Royan – An Active Holiday Guide
Royan is a popular beach resort located mid-way between La Rochelle and Bordeaux on France’s Atlantic coast. Capital of the Côte de Beauté, Royan attracts watersports enthusiasts and sophisticated Parisians alike, who are drawn by the sandy beaches, great seafood, historical architecture and easy transport links.
With five sandy beaches, some sheltered and some exposed to the Atlantic’s wind and waves, Royan is hotspot for watersports. Surfers head to Conche de Pontaillac and paddle out in front of the casino into unhindered south-westerly swell. Kitesurfers choose between bump and jump conditions in the Gironde Estuary or wave riding on the surf beaches further north. Royan is also a paradise for sailing enthusiasts and the waters are well organised with marinas and boating centres that teach sailing.
Royan’s meteorological claim to fame is that there are more hours of sunshine here than anywhere else on France’s Atlantic Coast. And, the sun’s not as harsh as it is on the Med, making it a great destination if you want to spend long summer days outside without being bien cuit.
Buzzing with life from early to late summer, Royan is renowned primarily as a water sports hub. With the wild coastline catering for surfers, kitesurfers, windsurfers, paddle boarders and sailing enthusiasts, the water’s edge is bustling with skipper schools and hire companies offering affordable lessons and high quality rental equipment.
Royan is reputed for its great food and after an energetic day spent on the water, it’s hard to beat a lip-smacking seafood dinner. Boasting the best food market in Charante-Maritime, foodies can wander around the stalls with their spread of regional cheeses, cured meats, fresh fish and locally sourced veg.
To combine fresh air with delectable treats, take to two wheels using the cycle paths along the promenade and savour hand-harvested oysters and traditional Cognacs sourced just inland.
Royan’s location at the mouth of the Gironde estuary puts it in the privileged postion of having sheltered coves and Atlantic-facing beaches in close proximity. The conches, or small sandy coves are sheltered from the wind are great for families.
You can rent deck chairs, beach tents and sun beds from 10am to 7pm every day during July and August. Beach services – Tel +33 (0)5 46 06 61 02.
Plage de la Grande Conche
La Grande Conche is a huge sandy beach with a fantastic central location that is south-facing and protected from the wind. Great for swimming, this is Royan’s playground. The promenade and cycle lane that run the length of La Grande Conche offer a picturesque setting to go for a run or a cycle, or stroll with an ice cream.
Plage de Foncillon
Opposite the Palais des Congrès and looking out over Foncillon beach is an open-air sea-water swimming pool.
Plage du Chay
Nestled amongst the rocks along Boulevard de la Côte d’Argent, Plage du Chay is a sheltered, family-friendly cove that all but disappears at high tide.
Plage du Pigeonnier
A lovely town beach with golden sand flanked by rocks that is south-facing and sheltered enough for safe swimming.
Plage de Pontaillac
Recognisable by the colourful stripy beach tents, Pontaillac is the first beach heading north that picks up some Atlantic swell and offers surfers a great city surf spot.
The Côte Sauvage
North of Royan, you escape the shelter of the estuary and you’re confronted with the wild unspoilt beauty of the Côte Sauvage. Sandy beach extends northwards for many kilometres and waves batter the shore at renowned surfing spots like Nauzan and Suzac.
La Rochelle – Île de Ré
Pharmacie Sicard, 2 Avenue Maryse Bastié, 17200 Royan.
Agence de la Poste, 2 Boulevard de Lattre de Tassigny, 17200 Royan.
Allo Francis Taxi, Place de la Gare, 17200 Royan.
ParkingOne of the last seaside towns on the French coast to offer free parking, street parking can be found by the seafront and in the main town. Parking can be limited and isn't advised during a long stay. There is also a large underground car park situated a few streets from the beach which offers weekly and weekend prices.
With its beach-side city centre, busy port, covered market, sandy coves, pine forests to the south and never ending beaches to the north, Royan has everything you’ll want in a compact area. If you’re driving, there are straightforward motorway connections from La Rochelle, Poitiers, Bordeaux and Paris. Highspeed TGV trains run regularly from La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Paris. In Royan, the local CaraBus provides a cheap way to get around. You can buy a ticket for 10 journeys and they offer discovery itineraries to explore the area.
An alternative way of getting around, Royan has some great cycle paths along the beach and through the fragrant pine forest. Hire a bike from local shop, Royan ByCyles who offer a range of bikes and accessories, including mountain bikes, BMX, city bikes, kids bikes, scooters, tandems, trailers, kids seats and more…
Active things to do in Royan
Surfing at Pontaillac Plage
Great for beginners, the city beach of Pontaillac sits just north of the Gironde Estuary and picks up a south-westerly Atlantic swell. The bay is sheltered from strong winds and large swells making the surfing pretty mellow and ideal for learning and longboarding. You can rent surfboards and SUPs and organise lessons from 55€ at beachside outfit, Royan Surf School. To escape summer crowds, head a couple of kilometres north to Nauzan or Suzac.
Riding up to 20 knots on the sand bank of Palmyre, rip it up and down the Atlantic shore catching air on the punchy waves that dominate the coastline. A quiet spot for beginners and intermediates, local kitesurfing school, Accro Kite offers dedicated lessons organised by the official IKO regulatory body. Using the most advanced equipment, strap in and carve through the surf, harnessing the power of the sea breeze to slice some turns, jumps and airs. A step-by-step, three hour course learning everything from the basics up starts from €155, but kitesurfing gear can also be hired for €80 per day.
Want to make it a holiday to remember? Jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet above sea level, streaming through the atmosphere towards ground zero should do it! A thrilling way to take in the unique skyline with a birdseye perspective, skydiving from Royan’s aerodrome is an unforgettable experience. Europhénix 17 offers first timers tandem parachute jumps with a fully qualified instructor, free falling at 130 mph before releasing the parachute and gliding gently back down to terra firma. Parachuting pros can also take themselves out on a solo mission – tariffs start at €275.
SUP at Plage de la Grande Conche
In the heat of the midday sun, swap the beach for the sea and hop on a stand up paddle board, gliding out into the cool blue. Easy to get the hang of and perfect for the tiny waves that lap the shore, you can rent a board or get a quick lesson from Tribu Océan. Offering basic advice on how to balance yourself on the board (and not lose your paddle!) you can head out for an hour and breeze across the shore, and try your hand at a bit of SUP yoga while you’re at it! Lessons from 50€ for two hours.
Where to stay
An upscale fourstar hotel overlooking the ocean, Hotel Cordouan is every bit as opulent inside as it looks from the outside. A panoramic building curved to accentuate its unique setting on the shoreline, guests can live it up in the lap of luxury, chilling out in the elevated infinity pool, relaxing in their popular spa or getting a taste of the high life on their personal seafacing balcony. For those of you looking to splash a little bit of cash, a stay at Hotel Cordouan is worth every penny of the €140 price tag per night.
6 Allée des Rochers, 17200 Royan, France. Tel +33 (0)5 46 39 46 39.
A classic seaside 19th century villa clad in Ivy and swaddled in the shade of native pines, Residence Rohan is a quiet idyll styled in traditional maritime elegance. With each room beautifully furished, the stately-style home boasts a tranquil garden and terrace, spacious reception rooms and a down to earth feel. With access to its own stretch of Nauzan beach, live like a true local dotting from the sand to the shaded terrace for early evening drinks with your fellow holidaymakers. Packages start at €89 for a classic double.
7 Avenue de Rohan, 17640 Vaux-sur-Mer, France. Tel +33 (0)5 46 39 00 75.
Camping Les Chèvrefeuilles
Hidden in between the forest and the ocean, Les Chèvrefeuilles is a quiet camping ground surrounded by two hectares of unspoilt rural greenery. Just a short drive from the beach, accommodation options vary from a traditional DIY tent pitch to modern, comfortable holiday homes. With on-site entertainment, heated swimming pool, sports fields, cycle tracks and kids playground, enjoy the solitude of the French countryside with all the perks of the shore just a ride away.
11 Allée des Chevrefeuilles, 17200 Saint-Sulpice-de-Royan. Tel +33 (0)5 46 02 61 94.
Hotel Les Flots
A functional, comfortable selfcatering hotel, Hotel les Flots sits in an ideal location just a short walk from the beach and busy town centre, shops and restaurants. Modest rooms and cosy studios come fully equipped with kitchenettes and access to the sun deck, heated pool and communal BBQ area. With flexible accommodation options and special packages running throughout the season, this small and friendly hotel is ideal for young families and jet setters looking to savour the region’s unique cultural and sporting activities on their doorstep.
44-46 Avenue de la Grande Côte, 17420 Saint-Palais-sur-Mer. Tel +33 (0)5 46 23 35 48.
Where to eat
Le ChaletElegant décor is complemented by traditional home cooking at this intimate restaurant in the heart of Royan. Reinventing classic dishes with a 21st century edge, the fresh and inventive menu is both gastronomically and aesthetically pleasing. Using locally sourced produce on a seasonal basis, diners can expect a transitional menu inspired by catch of the day, bistrostyle favourites and heart warming puds – all made by their passionate team of homegrown talent behind the burners. 6 Boulevard de la Grandière, 17200 Royan, France. Tel +33 (0)5 46 05 04 90.
Le Petit BouchonA humble taverna showcasing Royan's best export, this simple fresh fish restaurant elevates dining purely on taste alone. An exciting array of classic fish dishes are served up to perfection with homemade side dishes like cauliflower pannacotta, fresh pesto jus and red cabbage salads. Gorge on fruit de mer seasoned with local herbs whilst looking out onto the busy port just a stone's throw away. An essential eatery not to be missed for seafood fanatics and inquisitive foodies, expect heart warming service and a side of friendly hospitality. 8 Quai Amiral Meyer, 17200 Royan, France. Tel +33 (0)5 46 22 08 82.
La JabotièrePart lounge bar, part conceptual restaurant, La Jabotiére has to be the swankiest spot on the strip. With a hand crafted menu curated by reputed chef, JeanMarie Zimmermann, experimental dishes reflect the passion and respect this award winning chef has for quality, fresh produce sourced from land and sea. A conceptual décor inside with floor to ceiling windows gives a unique fishbowl effect onto the beach just a few steps away, dinner and drinks at this luxe restaurant is an elegant way to salute the sunset with wines from their walkin cellar and a cuisine to remember. 4 Espl. de Pontaillac, 17200 Royan, France. Tel +33 (0)5 46 06 53 97.
Where to party
Le Love Love
A hands in the air party destination renowned up and down the coast. Party people flock to Le Love Love for a heady night of drinks and disco. Filled to the brim come Friday and Saturday night, this central club packs in punters from all walks of life for an evening of good times and pumping music. One to try if you’re in the mood for an allnighter, dancing ends at sunrise with an array of local and popular djs spinning tunes until 4am.
54, route Gallais Taupignac 17920 Royan, France. Tel +33 (0)5 46 05 97 02.
Le Cardi café
A cosy, elegant bar, Le Cardi Café is a small, intimate setting made up of small lounges for chilled apéros and romantic nights. Towering over the sea on the edge of a cliff, this is the place to be for unforgettable views and long, lazy evenings. Moulded into one of many comfortable couches, snuggle up with a blanket on their rugged rocky terrace and choose from a range of classic and creative cocktails, amuse bouches, oysters or finger food.
25 Boulevard de la Corniche, 17110 Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, France. Tel +33 (0)5 46 05 15 66.
Le café du Palais
A new bar on the busy strip, Le Café du Palais is a terraced watering hole situated on the immense Terrace du palais des Congrés. A cool, calm place day or night, grab a table and enjoy the bubbly atmosphere all around you, sipping on a cocktail du palais (gin, raspberry, Grand Marnier, lemon and Perrier). Full of charm and ‘je n’ai sais quoi’ let the quintessential French atmosphere wash over you as you look out onto the big blue ahead.
2 Avenue des Congrès, 17200 Royan, France. Tel +33 (0)6 83 42 28 74.
A humble beach shack right on the sand, but don’t be put off by its bric-a-brac appearance, this family run establishment is full of life and laughter come sundown. A relaxed vibe with a come one come all mentality, roll up your beach towel and head to La Reserve for a thirst quenching margarita, made by the hostess with the mostess – Mimi. An unbelievable spot to hang out until you’re ready to say goodbye to the beach, catch the sunset and early dj set before you head home and onto dinner on the strip.
95 Boulevard du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, 17110 Saint-Georges-de-Didonne. Tel +33 (0)5 46 05 36 60.
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your trip to Royan, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Happy holidays!
About the author
Self-confessed foodie and outdoor sports aficionado, Aimée Whistler has been scoping out hidden gems across France for over five years. From shredding backcountry powder to savouring the finest backyard cuisine, get first-hand suggestions from Active Azur’s most committed Francophile.