5 natural sites to visit in Charente Maritime in autumn and winter

La Tremblade
Share 5 natural sites to visit in Charente Maritime in autumn and winter
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At a time when dead leaves are gathered with a shovel, Charente-Maritime is changing color. As if we were discovering these landscapes with flamboyant colors for the first time, autumn renews the image of nature. A number of natural sites thus become unusual, surprising and essential places to walk for the pleasure of the eyes! To enjoy the landscapes of Charente-Maritime out of season, there's nothing like a little trip into the countryside for two, with family or friends. Between land, sea and marshes, Charente-Maritime offers a mosaic of landscapes shaped by nature, but also by man for millennia. For an immersion in typically Charentais settings, here is a selection of 5 natural sites to discover in autumn and winter, such as invitations to stroll, relaxation and contemplation.


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Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve - Île de Ré

The Lilleau des Niges nature reserve, located north of the Île de Ré, is located inside a large, almost closed bay, the Fier d'Ars. Composed of former salt marshes and mudflats, this Mecca of French ornithology covers 220 ha and reveals astonishing multicolored landscapes as well as exceptional fauna at this time of year. A veritable migratory crossroads, thousands of migratory birds from northern Europe (shore waders, ducks, spoonbills) take possession of the place and live in harmony with the local colonies of avocets, stilts, terns or gulls. As winter approaches, around 10,000 Brent Geese (geese from Siberia) arrive on the island and provide a funny sound show. In fall and winter, the best times of day are dawn and rising (or high) tide for bird watching. Access to the reserve is free, the circuit stretches over more than 3 km to the delight of lovers of nature, cycling and walking! Access to the reserve is prohibited for any motorized vehicle. Discovery trips are organized all year round by the Bird Protection League / Maison du Fier.


Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve
Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve  Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve
Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve


The Seudre estuary and its small oyster ports

With its 67 kilometers long, the Seudre is the smallest river in France. Before throwing himself into the ocean in the Maumusson sluice, in the heart of the bay of Marennes-Oléron, he takes his ease in an estuary with an unusual physiognomy. On either side of the river extend 8,600 hectares of salt marshes, ponds, dikes, channels and oyster-farming villages with charming little cabins. The mere mention of these small multicolored wooden huts characteristic of the Charente coast makes our imagination travel and takes us to these bucolic places: strips of land surrounded by an immensity of water, oyster beds and marshes bordered by lavender of sea, obione or samphire.

On foot or by bike, a one-day itinerary allows you to get a first idea of the estuary and to spot some good places where you will enjoy returning. Over the 20 kilometers of the course which lead from the Éguille to the mouth of the river at the level of Tremblade and Marennes, the oyster farming activity is widely present. Here, tasting fresh Marennes-Oléron oysters (the emblem of this territory) in the oyster farmer's hut is an integral part of the art of living, simple and authentic. In Mornac-sur-Seudre, La Tremblade (fr), Éguille-sur-Seudre, Nieulle-sur-Seudre, Chatressac or Chaillevette, stroll along the channels to admire the comings and goings of flat-bottomed boats and observe the work oyster farmers is a favorite pastime for locals and visitors alike!


The Seudre estuary and its small oyster ports
The Seudre estuary and its small oyster ports  The Seudre estuary and its small oyster ports


The Poitevin marsh

The Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park, the second largest wetland in France after the Camargue, is nicknamed the land of waterways or “the green Venice”. It extends north of La Rochelle between the bay of l'Aiguillon and Niort over more than 112,000 ha of green nature. From the former Golf des Pictons, the Marais Poitevin was built by man in the Middle Ages who crisscrossed it with canals. The Marais Poitevin is divided into two distinct parts: the parched marsh stretches from the bay of l'Aiguillon to Marans and the wet marsh, liable to flooding, from Marans to Niort.

The good idea Read our article on Discovering the Sèvre Niortaise and Marans, along the water.


On foot, the possibilities for hiking circuits are numerous from Coulon and Arçais, the two main gateways to the wet marsh. A hike around Arçais or the Coulon-Magné-Coulon loop of 13 km allows you to find yourself in the heart of this exceptional environment by following the Sèvre Niortaise. Of cycle paths through the Marais Poitevin, including Vélodyssée or The Francette bike offering a great opportunity to explore by bike this veritable labyrinth of canals, formerly only means of communication between the villages... Random trails, get ready to cross the cows, otters, nutria, dragonflies as well as a good number of birds that have taken up residence in this haven of greenery.


The Poitevin marsh
The Poitevin marsh  The Poitevin marsh
The Poitevin marsh

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The Gironde estuary and its squares

With the Gironde as a common thread, discover an estuary over 70 km long which lives to the rhythm of the tides. Dotted with wild coves, small beaches, forests, marshes, small ports and fishing nets perched above the waves, this arm of the sea which stretches up to 12 km wide is the largest estuary of Western Europe. From Mortagne-sur-Gironde to Saint-Palais-sur-Mer, the Charente coast offers superb maritime panoramas and beautiful cultural stops to soak up the unusual history of the river! It is the kingdom of squares, these huts on pontoons, perched on long stakes hold a special place in the heart of the Charentais. Originally, squares were used to practice random fishing to serve as a food supplement. Over time, they have become the expression of a certain art of living which gives pride of place to the pleasure of getting together and being together. Today, the banks of the Gironde perpetuate this spirit of conviviality. These squares dot the superb coastal paths of Talmont-sur-Gironde, Royan (fr), Vaux sur Mer, Saint Palais… and are the delight of curious people and photographers!

The good idea

Read our article on the most beautiful spots to admire the carrelets in Charente Maritime.


The Gironde estuary and its squares
The Gironde estuary and its squares


The Marais d'Yves nature reserve

Squares, thousands of birds, a panoramic view of the bay of Yves and of the islands (Ré, Madame and Oléron) are the main assets of this timeless place to explore during a walk. Located between Rochefort and Châtelaillon, this nature reserve is made up of a mosaic of remarkable ecosystems: dunes, marshes, a lagoon sculpted by the sea swells. A perfect place to venture into the heart of exceptional biological diversity! Keep your eyes open to access this place because the exits from the national road which runs alongside it are discreet: coming from Rochefort, take the Boucholeurs exit and return to Rochefort by the D 137 (parking at the end of the road to the Oasis). Arriving from the south, park your vehicle in the Aire de la Baie d'Yves car park.

The good idea Read our article to know the best spots for bird watching in Charente Maritime.


This beautiful, sensitive natural space welcomes myriads of birds that come to rest on its shores: geese, ducks, herons, storks and shore waders. At low tide, in the mudflats or on the nearby foreshore, they feast on worms, crustaceans and molluscs. At dusk, their flights and their aerial ballets constitute a magical spectacle that could inspire the greatest choreographers. Good to know, the birds are closest to the beach 2 hours before and after high tide. If you wish to be accompanied by an expert, the LPO offers an annual program of visits to the nature reserve.


The Marais d’Yves nature reserve  The Marais d’Yves nature reserve
The Marais d’Yves nature reserve  The Marais d’Yves nature reserve


We wish you pleasant walks in autumn and winter in Charente-Maritime, it is a territory that is appreciated all year round.


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Article and photos prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Charente Maritime Guide


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