Camping Guide to the Charente Maritime

The Charente Maritime area, part of the Poitou-Charente region nestles between the Vendee to the north and the Aquitaine region to the south.

The area is popular with families and couples alike, all seeking fun and relaxation on one of its many great beaches that line the Cote Sauvage. The area is also famous for its production of Cognac.

Our guide will take you through the hotspots, whilst giving you ideas on which campsites in the Charente Maritime to book.

Visit Charente Maritime, France - La Rochelle

The seaport of La Rochelle is sophisticated, lively and modern, but retains reminders of its long history. A stroll around the quiet, arcaded walkways reveals evidence of a past based on fishing and shipbuilding. Medieval half-timbered houses, ornamented Renaissance hotels and graceful 18th century mansions sit in harmony around an attractive harbour. Around 1,000 years ago, Rochela was a fishing village. It became wealthy and influential in the 12th century, under the patronage of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and was renamed La Rochelle.

Today, the Port des Minimes marina, where vast numbers of sailing craft tie up, is the largest on the Atlantic seaboard and is boosted by international sailing races and boat shows. At the heart of La Rochelle, the Vieux Port is constantly busy and a great place to watch boats come and go. Don't miss the splendid views from the towers flanking the Vieux Port.

Visit Charente Maritime, France - Cognac

Cognac’s old town retains its medieval layout and several references to the salt trade on which its economy once depended. In its narrow streets, half-timbered buildings fight for attention amongst the fine 15th to 17th century stone town houses. The Tours St-Jacques, on rue du Château, a solid fortified gateway, is all that remains of the ramparts. Smart shops and cafés coming from the Place François I represent the Cognac of today: Lively and prosperous.

It is a hub of commerce, gastronomy and tourism and the heart of the global cognac business. Tell tale black stains on pale stonework reveal the places where barrels of the famous spirit are ageing. The vast cellars of the Château where king Francois I, who reigned from 1515 was born are now the home of Otard cognac. Among the Cognac houses you can visit are Camus, Martell, Hennessy and Rémy Martin .

Visit Charente Maritime, France - Futoroscope

Futuroscope is a constantly evolving leisure park, situated 11km north of Poitiers. It now offers in excess of 25 different attractions based on the moving image and high-tech visual effects. It is worth visiting just to admire the excellent architecture that ranges from being strange to simply brilliant, like the soaring organ pipes; mirrored crystals; a giant sphere hovering above angled sheets of glass; and even, in the Pavillon de la Créativité, what looks like a giant ‘99’ ice cream.

These extraordinary structures house attractions such as huge 3D cinemas, seats moving in synchronization with the images (referred to as 4D these days), or 360° panoramas. The park also has interactive water fountains, children’s play areas and a lake which children can ride across on tricycles. In summer, the lake is lit to form a backdrop to various spectacles and shows.

Visit Charente Maritime, France - Ile de Re

Ile de Re is a long, narrow island that stretches 30km into the Atlantic Ocean and is linked to the mainland at La Rochelle by an elegantly curved bridge. The south side has a succession of long beaches; whilst the north, sheltered from direct ocean winds, provides mooring for yachts in several small ports. A gentle climate and Ile de Re’s food and drink, mainly wine, fish and oysters, are two of the attractions of this pretty island.

Even in summer it is possible to find a quiet spot, though you may have to seek it on foot or by bicycle - there are more than 100km of official bicycle tracks to explore. Watch yachts riding quietly at anchor in front of whitewashed houses on the quayside at La Flotte, or visit its superb medieval market hall. Ars, one of the prettiest villages in France, hosts a wonderful market with a range of high-quality produce.

Visit Charente Maritime, France - Saintes

Saintes is a historic port on the Charente river and tourist hub of Saintonge. The town was capital of Aquitania under Roman rule and became an early convert to Christianity. Today, visitors come to enjoy its Roman and religious monuments, shopping streets and riverside. The old town is set back, below and behind the main boulevards. On the riverbank is the Arch of Germanicus, erected in AD 19, while the fascinating Musée Archaeologique, in esplanade André Malraux, offers an insight into the life of the town in Gallo-Roman times. A first-century chariot is among the exhibits. There is more classical heritage in the Amphitheatre in rue Lacurie, built in AD 40. Churches worth a look include St-Eutrope, in rue St-Eutrope. Compare the Romanesque delicacy of the bell tower on the Abbaye-aux-Dames with the heavy-handed Gothic treatment of the roof of the Cathédrale St-Pierre.

You may also be interested to read more about what not to miss in Charente Maritime's neighbouring regions:
Aquitaine Dordogne Midi-Pyrenees. Or return to our guide to France directory list

Further reading: More information on the region can be found on the Wikipedia page for the region.