Nature trail in Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park
In the heart of the Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park, treat yourself to a getaway in the Vendée countryside. Forget about your day-to-day life and experience ‘slow tourism’. Taking your time, you will meet artisans and passionate people who are keen to share the secrets and highlights of their regions. It is also a chance to take a revitalising break and try out new activities far from urban life.
If it’s your first time staying in the Atlantic Loire Valley countryside, we suggest a fun, gourmet three-stop circuit to be done at your own pace by car. Fasten your seat belts, and head for the Marais Poitevin, with its oh-so idyllic vistas of narrow canals and countryside!
Immersive farm experience at the Ferme du Marais Poitevin
Start your exploration of the Marais Poitevin by discovering the Ferme du Marais Poitevin. Located in Benet in the Vendée, just south of Fontenay-le-Comte, the farm is only 10 minutes from the centre of ‘Green Venice’.
This leg promises to be a magical interlude, both for the accommodation as well as the nature-based activities on offer. You will feel at one with the vegetation here. Authenticity and getting back to nature are the watchwords passionately cultivated by the owners of this lush, green retreat.
First, choose your accommodation: bed and breakfast, gîte, campsite, camper van or gypsy-style caravan... What indulgence to treat yourself to a night or several in such a peaceful haven!
And the icing on the cake – during your stay, you can enjoy the table d'hôte service with home-made specialities. And to extend your enjoyment, you can buy products there made from plants, flowers and seeds picked wild in the wetlands or from the farm.
Once you have settled in comfortably, why not try one of the many activities available on the premises. Somewhere between plain and wetland, this farm in the Vendée marshes invites you to come and experience life on the farm, local produce, and goat, sheep and donkey farming.
As a family, you will enjoy getting hands-on with farm life: feeding the animals, collecting eggs, sheep shearing, etc.
Good to know: the instructors are trained in environmental education. The Ferme du Marais Poitevin specialises in farming local and endangered breeds: Poitou donkeys, Solognote sheep, Poitou goats, Marans chickens and Poitou geese.
To explore the great outdoors, why not take a walk with a nature guide... or a donkey ride? All departures are from the farm. You will learn everything there is to know about the Marais Poitevin’s ecosystem, flora and fauna. For the more adventurous, there are also outings in canoes and small boats that leave from the Ferme du Marais Poitevin. Unforgettable experiences for the whole family!
More information : Ferme du Marais Poitevin
Visit Domaine Coirier for a fun, wine-themed experience
After this rural retreat, it’s time to hit the road for twenty or so kilometres to get to Domaine Coirier in Pissotte, to the north of Fontenay-le-Comte.
The River Vendée flows in front of the 24-hectare family winery, which is bordered by the Mervent–Vouvant forest. For over two centuries, this wine-growing estate has been the sole producer of the ‘AOC Fiefs Vendéens Pissotte’ appellation! The estate mainly produces fresh, fruity red wines, but also some white and rosé.
Since taking over the family land in 2014, Mathieu has converted the estate to organic farming. When you visit his estate, he will be keen to share his passion with you and explain – step by step – how his wines are made. Imagine standing amongst the vats, chatting to the winemaker about his expertise, daily life and love of the vines... Not to mention the obligatory wine-tasting to appreciate the aromas of each wine! And the first batch of organic white wine can be looked forward to in 2020.
Original: the tourist office organises guided tours of Domaine Coirier in summer. Children and adults alike appreciate this fun approach to oenology, while enjoying the beauty of the vineyards passed through on foot. Surrounded by grapevines, the storyteller guide will pique your curiosity by telling you local myths.
Before you leave, don’t forget to buy a few bottles of your favourite wine from the young producer. Then, when you get home, you can have a great time with friends by uncorking this wine typical of the Atlantic Loire Valley!
More information: Domaine Coirier
Discover the world of bees at the Miellerie des Fontenelles
After this break learning about winemaking, hit the road again and head towards Luçon. A few kilometres from the Vendée city where Richelieu was once bishop, the Miellerie des Fontenelles awaits to share the secrets of its hives with you. Two honey farms exist side-by-side here, with 200 organic hives and 700 traditional hives! Finding out about both beekeeping approaches is a great opportunity to understand the working practices of each, as well as the essential role played by the bees – pollination.
You will enjoy discovering the interior of the honey farm and the beekeepers’ expertise. By way of an introduction, a short documentary is screened about the life of bees. Then you will enter the honey farm itself. How do bees produce honey? How is it extracted? How are honey and all its by-products manufactured? After seeing the various stages, it’s time for tasting: marsh honey, acacia honey, hazelnut honey... and why not try some farmhouse snacks made specially for kids!
The beekeeper offers seasonal workshops:
- Honey jam-making in winter
- Pollen harvesting in spring
- Nougat-making during the school holidays
- Candle- and lip balm-making all year round
Before getting back on the road, you’ll no doubt want to take back a few souvenirs of this discovery: jars of honey obviously, but you could also go for cosmetic products, a bee plush toy for the little ones, and some excellent regional produce. Incentives to continue on your tour!
More information: Miellerie des Fontenelles
After two days winding your way across the Marais Poitevin finding out about the people who bring it to life and offer quality local produce, you will likely appreciate returning to the Ferme du Marais Poitevin. An opportunity for a last relaxing night in a lush, green setting!
|Inspiration: for some original itinerary ideas, use the ‘De la vigne à la ferme’ (from vineyard to farm) travelogue, a 16-page supplement in the Guide Vert Pays de La Loire travel guide. The writers have selected forty or so establishments for an unforgettable countryside getaway in the Atlantic Loire Valley. On the agenda: vineyard and wine-tasting tours, farm tours, local cuisine, rural retreats.