best nature and wildlife in the vendee in france

Best nature & wildlife spots in the Vendée

Ask any locals and returning tourists, and they'll tell you the Vendée is so beloved because of its moderate ocean climate and because of its tranquility. Vendée is indeed an excellent place to relax with a good book and birdsong! It is also an excellent holiday choice if you enjoy hiking, or wish to practice hobbies such as photography and birding. It is an excellent choice for observing fauna and flora in natural environments, as well as to discover patrimony and old trading customs. Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand. In this article, we share the most excellent spots to discover nature's joys in the Vendée. We hope you enjoy our (very random) selection!
La Cité des Oiseaux - TOP CHOICE

Don't miss this incredible nature reserve located on one of the largest North-South migratory routes for birds, making it a major ornithological center. The Cité des Oiseaux (bird city) is one of the largest wetlands in the heart of the Vendee, (temporary) home to species such as the pochard and tufted scaup, great crested grebes, little grebes, whistling ducks, mallards, grey herons etc.

The park of some 56 hectares features two enormous ponds. There are around 3000 birds every day, some 210 species! Amateur and professional photographers, avid birders, nature lovers, and families can observe species from the observatory, the belvedere or simply by walking the trails of this amazing natural site.

So, wear your walking shoes and appropriate clothing (sunscreen), and don't for get your camera and binoculars!

Open – 09/04/2022 to 07/11/20222
Info & tarifs here
Reduced mobility access – yes
Dogs – no
Picnic tables yes
Tip – Family activities with treasure hunts, special adventures, and workshops for the children
Address –
La Cité des Oiseaux, 14, the Butchers 85130 Les Landes-Genusson
GPS coordinates – 46.9623624468898, -1.141843935534716
Directions – Enter your location

Wild beaches in the Vendée

From a bird's-eye view,  the green and sloping hills of the Vendéen countryside (le bocage) are edged to the west by more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) of coastline. 160 km of golden sandy beaches are as inviting for summer reading as they are for invigorating winter walking. Furthermore, each of the nearby islands supplies its own history and charm.

La plage Bois Soret - Notre-Dame-des-Monts
Watersports – Yes
(Pole nautique nearby)
46.833596929362635, -2.1452207076351812
Wild beach – surrounded by dunes and the Forêt domaniale des Pays-de-Monts
Directions – enter your departure address

Plage Anse des Soux - Ile d'Yeu TOP CHOICE
GPS coordinates –
46.69093029252674, -2.3236356394654654
Wild beach – yes
Directions –
enter your departure address

Taking dogs to the beach in the Vendée

Beaches, especially at the height of the summer season, may or may not allow dogs or special conditions exist e.g. dogs not allowed during bathing hours but allowed before 10h00 and after 18h00, or only at low tide, or must be kept on leash, or not allowed in supervised bathing areas etc... 

At every beach there are panels offering guidance on whether or not dogs are allowed (with conditions listed). Failure to comply results in a fine. Dogs accompanying people with reduced mobility are allowed.

If you want to be sure, double check with the local Offices de Tourisme.

On ALL beaches you must pick up your pooch's droppings, otherwise you will have to pay a fine of up to several hundred euros!

This list indicates where it is allowed to take your dogs and conditions: 

    • 1st April to 15th October
      • Estuaire du Payré/ La plage du Veillon in Talmont-Saint-Hilaire: pets on a leash are allowed on the Payré channel side, but only if they take the path around the dune via the Veillon forest.
    Ecomuseum le Daviaud

    Le Daviaud is foremost a gateway for the marshes. You will go through its different facet, its functioning, its roots and the history of those who live here…


    The wonders of this area will amaze you. Fauna and flora compose a colorful blend that give to the landscape a singular and unique character

    Le Daviaud offers English-speaking visitors audio guides in English.

    Open – 19/05/2022 to 07/11/2022
    Info & tarifs – here

    Disabilities – all paths and buildings are accessible to people with mobility issues. Wheelchairs and folding chairs available. Guide or service dogs are allowed throughout the site. Both audio, and sensory touch. Sign language coming soon.
    Dogs – no
    Picnic tables or catering on-site – yes
    Duration of the visit min. 2 hours to a day
    Address –Le Daviaud, 85550 La Barre-de-Monts
    GPS coordinates – 46.879030518121446, -2.10530208534945
    Directions – Enter your location

    Mervent-Vouvant Forest

    A consistent surprise to tourists seems to be the fact that the Vendée is not flat! We have spoken to people who'd strapped their bike to the car, hopeful for leisurely trails on flat terrain and were bitterly disappointed. Hiking and mountain biking are a top activity in the glowing countryside and those among you who favor the activity, or hiking or backpacking, will be in their element here. Trails are dotted around the Vendée, with many to be found in the Forest of Mervent-Vouvant. The Vendée's largest forest offers an array of activities, but the most popular among locals are probably hiking and mountain biking.

    Year-round, the forest is a peaceful haven, a protected nature reserve that shines its enchanted spirit everywhere you cast your eyes.

    From naked trees in the winter, to their chartreuse awakening, from the birth of wildflowers in spring, to welcome shade in the summer heat, and a breathtaking pallet of fall colors

    Trails narrow, wide and steep range from easy to difficult, reaching heights of nearly 300 meters or approx. 1000 feet! Welcome to the Vendée! More information here.

    Open – all year round
    TIP: Wear good shoes and take water! Be aware that not all trails make a loop so please research before departure.
    Link to hiking and mountain biking trails – in the forest (from easy to hard)
    Dogs yes
    Address – 85200 Mervent
    Popular walk (easy) – Le Petit Maillezais 5km around the lake, a walk of approximately 1h45m
    Picnic areas there are 63+ picnic aread in and around the forest. Here is a list
    Images – by except intro image courtesy of Vendée Expansion/ Julien Gazeau

    Marais Poitevin Guided Walk

    A sensory and informative walking tour for children and parents!

    A guide takes you and your family on a 3.5 km walking tour discussing animals, plants and the history of the beautiful Marais Poitevin whose canals were developed from the ocean by monks many centuries ago.

    Equip your family with the necessary things for a walk through the swamps.

    It is advised to wear closed shoes, weather appropriate clothing, to bring a water bottle, sunscreen, a hat, water and some snacks.

    This tour will probably be in French but please don't let that stop you!

    Open – all year round
    Tip bring your camera 
    Cost – 5.50 €/adults and 7€/child
    Reduced mobility access - not on the swamp paths (difficult) please call them as they may be able to make arrangements. The facilities petting zoo are wheelchair accessible as are the facilities
    Dogs no

    Picnic or onsite catering there is a bar and some tables outside

    Address – Sainte Christine, 85490 BENET
    Reservations or
    Free alternative: see our article about hidden corners in the Vendée for La Claye walk incl. picnic area
    Images – by except intro image courtesy of Vendée Expansion/ Julien Gazeau

    Réserve Biologique du Vendée

    This biological reserve developed by the Department of Vendée is a man-made ecological reserve that leads you through life in the Marais Poitevin in the XIXth century.

    Located in the northern part of the Poitevin marsh, it is one of the last examples of wooded wet marshes in the area. In order to ensure the status of a reserved natural space, the Department has divided the space into two parts, each with a specific vocation.

    The first with a scientific vocation, refuge for many species, and the second with an educational landscape, aesthetic and historical vocation where the sectors formerly maintained without clearing them are valued. 

    This natural habitat offers 146 hectares of exceptional richness, 3 areas to discover flora including 319 plant species, and fauna including otters, wild boar, deer, species of bugs including beautiful butterflies and moth... all along more than 4km of walking trails that are also wheelchair friendly.

    Highly recommended for the whole family, all generations! Free access! 

    Open  Open from April to 7 November. Schedule
    Family activities – picnic tables, treasure hunt and more!
    School holidays – many special events throughout the summer such as nature walks, guided tours and workshops
    Reduced mobility access – yes
    Dogs – no
    Picnic tables – yes 
      Departmental Biological Reserve, Les huttes 85370 Nalliers
    GPS coordinates – N46 ° 26’34.81 ” /O 01 ° 01’19.34 ”
    Enter your location

    Adult groups by reservation on 02 51 97 69 80
    Images – by pixabay

    Les Salines - TOP CHOICE

    Discover the heart of the marsh d’Olonne and all of its natural treasures.

    Boat rides take you to the Jardin des Salines where the salt workers mine their 'white gold' from the sea. 

    On your journey, touch the secret routes the smugglers used to use (many centuries ago salt was a precious commodity), learn about the centuries old trade of salt, meet the salt workers, become an apprentice (harvest your own salt) and so much more.

    The Salt Adventure Park also offers a unique look at the fishermen's huts of bygone years and secrets of the trade, bird life, fun and games, all in a natural setting.

    Children receive the “Petit Saunier” diploma after learning to harvest. You can also rent canoes and paddle boards.

    Yet another adventure park in a natural setting where learning while having fun is central to the experience.

    Open  from April to the end of June and from September 1st to the end of the All Saints holidays. See website for details

    Info & tarifs here
    02 51 21 01 19 or online in season
    Duration of visit – depends on your adventure package. Min. 2 hours
    Reduced mobility access – yes, but call 02 51 21 01 19 (e.g. electric wheelchairs cannot go on the boats, regular wheelchair, 1 per boat)
    Dogs –
    yes, on a leash
    Picnic tables or catering on-site – no
    Address  Route de l'Aubraie, 85100 LES SABLES D'OLONNE
    GPS coordinates – 46.51618176014869, -1.8049830021322286
    Directions – Enter your location

    Adult groups by reservation on 02 51 97 69 80

    Yon River Valley - TOP CHOICE

    The valley of the Yon River is located in a natural area in the heart of the Vendée. Legends and hiking trails combine to create a valley of magic, where not only flora and fauna abound, but also heritage.

    Where the River Yon flows south through the town of Nesmy, you will find the restored Moulin de Rambourg, a water mill from the first half of the 20th century. The landscape evokes bygone eras of prosperity using natural resources and French patrimony reigns delightfully surrounded by river and forest.

    The water mill is open to visitors in summer (guided tours cost about 3 euros), and is free during Journées du Patrimoine de Pays and Journées Européennes du Patrimoine.

    Hiking trails crisscross the valley, but the Chaos de Piquet where the river has carved its way into the granite rocks is one of the most wildly picturesque and romantic walks you and your loved one can take in the Vendée. At Petit Rochereau on the hillside, you can expect breathtaking views.

    At the village of Rives de l'Yon, the river offers a natural spectacle. Carved into the granite rocks of the Vallée de Piquet is the famous formation of Marmites de Gargantua, a chaos of large smoothed rocks that from a distance look like a herd of hippos making their way downstream! Piquet's bar/cafe is nearby for refreshment.

    The deepest parts of this magical valley inspired the stories of French Renaissance writer François Rabelais (d.1553)

    Also in the heart of the Yon Valley is the Maison des libellules, a sprawling two-hectare habitat where dragonflies can be observed in their natural habitat. There is also a museum with permanent and temporary exhibitions.

    Info & tarifs – free
    Duration of visit – depends on your hiking skills. Min. 2 hours
    Reduced mobility access – difficult but some walking paths offer the less mobile people ways to enjoy the scenery.
    Dogs –
    yes, on a leash
    Picnic tables – yes
    Restaurant – yes, a wonderful spot: La Guinguette de Piquet TOP TIP: WEEKLY SUMMER CONCERTS
    Address –  La Guinguette de Piquet / lieu dit Piquet, 85310 Le Tablier
    GPS coordinates – 46.51618176014869, -1.8049830021322286
    Directions – Enter your location