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Travel

Getting to the French Atlantic coast

It’s pretty easy getting to the French Atlantic coast whether you want to fly, take the ferry and drive, travel by train or hire a car.
Flights – click to read more

Flights
There are 11 airports within or close to the coast so wherever you plan to holiday, you’re no more than a couple of hours (often less) away from your nearest airport – see airports mapped here. Many of the airports are served by low-cost flights making flying from the UK particularly easy. Bordeaux is an international airport with flights to many destinations in Europe. If you’re coming from further afield, you will need to arrive in Paris and then make your way to the coast. This can be done by plane, train or car.

 

Internal flights: between them Air France and Hop! fly to all of the airports along the French Atlantic coast (if you’re flying from outside Europe and not committed to time in Paris, it’s worth comparing costs for flights to the the French Atlantic coast from Paris versus London).

Ferries – click to read more

Ferries
There are a number of routes between southern England and Ireland and northern France and all transport cars as well as foot passengers. Ports to France are Calais, Dover, Folkestone, Newhaven, Poole, Portsmouth, Roscoff and Weymouth; in Ireland from Cork and Dublin. In France the ports are Calais, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Le Havre and Saint-Malo.

The Royan ferry to Le Verdon

 

If you’re looking to travel down the French Atlantic coast then one way of getting across the mighty Gironde estuary is via the Royan ferry. The Royan ferry runs from the Charente-Maritime town of the same name across to Le Verdon-sur-Mer (often just known as Le Verdon) across the water in the Gironde department. The service runs all year with crossings every forty or fifty minutes during peak season.

 

  • Each crossing only takes 20 or so minutes and it has to be said that the crew have got the loading of cars, campervans and caravans down to a fine art!
  • You are advised to get there half an hour before the crossing starts though in off-peak times you can probably leave it a bit later.
  • However it is a popular ferry so at busy times you should get there in plenty of time because there will be long queues.
  • You can pay by credit card (or cash) at the ferry péage or tolls.

 

On the Royan side follow the yellow signs from the town centre to the ferry (also known as Le bac in French). The route takes you on something of a tortuous route, but this is apparently done to stop large queues of traffic backing up through Royan in peak months. On Le Verdon side follow signs for Royan via the Pointe de Grave.

 

There are snacks and hot drinks available on board but be aware that it’s a short crossing so you don’t have too much time. The crossings also don’t come cheap. If you’re in a car it will cost you € 23.80 plus € 3.20 for the driver and each passenger, though children under four go free. Still, the Royan ferry is a relatively stress-free experience and certainly a lot quicker than driving around the estuary via Bordeaux!

Train – click to read more

Train
There are major railway stations along the high-speed TGV line from Paris right along the French Atlantic coast, and journey times will be even quicker from 2017 when the major new Tours to Bordeaux high-speed railway line is completed.

 

There are also regional rail routes – called ter trains (Transport Exprès Régional); these do connect to the TGV so you can do part of your journey on the TGV and part of it on a regional train, allowing you to reach much of the area by rail.

 

Travelling from the UK, the Eurostar from London Waterloo arrives at Gare du Nord in Paris. You can change at Lille where you need only walk a short distance to another platform. This journey is longer by up to 90 minutes than if you come via Paris but if you have a lot of luggage is more convenient.

 

If you change at Paris you will need to travel between Gare du Nord and Gare Montparnasse. The metro is quite quick – you can do it in as little as 30 minutes of you’re lucky but allow 90 to be on the safe side. It’s a bit of a walk between the SNCF and metro at Montparnasse so if you have heavy luggage you need to take this into account. There can be queues at Gare du Nord for taxis.

 

If you’re bringing your car, Eurotunnel runs between Dover and Calais.

Car – click to read more

Car
The road links to the region are good, with the A10 motorway linking Paris and Bordeaux running right through the region. The distance from La Rochelle to Paris is about 470km and the journey time is on average around four-and-a-half hours. The distance between La Rochelle and Bordeaux is 180 km and takes just under two hours. In France motorists must carry a yellow jacket and warning triangle in their car.

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Car hire – click to read more

Car hire
Whether flying or taking the train, renting a car is a great way to get around the region and rental cars are available from all major airports and train stations that serve the French Atlantic coast. If you’re landing at any of the airports that serve the region, renting a car is quick and easy, and all major international car hire providers such as Avis, Hertz and Europcar are based at or near the airports. Do note, though, that hiring a car on Sundays at provincial stations can be difficult (returning one is generally not a problem). It is best to pre-book your car rental to get the best available price, and these days you can often get the best deal quickly and easily through an independent broker.

Airports along the French Atlantic coast and in south-west France

The French Atlantic coast is a big area but fortunately there are airports at regular intervals, from the north at Nantes to Biarritz in the south. Some of the airports included here are not that close to the Atlantic coast – for example Toulouse and Limoges – but they do give access to parts of the region. And in the case of Toulouse it has all-year-round flights to and from numerous international destinations.

 

Please note that some of the smaller airports listed here will only operate flights to and from Britain from the spring to early autumn, and may have only a limited range of flights to other destinations abroad at any time of the year.

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