I spotted the white turrets of Noirmoutier castle almost as soon as we crossed the bridge to Noirmoutier island. Pointing it out to Tony I said it was something we should visit one day during our stay. We'd quickly discover that the island is so small and flat that the castle can be seen from almost everywhere. Oh, and our campsite, Huttopia, was less than a ten-minute cycle ride from the castle which is in the centre of Noirmoutier town.
Huttopia Noirmoutier, we were pleased to find, is a lovely site along the sandy beach. The site is long and narrow, so you're not far from the sea on any of the pitches dotted around beneath the pine trees. The sea front pitches cost extra and none were available when we booked about two months in advance.
Arriving to stay for the last six nights in August, we paid one night at peak-season rates and five at off peak. The site was less than half full.
With most of the afternoon still at our disposal we decided to visit the main town, hopeful of finding a baguette to accompany our evening meal, but doubtful at 2pm on a Sunday. Jetée Jacobsen just outside the Huttopia campsite is road-traffic free and an easy and pleasant cycle into the island's main town. With the sea on our left, the salt farms on our right and the white castle ahead of us we fell in love with Noirmoutier within an hour of having arrived.
We went off exploring on our bikes each day and within two days had completely circumnavigated the entire coast. Noirmoutier caters well for cyclists, with plentiful cycleways criss crossing the island.
We particularly enjoyed the north west coast where a leisurely pace seems appropriate for the pretty little villages you pass through. There are plenty of paths to the beaches which were quiet and peaceful, often having simple white beach huts at their periphery.
The road led us to Marina de Herbaudière where we stopped to investigate a sprawling market. Many vendors were serving hot food and we were tempted into buying a delicious Chinese fried-vegetable samosa each.
After the marina there's a campsite with stunning views out to sea, but it was a little windy.
We continued on to the long sandy beach of Plage de Luzéronde to spend a relaxing afternoon catching a few rays. We found access to the cycleway was easier from Port du Morin just to the south, taking that route back home, Noirmoutier castle acting as our unofficial guide in the distance.
We cycled in the other direction the following day, clockwise along the coast to reach the Passage du Gois, the tidal causeway connecting the islands with the mainland twice a day at low tide. The causeway was due to be passable at noon and we arrived ahead of time to witness the bravest drivers in the queuing vehicles to begin to cross. We'd have got wet and dirty if we'd cycled across and so we turned back, following the cycleway down to the bridge.
We crossed over to the mainland on our bikes taking our time to visit the beach and abandoned lighthouse we'd seen from the top of the bridge.
Hopping back over to the island we found a largely-deserted beach, best accessed by Avenue des Boucholeurs, where a motorhome had parked up and its family was busy setting a table for lunch. I didn't see any parking restrictions and this would make a lovely wild camping spot.
Having cycled more than 100km in our first two days we'd been around the entire island and so it was hard coming up with an itinerary for the remaining three days. The weather was good though so spending time on some of the lovely beaches was no hardship! I think you'd need to be quite confident in the weather, and be an avid sun worshipper, to book a long visit to Noirmoutier island. We really loved it and it ranks alongside Oleron as a must-see destination.