Branch out from the same overcrowded summer destinations with our guide to the best alternative beach holidays.Read more...
The Vendée - Calendar
It may only happen every four years, but do take your chance to welcome home the intrepid round-the-world solo sailors in this world-famous race; winners should be arriving at Les Sables-d’Olonne before the month end.
Nantes's mechanical elephant is a reminder of the city's industrial past © DaLiu, Shutterstock
Put on your walking boots for some scenic coastal strolls on the island of Noirmoutier. If the weather is kind, you could even cross the Passage du Gois – at low tide, of course.
Take to two wheels to enjoy the coastal section of this long-distance cycle route. Start at Bouin and finish at L’Aiguillon, taking in the best of the region’s seaside delights. Flat terrain, bracing sea air – what more could you want?
Early May is the time for the first Bonnotte potatoes – one of the finest delicacies around – to be dug up in Noirmoutier’s sandy soil, a perfect off-season time to cross the Passage du Gois and visit this delightful island.
History at its most dramatic
Colourful displays are a common occurrence at this 'historical theme park' © Puy du Fou, Vendée Expansion Pôle Tourisme
The Grand Parc du Puy du Fou is open daily from now till early September. Book early for a performance of the dazzling, night-time Cinescenie show, which is performed every weekend.
Turn the clock back
See the market town of Autrefois Challans revert to 1910, with stalls and traditional entertainment filling the streets. For two Thursdays in July and two in August, there is fun for all ages!
Fireworks by the sea
Don’t miss the Vendée’s biggest and best annual firework display, created by master pyrotechnician Jacques Couturier, which takes place over the harbour at St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in the middle of the month.
Cool it in the Venise Verte
This is an ideal time to rent a boat and paddle lazily through beautiful tree-lined canals of the romantic ’Green Venice‘ area.
Birdwatching at Pointe de l’Aiguillon
There may be fewer tourists at this time of year but, during the autumn months, around 250,000 birds pass this way en route to warmer winter climes. From September to the end of October, volunteers from the LPO (the ‘French RSPB’) greet visitors at weekends, 15.00–18.00.
A winter’s hideaway
Hole up in the beguiling Île d’Yeu, and paint, write or walk the empty beaches. Far from the madding crowds, this is a great place for a true winter retreat.
Treat yourself to a pre-Christmas weekend break in La Rochelle, and browse through the arcades before settling down in one of the many waterfront restaurants.