The origin of the name Les Sables-d'Olonne is a reference to the 2 mi long beach located on the Côte de Lumière.
'Olonne' is a Hebrew word meaning 'placed above a source of water'.
As it is a seaside resort town, you can make the most of the beach and water sports, stroll near the fishing harbour and in the district of La Chaume, and enjoy the casino and thalassotherapy centre.
If you are there at the right time, you can also see the boats taking part in the Vendée Globe race.
You can also visit an oyster farm to discover the long process of oyster production. You will find out that it takes about 3 to 4 years and requires very physical and detailed work. The visit usually ends with a tasting of fresh oysters. Take a scenic bike ride across Sables d'Olonne, the town centre, the marina, the starting point of the Vendée Globe and, of course, Paracou Beach. Here you can also go fishing along the shore to find periwinkles, crabs and whelks. When it comes to swimming, there is only one place that really has lifeguards and it is very popular with the locals. To learn more about the manufacturing process of salt, you can take a guided boat tour. At the Jardin des Salines, on Route des Aubraies, the salt workers greet visitors and explain how salt is harvested. The visit then continues with a walk along the water where traces of this salt heritage can be seen. Water sports fans should head towards the 'Institute Sport Océan', the best nautical centre in the Pays de la Loire region. Here you can practice windsurfing, catamaran sailing, sea kayaking, canoeing, surfing, wave-skiing and paddle boarding.
All fans of the sea will opt for a boat ride along the channel of the Vendée Globe as it is the perfect way to see the green and red lights that mark the entrance to the three ports (trade, fishing and marina). In fact, the atmosphere is completely transformed when the chalets of the Vendée Globe start to be set up. For fans of this competition, it's a great opportunity to meet their idols or to simply party.
The town centre of Sables d'Olonne is absolutely charming. Go on a discovery of the 'Île Penotte district, which was completely restored in the ?90s. This pedestrian district is full of winding streets and houses whose façades are decorated with shells and enamel. But not only that. Dan, a local artist, is also the one who decorated the signs, the street numbers and the doorways by adding various patterns like flowers and animals.
It is definitely worth going out of your way to discover the Louisiana-style of the Juan-les-Pins Casino built in 1896. Also, if you love museums or if the weather is not exactly perfect for outdoor activities, you should head to the Musée du Coquillage ('Shellfish Museum') to see the collection of 45,000 pieces or the collection of popular traditions.
If you are travelling with your family, consider taking a little detour to Puy-du-Fou. About one hour from Sables d'Olonne by car, this park puts on shows centred around various themes and eras: the Vikings, the Great Waters, the Puy-du-Fou Odyssey, the Minstrel Magician, etc. There are also many activities based on the theme of the famous ?Wars of Vendée'.
To go to the beach during summer, opt for going by bike rather than driving to avoid all the traffic.
Seafood and fish lovers will undoubtedly be in heaven here. As will fans of oysters, who can enjoy freshly farmed ones at various locations, including directly at the oyster farms. Among the specialities of Vendée you will find mougettes-jambon (a type of bean with ham), troussepinette (an aperitif made with black pine sprouts, sugar, red wine and plum brandy) which is traditionally accompanied with préfou (an unleavened bread coated with salt, butter and garlic), and the famous brioche of Vendée.
Some hotels offer guests the possibility to order a basket of oysters at the beginning of their stay to bring home with them. It may be a bit bulky but it is definitely worth it! In the hundred-year-old shop of Sabots You You you will find handmade clogs. Everyone is sure to find a pair to their liking, however, the bigger problem is knowing how to walk in this clunky shoe and getting used to its rigid form. You can also bring back samples of other local specialities, like ?salicornia' which is a kind of wild gherkin, or fleur de sel. According to Vendée residents, it is better than the salt of Guérande!