The Ile de Ré (pronounced “eel-d-ray”) is superb for traffic free cycle routes on easy going terrain. It's a gem of a place and a favourite haunt of Parisians who have long enjoyed the island’s laid back charm, the unique, watery scenery, some of the prettiest villages in France, boutique shops and excellent restaurants.
It’s a gorgeous place to explore, with long lovely sandy beaches backed by sand dunes in the southwest, salt and oyster beds along the northeastern coastline and fields, woods, meadows and vineyards in between. It’s particularly satisfying for cyclists, as cycling Ile de Ré’s cyclepaths is by far the best way to see it: the paths take you into the scenery that the main roads just flit past.
We think it's a top choice for families that love to cycle. Its 100km of good quality, traffic free, largely flat cycle routes give lots of options: from child friendly village and beach loops to longer 60km+ routes for those who want to explore further afield. If serious cyclists find the terrain and routes too limited, they can always head over the bridge to the lanes of the Venice Vert.
We loved our family holiday to the Ile de Ré and hope this guide helps you have an awesome time. Drop us a line if you’re planning a trip and have questions. We’d love to hear from you!
With 100km of bike paths and a high point of 19m above sea level, the Ile de Ré is a haven for leisure cyclists and family cycle routes. But, as long as you don't need to do serious training, you'll also find the Ile de Ré surprisingly good if you’re on a road bike.
The car free bike paths are a joy: good quality and through stunning countryside. Go before 9am and you'll have them to yourself - except for the smattering of other roadies you'll pass enjoying the freedom of empty lanes while the leisure cyclists are still at breakfast.
Our favourite area is west from Saint Martin: the bike paths around Loix, Ars en Ré and Les Portes en Ré weave between watery salt beds and the sea. It's a striking sight and a joy to ride through.
Cycling Ile de Ré:
The serene west
- Distance: 58.5km
- Elevation: 218m
- Epic rating:
All the island’s most unforgettable scenery and most beautiful towns in one memorable 60km loop.
Cycling Ile de Ré:
- Distance: 29.7km
- Elevation: 115m
- Epic rating:
A 30km loop on good quality cyclepaths. You’ll get a great taste of the best of the island.
Family cycle routes on the Ile de Ré
The Ile de Ré has great family friendly cycle routes for children. The cyclepaths are largely flat and traffic free. What makes Ile de Ré extra special is that the network covers the whole island and the villages are close together (perhaps no more than about 7km between each). That means that wherever you stay, you can easily plan routes that will suit children of all ages.
Get an Ile de Ré cycle map and you’ll soon see how many options there are. Pick one up from your nearest office de tourisme (tourist information centre) or a bike hire shop - or buy this Ile de Ré map in advance.
Here are some ideas for family bike rides:
All the town centres we visited were car free and our young children enjoyed cycling while we walked (though you’d want to avoid the busiest towns like Saint Martin de Ré at peak times - and take extra care to ensure they don’t get too close to the unfenced marinas). Obviously older children will want something more demanding - take a look at the ideas below.
La Flotte and Abbaye des ChÂteliers
6km, elevation 31m
La Flotte’s beautiful marina and historic abbey, all in one short but perfectly formed ride.
Ars en Ré and Les Portes en Ré
17km, elevation 66m
This short route takes in the highlights of the north of the island: the watery wilderness of the Reserve Naturelle de Lilleau des Niges with its incredible birdlife and the beautiful town of Ars en Ré.
Should you have the energy, you could add on a trip to the wonderful lighthouse, Phare des Baleines.
Alternatively you could shorten it to a 11km ride by making it a loop from Les Portes en Ré and cutting off the out and back to Ars en Ré.
La Couarde sur Mer and Loix
22km, elevation 90m
This wonderful route takes in much of the best of the island. It starts at Saint Martin de Ré’s impressive marina and UNESCO world heritage fortifications, passes oyster farms and weaves through the salt beds of Loix, before passing back through vineyards and potato fields heading back to Saint Martin de Ré.
Cut 14km and shorten it to an 8km ride by starting and finishing in Loix and cutting off the section to and from Saint Martin de Ré.
This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.
Where to stay on the Ile de Ré?
Luckily, it's difficult to go too far wrong with choosing accommodation on Ile de Ré.
Want to start with which town to stay in? Don’t agonize too long - they are uniformly attractive: hollyhocks grow against whitewashed buildings, every building has subtle green/grey shutters and streets are cobbled, winding and narrow. The island is also small so it's never too far to get to anything on it. Yet there are some differences: things like how touristy/busy, proximity to the best cycle routes and a number of bars/restaurants. Read our post, The best towns for cyclists on the Ile de Ré for this kind of detail.
If you aren’t too concerned over which town to stay in, you might want to focus on Ile de Ré’s accommodation choices first.
Our choice: beautiful Ile de Ré villa
We spent our week on the Ile de Ré in a beautiful five bedroom villa, five minutes walk into the centre of La Flotte. It was an excellent choice and we would wholeheartedly recommend it.
What we loved
things to be aware of
This villa sails through our “would we recommend it to our best cycling buddy” test. We would definitely return.
Similar Ile de Ré holiday rentals
There are no shortage of beautiful self-catering villas in Ile de Ré. When picking the villa we stayed in, our long list also included these two luxury Ile de Ré gites/villas:
Had we been travelling without children, these Ile de Ré hotels would have been top of our list of places to stay in Ile de Ré.
While these hotels don’t advertise themselves as being bike friendly hotels, each of them has confirmed to us either that you can store your bike in your room or in a locked garage (but you should re-confirm this with them prior to booking as things can change).
Saint Martin de Ré hotels
La Flotte hotels
Ars en Ré hotels
Bike rental is easy on the Ile de Ré: practically every village has one or more bike hire shop. Look out for the “location velo” signs.
But don't come expecting top of the range road bikes. While we did see the odd mountain bike on offer, we didn't see a road bike in any of the cycle hire shops we visited in La Flotte. That's a reflection of the fact Ile de Ré cycling is on paths rather than roads and that most visitors are planning to cycle just a few miles.
The good news is that if you want to hire a MTB or leisure bike, rates are very reasonable (due presumably to all the most competition).
Plenty of Ile de Ré bike hire shops offer child seats and tag alongs. The hire bike from Rhea Velo came complete with a bike lock and basket on the front. Surprisingly useful when pootling around town, if not very cool...
We have listed the Ile de Ré’s cycle hire shops in each town, to give you confidence that you’ll be able to hire a leisure bike if you want it (and so you can book in advance if you like). We only have experience of Rhea Velo, which was positive: straightforward and hasslefree, despite the women we hired from speaking very little English.
This information is offered as an indicative guide only: we periodically update it but prices, services and bike brands may change. Please let us know if you find anything that is incorrect.
Ars en Ré
Cycland: 8 quai de la Prée, +33(0)5 46 29 47 17
Les Cycles N: 2 place de la Chapelle, +33 (0)5 46 29 20 88
Planète Sports et Loisirs: La caverne du Clocher, 26 place Carnot: +33 (0)5 46 27 10 04
Le Bois Plage en Ré
Cycland: 8 impasse des Rosiers, +33 (0)5 46 35 08 73
Cyclo Surf: 26 rue de l’Eglise, +33 (0)5 46 09 99 65
Liberty Cycles: 19 bis rue du Chef de Ville, +33 (0)5 46 00 19 42
Tout ȧ Vélo: 21 rue de l’Eglise, +33 (0)5 46 66 53 06
1+ cycles: Rue des iris, +33 (0)5 46 35 96 20
La Courarde sur Mer
Cycland: 1 rue Aristide Briand, +33 (0)5 46 29 06 09
Holland Bikes: 21 Avenue du Peu Ragot, +33 (0)5 46 29 83 30 21
Cycland: 15 rue du Marché, +33 (0)5 46 09 65 27
Cyclo Surf: 14 bis rue J-Henry-Lainé, +33 (0)5 46 09 51 60
YooToo: 22 bis rue Henry Lainé, +33 (0)9 80 46 97 13
Tout ȧ Vélo: 7 rue Gustave Dechézeaux: +33 (0)5 16 85 24 24
La Route à Vélo: 6 bis Cours Eugène Chauffour: +33 (0)5 46 27 63 38
Rhea Velo: 21 Rue Charles Biret, +33 (0)5 46 01 56 49
Cyclo Loix: Place du Marché, +33 (0)6 99 53 94 79
Planète Sports et Loisirs: 13 chemin du Corps de Garde: +33 (0)5 46 29 66 71
Les Portes en Ré
Cycland: 2 rte de la pointe à Chabot, +33 (0)5 46 29 08 36
Neaud Morin: 12 avenue du haut des Treilles, +33 (0)5 46 29 60 01
Pop-cycles: rue de Hurle-Vent (à Côté de Maison et Jardin), +33 0(6) 84 25 76 62
Rivedoux Plage en Ré
Saint Clément des Baleines
Cycland: Place de Tilleuls, +33 (0)5 46 29 29 08
Sainte Marie de Ré/La Noue
Cycland: Place de Tilleuls, +33 (0)5 46 43 04 02
Cyclo Surf: 26 rue de 14 Juillet, Sainte Marie de Ré, +33 (0)5 46 30 19 51
Cyclo Surf: 9 bis cours des Jarrières, La Noue +33 (0)5 46 30 27 40
La Route à Vélo: 60 rue du 14 Juillet, Sainte Marie de Ré, +33 (0)5 46 27 63 38
Saint Martin de Ré
Cycland: Impasse Sully, +33 (0)5 46 09 08 66
YooToo: 99 avenue Victor Bouthillier, +33 (0)5 46 68 08 09
La Maison des Vélocipèdes 14 Quai de Bernonville, Illot du Port, +33 (0)5 16 19 14 94
Les Vélos de Mathilde: 8 avenue Victor Bouthillier and 17 rue Amiral Maquin, +33 (0)6 52 49 06 79
Bertrand Patrick: +33 (0)6 15 60 31 61
Ré-Cycles: +33 (0)6 62 70 65 27
When to go
The Ile de Ré’s weather is often compared with that of the French Riviera due to the amount of sunshine it gets. The island's rainfall is also lower than on the mainland.
It’s said to have a special micro-climate: in summer it is warm, without the fierce heats of the south of France, yet it also remains pleasant in Spring and Autumn. But being an island, Ile de Ré weather can be unpredictable. Rain and cloud can strike even in the summer months. There is also often a breeze - hence all the kite surfers!
The weather in Ile de Ré makes it a good destination from May through to September. Though the weather is usually great in July and August, sky high prices and a huge influx of visitors may mean you want to avoid these months if you can. We visited in June and had reasonably good weather, albeit a constant breeze and a thunderstorm one evening.
Weather on the Ile de Ré tends to be mild in winter. Temperatures remain reasonable though you may get some rain.
Weather on the Ile de Ré is best in May to August. The downside of visiting in these core months is that prices are high and there are lots of other visitors. This is particularly relevant in July and August: when we visited in June, we didn’t particularly notice either the prices or the number of other tourists. On the upside, you should get warm days and little (if any) rain. Do bear in mind the almost constant breeze however - bring a light jacket whatever month you visit.
The July and August tourist throngs disappear as people return to work in September. It can be a good time to visit Ile de Ré since temperatures in September and October remain high with averages of 21 and 18 respectively. But be prepared for rain: these are typically the island’s two most rainy months, with averages of 54 and 71mm.
Temperatures in November and December are cooler (11 and 8℃ respectively) but average rainfall dramatically reduces (11 and 8mm).
Tips and Articles
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Maps and books
Good to know
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Want more? Don’t miss our guides to the best cycling routes in the Ile de Ré and other articles on the island, below.
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