10 Reasons to Visit Pornic

The jewel of Loire-Atlantique’s Jade Coast, Pornic is known for its quaint old fishing port, medieval castle and windswept Atlantic waters that shimmer turquoise in the sunlight. Just an hour from Nantes by train or car, the seaside city is an idyllic urban escape where you’ll find outdoor adventures, craft boutiques and the city’s closest beaches. Here are our top ten reasons to visit Pornic.

If you want to learn more about Pornic’s past, take a guided tour © Mélanie Chaigneau

1. Stroll around the old port

With its colorful jumble of fishing boats, palm-lined quay and fairytale medieval castle, Pornic is the kind of town where you’ll have to reach for your camera every few steps. Stroll along the old fishing port at high tide for the most unforgettable views, or come in the evening to watch the sun set over the water. Cafes and restaurants line the quay and offer great views from their terraces, but when the sun is shining this is the traditional stop for an afternoon goûter the port side is La Fraiseraie. Expect long lines for their homemade ice creams and sorbets – the eponymous strawberry sorbet is a local favourite.

Château de Pornic is also known as “Château de Barbe Bleue” (Bluebeard’s Castle) © Mélanie Chaigneau

2. Visit the medieval castle

A tour of the harbor is not complete without a visit to Pornic Castle, perched on a rocky outcrop at the mouth of the harbour. Originally built in the 10th century and once owned by Joan of Arc’s malicious companion in arms, Gilles de Rais, the fairytale castle was extensively remodeled and renovated in the 19th century and is now a listed building. Follow the promenade around the castle for views across the harbor, or head into the castle gardens for a close-up look at the turrets, towers and ramparts. Castle tours can be booked at the tourist office.

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Enjoy breathtaking views at Pointe St-Gildas © Stéphane Grossin

3. Relax on the beaches

Golden sands and crashing waves await along Pornic’s Atlantic coast, and you don’t have to venture far to find a beach. More than 10km of coastline and at least a dozen beaches flank the town of Pornic, from the wild Plage de l’Etang to the popular Plage de la Source. Beach lovers can also choose from 12 Blue Flag beaches scattered along the Jade Coast. Perhaps enjoy watersports at the Grand Plage in Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef, go rock-pooling along the beaches of La Plaine Sur Mer, or swim in the Plan d’eau at La Bernerie-en-Retz.

Relax with a walk by the sea © Patrick Gérard

4. Admire the views on a coastal walk

Pornic’s coastal walks hug the sea cliffs and offer opportunities for a short coastal stroll or an epic coastal hike. Admire the traditional wooden pêcheries (fishermen’s huts on stilts) as you follow winding paths to cliff-top lookouts, then descend into sandy coves to paddle the waves. Are you looking for a challenge? There are around 45 kilometers of coastal footpaths to explore both north and south of Pornic. Look out for landmarks such as the ‘Portmain Tree’ on a cliff top near Pornic, the blue-painted fisherman’s hut at Plage de la Tharon, and ‘La Roche Percée’, a natural arch off the coast of Préfailles.

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Before breakfast, take a relaxing stroll and enjoy the scenery © Mélanie Chaigneau

5. Cycle the Vélodyssée

If you prefer to explore on two wheels, Pornic is also on the famous Vélodyssée cycle route. Also known as the Atlantic Coast Route or EuroVelo 1, it is the longest European cycle route passing through France, stretching more than 1200km between Roscoff in Brittany and Hendaye along the Basque coast. Hire a bike and explore the scenic stretches from Pornic to Saint Brévin (25.7km) or Les Moutiers en Retz (15.7km) for a taster.

6. Take a tour of the medieval city

A guided walking tour of Pornic reveals a number of surprises, from the cobbled streets and medieval buildings of the historic center to the 1930s coastal villas that line the seafront and even a red telephone box imported from Britain (yes, really!). In summer you can also hop on the Petit Train and travel through Pornic, passing the castle, harbor and promenade.

Why not visit the Curé Nantais factory? © Patrick Gerhard

7. Discover local artisans and regional cuisine

Take an afternoon to stroll through Pornic’s maze of cobblestone streets and browse the assortment of small independent boutiques and craft shops selling everything from clothing and homeware to one-of-a-kind handmade souvenirs. Foodies will want to visit Pornic’s two fresh produce markets — the Marché de la Birochère (Wednesday and Saturday mornings) and the Marché de Pornic (Thursday and Sunday mornings) — where you can pick up some Curé Nantais cheese. Cheese lovers can also arrange a visit to the Curé Nantais factory, where the local cheese has been made since 1985.

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Try kayaking © Mélanie Chaigneau

8. Get on the water

Experience Pornic’s maritime heritage for yourself on a guided cruise aboard a traditional sailboat, yacht or funnel, or rent a boat, kayak or stand-up paddleboard to explore the coast at your own pace. In July and August you can even take the Maritime Link ferry to Île de Noirmoutier. For a bigger dose of adrenaline, visit the sailing clubs of Bernerie en Retz, Préfailles or St Michel Chef Chef to try your hand at windsurfing, sand yachting and jet skiing. Pornic is also a hugely popular spot for fishing, whether you’re joining the locals to fish off the rocks, hunt for clams and other shellfish along the shore, or hire a pêcherie for the day.

miam! © Patrick Gerhard

9. Explore the Jade Coast

Pornic is the gateway to the beautiful beaches and traditional towns of the Jade Coast, so take the time to hop off and explore. Highlights include Saint-Brévin-les-Pins with its striking Sea Serpent sculpture; St. Michel Chef Chef, home of the famous St. Michel biscuits (try them at the St. Michel Café); the lively fishing port of Les Moutiers-en-Retz; and the bird-rich wetlands and salt marshes of the Breton Marshes.

Explore the Safari Park © Stéphae Le Ludec

10. Go on safari!

Pornic might not be the first destination that springs to mind when thinking of ‘safari’, but the Planète Sauvage safari park is among the best of its kind in France. Bring your own vehicle or take a tour in a safari jeep and follow the 10km safari trail past elephants, giraffes and zebras, then disembark to meet the big cats, monkeys and other animals to take a closer look at the pedestrian zone. Book a night at a safari camp or lodge for the ultimate adventure.

For bookings and information, please contact the Pornic Tourist Office: https://en.pornic.com

Lead Photo Credit: There is a lot to experience in Pornic © Stéphane Grossin

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