Ile de Ré is a smallish island situated about halfway down the French Atlantic coast attached to La Rochelle by a long majestic toll bridge. It lays claims to a micro-climate that during our season provided consistently warm, dry weather.
The bridge and its toll create an effective barrier to straying off the island. This means that you venture out low season escaping to the mainland to visit La Rochelle then you are inclined to be captive on the island – you may miss the pleasures of Lidl and McDonalds! The bridge toll is €9 low season but €16 high season. If you need frequent use you can buy 5 tickets for the price of about 3 (you only pay as you drive onto the island, getting off is “free”) BUT you must prepay before the toll booths.
Camping Interlude provides a friendly working environment – Manager Estelle makes you feel part of her team and included us with discounts at the campsite shop (but not Wifi). We found the campsite Wifi both expensive and unreliable so purchased an Orange dongle – no cheaper but better reliability, though importantly not useable for Skype.
The site is simple and has a small feel about it. The swimming pool complex is also limited but is located right next to the sea. Entertainment on site can only be described as “low key”. For Canvas, it’s all tents and they are quite well located and on the flat for ease of maintenance.
The beach is immediately adjacent to the campsite, it’s great low season for walking and when the weather warms up for swimming; good for surfing and kite surfing too. It can be very windy but there is always a sheltered beach to be found elsewhere on the island. Generally all the beaches on the campsite side are sandy and the other side are rocky and involve oyster farming, salt pans and small harbours.
Customers love the island, a high proportion are returners who are therefore quite independent and knowledgeable. Bikes are essential on the island (including decent courier bikes) everything on the island is set up for bike travel – they are crucial to exploring the island. There are cycle tracks everywhere and they form the backbone for local transport. Buses are infrequent and unreliable. Most customers come with their own bikes or hire them immediately on arrival. During low season there is an ample supply but in high season they can be difficult to find.
ST MARTIN HARBOUR
Eating out is not particularly special and is quite expensive, but plenty of choice for holidaymakers, who can afford it ! Buy your fresh fish at Leclerc at St Martin for bargain prices, but check out the daily local markets too – they are held in all the towns but pricey.
Le Bois – the local town – is an easy cycle ride from the site, it has a small Carrefour which can be poorly stocked in high season, but good enough for essentials. The largest daily market on the island is held here. Vegetables and fruit are sold roadside in high season – it’s of dubious quality though. St Martin and La Flotte are picturesque harbours easily accessible by bike and very busy in high season.
LOCAL ATTRACTION – DONKEYS WITH TROUSERS !
The Canvas live Area is amongst the customer tents, adjacent to the car access barriers and main gate also next to Canvas Reception. As the season progresses it becomes a very noisy area; cars are parked then moved at ALL hours – living in a tent the noise is quite intrusive. Additionally the dustbins can be emptied at 1am & 5am high season. Ear plugs are strongly recommended to enable sleep. The live area is very shady. This has the benefit of being cool in high season but very dreary the rest of the time.
Eurocamp, with a mature couple, were the only other operators, the site is heavily biased to campsite owned mobiles attracting Brits but mainly French customers. Campsite reception staff all spoke excellent English and Estelle encouraged them to treat Canvas customers as their customers – we really appreciated this attitude!
Overall it’s a magnificent spot – there’s no nightlife to speak of, only a night club across the island in St Martin and a few local bars. This is typical of the island, it’s all very uncommercialised and attracts holidaymakers who want peace and quiet and days spent cycling to the many beaches or visiting the 10 “towns” that all seek their attention.
We loved the experience, would certainly recommend this destination!