The Ars en Ré bell tower
Recognisable by its pointed bell tower and black spire, the Ars en Ré bell tower is one of the Ile de Ré’s most emblematic monuments. This pretty little Romanesque church, which is open for visits, lies at the centre of the village of Ars. Cyclists crossing the salt marshes can easily find their bearings thanks to the church tower, which can be seen from a great distance.
Built in the early 19th century, the Ars en Ré bell tower was painted black and white to serve as a landmark for sailors navigating the Pertuis strait. Visit the bell tower at sunset to enjoy a stunning view of the Ile de Ré.
Fortifications of St Martin de Ré
Unique and classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortifications of Saint Martin de Ré are part of the network of major Vauban sites. Built during the reign of Louis XIV by the military engineer Vauban, they served as a shelter for the island’s population in case of enemy attack.
There is free access all year round to these 14 km of ramparts, built in a semi-circle with a radius of 1.5 km, which are suitable for family visits. Guided tours are also available to ensure a fun and enjoyable experience for young and old alike.
Bell tower and observatory of St Martin en Ré
Saint-Martin-de-Ré’s bell tower and observation point, located in the highest part of the town, offer a unique view of the town. This 14th century church was destroyed several times and then rebuilt. Today, only a few original parts remain, but you can still climb its 117 steps to enjoy a stunning panorama of the entire fortified town of Saint-Martin-en-Ré. Y
ou can also visit the church at night for a slightly different view. The town is lit up, making it a magical experience.
Abbaye des Châteliers – La Flotte
Classified as a historic monument, the Abbaye des Châteliers is one of the largest abbeys in central-western France. Although little has survived of the abbey, due to attacks by the English and the Wars of Religion, it is still impressive and of great cultural interest, especially for lovers of historical monuments.
You can visit it free of charge or opt for a guided tour, which will tell you all about the history of the place and its memories. Don’t miss a visit to the Abbaye des Châteliers, open daily all year round, during your holidays on the Ile de Ré.
Fort la Prée – La Flotte
Fort la Prée, the oldest fortification on the Île de Ré, is a treasure of military heritage. Built in 1625, a true witness to the Grand Siècle, Fort la Prée can be visited easily from April to September, or during the autumn school holidays (Toussaint). Whether you visit on your own or take a guided tour, don’t miss the opportunity to show your children the wonders of this unique historical monument. Numerous events and activities are also organised each year, to make exploring the site a fun experience for young and old alike.
Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve – Les Portes-En-Ré
A natural paradise, the Lilleau des Niges Nature Reserve is located in the heart of the salt marshes. It harbours a wealth of fauna and flora in the middle of dunes, salt marshes, forests and villages… For a nature outing with family or friends, the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) organises bird watching in the reserve. The Lilleau des Niges nature reserve is a refuge for many migratory birds.
Accessible free of charge via footpaths, you should not miss a visit to the reserve during your stay on the Île de Ré.
Phare des Baleines and its museum – Saint-Clément des Baleines
A fun activity for the whole family, the Phare des Baleines lighthouse is open daily without interruption. Opened in 1854, the Grand Phare was built in 1849 and is one of the highest in France, with 257 steps to climb to the top. It provides an exceptional view over the island and the ocean. It is one of the most powerful lighthouses on the Atlantic coast.
In the museum you can learn more about the lighthouse and Plage des Baleines beach. You will learn what happened to the whales of the Atlantic coast and how the lighthouse was built and maintained over the years.
The salt marshes
The Ile de Ré’s salt marshes are made up of three large groups of basins: the “vasais”, the “métières”, and the “champ des marais”. With family or friends, learn how salt forms, and discover the history of salt farming. Discover the production technique used in the Île de Ré’s salt marshes, and enjoy a guided tour of the marshes in activity. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn all about sea salt production: how it works, how sea water is turned into salt crystals, and the techniques and methods of the centuries-old occupation of the salt worker.