At the end of the island is the
overlooking the sea and the village of Saint-Clément-des-Baleines. The lighthouse owes its name (“baleines” means “whales”) to the fact that whales beached there in the past.
Baleines Lighthouse – world’s end!
Your visit to Baleines Lighthouse could start with a visit to the Baleines Museum located in the former lighthouse keepers school at the foot of the old tower. Fom 1949 until it closed in 1970, the Ecole des Baleines provided training in electricity and mechanics for lighthouse keepers from mainland France, French colonies and overseas. There is a fascinating interpretation area which appeals to parents and children alike, featuring TV star, Jamy Gourmaud, talking about life on the lighthouse and the maritime history of the island from the 17th century to the present day.
Visiting Baleines Lighthouse
Now that you know more about the lighthouses and beacons of Charente’s sea channels, you can climb to the top of the famous 57-metre high Baleines Lighthouse. If you are afraid of heights, think twice before doing so! After climbing the 257 steps of this granite and limestone colossus, you will be on the highest point of the island. And you will be amply rewarded for your efforts, as the view of the island, ocean and coast is simply spectacular! On a clear day, you can see Ile d’Oléron, while at low tide you can see the fish locks typical of the island.
Back at ground level, you can then visit the “Vieille Tour des Baleines” a few metres away, which is a 3-storey 29-metre-high stone tower, built in 1682 at the express request of Colbert and under the watchful eye of Vauban, at the same time as the fortifications of Saint-Martin-de-Ré.
With its dungeon-like appearance and crenellated top, this first tower was used to divert ships from the dangerous rocks of Les Baleines, but also to reinforce the defence of the Rochefort Arsenal. Having become obsolete over time, the building was finally retired in 1854 with the construction of the new, much more modern lighthouse. It was classified as a historical monument in 1904.
It is impossible to talk about Baleines Lighthouse without mentioning Conche des Baleines beach, one of the island’s most beautiful beaches – wild and authentic! Situated just 100 metres from the campsite, this huge sandy beach bordered by the Lizay forest extends from the Baleines Lighthouse all the way to Les Portes-en-Ré. After visiting the lighthouse, how about relaxing on your beach towel or taking a refreshing dip in the water?