline of the Ile de Ré and Pertuis d'Antioche , bordered by the Ile d'Oléron and the famous Fort Boyard. More than a simple guided tour, the captain and his team take us on a real cruise with commentary on the heritage that we see along the coasts. Leaving the quay of the marina of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, we admire the imposing walls of the Vauban fortifications classified as World Heritage by Unesco, the citadel and the prison, the charming little beach of la Cible before taking the open sea towards the island bridge. Hair in the winds, breathe, smell the sea air and feel the spray that accompanies this sea trip through the most exclusive coastal landscapes !

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Aix Island      Aix Island

Immediate boarding for the island of Aix

Aix Island

Under the Ile de Ré bridge, 3 km long


Head for Fort Boyard

Cradled by the waves, we approach the most famous fort in France and in the world: the mythical Fort Boyard stands before our eyes. What splendor! Built in several stages from 1804 to 1866, this majestic fortification in the middle of the ocean has been listed as a "historic monument" since 1950. The interior of this building cannot be visited, being reserved for the filming of the famous show that bears his name. An unmissable event with an Atlantic wonder and a great emotional moment for all Fort Boyard enthusiasts and fans of the show.

Aix Island

Aix Island      Aix Island

Approach the legendary Fort Boyard, a childhood dream!

Aix Island

Aix Island seen from the coast


Live the adventure on the island of Aix

A small piece of land in the shape of a crescent appears on the horizon and we see the two 25m high towers of the Lighthouse of the island of Aix which rub shoulders with the old stone semaphore . A few moments later, we dock in the small port of the island. The charm works immediately. At the entrance of the island, the visitor is greeted by the Fort de la Rade , built successively between 1692 and 1704, destroyed by the English, rebuilt in 1778, destroyed again in 1783 to be erected again between 1810 and 1814 in its current form. A real citadel for the only town on the island. Hollyhocks dot the streets of this picturesque village, the bright low and white houses with blue and green colored shutters give it a bucolic atmosphere where time seems to have stood still. Calm and tranquility emanate from the flowery alleys. In the heart of the village, the Saint-Martin abbey church is a vestige of the first inhabitants of the island: the monks of the Saint-Martin priory. A real little paradise with the air of the end of the world , spared by the tumult and the traffic. An inspiring breath of serenity and exoticism, everything is done on foot and by bike !

Aix Island

Aix Island      Aix Island

Aix Island

Aix Island    Aix Island    Aix Island

The charm of the island of Aix


To go around the island on foot and at your own pace on its pedestrian and bicycle paths, allow between 2h and 3h, on a 7km course. The Ile d'Aix is classified as a “Remarkable Natural Site ” and it concentrates all the diversity of the landscapes of the Charente-Maritime coast : vineyards, sandy coves, cliffs, a rocky coast, the green forest rich in ash trees, maritime pines and holm oaks. Its beaches, bordered by crystal clear water, compete in beauty. The sublime Anse de La Croix beach , near the pier, offers a unique panorama of Fort Boyard. Its fine sand juts out into the transparent waters suitable for swimming. After the semaphore, the Grande Plage de l'Ile d'Aix stretches for more than a kilometer on its west face. It runs alongside the Tridoux battery, the Bois Joly battery and the Jamblet battery (open to visitors) and benefits from a beautiful view of Fort-Boyard . Finally, at the exit of the village on the eastern part of the island near Bois Joly, the charming Coquillages beach stretches along a pine forest. Do not miss either the beach nicknamed Baby Plage , a magnificent cove located at the end of the island but prohibited for swimming. In the north of the island, in fact, the rocky and steep coast becomes wild and offers authentic landscapes to explorers who venture off the beaten track. Heaven, I tell you!

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Aix Island       Aix Island

Aix Island

The paradise beaches of the island of Aix

Aix Island

Get off the beaten track and explore the wild corners of the island


In the footsteps of Napoleon

The Ile d'Aix has retained its defensive vocation from the Charente estuary as evidenced by the remains of the nine batteries that stand facing the Atlantic. The Ile d'Aix is the last land in France to be trodden by the Emperor Napoleon before being exiled by the English in Saint Helena in 1815. Explore the Napoleon Museum located in the Emperor's last home in France.


Cultural tours on the island of Aix

If you are thirsty for culture , several visits are essential on the island of Aix.

At the northeast end of the island, you can visit the Fort Liédot erected by Napoleon I. Semi-buried on the heights of the island (13 meters!) It allowed the soldiers to have an overview of the harbor of Aix and thus optimize the protection of the Arsenal of Rochefort.

Lovers of art and crafts, push the door of the Maison de la Nacre , one of the last pearl workshops in France to discover the production of jewelry and precious shell objects.

Finally, the African Museum brings together an incredible collection of trophies, sculptures and ethnographic objects brought back from multiple expeditions in southern and eastern Africa by Baron Napoleon Gourgaud (1881-1944), an enthusiast of ethnography and natural sciences. The reopening of the latter during renovation is planned for this year 2020. A concentrate of ideas for exciting visits according to your desires!

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The discovery of the island of Aix is the promise of an exotic escape in complete freedom in a preserved setting. The island is delivered as it is, natural, authentic and discreet. An unforgettable experience to live as a couple, with family, and with friends during your next stay in Charente-Maritime !


Aix Island

Typical Charentaise architecture on the island of Aix

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Photos and article prepared by Lesley Williamson 


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