Six reasons for families to visit the Vendée, France

Six reasons for families to visit the Vendée, France

Set almost half-way down France, south of Brittany and north of the Dordogne, lies the Vendée. This mainly flat, leafy coastal department is more sheltered from the Atlantic winds than the northerly parts of France. It’s warm in the summer, but doesn’t have the dessicating heat of the country’s south.

The Vendée is a good option for UK families. Holidaymakers can reach the place by car via a ferry, or through international airports at Nantes or La Rochelle. Accommodation is plentiful. On our trip there last summer we stayed in one of the department’s many holiday parks, but if you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious, there are also several international companies offering rentals in France, or local hotels and B&Bs that welcome families.

The Vendée has some great attractions for families.

Beautiful beaches

 

Vendée

With 250km of protected coastline, the Vendée is renowned for its beaches. These are impeccably clean by French standards, with excellent bathing water quality. Les Sables d’Olonne is perhaps the best-known of the Vendée’s beaches. Its sheltered, gradually sloping sand faces south, so it has more than its fair share of sunshine. Restaurants line the beach promenade, and aquatic centres offer surfing and sailing.

Beach-lovers will be spoiled for choice in the Vendée, where everyone from naturists to families will find a place to suit them. On our trip, we went to Bretignolles sur Mer, a small town where you can choose between rocky beaches with surfer-friendly waves, or fine sandy stretches where families can learn to sail, cycle along the dunes, or just build sandcastles and snooze. We went for the latter option.

Vendée

Le Grand Defi

Le Grand Defi’s 24 treetop trails opened in 2010. Held safely by harnesses, adventurers from the age of two can traverse wires, ropes and wooden boards laid out in the branches. Five of the trails are suitable for the very youngest treetop explorers. Two ‘black runs’ challenge the most seasoned branch-swingers, and 22 zip lines pass over the area’s beautiful lakes.

As well as the treetop trails, Le Grand Defi offers paintpalling, pony rides, golf, orienteering and more. You can read about Le Grand Defi in this post by Tin Box Traveller.

Le Grand Defi is open from April to the beginning of November. A range of admission prices apply, depending on the age of the customers, and which activities they’d like to try. The tree top trails range in price from €10 for two- to five-year olds, to €20.50 for those aged over 15. A multi-activity ticket costs €19 for six- to 11-year olds, and €23 for those over 12.

Good walking terrain

Vendée

The Vendée’s terrain is flat, so it’s easy for little legs. Older walkers will also find a route to challenge them. Hundreds of miles of marked trails guide walkers along woodland and coastal paths. The locals are passionate about their walking terrain, and you’ll often find brightly coloured markers to flag your way.

D and I chose a particularly pleasant route on our recent visit to the Vendée. We walked through dappled tree tunnels, where a mixture of deciduous and conifer trees left a lovely piney scent in the air, and crunchy acorns underfoot. Our trail took us across shallow brooks and along the way we spotted frogs, shrews, wild rabbits and even a rare cormorant.

Vendée

O’Gliss Park and Indian Forest

The third biggest water park in France opened in 2016, near Moutiers-les-Mauxfaits. At O’Gliss families can spend days enjoying the outdoor water park’s twelve giant slides, four river rapids, wave pool, sunbathing area, large swimming pool, children’s play area and exotic gardens. Picky eaters will no doubt find something to satisfy them at one of the park’s four restaurants. These range from a traditional restaurant selling grilled meat dishes, to a surf bar where sliders can fuel themselves with a burger, a tapas bar and a ‘Sugar Stop’, which sells sweets, ice creams and other sugary treats.

Next to O’Gliss is the Indian Forest, another adventure park with treetop trails, paintball and an adventure playground for kids. The Indian Forest is set in five acres of ancient oak woodland, and is billed as the largest adventure park in the country.

Combined unlimited day entry to both O’Gliss and the Indian Forest is €46 for adults, €33 for children aged 5-10, and €23 for 3-4 year olds. The prices for each individual attraction vary, depending on the range of access you want.

O’Gliss is open every day in summer, from the end of June to the beginning of September. The Indian Forest opens from April to September.

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou

Puy du Fou is the second most popular theme park in France, after Disneyland Paris, but it’s a well-kept secret outside of the country. This history-based theme park celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. Unlike most theme parks, it doesn’t have any rides. Instead, visitors can watch spectacular shows, limited only by the length of the day, and the ability of little legs to walk from one venue to another.

Puy du Fou

We visited Puy du Fou last year, and were astonished by the technical accomplishment of the shows. These are all based around legendary tales from French and European history, with a distinct Christian twist. On any one day, visitors to the theme park can choose between up to 12 performances, some repeated two or three times. These feature knuckle-biting acrobatics on horseback; lions, wild boar, wolves, and around 200 birds of prey; and international award-winning pyrotechnics. Puy du Fou’s showcase performance, Cinéscénie, boasts 2,000 actors and plays out over a water-covered space of 23 hectares.

Advance ticket prices for Puy du Fou range between €33 and €57 for adults, depending on whether they’re for one two, or three days, and €23-€42 for children.

Puy du Fou

Have you been to the Vendée? What did you enjoy doing there? Please let me know what I’ve missed out – it’s a department with many attractions.

This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.

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Lou Messugo
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35 Comments

  1. September 28, 2017 / 12:55 pm

    Ah this brings back lovely memories, I lived in Nantes for a year while I was at uni. It is a beautiful region.
    Nat.x

    • September 28, 2017 / 1:37 pm

      Oh yes, I remember you mentioning it. I want to go back!

  2. September 28, 2017 / 5:02 pm

    Looks very cool! The theme park looks great!

    • September 28, 2017 / 6:58 pm

      It’s a great place for a break.

  3. September 30, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    I had a great camping holiday in the Vendee when I was a child. I remember the amazing beaches, I’d love to take my boys there some time.

    • October 2, 2017 / 1:43 pm

      It’s an easy place to visit with kids. You definitely should, if you get the chance.

  4. October 3, 2017 / 9:46 pm

    We went here years ago when the kids were tiny and thought it was a brilliant part of the world for families – so much to do outdoors and so gorgeous too. Plus good food! Your post brings back some lovely memories.

    • October 6, 2017 / 10:38 am

      Yes, it’s a very ‘easy’ place to be, isn’t it.

  5. October 4, 2017 / 2:56 pm

    It sounds like the area has some amazing features. The beaches look very inviting and I love that the tree tops trail is from 2 years of age

    • October 6, 2017 / 11:21 am

      Yes, the little monkeys often have no fear then, so it’s a good age to get them started!

  6. November 1, 2017 / 12:21 pm

    This might be just the place, now we’re into walking holidays! Will look into it. Thanks Nell.

  7. November 1, 2017 / 3:16 pm

    That’s such a great spot. Being able to take the ferry I also an added bonus to avoid the airport. The beach looks fab.

    • November 12, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      Yes, we love travelling by ferry and it’s easily accessible.

  8. November 5, 2017 / 8:53 pm

    It all sounds wonderful and those beaches are just stunning!

    • November 12, 2017 / 6:58 pm

      The beaches were such a big draw.

  9. November 5, 2017 / 9:00 pm

    I don’t think you could really go wrong with a holiday in Vendee… It looks brilliant!

    • November 12, 2017 / 6:58 pm

      Yes, it’s a beautiful place.

    • November 12, 2017 / 7:01 pm

      The shows were incredible, Lisa. x

  10. February 1, 2018 / 2:37 pm

    Well you’ve convinced me, Nell! Those beaches, great forest walks and that wonderful looking theme park. I’m not bothered about the lack of rides – history-based shows would be a much more exciting reason to visit. #AllAboutFrance

    • February 4, 2018 / 6:08 pm

      I think this region would suit you and your family, Clare x

  11. February 1, 2018 / 3:31 pm

    WOW your photos make me want to book a trip right now. We don’t have kids. but it looks like fun for all. Thanks for sharing #AllAboutFrance

    • February 4, 2018 / 6:11 pm

      It’s a great region. Mellow and beautiful!

  12. February 3, 2018 / 9:20 am

    I’ve never been to this part of France but now the Vendee is on my list – how beautiful #allaboutfrance

    • February 4, 2018 / 6:41 pm

      You should go, Katy, you should go!

  13. It looks like you had a lovely summer holiday. Of course, it makes sense to fit in with the weather and open when the greatest number of tourists is around, but it is a shame that a lot of attractions and activities close in winter!

    • February 4, 2018 / 6:43 pm

      That’s true. Mind you, the water park might get a bit chilly in December!

  14. February 5, 2018 / 10:59 am

    So happy you enjoyed the west coast, although we live further south in the Charente Maritime, it is still an area not as well known as say Normandy, Brittany or Provence, somehow the west seems to get overlooked!

    • February 7, 2018 / 12:19 pm

      I know what you mean, but I happen to know the Charente Maritime, too. You’re lucky to be in such a beautiful place!

  15. February 5, 2018 / 3:05 pm

    Even for us travelling from Yorkshire, the Vendee is a great option as it really doesn’t take all that long to drive to. Then suddenly we find ourselves in a region with great summer weather and beaches. The only negative was the flat landscape but like you say, it does mean that walks are always easy. In fact, I mean to take bikes there next time! #AllaboutFrance

    • February 7, 2018 / 12:35 pm

      You’re right – it’s a great area for cycling. I’m looking forward to when both our children are old enough fo us all to be able to go on a family bike ride here.

  16. February 5, 2018 / 9:49 pm

    So glad to hear you enjoyed Vendée. I rediscovered it in 2014 after thirty five years and now have a holiday home there.

    • February 7, 2018 / 12:50 pm

      Ooh, lucky you!

  17. February 25, 2018 / 11:20 am

    Is there an area of France that isn’t lovely? I’m probably the most un-theme park person in the world (other than my husband) but even we want to go to Puy du Fou one day. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

    • February 27, 2018 / 8:28 pm

      It’s the most un-theme park theme park we’ve been to, so you should definitely go!

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