Get on your bike: let’s go to the Phare des Baleines (the lighthouse).After the square around which there are shops and good restaurants, here you are at its foot, quite impressive, isn’t it? And indeed, it is 57 metres high and watches over the coastline. Built in 1849 to replace the old lighthouse built by Vauban in 1682 (standing a few metres away and turned into a museum), the Phare des Baleines is one of the jewels of the île de Ré.
Take a deep breath and climb the 257 steps of its spiral stairs: what lays before your eyes is spectacular! Admire the full view of the ocean, the île d’Oléron and the splendid curve of the plage de la Conche! This beach which stretches up to the Portes-en-Ré, it is the largest of the island and most certainly one of the prettiest of the island. Fine white sand, turquoise waters: it is just ideal for farniente, nautical sports and swimming!
Film buff news: Some scenes of the film “The longest day” were shot on this beach.
Further on the ocean, you can see the phare des Baleineaux bravely resisting the onslaught of the ocean.
At low tide you can also observe one of the rare fishing locks still standing and in activity. L’écluse de la Moufette is made of stone and has the shape of a horseshoe. Submerged by the sea at high tide, the walls retain the fish which are trapped when the tide goes down. The fishing locks are part of the heritage of the island and the Adepir society, committed to restore them.
Come back down on earth and get on your bicycles again: a few pedal strokes and there you are in the heart of the village of Saint-Clément-des-Baleines. This former lobster fishermen village has kept its traditional and quiet aspect of the seaside villages with its narrow and flowered alleyways and its low houses. It comprises 5 hamlets (la Tricherie, Le Griveau, le Godinand, Le Chabot, Le Gillieux) and its inhabitants are named villagers. Take the time to walk through the small streets and savour some fresh produce from the market, on the village square next to the church.
By the way, do you know why all these places are all called « des Baleines » (of the whales)? It refers to the numerous cetacean strandings on its beaches until the beginning of the XXth century