What to see in France

Les Mathes - La Palmyre, a holiday between sea and forest

Port de La Palmyre en Charente-Maritime
Port de La Palmyre en Charente-Maritime

Nestled in the north-western part of Royannais, the commune of Les Mathes is located in the Charente-Maritime department in New Aquitaine. La Palmyre, in the heart of the state-owned forest of La Courbe, is one of the key locations in the western suburbs of Royan and one of the most important seaside resorts on the Côte de Beauté. It offers a wild landscape and preserved nature as well as an undeniable quality welcome to holidaymakers, which will certainly make your stay unforgettable.

Discovery of La Palmyre

This is where the campsites are located. Often on the edge of the ocean, the mouth of the Gironde or the vast bay of Bonne Anse, but also most of the economic activities of the commune (zoo, shops...).

La Courbe lighthouse is located in the commune of La Tremblade, 9 kilometres from Les Mathes. This "sentinel of light" is not only a place to visit, as it still plays an essential role in the maritime traffic of this turbulent part of the coast. After climbing 300 steps, you will be rewarded by the magnificent panorama that opens up before you. A 360° view of the wild coast and the beaches of La Tremblade, but also the Ile d'Oléron, the Courbe forest and the Gironde estuary. Downstairs, the Ecomuseum will reveal to you the secrets of how the lighthouse works. There is also a shop there because you are always happy to be able to take a souvenir home, or make a gift. For the sporty ones, there are ascension races where you have to climb the 300 steps as quickly as possible. The first one of the year will take place on May 10th ... symbolically Ascension Day. In the summer, races are also organised at sunset. Admire the blushing light at the end of the day and build unforgettable memories with family and friends... an excellent reason to take part! The lighthouse is open from mid-February to mid-November from 10 am to 6 pm and closed from 12.30 pm to 2 pm. Prices : Lighthouse + ecomuseum: 4 €. Free up to 4 years old. Family pass (2 children + 2 adults): 11 €.


Open since 1966, La Palmyre Zoo was born with only 160 animals. Today it is one of the most renowned zoos in Europe. There are 115 different species and 1600 animals, with almost 300 births a year. Four endangered species are housed here: the Borneo orangutan, the Asian elephant, the algazelle oryx and the rhinoceros, which make this park its originality. A visit to be made with the family of course, especially as shows are presented, one with sea lions and the other with parrots. The visit takes about four hours over a four-kilometre route. Finally, you should know that in 2018, the entrance ticket is 17 € for an adult and 13 € for a child up to 12 years old. The park is free for children under three years old.


It is on the bay of Bonne Anse that the most sporty people meet for a session of windsurfing, kitesurfing or even paddle, in complete safety thanks to the sandbank which allows you to take advantage of the Atlantic swell. Catamaran, optimist and windsurfing courses are offered. A beach which changes its landscape as soon as the sea retreats, leaving room for fishermen on foot.


A multitude of activities are also offered in addition to those practised on the water. Let's start with the forest of La Courbe, considered to be the "green lung" of the Mathes. There are 30 kilometres of marked trails on 800 hectares which leave hikers plenty to satisfy their desires. For those who prefer cycling, they will be able to take the Vélodyssée, a sort of "véloroute" which runs along the whole west coast, from Brittany to the Basque Country. 1200 kilometres of invigorating and ecological routes. The interesting part here is located between Royan and Ronce-les-Bains. An asphalt cycle track built on the former tramway of Eaux et Forêts. A 30 kilometre ride, also in the middle of nature, to be done with the family and in complete safety as only bicycles are allowed to circulate here. It will make you discover the region in a different way.


Holidays are also and above all the beach! There is no shortage of them at La Palmyre and here are a few to help you make a choice. La Lède beach, facing the Cordouan lighthouse and the ocean, is authorised for naturists. La Palmyre beach, close to the town centre, is labelled 'Tourisme et Handicap'. The Cordouan Pine Beach has also caught our attention because it is bordered by maritime pine trees and a dune line.

White bear from La Palmyre zoo
White bear from La Palmyre zoo© Thinkstock

The charm of the surroundings

Talmont-sur-Gironde is a typical Charente-Maritime village. Situated about thirty kilometres from the town of Les Mathes, it is a fortified town, classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. It overlooks the Gironde estuary and is situated on a rocky promontory. The magnificent walled church, Sainte Radegonde, dominates the village. There is an air of holiday in this quiet peninsula with its white facades and blue shutters and where you come on foot (the car stays in a car park outside) which undoubtedly accentuates the charm of the place. You also have to walk along the cliff, while enjoying the landscape, you arrive at the remains of the White Tower, the best preserved of the citadel. Climbing up to the top of the tower, one enjoys an exceptional view of the peninsula, the church of Saint Radegonde and the mouth of the estuary. The walk continues with a visit to the port, which has retained its old-fashioned charm with its wooden pontoons leading to the "carrelets" (typical fishermen's huts in the region), which in the summer welcome the canoes of the lean fishermen.

Church of Sainte Radegonde in Talmont-sur-Gironde
Church of Sainte Radegonde in Talmont-sur-Gironde© Thinkstock

Only 12 kilometres from Les Mathes, the village of Mornac-sur-Seudre is also classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. Formerly a fishing and trading port, its activity today is mainly focused on oyster farming and salt from the marshes. It is a village full of charm, where it is pleasant to stroll through the cobbled and flowered streets, the white-painted houses, the multicoloured huts, the covered market dating from the medieval period and its Romanesque church.


Les Mathes, La Palmyre and the surrounding area can also be discovered for an extended weekend or a few days off by taking the road to the wild coast and its fine sandy beaches, for example. In the evening, a stroll on the oyster port and a tasting of Marennes-Oléron oysters while admiring the sunset will be enough to enchant your day... The next day, discover the Royan market (16 km from Les Mathes) and picnic with the craft products found at the market, on the banks of the Gironde estuary. Then, a boat trip from the port of Royan during which you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the Cordouan lighthouse.

Les carrelets, fishermen's huts in the Gironde estuary
Les carrelets, fishermen's huts in the Gironde estuary© Thinkstock


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