The jewel of Loire-Atlantique’s Jade Coast, Pornic is known for its picturesque old fishing port, medieval château, and windswept Atlantic waters that shimmer turquoise in the sunlight. Just an hour by train or car from Nantes, the coastal town makes an idyllic urban escape where you’ll find outdoor adventures, artisan boutiques, and the closest beaches to the city. Here are our top ten reasons to visit Pornic.
1. Stroll around the old port
With its colourful jumble of fishing boats, palm-studded quay, and storybook medieval castle, Pornic is the kind of town that has you reaching for your camera every few steps. Stroll along the old fishing port at high tide for the most memorable views, or come in the evening to watch the sunset over the water. Cafés and restaurants line the quay affording great views from their terraces, but if the sun is shining, the traditional stop for an afternoon goûter is the port-side La Fraiseraie. Expect long queues for their homemade ice creams and sorbets—the namesake strawberry sorbet is a local favourite.
2. Visit the medieval château
A walking tour of the harbour isn’t complete without a visit to Pornic castle, perched on a rocky promontory at the mouth of the port. Originally built in the 10th century and once owned by Gilles de Rais, the malevolent companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc, the fairy-tale château was extensively rebuilt and renovated in the 19th century and is now a classified historical monument. Follow the boardwalk around the castle for views across the harbour, or head into the château gardens to take a closer peek at the turrets, towers, and ramparts. Castle tours can be booked at the Tourist Office.
3. Relax on the beaches
Golden sands and crashing waves await along Pornic’s Atlantic shores, and you won’t have to venture far to find a beach. More than 10km of coastline and at least a dozen beaches flank the town of Pornic, ranging from the wild Plage de l’Etang to the popular Plage de la Source. Beach lovers can also choose from 12 Blue Flag beaches dotted along the Jade Coast. Perhaps enjoy water sports at the Grand Plage in Saint Michel-Chef-Chef, go rock-pooling along the beaches of La Plaine Sur Mer, or take a swim at the Plan d’eau in La Bernerie-en-Retz.
4. Admire the views on a coastal walk
Pornic’s coastal walking trails hug the sea cliffs, affording options for both a quick promenade along the seafront or an epic coastal hike. Admire the traditional wooden pêcheries (stilted fishing huts) as you follow the winding paths to cliff-top lookouts, then climb down into sandy coves to paddle in the waves. Seeking a challenge? There are some 45 kilometres of coastal trails to explore both north and south of Pornic. Look out for landmarks such as the cliff-top “Portmain tree” near Pornic, the blue-painted fishing hut at Plage de la Tharon, and “La Roche Percée”, a natural arch off the shore of Préfailles.
5. Cycle the Vélodyssée
If you prefer exploring on two wheels, Pornic also lies along the famous Vélodyssée cycling route. Also known as the Atlantic Coast Route or EuroVelo 1, it’s the longest European bike route that passes through France, extending more than 1200km between Roscoff in Brittany and Hendaye along the Basque Coast. Rent a bike and explore the scenic sections from Pornic to Saint Brévin (25.7 km) or Les Moutiers en Retz (15.7 km) for a taster.
6. Take a walking tour of the medieval town
A guided walking tour of Pornic reveals a number of surprises, from the cobbled lanes and medieval buildings of its historic centre to the 1930s seaside villas that pepper the coast and even a red telephone box imported from the UK (yes, really!). In the summer, you can also hop aboard the Petit Train for a ride around Pornic, passing the château, port, and seafront.
7. Discover local artisans and regional cuisine
Leave yourself an afternoon to wander through Pornic’s tangle of cobbled streets and browse the assortment of small independent boutiques and artisan shops, where you can buy everything from clothes and homewares to unique hand-crafted souvenirs. Foodies will want to swing by Pornic’s two fresh produce markets – the Marché de la Birochère (Wednesday and Saturday mornings) and the Marché de Pornic (Thursday and Sunday mornings) – where you can pick up some Curé Nantais cheese. Cheese lovers can also arrange a visit to the Curé Nantais factory, where the regional cheese has been made since 1985.
8. Get on the water
Experience Pornic’s maritime heritage for yourself with a guided cruise on board a traditional sailboat, yacht, or hopper, or rent a boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard to explore the coast at your own pace. In July and August, you can even catch the Maritime Link ferry over to the Île de Noirmoutier. For a bigger dose of adrenaline, head to the sailing clubs of Bernerie en Retz, Préfailles, or St Michel Chef Chef to try windsurfing, sand yachting, and jet-skiing. Pornic is also a hugely popular spot for fishing, whether you join locals to fish off the rocks, hunt for mussels and other shellfish along the coast, or rent out a pêcherie for the day.
9. Explore the Jade Coast
Pornic is the gateway to the Jade Coast’s beautiful beaches and traditional towns, so take the time to get out and explore. Highlights include Saint-Brévin-les-Pins with its striking Sea Serpent sculpture; St Michel Chef Chef, the home of the famous St Michel biscuits (taste them at the St Michel Café); the lively fishing port of Les Moutiers-en-Retz; and the bird-filled wetlands and salt marshes of the Breton marshes.
10. Go on safari!
Pornic might not be the first destination that springs to mind when you think “safari”, but the Planète Sauvage safari park is among the best of its kind in France. Bring your own vehicle or take a tour in a safari jeep and follow the 10km safari trail past elephants, giraffes, and zebras, then jump out to get a closer look at the big cats, monkeys, and other animals in the pedestrian zone. For the ultimate adventure, book a night at the safari camp or lodge.
For bookings and information, contact Pornic Tourist Office: https://en.pornic.com
Lead photo credit : There's much to enjoy in Pornic © Stéphane Grossin
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