Ile de Re (formerly also Ile de Rhe; in English Isle of Rhe) is an island off the west coast of France near La Rochelle, on the northern side of the Pertuis d’Antioche strait.
The island is 30 km long, 5 km wide, and a 2.9 km bridge, completed in 1988, connects it to La Rochelle on the mainland.
The area is a popular tourist destination. It has approximately the same number of hours of sunshine as the famous southern coast of France. The island is noted to have a constant light breeze, and the water temperature is generally cool. The island is surrounded with gently sloping, sandy beaches, which are a real treat for families and tourists.
The island has a resident winter population of approximately 16,000 residents and a resident summer population of about 160,000. Since the local population is distributed all over the island, it never gets too crowded. The island is covered by bicycle tracks, with many residents rarely using cars for transportation. Camping grounds and hotels abound on the island, as well as large supermarkets and all modern amenities. Most families stay on the island for the duration of their vacations.
Night life consists of going to Saint Martin, the main port, or to La Flotte, to walk along the quays and to potter around the shops, which are open very late. Restaurants abound. At night, visitors can also watch the buskers, have a drink and enjoy the island’s delicious artisanal ice cream, all set in a family-friendly atmosphere.
The island has its fair share of celebrities, including Lionel Jospin, who was Prime Minister of France from 1997 to 2002 and who is known to go there regularly for his holidays. Johnny Depp has also been spotted there.
Oysters and fresh fish are always available. There is also a tradition in which the fishermen, upon return from the sea, sell a small quantity of their catch directly on the quays, enabling themselves to buy a drink. Markets are open on a daily basis in the main towns and are a popular place to shop, taste and chat. Even the vendors in the markets come to the island on their holidays. Generally, they work only in the mornings, enabling themselves to enjoy the remainder of the day. Shopping affords a large variety of items, such as comics, books, African articles, ceramics, clothes, artifacts, food, local specialties, tools and souvenirs, in other words, something for every taste.