An insider’s guide to Charente-Maritime in Nouvelle Aquitaine, including the main attractions to visit on holiday, the best towns and villages to live in, the major festivals and events, and buying property in Charente-Maritime
Famous for its long stretch of sandy coast and sunny summer days, Charente-Maritime, in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine (formerly the regions of Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes), is popular with French and British holidaymakers, especially the Île de Ré.
Tourists and expats looking for a property enjoy the almost year-round sunshine, a relaxed pace of lifestyle and a warm welcome from residents.
Sharing its borders with the departments of Deux-Sèvres and Charente, the department has a lot more to offer than just its golden stretch of Atlantic coastline. With lively, vibrant cities and towns, pretty villages, historic spots to explore and delicious food to indulge in, Charente-Maritime has plenty to delight.
Plane: Regular flights from the UK to the international airport of La Rochelle and Poiters airport
By train: Eurostar to Paris and then jump on the TGV to La Rochelle
By road: La Rochelle is 700km from Calais
Places to visit in Charente-Maritime
Three tall towers guarding the harbour of La Rochelle act as a reminder of the port town’s turbulent history. Nowadays it has a seafront packed with bustling restaurants and bars, a thriving port and one of Europe’s best aquariums boasting more than 10,000 sea creatures. As capital of Charente-Maritime, the city welcomes thousands of visitors to various festivals it hosts throughout the year including the Francofolies music festival and the Jazz Between the Two Towers festival where audiences can catch a variety of artists performing in free and fee-paying concerts.
The island off La Rochelle, Île de Ré, is also home to two Plus Beaux Villages: La Flotte and Ars-en-Ré. La Flotte is the perfect place to while an afternoon away sitting outside one of the village’s numerous cafes, soaking in the medieval architecture and pretty boats that dot the marina. Ars-en-Ré is also a charming village to visit housing a bustling harbour among sea, salt-marshes and gardens.
There’s plenty of history to discover in Charente-Maritime: the town of St-Jean-d´Angély boasts the remaining parts of the abbey church which is now listed as a UNESCO heritage site. The small village of Talmont retains much of its rustic charm; the church of St Radegonde sitting upon a cliff and surrounded by a small cemetery is a particularly gorgeous spot to explore.
Things to do in Charente-Maritime
A big draw for visitors to Charente-Maritime is the department’s many sandy beaches. The best can be found on the islands off La Rochelle including Île de Ré, Île d`Aix and Île d`Oléron. The golden beaches, and vast meadows of Île de Ré, offer visitors the chance to participate in watersports, hikes with beautiful scenery or just a day relaxing under the sun. You may even spot a Poitou donkey with their distinctive shaggy coat, big ears and white nose in the meadows of Île de Ré.
Away from the coast the vast area of marshland called the Marais Poitevin, the second largest wetland in France, is often referred to as ‘La Venise Verte’ (Green Venice), and is a haven for wildlife. Explore the surroundings by boat, on a horse-drawn carriage or travel by bike through the scenery.
With such an expanse of coastline it is hardly surprising that seafood is a speciality here, and in particular the Buchot mussels and Marennes-Oléron oysters are not to be missed. Local drinks cognac and pineau des Charentes are available in Charente-Maritime too and wash down the seafood nicely. You can also expect plenty of honey, potatoes and asparagus.
Buying property in Charente-Maritime
An incredibly popular spot for a holiday home, Charente-Maritime is favoured by holidaymakers and expats drawn to the relaxed pace of life, glorious weather and sandy beaches. There’s a wide range of property styles in Charente-Maritime including maison de maîtres, huge properties surrounded by greenery and boasting views of the countryside, Charentaise houses with tile roofs, painted front facades and exposed beams and properties found along the coastline including fisherman houses and luxury, modern villas, among many more.
The average property price in this department is €175,000, a little more expensive than the average property price in France (€157,600) and the most expensive in the former region of Poitou-Charentes.
As you may expect property prices do vary in Charente-Maritime, with the most expensive being the lively city of La Rochelle with an average property price of €220,000 while Jonzac and St-Jean-d´Angély have average property prices of €110,000.
You can find properties in Charente-Maritime for sale on the France Property Shop website.