• Please check with campsites before setting off. Covid means some won’t be open, some will have fewer or reduced facilities and some may be limiting bookings.
    Please don’t wild camp unless you’re absolutely sure you won’t upset local people. Don’t wild camp unless you’re prepared to take all your gear and rubbish away with you.

Camping in France – Ile de Noirmoutier

It’s all pine woods and lovely beaches – and in early June we had it almost to ourselves.

The Ile de Noirmoutier is a tiny island off the west coast of France, joined to the mainland by a tide-dependent causeway and a bridge. A great place for camping.

Beach on the Ile de Noirmoutier

Is it the Caribbean or France? One of the Ile de Noirmoutier’s lovely beaches.

Camping on the beach

Beach on the Ile de Noirmoutier

In June, the beaches were almost empty

On the far side of the island is Camping Indigo, right on the stunning Sableaux beach with sea views for pretty much every pitch and plenty of shade from trees.

 

If you want big towns or attractions, then this is probably not the right place – although the main town, Noirmoutier en Ile, is just up the road. If you love lazy walking and easy cycling, miles of beaches and quiet coves, then it could be perfect.

The Indigo campsite is in an ONF area (the French national forestry commission) so has plenty of eco-credentials as well as good facilities, including free wifi, and some nice touches for gastro-campers. One of these is the communal freezer outside the main reception – a real treat to be able to refreeze coolbox blocks so easily, and to be able to chill a bottle of wine, of course. The other was a surprise.

 

Beachcombing and solitude

Camping Indigo on Ile de Noirmoutier

Setting up camp with a stunning sea view.

One day, we saw 10 or 20 people out on the beach with buckets, poking around in the wet sand. It turned out they were collecting clams and cockles. The campsite even has a special area for washing your shellfish too. How fantastic to lazily gather free delicacies on the beach and then cook up a meal looking out over the water.

Bridge to Noirmoutier

Crossing from Le Continent to the Ile de Noirmoutier.

One bit of advice, though: don’t go in August – you’ll find 100,000 people on the island instead of the usual 10,000.

Ferries to France – what about Hull?

If you live in Scotland or the north of England, then getting to France is easy. We used to drive all the way to Portsmouth, but then spent a while working out the comparative costs and time of a ferry from the south versus a ferry from Hull.

 

Surprisingly, we found that, even if you’re heading to the south-west of France, it’s cheaper and less distance to go from Hull to Zeebrugge.

It’s overnight – leaving Hull at 18.30 and arriving in Belgium at breakfast time. Not only does it get you in the holiday mood faster, you get to do the interesting driving at the continental side rather stop-starting all the way down the M1 or M6. And, you could do worse than spend a day or two in Hull – City of Culture in 2017.

 

Sadly, food on the ferries isn’t what it used to be. I can remember looking forward to the semi-luxury of a buffet or restaurant meal. These days, it’s expensive and mediocre and every part of the ship shouts sales messages at you – from drink-more leaflets on every table to buy wifi, cuddly toys, perfume, gin and more.

Take your own food?

We used to take our own food ready to warm up in the microwaves provided for baby food. No more. Microwaves have gone for some unfathomable safety reason. 

Now, you’ll either have to (literally) stomach the cost of poor on-board food, or go prepared. We take a selection of salads and dips or (if we’re being very organised), make up insulated food flasks filled with stew, soup or curry.

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