The Charming French Island of Noirmoutier

The first things you notice when you arrive on Noirmoutier Island are the squawking of seagulls in the air, the trilling of bicycle bells and bright blue skies sparkling over an azure sea.

I'm here for two weeks and after a six-month-long winter in Paris, can't wait to soak my soul in sunshine and feel sand between my toes.  But there's so much more to this island than just sun-drenched beaches.  

Noirmoutier island France whitewashed cottageWhere is île de Noirmoutier?

Noirmoutier is a tidal island off the Atlantic coast of western France, in south-east Brittany. It’s a five hour flight from Paris, but we have arrived here by car after a gorgeous road trip through the gorgeous Loire Valley region.

Noirmoutier island France tiny cottage red rosesThe charms of Noirmoutier
  • Evergreen oak forests that fringe the sea.
  • Whitewashed cabines (changing huts) nestled into sandy beaches.
  • Marchés full of local produce like the one-of-a-kind tourteau (tortoise) cake.
  • An ancient church and castle.
  • Waffles and crêpes bigger than your hand.
  • A bustling village with a narrow harbour bobbing with boats of all sizes.
  • Lavender, rose and sky-blue shutters adorning tiny maisons fronted by hydrangeas and hollyhocks.

    Noirmoutier island France Chez Marie Rose boutiqueNOIRMOUTIER : TOP 10


    The most more-ish potatoes I've ever eaten in my life come from Noirmoutier and are what the island is most famous for.  Small, luscious and creamy, we don't leave the island without buying three crates of them.

    2.  SALT • LE SEL

    The island is also known for it's salt marshes producing fleur de sel which, added to it's potatoes, only makes them more scrumptious. 


    A seafood smorgasbord, the island has the cheapest oysters I've seen yet, mussels (the most tasty moules et frîtes I've ever eaten are here), spider crabs, endless varieties of fish including sardines, plus langoustines and prawns.

    4.  French style eating • Les habitudes alimentaires Françaises

    We feast twice a day on typical French fare.  A starter of perhaps charcuterie or smoked salmon alongside a tomato or cucumber salad, a main of seafood on a bed of vegetable-laden rice with a bechamel sauce, a variety of french cheeses and green salad, and lastly a dessert such as crème brulée or tart tatin.  All washed down with unlimited french rosé, red or white wine!

    One night we dine by the wharf at Restaurant le 11 de Noirmoutier, enjoying chilled glasses of muscadet wine, rillettes of tuna, tiny local potatoes and creme brulée while the seagulls squawked overhead and the sun dipped into a violet sky.

    Noirmoutier island France rillade5.  LOCAL CUISINE • CUISINE LOCALE
    • Flan maraîchin a local custard tart fragrant with vanilla that I became obsessed with and have been trying to replicate back in Paris.
    • Le tourteau a "turtle" shaped cake-like bread the size of your hand, lightly scorched on the top to create a crispy exterior, with a soft, lightly sweet and luscious interior slightly tangy with chévre.  Fabulous for breakfast alongside tea or an espresso.  
    Noirmoutier island France torteau6.  MARKETS • MARCHÉS

    Le marché, open three mornings a week and a visual feast of straw market bags, cotton sundresses, island flowers, vegetables, fruits, salt produced by the island for bath or cooking, an abundance of seafood and all manner of French tarts, pastries and cakes. 

    Noirmoutier island France pear belle helene7.  VILLAGE • VILLE

    The Grande Rue where all the action is; waffle shops, crêperies, boutiques brimming with island-style fashion, traditional french market bags, all manner of homewares stamped with "NO" (the short form for the island's name in the boating industry) and gourmet foodie havens. 

    I buy a Tunisian cotton striped fouta as my new beach towel and my first Saint James marinière, a blue and white striped sweater originally designed for the French Navy and now iconic around the world. 

    8.  Cycling • cyclisme

    This ancient island was originally inhabited by Celts before monks arrived in the fifth century building monasteries, the ruins of which still exist.  We cycle all over the northern part of the island, past potato fields, salt marshes, wild blackberry bushes laden with fruit, an ancient monastery and into the more hilly coastal areas overlooking boat harbours and tiny curving beaches. 

    9.  Walks • La promenade

    We stroll through littoral forest lining the beaches, catching glimpses of mainland France in the distance.  I swim from the beach at Plage des Dames to the estacade (wharf) every day, a 500m round trip that helps to burn off lunch and dinner!  We walk along a violet-hued beach at sunset, around 10.30pm, empty except for the odd stand up paddleboarder or windsurfer returning to shore.

    Noirmoutier island France beach cabanas10.  Boating • la navigation de plaisance

    One afternoon, we take a boat to a petite island half an hour's boat ride away, Île du Pilier, where we picnic on coleslaw, baguettes, cheese and fruit under a hot sun before plunging sun-warmed bodies into crystal clear waters so fresh it feels like a facial on my skin. Then finish the day riding in the boat back to coast, with windswept hair and salty skin, as the sun slips slowly into the horizon over another perfect day.

    Ile du Pilier Noirmoutier island FranceHappy holidays | Bon vacance !

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