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Six places to visit in Vendée, France

Vendée

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

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.

girl lying on beach in Vendée, man making a sandcastle

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

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.

Vendée

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

boy watching the water fountains at Puy du Fou

Watching the water fountains at 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.

The Viking show at Puy du Fou. Flaming Viking Ship.

The Viking show at Puy du Fou

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.

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.

You can find out more about Vendée on the Visit France website.

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boy running towards sea in Vendée, France

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35 Comments

  • Plutonium Sox
    September 28, 2017 at 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

    Reply
    • Nell
      September 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm

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

      Reply
  • Johlene Orton
    September 28, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Looks very cool! The theme park looks great!

    Reply
    • Nell
      September 28, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      It’s a great place for a break.

      Reply
  • Annabel
    September 30, 2017 at 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.

    Reply
    • Nell
      October 2, 2017 at 1:43 pm

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

      Reply
  • Sarah Ebner
    October 3, 2017 at 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.

    Reply
    • Nell
      October 6, 2017 at 10:38 am

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

      Reply
  • Zena's Suitcase
    October 4, 2017 at 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

    Reply
    • Nell
      October 6, 2017 at 11:21 am

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

      Reply
  • Trish
    November 1, 2017 at 12:21 pm

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

    Reply
  • Karen
    November 1, 2017 at 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.

    Reply
    • Nell
      November 12, 2017 at 6:45 pm

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

      Reply
  • Emma Raphael
    November 5, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    It all sounds wonderful and those beaches are just stunning!

    Reply
    • Nell
      November 12, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      The beaches were such a big draw.

      Reply
  • Ting at MTM
    November 5, 2017 at 9:00 pm

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

    Reply
    • Nell
      November 12, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Yes, it’s a beautiful place.

      Reply
  • I cannot believe I have never heard of the Puy du Fou! I’ve just checked out their website after reading your rave review, it looks awesome;)

    Reply
    • Nell
      November 12, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      The shows were incredible, Lisa. x

      Reply
  • Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)
    February 1, 2018 at 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

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 4, 2018 at 6:08 pm

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

      Reply
  • Carolyne
    February 1, 2018 at 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

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 4, 2018 at 6:11 pm

      It’s a great region. Mellow and beautiful!

      Reply
  • Katy
    February 3, 2018 at 9:20 am

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

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 4, 2018 at 6:41 pm

      You should go, Katy, you should go!

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 4, 2018 at 6:43 pm

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

      Reply
  • Our French Oasis
    February 5, 2018 at 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!

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 7, 2018 at 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!

      Reply
  • Janet
    February 5, 2018 at 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

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 7, 2018 at 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.

      Reply
  • fiona
    February 5, 2018 at 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.

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 7, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Ooh, lucky you!

      Reply
  • Phoebe | Lou Messugo
    February 25, 2018 at 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

    Reply
    • Nell
      February 27, 2018 at 8:28 pm

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

      Reply

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