The lighthouses of Charente Maritime

Île-d'Aix
Share The lighthouses of Charente Maritime
The lighthouses of Ch ...

Charente-Maritime, with its frontage on the Atlantic, has a rich and unusual maritime heritage : its lighthouses. Scattered along the coast, placed on the islands of the Charente archipelago, or in the open sea, they have been used since Antiquity to guide sailors. Today, we are opening their doors to reveal their history and the scientific challenges they have created, to fulfill their essential function in maritime navigation.

The extraordinary construction of these ocean-resistant monuments makes them architectural wonders. Scientific innovations of the optical system in the 19th century, helped to widen the scope of these lookouts and avoid many shipwrecks. The visit to the lighthouses has an undeniable historical, cultural and scientific interest.

So yes, climbing a lighthouse is a bit sporty. But once you reach the top, you will have all your senses awakened to appreciate these unique sensations. You will be dazzled by these breathtaking views. You will take full lungs of this sea and iodized air, so invigorating and invigorating. The waves crashing on the coast play captivating music. It is a striking experience, which well deserves this effort and you will keep the memory of these exceptional 360 ° panoramas.

Opening : @ SpiritProd33 / Adobe Stock

sponsored content

Chassiron lighthouse


Located on the Ile d'Oléron, in Saint-Denis-d'Oléron, the Chassiron lighthouse is the oldest in Charente-Maritime (the oldest in France, being the Cordouan lighthouse, in Gironde). The first tower was built in 1685 and the current lighthouse was put into operation in 1836. A little anecdote : It took on its black and white bands in 1926 to be more visible, but also to avoid confusion with the Baleine lighthouse. It is a landing light.

Did you know Landing lights signal the approach of a coast. Staking lights indicate the course of a sea route. There are also port entrance lighthouses.

You can visit it all year round. Its view of Fort Boyard is remarkable. The visit includes an exhibition space on the life of the people of Oléron, between land and sea and a beautiful garden in the shape of a compass rose.

The good idea Original guided tours are offered. The first allows you to understand this specific island ecosystem and the second takes place at night to enjoy the sunset from the top of the lighthouse and learn more about the operation of the lantern.

The good idea Read our article on the visit of the Chassiron Lighthouse

Headlights

The Phare de Chassiron, which can be appreciated from afar and which dominates a rocky foreshore rich in biodiversity.

The lighthouses of the whales and the calf


At the tip of the Île de Ré, the Baleines lighthouse is located on the coastal path that borders the Conche des Baleines beach. This famous beach, where whales sometimes ran aground... The Baleines lighthouse and the Baleineaux lighthouse were built simultaneously in 1854 to replace the old tower from 1682, which was too low and therefore had too short a span. They are both equipped with all new Fresnel optics. The Whale Lighthouse is a landing light. It is qualified as first-rate, due to its range of 60 km.

Did you know Headlights are classified according to their light range. The first-rate lighthouses have a range of 60 km. They are used in the open sea or in landing. The second-rate ones have a range of 40 km for the staking lights. Third-order lighthouses, with their range of 28 km, are located at the entrance to the ports.

The Baleines Lighthouse is surrounded by a park, which extends the Lilleau des Niges nature reserve, where you can observe many birds. The site, accessible all year round, allows you to visit the lighthouse, the old tower and the museum, on the history of maritime beaconing. The Baleineaux Lighthouse is an open sea lighthouse, which is not guarded because it houses a permanent light, so it cannot be visited.

Learn more

Read our article on the Whale Lighthouse

Headlights

The Whale Lighthouse to the left and to the right offshore, that of the calf; Photo @Lesley Williamson

The Ile d'Aix lighthouse


The Ile d'Aix lighthouse can not be visited but it has an astonishing feature. It is a sector light, that is to say it has a white light to indicate the coast and a red light to delimit the danger zone. Its originality is due to the fact that it uses four optics rotating around a light source and that, in this case, the filter for the red zone must be positioned at a great distance from the optic for the signaling to be precise. The lighthouse is therefore composed of two towers. The first tower built in 1889 carried the fire (optical system), then in 1906 the second tower was fitted with a filter.

Did you know Usually the light of a lighthouse is white. When it is red or green, it signals a danger. The light beam is positioned directly on the risk zone, which is why it is called a "sector light ". The ship must avoid this lighted strip.

Headlights

The double lighthouse of Île d'Aix

The Coubre lighthouse


In La Tremblade, the Coubre lighthouse is the tallest of the Charente lighthouses. It indicates the entrance to the mouth of the Gironde and avoids its sandbanks. In addition to the main beam, a secondary light, called a “ barbette ” shows the danger zones.

It is open from February to November. Due to its height, you will admire a magnificent viewpoint over the Gironde estuary. The museum presents the history of the lighthouse and allows you to understand how a Fresnel lens works.

Did you know The engineer Augustin Fresnel invented in 1820 a revolutionary lens which considerably increased the luminous range of the headlights. It is still the most efficient system today, the ingenuity of which you can appreciate in this museum.

Headlights

Photo : @SpiritProd33 / Adobe Stock

sponsored content

The lighthouses of the Old Port of La Rochelle


The Gabut and Quai Valin lighthouses can not be visited, but they still deserve to be interested. In fact, these two alignment lights facilitate entry into the channel of the Old Port of La Rochelle. Right at the entrance to the port, the red Gabut lighthouse (with its painted red squares) is aligned with the green lighthouse on Quai Valin, at the bottom of the yacht basin. The architecture of the Quai Valin lighthouse is atypical, since it is integrated not only into the city, but also into the body of a house. It will even be raised in 1855 to avoid confusion with the lights of the city. Another originality, when it was put into service, this lighthouse had a fixed white light. Then, it is transformed into white light with 2 occultations, before turning green...

Did you know Each lighthouse is identified by a “ light signature ”. It is made up of a series of short, long or flashing “ flashes ” which alternate periods of light or extinction, following a unique rhythm.

Headlights   Headlights
The two lighthouses that watch over the city of La Rochelle.

© Jérôme Rommé & © Picturereflex / Adobe Stock

The Richelieu lighthouse


At the entrance to the port of Minimes, a first Richelieu tower was built in 1860, but it was destroyed during the First World War. In 1915, a new Richelieu lighthouse made it possible to mark the dike of the same name. It cannot be visited.

The End of the World lighthouse


This lighthouse at the End of the World is a crazy idea from André Bronner! This navigator and adventurer imagined the construction of a replica of this lighthouse at the End of the World in Patagonia which had inspired Jules Vernes. The association that made this project possible aims to develop cultural exchanges with Argentina.

The lighthouse cannot be visited. However, the association launched a challenge in 2020 to its members: to become a lighthouse keeper for 24 hours! It also plans that it be used occasionally as an artist's residence, to take advantage of this inspiring place.

Headlights

The Lighthouse at the End of the World; Photo @ Jean-Pierre Bazard   CC BY 4.0

Vallières lighthouse


In Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, the Vallières lighthouse is built at the top of a cliff and overlooks the Gironde estuary. Its history has given rise to many twists and turns. A first too low tower is built, quickly replaced by a new more efficient one in 1902. But it will suffer the damage of the Second World War. Restored, it retains many traces. Then it will finally be abandoned in 1969. Today, an association takes care of it and allows visitors to visit it from June to September.

Headlights

The Lighthouse of Vallières; Photo @ FrenchCobber   CC BY-SA 3.0

Chauveau lighthouse


Between the Île de Ré and La Rochelle, is the Chauveau lighthouse. It cannot be visited but you can go fishing on foot at certain times of the year. And that's what gives it its originality. Its location in the open sea but accessible on foot at low tide makes it the only open sea lighthouse inhabitable in Charente-Maritime. It was therefore inhabited and even kept its period furniture, but its very narrow shape did not make it very comfortable! So " hell " or " paradise ", the question arises...

Did you know ? This is a small qualifier assigned by lighthouse keepers, depending on their location, which determined their quality of life. Thus the open sea lighthouse, isolated and without the possibility of going out, is a “ hell ” for its keeper; the one built on an island, which offers the opportunity for the family to walk outside and cultivate or raise some food resources is a " purgatory "; and whoever is on land or on an inhabited island is a " paradise "!


sponsored content

Bonus: Cordouan lighthouse


Located at the entrance to the estuary, it is officially in the Gironde department, but it is accessible by boat from Royan. The Cordouan lighthouse is a must-see. It is the oldest lighthouse in France still in operation and the only lighthouse at sea that can be visited! The lighthouse keepers welcome you for a guided tour. Access conditions may prove to be sporty or unsuitable for younger children, consult their website for more information.

Did you know ? It is nicknamed the " Heaven of the Underworld ". Its position, where the murderous currents clash between the ocean and the river, gave it the qualification of " hell " by the keepers, like all lighthouses in the open sea... But it has so often been a source of inspiration for the artists, who considered it a " paradise ", that the paradox gave it its nickname.


Headlights

Cordouan Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in France! © Antoine   / Adobe Stock

This tour of the Charente-Maritime lighthouses comes to an end. We hope to have made you want to visit these unusual and authentic monuments.

Did you like our article? Find more on our Blog.

Follow us on the Facebook page of the Guide de la Charente Maritime and on Instagram @guidecharentemaritime.

Article written by Stéphanie Tempier for the Guide de la Charente Maritime.


Back to "Weekend & Holidays"

You will like also

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

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

Île-d'Aix

The essential boat trips in Charente-Maritime

The essential boat trips in Charente-Maritime
The essential boat trips in Charente-Maritime

6,7 km - Fouras

Wellness and thalassotherapy getaway for girls in Châtelaillon-Plage

Wellness and thalassotherapy getaway for girls in Châtelaillon-Plage
Wellness and thalassotherapy getaway for girls ...

9,4 km - Châtelaillon-Plage

A day at Chassiron lighthouse

A day at Chassiron lighthouse
A day at Chassiron lighthouse

12,5 km - Dolus-d'Oléron

Wine on the island of Oléron! Vignoble Vincent Tour

Wine on the island of Oléron! Vignoble Vincent Tour
Wine on the island of Oléron! Vignoble Vincent ...

12,7 km - Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Events nearby

BALADE À VÉLO DE L'ESTUAIRE AU MARAIS

BALADE À VÉLO DE L'ESTUAIRE AU MARAIS
BALADE À VÉLO DE L'ESTUAIRE AU MARAIS

04/03/2021

5,9 km - Fouras

Evènements sportifs

EXPOSITION : CLUB PHOTO FOURAS

EXPOSITION : CLUB PHOTO FOURAS
EXPOSITION : CLUB PHOTO FOURAS

12/02/2021 to 31/03/2021

5,9 km - Fouras

Expositions

SPECTACLE : LES DANGERS DE LA LECTURE

SPECTACLE : LES DANGERS DE LA LECTURE
SPECTACLE : LES DANGERS DE LA LECTURE

16/03/2021

6,1 km - Fouras

Théâtre

LIAISON MARITIME ILE D'OLERON LA ROCHELLE

LIAISON MARITIME ILE D'OLERON LA ROCHELLE
LIAISON MARITIME ILE D'OLERON LA ROCHELLE

06/02/2021 to 01/11/2021

6,7 km - Saint-Georges-d'Oléron

Evènements sportifs

JEU DE PISTE À FORT-ROYER, UN TRÉSOR À DÉVORER !

JEU DE PISTE À FORT-ROYER, UN TRÉSOR À DÉVORER !
JEU DE PISTE À FORT-ROYER, UN TRÉSOR À DÉVORER !

06/02/2021 to 07/03/2021

7,7 km - Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Sorties natures

ATELIER DECOUVERTE "ARTISTE EN HUITRE"

ATELIER DECOUVERTE "ARTISTE EN HUITRE"
ATELIER DECOUVERTE "ARTISTE EN HUITRE"

06/02/2021 to 07/03/2021

7,7 km - Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Culture

DÉCOUVERTE COMMENTÉE : L’HUÎTRE NATURELLE ET L’OSTRÉICULTURE ARTISANALE À FORT-ROYER

DÉCOUVERTE COMMENTÉE : L’HUÎTRE NATURELLE ET L’OSTRÉICULTURE ARTISANALE À FORT-ROYER
DÉCOUVERTE COMMENTÉE : L’HUÎTRE NATURELLE ET L ...

06/02/2021 to 07/03/2021

7,7 km - Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Sorties natures

ATELIER DECOUVERTE "PTIT SCIENTIFIQUE"

ATELIER DECOUVERTE "PTIT SCIENTIFIQUE"
ATELIER DECOUVERTE "PTIT SCIENTIFIQUE"

06/02/2021 to 07/03/2021

7,7 km - Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Culture

OUVRIR LES HUITRES , TOUTE UNE HISTOIRE FORT ROYER

OUVRIR LES HUITRES , TOUTE UNE HISTOIRE FORT ROYER
OUVRIR LES HUITRES , TOUTE UNE HISTOIRE FORT ROYER

06/02/2021 to 07/03/2021

7,7 km - Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Sorties natures

LA CÔTE ROCHEUSE : ANIMAUX EXTRAORDINAIRES, ALGUES PRÉCIEUSES, MÉTIERS D’AUTREFOIS ET LÉGENDES

LA CÔTE ROCHEUSE : ANIMAUX EXTRAORDINAIRES, ALGUES PRÉCIEUSES, MÉTIERS D’AUTREFOIS ET LÉGENDES
LA CÔTE ROCHEUSE : ANIMAUX EXTRAORDINAIRES, AL ...

06/02/2021 to 31/10/2021

7,7 km - Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron

Sorties natures

You will like also

Phare de l'île d'Aix

Phare de l'île d'Aix
Phare de l'île d'Aix

Located on the Ile d'Aix, this very original lighthouse, consisting of two 25.3m towers, is still in operation. Red ...

291 m - Île-d'Aix

Plage aux Coquillages

Plage aux Coquillages
Plage aux Coquillages

1,2 km - Île-d'Aix

Fort Boyard

Fort Boyard
Fort Boyard

3,3 km - Île-d'Aix

Fort Vauban de Fouras

Fort Vauban de Fouras
Fort Vauban de Fouras

6,5 km - Fouras

Plage des Saumonards

Plage des Saumonards
Plage des Saumonards

6,6 km - Saint-Georges-d'Oléron

Ride around

Le littoral de Châtelaillon jusqu'à la Réserve Naturelle du Marais d'Yves

Le littoral de Châtelaillon jusqu'à la Réserve Naturelle du Marais d'Yves
Le littoral de Châtelaillon jusqu'à la Réserve ...

9,7 km - Châtelaillon-Plage

Walking

Découverte de la réserve naturelle du Marais d'Yves

Découverte de la réserve naturelle du Marais d'Yves
Découverte de la réserve naturelle du Marais d ...

10,0 km - Yves

Walking

along the coast to the Citadelle of Le Chateau d'Oleron

along the coast to the Citadelle of Le Chateau d'Oleron
along the coast to the Citadelle of Le Chateau ...

12,1 km - Le Château-d'Oléron

Walking

Sentier des Lais de mer

Sentier des Lais de mer
Sentier des Lais de mer

13,5 km - Saint-Froult

Walking

Sentier des Polders - RNN Moëze Oléron

Sentier des Polders - RNN Moëze Oléron
Sentier des Polders - RNN Moëze Oléron

14,4 km - Saint-Froult

Walking