Located at the mouth of the Gironde Estuary - Europe’s largest estuary - Royan is the capital of "Côte de beauté". Replete with five sandy beaches, a marina and a fishing port, Royan - an hour and quarters drive from Villemorin - is the perfect gateway to limestone cliffs and beaches that the coast has to offer.
One of Royan’s main attractions is the église Notre-Dame, which replaced the former neo-Gothic church that was destroyed during World War Two. The Church - inspired by other large Gothic cathedrals - is regarded as one of France’s leading works of contemporary architecture. Other sites worth exploring are the Palais des Congrès and the Marché Central.
Royan - which has welcomed many famous visitors, such as Pablo Picasso, Leon Trotsky and Émile Zola - has long paid close attention to the needs and concerns of seaside bathers. Back in 1819, then mayor, Raymond Labarthe, signed a regulation that reserved Foncillon beach for women, whilst from 1820, it was forbidden "to wash pigs, horses and other cattle in the sea as we have baths."
As the Royan tourist board boasts:
"Going back up the Meschers-sur-Gironde estuary to St Palais-sur-Mer, the coast offers a succession of coves and rocks dotted with fishing huts, the ideal place for a family holiday. Further along, an ocean of pinasters lines the beautiful Grande Côte beach, then you come to the La Palmyre beach which stretches along to the courbe de Bonne Anse, the phare de la Coubre and the Pointe Espagnole. Refuge for lovers of open spaces, the Côte Sauvage is protected from the ocean’s assaults by its row of dunes."