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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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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