Off the French coast by La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime), Ile de Ré (pop. 12,000) is a narrow flat island 30 kilometres long. Of all the Charentais islands, Ré is undoubtedly the most popular, it is the premier French weekend and holiday destination. Attracted by the island’s beauty, many artists, writers and painters bought salt-workers’ and fishermen’s houses in the 1960s, and the island started becoming fashionable, a trend which has lasted to present day. The beauty of Ile de Ré is that whilst it is undoubtably exceptionally chic it has managed to retain all its authentic charm with white lime-washed, shuttered houses and narrow streets full of flowers and cobbles.
In the north, the Fier d’Ars-en-Ré is a patchwork of mudflats and salt marshes, where every kind of wader and bird of prey is to be found. The flat-bottomed boats, the rakes of the salt-gatherers, the oyster beds and the scent of the moorland give Ile de Ré a romanticism without equal.
The island is famous for its oysters, potatoes and salt. Salt is collected from salt farms towards the western end of the island. All the islands produce can be enjoyed in the many restaurants scattered throughout the island’s villages.