10 Reasons to visit Le Pays de Saint Gilles Croix de Vie 



10 Reasons to visit Le Pays de Saint Gilles Croix de Vie 

The Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is a land of passion whose varied landscapes, from dunes to rocky coastline to forests to marshes, are transformed by every passing season, revealing something new each time you visit. Whether on land or by the sea, there are hidden gems to be uncovered in this lovely coastal destination of Vendée

Let yourself be charmed by walks or bike rides to the four corners of the area. Treat yourself to a stroll on the quays and piers to watch the ballet of boats seeking the refuge of the harbour. Gourmets will be tempted by the local specialties, while board sports enthusiasts can take their pick of the fantastic surf spots. There are many reasons to visit but here are the top 10 experiences to enjoy Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.

1. Feel the wind in your hair on a bicycle ride

The Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is blessed with a privileged terrain for cycling in all its forms (road, gravel, mountain biking), with a network of nearly 400 km of marked trails.  

Whether along rocky coasts, marshes or vineyards, on the edge of the forest or dunes, the cycle tourism routes are available in a multitude of possible combinations and offer you the pleasure of discovering different natural environments. 

Enjoy nearly 400 km of marked cycling trails © Pays de Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

2. A natural family destination 

The Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie has always loved welcoming families. It’s an ideal playground for those who wish to combine cultural holidays and fun outings. Take your pick: treasure hunts, a trip to the sea, a canoe outing, an experience on horseback or in a horse-drawn carriage, an unusual visit to the heart of a miniature village… 

A natural playground for all ages © Pays de Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

3. A mosaic of colours and landscapes 

In the Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, nature is revealed in all its forms: beach, dune, countryside, forest, marsh… You are bound to find your own slice of paradise! On foot or by bike, whatever the season, follow the path to beautiful, protected natural areas. 

Discover a myriad of landscapes © Pays de Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

4. An authentic fishing port to discover 

Renowned for sardine fishing, the port of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is the one and only French port to be labelled “Site Remarquable du Goût”. This label honours a well-established sardine tradition. Sardine fishing in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie was also included in the inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of France in 2018. Aside from this tradition, the port is a hive of activity that is wonderful to witness.

The only port in France to be labelles ‘Site Remarquable du Goût © Antoine Tatin

5. The sardine of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, the emblem of the territory

The Saint Gilles sardine is fished from April to September. Of the approximately 3,000 tons caught each year, 3/4 of the sardines are destined for the Conserverie Gendreau, the last cannery in operation. The rest of the tonnage goes to the fresh market and is bought at auction by wholesalers who mainly supply local markets. Whether you like them grilled, canned or in rillettes, sardines are the staple dish of the area. 

Sardines and the specialty of the area © S.Bourcier

6. A rich gastronomy, between land and sea  

The territory offers a thousand and one flavours to satisfy the most demanding taste buds. The local gastronomy combines the fruit of the land and the sea, a tasty mix that invites you to indulge. Seafood, wines, beers, salt, honey…the Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is full of quality products to fill your pantry with.  

Beachy vibes in Saint-Gilles! © Pays de Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

7. The Brem-sur-Mer vineyard 

Renowned for its wine-growing activity, the town of Brem-sur-Mer is one of the many treasures that make up the beautiful hinterland of the destination. In this region, wine is a tradition passed down from father to son.  

Since 2011, the wines of the terroir of Brem have been classified AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) Fiefs Vendéens: a guarantee of quality which rewards the important work done among the vines to safeguard the quality of the wine. Throughout the year, visit the local cellars to learn a little more about wine-growing and to meet the passionate winegrowers behind the vintages. 


Discover the wines of Brem-sur-Mer © Antoine.Tatin

8. Hoist the sails and go boating on the Atlantic 

The nautical sector is one of the jewels of the Vendée economy. The Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is no stranger to this with a 32 km long coastline, spread over three municipalities (Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and Brétignolles-sur-Mer). Each resort offers a wide range of water activities accessible to all: sailing, canoeing, surfing, sand yachting, etc. 

Nautical fun in the three resorts of the area © Pays de Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

9. Surf the waves 

From north to south of the Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, there are superb surf spots where you can climb to the top of the waves. An ideal playground especially from October to May when the swell is at its best. A surfing destination at heart, the town of Brétignolles sur Mer is distinguished by the presence of two very popular local spots, one cut for sports enthusiasts (La Sauzaie) and the other more suitable for beginners (Les Dunes). The Sauzaie spot has forged a fine reputation thanks to its reef wave, which are rare in France, while Dunes 1 and 2 spots, with its large expanse of sand, offer ideal conditions for beginners. 


10. Get your groove on at local music festivals 

Current, pop music, rock, reggae, gospel, jazz, each music taste has its festival. Every year, the Pays de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie explores all musical genres through the ambitious programming of its festivals.  


For more information, visit www.payssaintgilles-tourisme.fr 


Lead photo credit : ©Antoine.Tatin

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