Travelling to the Pays de Saint Jean de Monts from the UK

Are you turning your thoughts to your next summer holiday, and the prospect of warm sunny days with family or friends, with time to relax and have fun? Choose to come to the Vendée! The Vendee is situated on the west coast of France and has its own micro-climate. There is more sunshine than almost any other French region and summer temperatures are generally around 25-28 degrees.  It’s a wonderful spot for holidays with huge sandy beaches, the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and plenty of fun activities for all tastes and ages.

But I also know that part of the decision on your holiday destination is how you get there – and for many, the journey is all part of the holiday experience. We’ve been travelling between the UK and Pays de Saint Jean de Monts for over 20 years and we’ve used different routes and methods. To help you decide on the best mode of transport for your visit, here’s a few options we’ve tried and tested …

Travelling to the Pays de Saint Jean de Monts by plane

The fastest option is to travel by plane. The closest airport to PSJM is Nantes Atlantique and in the winter the choice of direct flights from UK is generally limited to Gatwick or Stanstead. During the summer months, several additional routes become available such as Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. Flights from Dublin are available all year round. In the summer, you can also fly to La Rochelle, just a couple of hours’ drive away.

The most popular option: travelling by car and ferry

The most popular option is to travel by car and the ferry. Quite a few different route options are available from various ports in UK and Ireland: such as Dover, Newhaven, Southampton, Plymouth, Cork or Rosslare. We’ve generally used the Portsmouth-Ouistreham route (Ouistreham is just outside Caen). The main advantage of this route is the journey time from Caen to PSJM which is roughly 4.5 hours – roughly 250 miles (400km). There are usually 2-3 ferry crossings per day on this route and the motorways and main roads from Caen to Nantes are all toll-free. The overnight crossing is quite an adventure if you book a cabin together but beware as the cost for this is quite high during school holidays. Other ferry port options include St Malo which is 165 miles from PSJM (260km), Cherbourg 270 miles (430 km), Le Havre, 290 miles (470 km) and Calais which is the furthest away being roughly 425 miles (680km) away. 

Our preferred holiday journey is to travel by car via the Channel Tunnel to Calais rather than the ferry. Once you’ve made the 35-minute crossing (sitting in your car) it’s an 8-hour drive to PSJM with a couple of meal/comfort breaks at motorway services along the way.  This route also suits our son when he brings his dog to France as they can stay in the car together for the Channel crossing – unlike the ferry where pets must stay on the car deck.

From Calais and Le Havre there are several routes available for example via Rouen-Le Mans-Angers-Nantes (using the A28 and A11) or taking the western coast route Le Havre-Caen-Rennes-Nantes (using the A84). Each route differs slightly in distance and time – but also in cost as you need to factor in motorway tolls. We have found, for example, that going via the A11 reduces the journey time by 30-40 minutes but doubles the cost of the tolls.

Make the most of your trip to discover a little bit more of France

The big advantage when travelling from the various ferry ports (or via the Channel Tunnel)  to Pays de Saint Jean de Monts is the opportunity to stop off and visit other places on the way. There are too many to name them all but here’s a couple of suggestions for additional stops that we’ve tried over the years. If travelling via Le Mans and Angers, there’s the option of a short detour to visit one (or more!) of the famous Chateaux along the Loire or perhaps spend some time discovering Angers, Saumur or Tours.  

When coming from Calais, we cross the Pont de Normandie near Le Havre which offers spectacular views over the Seine estuary. If you’re brave enough, you can park up here and walk up and over the bridge! Coming from Cherbourg, Ouistreham or Le Havre offers the option to stop off in Caen where you can spend a day at the fantastic Memorial de Caen Museum or perhaps a tour of Arromanches and the D-Day Normandy beaches. There’s also the town of Bayeux with its famous tapestry telling the story of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings. This route to Pays de Saint Jean de Monts will also take you past the famous site of Mont Saint Michel and if you go a little further along the Brittany coast (or arrive at its ferry port) the walled city of St Malo is definitely worth a visit.

Whether you make your way direct from the ferry or your holiday includes stopping off for visits along the way, once you’ve arrived in Pays de Saint Jean de Monts, your wonderful Vendée holiday by the ocean can begin. 

Good to know during your stay in Pays de Saint Jean de Monts

You will see that in PSJM all parking is free of charge – but some areas operate Blue Parking Zones where you must display a blue disk with your time of arrival. You can easily prepare and organise your journey if you know where to park.

After the drive, if you wish to use public transport rather than your car, several services are available. The Littoral bus runs up and down the coast from Fromentine to Saint Gilles from mid-June to mid-September. It costs just 50 cents per journey and is a great way to get about and see the area. There’s roughly one bus an hour but the route doesn’t take you inland. St Jean de Monts has its own town bus service ‘bus urbain’ and in Notre Dame de Monts there is the local EOLE bus service. Other local buses are available if you wish to go further afield (for example No.512 and No.568) but you will need to check timetables for times and connections.

Travelling by train: the alternative for train lovers

If you want an alternative to planes and cars, you can make the journey by train. The Eurostar train brings you from London St.Pancras to Paris, then the metro from Gare du Nord to Paris Montparnasse where the trains leave for Nantes. From Nantes you can pick up the train/bus to Challans and on to Pays de Saint Jean de Monts. This is probably the most stress-free of the options available as you are able to watch the countryside fly by from the comfort of your seat – but make sure you check the connecting train and bus times.

Whichever way you choose to travel, it’s certainly well-worth the effort! Find out more about Pays de Saint Jean de Monts in Vendee, what you can see and do when you get here…

Or just take a quick look to this video!