The Vendée, France is a good option for UK families. It’s set almost half-way down France, south of Brittany and north of the Dordogne. 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. Everyone from history buffs through to nature-lovers and thrill-seekers will find places to visit in Vendée to suit their tastes.
Holidaymakers can travel to Vendée 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 Vendée campsites, La Garangeoire, with Eurocamp Vendée. It’s one of the many gorgeous campsites in France with water 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.
Here are some things to do in Vendée.
Visit one of the Vendée beaches
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.
Treetop trails in France: 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. To find out more about their rates and tickets, visit the Grand Defi website.
Hiking trails in Vendée
The Vendée France’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, which you can read about here. 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.
Places to visit in Vendée: O’Gliss Park and Indian Forest
The third biggest water park in France opened in 2016, near Moutiers-les-Mauxfaits. O’Gliss is now a top France tourist attraction. Families can spend days enjoying the outdoor water park’s giant slides, 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. There’s 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.
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.
Places to visit in Vendée: Puy du Fou
Puy du Fou is the second most popular theme park in France, after Disneyland Paris. A lot of people who’ve visited say it’s one of the best places to visit in France. This history-based theme park celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017. Unlike most theme parks, it doesn’t have any rides. Instead, visitors can watch from a choice of several spectacular shows, which run all day long and into the evening.
We visited Puy du Fou, and were astonished by the technical accomplishment of the shows. These are all based around legendary tales from French and European history, with a distinctly 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.
Puy du Fou offers on-site accommodation, and ticket prices vary. You can find out more on their website.
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.
You can find out more about Vendée on the Visit France website.
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