Ile d’Aix (Aix Island)
The best thing to do while in the Charant Maritime area is to visit Ile d’Aix. The island, known as the ‘little Corsica’ of France, is just 6km across the water from Fouras! Once you’re on the island, it’s hard to believe you’re only 30 minutes away from Rochefort. Tropical vibes are everywhere, with Caribbean blue waters, palm trees, shell-filled beaches, and colorful villages.
Ile d’Aix is an absolute must-see while traveling the Atlantic coast, so get ready to enter another world on this, almost tropical, island.
Cycling Around Ile d’Aix
Best of all, there is no traffic on the island! The only way to get around is by bike or walking. This means it’s incredibly peaceful, and the unbelievable natural beauty of this island is protected. Hire a bike in the only village (here at Cyclaix) and follow one of the many cycle paths that go across the island to secret coves, forests, lighthouses, and to visit Liedot Fort.
It’s only 7km to cycle around the whole island, which won’t take long. However, we recommend dedicating at least half a day to explore all its corners. Trust us when we say you’ll want to stop off and swim at every beautiful cove.
Make sure to visit the island’s village for lunch. While you’re here, take some photos of the gorgeous rows of cottages, with colorful shutters, bikes, and vibrant flower gardens.
Where to Stay on the Island
Want to stay for longer on Ile d’Aix? It’s possible to stay at one of the only two hotels in the village or a camp. However, it’s advised to book well in advance, as there aren’t many accommodation options and it’s a popular option for French holidaymakers. (See the accommodation options here)
Taking the Ferry to Aix Island
First, take the train, bus, or car from Rochefort to Fouras – Pointe de la Fumée. From here, daily ferries make the crossing to Ile d’Aix in just 30 minutes.
The historical naval town Rochefort is definitely worth stopping off on your France trip! As far back as the 17th century, this was an important place for building ships that would later go off to war. Because of this, it’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in maritime history. However, it’s also a great place for sea lovers in general, with its charming harbor area, beautiful beaches, and delicious seafood.
While visiting Rochefort, enjoy these top things to do:
The Arsenal Quarter
The harbor area ‘the Arsenal Quarter’ is still an educational hub for those who are interested in maritime history. Here, hundreds of ships were built and set sail. You can still see many replicas of the old ships, as well as interactive museums that are great for kids. Make sure to visit:
- The Hermione Ship. ‘The Hermione’ was an important frigate (warship) that took General Lafayette to America for the American revolutionary war. Within the Arsenal Quarter, you’ll be able to see an exact replica of the ship.
- The Corderie Royale. The Royal Rope Factory is a great way to learn more about the rich naval history of the town. It’s also a beautiful building to look at!
- Accro-Masts Adventure Park. If you’re traveling with kids, this giant playground on a ship is the perfect day out! You can climb the ropes, get up high, and experience deckhand life.
Wander the Old Streets of Rochefort
Rochefort’s history is not just at the harbor, everything is also beautifully preserved inside the town itself. In fact, many of the original 17th-century buildings are here. Wander along the beautiful rows of elegant townhouses and cobbled streets, simply admiring the beauty of French architecture.
Make sure to take a stop off at the famous Rochefort morning market: one of the biggest markets in the region! You’ll find everything from handmade clothes and accessories to fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables…and, of course, pastries!
Just out of Rochefort, take the opportunity to cross the river via the unique Pont Transbordeur bridge. A cart running on rails moves between the two riverbanks. Dating back to the 1900s, the bridge was once build to cross the river without hindering ships. Nowadays, it’s used for foot passengers, tourists, and cyclists. The Transporter Bridge of Rochefort is the last bridge of this type in France.
Follow The Fort Route
Get the know the network of forts that were once built to protect Rochefort from intruders. Walk, cycle or sail along the forts like the famous Fort Boyard – known from many television shows.
Relax on one of Rochefort’s many beautiful beaches
The River Charente runs from Rochefort all the way out to the Atlantic ocean, just a 20-minute car ride away. This means that there are loads of great beaches to choose from on a hot summer’s day. Head to the seaside resort of ‘Fouras Les Bains’ where you’ll find five long white sandy beaches to relax on.
On the main beach of Fouras, you can look out at sea to the majestic Fort Boyard: a 19th century stone fortification that sits out in the ocean. If you want to know more, it’s possible to take a guided boat trip around the fort.
How to get to Rochefort & Ile d’Aix
From Paris, the train takes approximately 4-5 hours. There is normally one change at Bordeaux or the neighboring town of La Rochelle. Tickets can be expensive so book in advance. (Find trains to La Rochelle)
Paris to Rochefort is approximately 5 hours by car. By bus, expect the journey to take up to 9 hours.
Bordeaux is the nearest big airport (there is a small one that has some international options in La Rochelle). From Bordeaux Airport, you can fly out to other big cities in Europe, such as London, Amsterdam, or Barcelona.
Where to Stay in Rochefort & Aix Island
Rochefort is a big town and there’s plenty of accommodation options, from budget hotels to upmarket apartments with pools. We spent a night at Hotel Lafayette. If you want to be closer to the beach, we recommend staying in the seaside resort of Fouras. Alternatively, if there is availability, you could spend a few days on Aix Island and really enjoy the slow island way of life! (See Ile d’Aix accommodation options here)
Best places to eat in Rochefort
- Restaurant Le Cap Nell
- L’Atelier de La Pizza
- Restaurant 68 2/3
- Le Marydiane