Culture and glossary of the Ile de Re

The Ile de Ré is not just beach and sunshine! Throughout the summer, music festivals, painting exhibitions, traditional and live entertainment events take place on the Ile de Ré. You won’t find a calendar of activities here, just some addresses for art and culture lovers.

Our glossary will help you understand local life better and gain a better knowledge of the Ile de Ré through its own special vocabulary.

Cultural life on the Ile de Ré through the seasons 


Le Mail – 17670 La Couarde sur Mer – 05 46 29 93 53

The only cinema of the Ile de Ré, open throughout
Timetable on


13, avenue Victor Bouthillier 17410 Saint-Martin de Ré – 05 46 09 21 22

Recently renovated, the museum and its gorgeous gardens are open to the public. Besides the temporary exhibition, it also organises meetings, lectures and entertainments for children


4, cours Félix Faure – 17630 La Flotte en Ré – 05 46 09 61 39

Located along the coast line, in an old distillery, this small but charming museum is also the meeting point for organised visits of symbolic monuments of the islands such as the Abbaye des Chateliers.


Route du Vieux-port – 17880 Les Portes en Ré – 05 46 29 50 74

Owned and ran by the LPO (League of Protection of Birds), this museum is located in an old salt cellar, and offers information and exhibitions about the fauna and floraof the island. It’s only two steps away from a splendid nature reserve called Lillau des Niges, that welcomes thousands of migatory birds each year. you can’t miss it!


63, cours des Jarrières (plage de Montamer) à La Noue – 17740 Sainte-Marie – 05 46 55 41 38

Discovery of the inheritance of Sainte Marie and visits of the fish enclosures during low tide… Also organises nights of the stars on Montamer Beach


Route de Loix  «  prise de la Lasse  » – 17111 Loix en Ré – 05 46 29 06 77

Exhibition and discovery of the salt marshes, you can find out everything about saltwort and Ile de Re mustard, the salt harvest, but also observe the curlews and other type of birds around the Fier d’Ars which is the favourite hunting ground for them.


A few residents of Loix had a very interesting idea : inspired by the American concept of “Greeters”, they offer to give you a tour of their village for free, simply by asking them. Just visit the website and make an appointment. These Ile de Ré Greeters are volunteers who are so passionate about where they live that they wish to share this passion with you through these guided tours. The tours of Loix are generally organised in small groups (maximum 6 people per group), allowing more interference and sharing.

The glossary of the Ile de Re

It will hopefully give you a deeper understanding of the region, in advance of your stay, and help you to prepare your outings and activities. Enjoy!


The Notre-Dame-de-Re abbey, also known as the Châteliers abbey, is a former Cistercian monastery, now fallen into ruin, situated in the eastern part of the Ile de Re, in La Flotte, close to Rivedoux.


The Bûcheron sand bank can be found in the northwest corner of the Ile de Re in the Breton Straits. Located at the entry point to the « fier d’Ars », between the villages of Loix and the Portes en Re, it is uncovered at low tide and can be reached on foot from the Trousse Chemise beach. If you rent a holiday home in the Portes, it’s worth the visit but you need to be careful of the incoming tide which can quickly cut you off from the mainland. The height of chic is to drop anchor just beside the sand bank and picnic there in the summer.


460 hectares of the Ile de Re is devoted to salt farming for the small-scale production of sea salt. The Ile de Re salt farmers go under the name of « sauniers », « saulniers » or sometimes “paludiers” or « saliculteurs ». Traditionally, salt farmers also had a second trade working as wine growers or market gardeners… Over the last few years, thanks to specific training schemes, young people from very different backgrounds have been setting up their own agricultural businesses producing sea salt and fine salt – the white gold of the Ile de Re.


The salt marshes surround the « fier d’Ars » and the villages of Loix, Ars en Re, the Portes en Re and Saint-Clement des Baleines. As well as being salt producing areas, the salt marshes serve for oyster farming, fish farming, hunting and also as nature reserves. A large proportion of the salt marshes are untapped but offer a wonderful natural backdrop for cycling.


The Saint-Martin citadel was, for more than 50 years between 1873 and 1938, the gathering point for convicts sentenced to hard labour in French Guyana, Cayenne and New Caledonia as they waited to board their boats. Nowadays, the Citadel, which has been a prison since the 18th century, is a high security prison with more than 400 inmates.

  • WINE

Local rosé, white & red wine or Pineau (brandy) can be tasted in the restaurants (in moderation!) or at the winegrower’s cooperative in Bois-Plage. You can also buy them for the same price in the supermarkets but it’s a less romantic setting.


The Conche beach stretches from the Baleines lighthouse to the Petit Bec beach in the Portes. Probably one of the most beautiful beaches on the Ile de Re, the bay is sandy and wide, with clear (although on the nippy side) water and wonderful waves to attract surfers. Dunes run along the back of the beach and are essential to the natural balance of this area. Behind the dunes the Lizay forest is home to many species of pine through which a cycle path leads to the Portes en Re, allowing you to fully appreciate this exceptional nature reserve.


If you enjoy birdwatching, you will often encounter the long billed curlew on the Ile de Re. It has a long thin bill which curves downwards, and brownish feathers which hardly change colour with the season. Curlews find food in the silt or in very soft ground, in which they rummage for worms and other invertebrates with their long beaks. They also eat crabs and similar small shellfish. The salt marshes around the « Fier d’Ars » are a favourite hunting ground for the curlews.


Sea erosion is an ever present issue on the Ile de Re. The sea walls are constantly battered by the swell and waves and particular attention is paid to their maintenance to ensure the protection of this small island, which inexorably is eaten away each year. The upkeep of the 54km of sea walls on the island is ongoing and expensive as is that of the natural defences that the dunes represent, covered as they are in marram grass and protected by wooden fencing.


The use of fish locks dates back six centuries. Around 1900, there were still 140 working locks on the Ile de Re. They act as small sea walls which help break up the swell thereby protecting the coast. Nowadays, there are only about ten locks in existence, which have either survived or have been rebuilt by amateur enthusiasts to form part of the island’s natural wealth. The reasons for the abandonment of this form of fishing are manifold – the exodus to the continent, the supply of fish elsewhere rendering the locks obsolete, the general diminishing of fish in the oceans, and the high cost of upkeep. Building a lock is a long process which requires between 10 000 and 20 000 hours work! At high tide, the lock is completely covered by the sea; as the sea goes out, the biggest fish remain captive in the lock (cuttlefish, ray, sea bream, sole, bass and mullet). The smaller fish escape through the grids that close the gaps in the walls of the lock. You can easily see fish locks on the beaches of Sainte-Marie.

  • « ESTRAN » OR « PLATIN »

« estran » or « platin » – or strand in English – are two terms you should get to know on the Ile de Re. They refer to the fringe of land which is uncovered at low tide and covered at high tide. This land is a natural area of great bio-diversity but which requires a fragile balance and is easily affected by pollution. During the spring and autumn tides, the strand becomes much bigger and gives the shell fishermen the opportunity to extend their hunting grounds.


A « ganivelle » is a type of wooden fencing made up of vertical chestnut poles joined together with strong wire. They are omnipresent around the dunes of the Ile de Re to prevent access to the dunes and help ensure that the plants necessary to stabilize the sand are not trampled and uprooted. This wooden fencing also acts as a windbreak, decreasing wind speed across the Re dunes and thereby helping to protect them from erosion.)


Over and beyond their primary usage of indicating wind direction, the weather vanes on the Ile de Re could also give a clue as to the main activity of the owner whether wine grower, salt farmer or farmer. Nowadays, the weather vanes have an aesthetic role too on the roofs of certain Re holiday houses managed by Bon Séjour en France.


If your child says to you, when walking along the beach, « Mummy, I’ve found a baby tree », it’s very likely the skeleton of a sea coral known in French as a gorgon, which fixes itself to rocks with crampons. They are often find as decorative items in holiday villas for let on the Ile de Re.


Spread over a 34 hectares area, this forest is located just outside La Couarde on the road to Ars en Re and was planted in the 19th century to help hold the dunes in place. The main species of tree to be found in the forest is the green oak. The forest gives its name to the beach which runs along behind it. This beach is also known as the Prises beach.


The oyster farming activity is mainly to be found on the north coast of the island, along with the ports of the island (Rivedoux Plage, La Flotte en Re, Saint-Martin de Re, Loix), although there is some activity on the south coast of Ars-en-Re. In 2007, in the pertuis Breton, Re oyster farmers gradually began to try out a new method: deep water farming. During your stay in your holiday rental villa on the Ile de Re, make sure you try out some oysters which are an important part of the island’s gourmet delicacies, fiercely maintained by around fifty oyster farmers.


« H » or no « H » : even though local scholars seem to prefer no « H », many locals write the word with an « H ». This could be based on the latin origin of the island’s name, in late Roman times: « Rhéa ». Under the roman empire, there is no written trace of the Ile de Re. The first trace dates from the sixth or seventh century under the name of Insula Ratis (later it became Insula Radis). So the «Rh » came later. Later on, towards the end of the Middle Ages, someone had the bright idea of associating the island with the goddess Rhéa hence « Rhétais » and you even find «Rethais», as people suspect they should put an “h” without really knowing where it goes! «Retais» is definitely the best format and «Rethais» the least.


La salicorne is a yearly plant that measures between 6 and 8 cm and which grows in clay soil full of salt. The salt marshes of the Ile de Re (close to the villages of Ars and Loix) are particularly favourable to their development. Rich in vitamin C, calcium and iodine, saltwort is generally crystallized in vinegar and used as a condiment, a bit like gerkins.


They are one of the island’s agricultural jewels, bringing together a “savoir faire” and the local soil to qualify as an “Appellation d’Origine Protégée”. If the flesh is slightly sweet, it’s because the potato has been picked before it has reached maturity and the starch hasn’t yet had a chance to form; if the skin is salty, it’s because the potato has been grown in sandy soil constantly exposed to salty sea air.
Both wines and potatoes can be found at the Coopérative des Vignerons de l’Ile de Ré – Route de Sainte-Marie – Le Bois-Plage (on the left just before Bois-Plage and after the Gros Jonc roundabout)


The Lilleau des Niges is a natural reserve lying in the Fier d’Ars marshes. It was created on the initiative of the Environmental Ministry in 1976. An indispensable link between the Arctic and Africa, Ré has allowed more than 300 species to be observed, which represents around one half of all European species. The grouping together of such a large number of different species attracts more than the usual amount of bird watchers. Artists, painters, nature lovers and photographers can all be found here trying to catch a glimpse of a rare species.