Welcome in Charente-Maritime !!! This French area is just fantastic. Charente-Maritime is located between Bordeaux and Nantes. If you love sea, long beach with white sand, oysters, islands, stuff to visit with your kids, I can tell you : you will just love it.
The main town to visit is La Rochelle, with the old port where you can eat seafood in a nice restaurant, in front of wonderful boats : in the same place, you can see very old sailboats, yachts and race boats from the « Vendée Globe Challenge« . On the other side of the port, you really should visit the biggest and fantastic Aquarium with fishes and sharks as you would never see in an other place (except in the Bahamas 😉 ). My older kid love to visit that aquarium. I invite you to taste the aquarium’s restaurant. It’s on the roof, with a fantastic view on the port and the boats : it’s not too expensive and the food is really good. If you arrive on a touristic day, I suggest you to buy your aquarium entrance tickets at the Tourist office, at the old port, it’s a 5 minutes walk and you avoid to queue up during two or three hours, in front of the aquarium …
After that first stop in La Rochelle, you should take a boat and go to visit the three islands : Ré Island, Oléron Island and Aix Island. The two first one can be visited with a car because there is a bridge connecting it to the continent. On the way, you should take a picture of the famous Fort Boyard (use for a TV show). On the islands, take a bike for a best view and don’t forget to visit the typical fisherman’s hut with the blue shutters, the lighthouses, smell the hollyhocks, take time on the beaches and eat oysters. The best ones you can find are Gillardeau’s oysters, just at the foot of the bridge connecting the continent in the Oléron Island. It is the ones which are served to the Elysee Palace and in the best restaurants in Paris.
If you prefer to fish oysters by yourself, you should go in my best spot : Meschers, Beach of the Nonnes. When there is a spring tide discovering rocks, you could fish really good oysters and sometimes, little shrimps too. If you like animals, don’t forget to visit La Palmyre Zoo, the biggest in Europe. The kids will be really surprised. If you prefer to have a walk in a typical old village, you really should go and visit Talmont. You will feel living two centuries behind : no cars, old stones houses… After that day, I invite you to go to a fantastic restaurant with an incredible view on the sea : « Le Cardinal des Mers » at Saint Georges de Didonne (very close from Meschers). The food (very fresh seafood and roasted meat in a big chimney in front of you) and cocktails are just amazing.
To sleep, I advice you to leave the seaside and drive to the spa town, Jonzac. Make a stop at « le Moulin du Val de Seugne » in Mosnac. It’s an old water mill with a big park, where you can see some animals (goat, donkey, gooses, ducks and rabbits) having a walk in front of the river. The service is really good, bedrooms are comfortable and quiet so you can have a nice lunch or dinner in that place. It’s one of my favorite address.
During the time you are around Jonzac, drive until Champagnac to go and visit Tanguidet Cognac Fabric, with their very old « alambic ». You will taste one of the best Cognac from the area. After that, you should have fun with your kids in a huge aquatic park, « Les Antilles de Jonzac », in the center of the town. There is also a Casino on the side of the pool (bring your passport if you want to get in).
To finish, if you like to visit old french castles, you should go to Pons, 20 minutes from Jonzac, and visit the « Castle of the riddles ». Usually, visiting castles is boring for kids but not here. Kids have riddles to find all along the visit of the park and castle. You will just have fun, for sure. And, if you really like the place, you can sleep in the park : there is huts in the trees.
Have fun and don’t hesitate to write comments !!