Saint-Jean-de-Monts – Côte de Lumière
Saint-Jean-de-Monts is renowned for its 8km long sandy beach.
The little fishermen village developed into a seaside resort in the mid 19th century, when sea bathing became trendy.
The original village is still there, tucked around its church, but the town has since expanded along the shoreline and inland.
Saint-Jean-de-Monts is located on the Côte de Lumière, as the coast that stretches from Saint Hilaire de Riez to les Sables d’Olonne was named in 2005.
This coast is essentially sandy, except in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie.
Saint-Jean-de-Monts recently embarked in the restoration of its seafront.
It developed a network of paths and cycle tracks that are part of the Sentiers cyclables de la Vendée*.
This series of paths stretch over 500km, from Ile de Noirmoutiers to Saint-Gilles-Croix de Vie.
This restoration also included the creation of parking plots adorned with flowerbeds and trees and art works.
La Baigneuse, a sculpture by Henry Murail, stands at the end of Avenue de la Mer, the resort’s road that runs along the seashore.
You’ll find a second sculpture representing three birds opposite the Tourist office.
Most seafront buildings are contemporary, however, you’ll still find, here and there, an original Art Deco facade.
Saint-Jean-de-Monts in the Marais Breton
A network of canals, wet meadows and polders crisscross this 45 000-hectare area.
Until the Middle Ages, the ocean covered the region as far as Machecoul and Challans, two towns which are today located about 20km inland.
This vast Baie de Bourgneuf was then known as Baie de Bretagne.
It was dotted with several islands such as the Ile de Bouin and Ile de Sallertaine, which are now attached to the continent.
However, you’ll still find the super Ile de Noirmoutiers offshore.
The accumulation of sediments coming from the Loire and the Charente progressively closed the bay and created the Marais Breton.
The Romans developed the salt marshes 2,000 years ago.
The Benedictine monks founded their monasteries between the 11th and 13th centuries and dug the first network of channels and polders.
The development and exploitation of the salt marshes throughout the Middle-Ages turned the region into the leading French producer of sea salt.
Until the 18th century, the Marais Breton produced 300,000 tons of salt which was then used for preserving meat and fish.
Bouin and Bourgneuf, the main producers, shipped most of their salt to the Nordic countries.
However, gradual silting up of the bay resulted in the reduction of the salt marshes and therefore decline of the production.
Farming took over.
The channels were progressively cleared from sea water and filled with rain water.
They were also enlarged in order to facilitate irrigation.
As a result, the Marais Breton is today essentially a freshwater zone, with the exception of the area west of Bourgneuf.
The salt marshes are today redeveloped because of the ever-growing demand for natural and traditional products.
Tip: Hire a bike and make use the extensive network of cycle tracks; they run along the seashore and through pine forests, it’s beautiful.
Department of Vendée
Coordinates: Lat 46.793464 – Long -2.061786