Best Resources for Cycling the Atlantic Coast of France

Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest in considering the Atlantic Coast of France for a future bicycling adventure–for a day, a weekend, a week, or even longer.  If so, you’ll want quick and easy access to the best resources to help with your trip research and planning.  One of the hardest decisions you’ll have in planning a trip to this region is deciding where to go.  As detailed in my previous post, my favorite areas are the Gironde, Landes and Charente Maritime Departments from Bordeaux and La Rochelle east to the ocean.  There are enough cycling paths and attractions in these areas to keep you busy for the summer, so zero in one a particular area that you’re interested in, and then begin your research.

For example, if you’re planning a weekend family cycling trip from Bordeaux, you might consider taking the train from Bordeaux to Arcachon and cycling around the Bay of Arcachon and visiting the Dunes of Pilat.  If you’re a wine lover, investigate the vineyards near Bordeaux and plan a weekend or longer trip into the Medoc.  If an island adventure interests you, consider cycling to the Ile de Re from La Rochelle.  Remember not to over program. My favorite biking adventures are not marathons.  I’m happy biking 20-25 km a day, allowing plenty of time to buy supplies for a picnic lunch, have a second cup of coffee, visit with the locals, and experience the attractions along the way.  You’ll encounter unique adventures by bike that you would never experience in the protected environment of a car. You need to have the time to experience the adventure, so plan accordingly!

The most important resource for planning is a great map.  I prefer Michelin maps to the IGN map series. I find the Michelin maps much easier to read and plan from. Unfortunately I have yet to find a resource in the US that sells the most current Michelin maps which include “Pistes cyclables et Voies Vertes” or marked cycle paths and greenways.  Many of the online map stores that I have contacted carry 5 year or older versions of the French maps.

A good map will help keep you on the right path!

Since most of the cycle paths and greenways in France have been developed in the last 7-10 years, they are not contained on the older maps.  I purchase these maps on my trips to France and all have the wording”Pistes cyclables et Voies Vertes”  listed in red on the front of each map.  If you order a Michelin map online, be sure you ask how old the map is and if it has the cycle path and greenways listing. These new maps cost 4,50Euro in Europe, about $7.00, so if you see French Department/Local maps advertised online for under that price, you will know that they are not the latest maps.

Here are the specific maps for biking the Atlantic Coast of France:

Michelin #324     Charente and Charente-Maritime

Michelin #335     Gironde and Landes

IGN #145               Bordeaux,  Arcachon

IGN #138               Charente Maritime

If you are unable to purchase any of these maps before your trip, you can secure regional and/or local maps from the tourism office of the area you will be visiting.  Most of the tourism offices have extensive general information online, but most will also send a small amount of printed material via mail by request. Most of the French regional and department tourist offices have English versions of their websites, but some smaller areas may only have French versions.  If that is the case, you can either use Google’s Babelfish to translate the page for you, or you can simply search for bicycling information, looking for several keywords:

Les location de velo: Locations of bikes, places to rent

Louer un velo:  Rent a bicycle

Cartes de bicyclettes:  Bicycling maps

Consulter nos Brochures:  Brochures you can download, including bike maps and itineraries

Documentation: If no where else, this is where you’ll find the materials to plan your trip

Here are my favorite tourism links for biking the Atlantic Coast of France:

Biking in Poitou Charente

Tourism Office of Charente-Maritime

La Rochelle Office of Tourism

Royan Office of Tourism

Ile de Re Office of Tourism

Ile D’Oleron Tourism

Saint Palais sur Mer Tourism 

City of Rochefort Tourism

Regional Tourism of Aquitaine

Bicycling in Aquitaine

Gironde Tourism Office

Tourism Des Landes

Bordeaux Office of Tourism

Arcachon Tourism

Bordeaux Wines

I hope that this information will help with your trip planning to the Atlantic Coast of France.  There is so much to see and do in this area, one could spend the entire summer there and only sample the many miles of cycle paths.  Let me know if you have any websites that were particularly helpful to you in your trip planning.  This is an area that I hope to be able to provide more information on in the future, so I hope you’ll bookmark my blog!

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. I found your articles extremely enjoyable and brimming with enthusism.I was wondering if you ever considered writing a book on cycling in France.
    I would be running to the shop to buy it if you did write a book
    I had a very happy few days camping at Fouras in the Charente Maritime and the beautiful coastline and tranquility will never leave me
    Best Wishes

    Eric Taylor Sussex England

    1. Experience France by Bike June 23, 2012 at 2:49 am

      Hi Eric!

      Thanks so much for your nice note! I actually am planning to start publishing a series of e-guides on biking in France. Looked into traditional publishing, but it’s extremely difficult for a non-published writer. Hope to have first 4-6 e-guides out by the end of the year. Will soon have more information on the website.
      In the meantime, hope you continue to read my posts!

      Thanks again!

      Maggie LaCoste
      Experience France by Bike