The best water-based activities in Pays de la Loire
Looking for an original way to explore Pays de la Loire? The region’s waterways offer a unique perspective. From paddle boat to tall ship, from ocean to river, see which options from the thirty-plus activities available inspire you most.
Snorkelling around Ile d’Yeu
Head to the Atlantic and its thriving aquatic life with this snorkelling tour that welcomes visitors aged 6 and up. Just put on your mask, snorkel and flippers and you’re all set to explore the seabed around the island. At the diving centre in La Meule in the department of Vendée, your instructor is more than happy to adapt the tour to your physical abilities and the wildlife you hope to see during your underwater adventure. The water around Ile d’Yeu is crystal clear so visibility is never a problem! The rock fish and algae you’ll see on your aquatic travels are just some of the highlights of this snorkelling tour.
Essential prerequisite: you must be able to swim !
Other information: flippers, mask and wetsuits provided.
Duration: 30 to 45 minutes.
Brave the maze of the Vendée marshlands in a canoe
Following the Salt Route, you will take part in a paper chase through the labyrinthine salt marshlands of Vendée, near Challans and Noirmoutier. Your adventure starts on foot as you make your way to the landing stage to collect your canoe. From the old Ile de Sallertaine, you will paddle your way along the wide canal then into the heart of the maze of narrow trenches. A pause at the Rairé windmill makes for a perfect pit stop. There you’ll be welcomed by the miller who is always glad to share his time-honoured tradition with you—and a glass of good cheer!
After this restorative interlude, you’ll gently make your way back to the point of departure. A wonderfully alternative way to explore the marshlands from the water following a route unreachable by foot.
Essential prerequisite: you must be able to swim 25 metres or be water confident. This canoe activity is accessible to participants aged 4 and up.
Other information: life vest, paddle, watertight container provided. Two sizes of canoe: 2-4 crew members or 7-16 places.
Duration: 2 hours
Stand-up paddle boarding on the Oudon
Stand-up paddle boarding is currently riding the crest of a wave. Probably because it’s easy to practice on water with a slow moving current and never has standing up been so much fun. This activity is just a 30-minute drive from Laval and takes place in the heart of the countryside. You might easily be mistaken for a magician walking on water as you glide through a typical village in Anjou! Craon is the name of the village where you’ll get to try out this surprising water sport practised standing up. All you need to take is swimwear and some old sports shoes. A wetsuit is provided.
After choosing the board and paddle that best suits your physical stature, you’re all set to get better acquainted with this piece of kit that measures slightly wider than a surfboard. Once you’ve found your balance, you and the rest of your group are ready to peacefully navigate the Oudon. Groups are never larger than eight people, perfect for blending into your natural environment. As you paddle your way along the Oudon, you’ll get to see the local flora and fauna from a new perspective and admire the grounds of Château de Craon. A stop en route will be an opportunity to taste some local products so all your senses are catered to!
Essential prerequisite: participants must be aged 8 or over and be able to swim (even if you might be lucky enough to stay on your board throughout the activity!).
Other information: life jacket and/or wetsuit provided.
Duration: 90 minutes
Explore Angers by canoe
In Angers, make your way to the Savatte dock on Place la Rochefoucauld for an experience with a difference: explore the capital of the former province of Anjou from aboard a canoe. You’ll be rowing on the Maine, France’s smallest river. Water level makes an original vantage point from which to discover the quays, the natural surroundings and the historic heritage of Angers in total tranquillity. In fact, from the Maine you’ll be able to see the main attractions in the centre of town: Château du Roi René, Saint-Maurice Cathedral and all of the old town (the Cité on the left bank and the Doutre on the right bank). Too, you’ll be able to check out contemporary architecture including La Quai, the town’s performing arts centre, and the “Peigne de Vasconi” buildings. Whichever direction you take, nature is just a few paddle strokes away in the heart of Angers: Parc Balzac, Maine Lake in the south and Ill Saint-Aubin in the north to name a few green spots. This canoe trip through the centre of Angers is a great way to appreciate the contrast between the urban and natural environments all around you. Seeing the château from the water is one of the highlights!
Other information: life vest, single paddle, watertight container provided. 8-place canoe.
Duration: 2 hours.
Venture out to Ile Dumet aboard a schooner
Piriac-sur-Mer is a ‘small town of character’ on the Atlantic coast. Its port is the destination for anyone curious to experience sailing on a schooner. Feel like an explorer as you set off for Ile Dumet! Rigged out in your life jacket, first listen to the basic safety instructions on board before you head off on your nautical adventure. Once you’ve left the port travelling on a motor boat, it’s time to hoist the sails and take part in sailing the vessel as you spend your day on board a schooner. Speaking with your guide, you’ll learn how to operate a sailing ship and navigate it on the open waters.
Highlight: the island comes into view after seven km at sea. Once you reach this small nub of land in the ocean, you’ll get to explore it on foot in the company of your skipper-cum-guide. The shells that formed the beach, the old Ré fort, the flora and fauna – earn all there is to know about the evolution of the coast and coastline. Nature enthusiasts are sure to love the island’s bird sanctuary.
You’ll return to Piriac-sur-Mer with some wonderful memories shared with the family as well as a different perspective on the maritime environment.
Other information: take walking shoes and trousers for the island and, depending on the weather, warm and waterproof clothing, hat, sunglasses and sun cream. Picnic not provided.
Duration: 5½ hours.
Experience a winning duo: the Loire by bike and the Loire by boat
Are you an athlete at heart looking for a more active way to explore the Pays de Loire? Tour company Rêve de Loire et d'Ailleurs offers an excursion that combines sailing and cycling. Starting in the village of Thoureil (30 km from Angers), you’ll be divided into two groups: one will embark a Loire barge, an old river fishing vessel, while the other will climb onto the saddle. Later, the groups will swap their mode of transport. From the banks and the water, you will get to discover the Loire from every angle. And for a fun way for the groups to mingle, the tour includes a picnic or meal at a guinguette, an open-air café.
The bonus of this energetic tour is the opportunity to see the Loire from different perspectives. Admire the Loire from the banks. Then observe the banks from the river. From one island to another, discover the dams built by Eurasian beavers, explore the sandbanks, follow the paths hugging the Loire and observe terns spinning in the sky.
Other information: take a hat or baseball cap, sun cream, windbreaker, water and comfortable clothing. And why not take pack a picnic? Maximum 24 people.
Duration: 7 hours.