While exploring the Gulf of Morbihan, one is struck by the beauty of its changing light which magnifies the landscapes, almost making you forget that navigation can be particularly perilous in the "small sea" (Mor Bihan, in Breton).
Here, at each tide, nearly 400 million m3 of water pass through the Gulf Gate, the mare current being the second strongest in Europe.
Among the forty islands identified, more than three quarters are private, which does not prevent them from being bypassed by boat. As for the larger ones, they each have their own character,Arz, the wild, the very popular Monks Island, Via Ilur, very natural. You can also go around the Gulf by car (or by bike!), To enjoy other points of view on the islands and the incessant ballet of boats.
From July, Vannes will be only 2h29 by TGV from Paris… There will no longer be any reason to resist the Gulf's appeal!
New! Le Routard has just published a guide entirely devoted to the Gulf of Morbihan.
The Gulf of Morbihan by sail
The best way to explore the Gulf of Morbihan is undoubtedly to embark on a traditional sailboat.
Among them, the Fal Ben, a replica of a former marker from the end of the 19th century, which, with its shallow draft, can dock anywhere. Its captain, Nicolas Bourdy, generously shares his love of navigation and the Gulf, which he knows like the back of his hand, with his day-long sailors, who are invited to participate in the maneuver. As for the destination of the ride, it depends on the times of the tides, wind and currents.
Another great way to combine the pleasure of sea trips and the discovery of the local maritime heritage is to embark on a sinagot, the traditional Gulf fishing boat, originally from the small port of Séné, near Vannes.
To do this, all you need to do is join the Friends of Sinagot association, a band of enthusiasts dedicated to the preservation of these boats with beautiful brick red sails and black hulls.
From April to the end of October, the three boats belonging to the association sail in the Gulf: the Mab Er Guip, the Joli Vent, built for yachting, and Les Trois Frères, restored and listed as a historic monument.
On the day of the trip to sea, the appointment is given in the morning at Port-Anna. By crossing off the small Boëdic Island, the crew never forgets to “greet the monk”, a rock sculpted and painted in white, while drinking a small glass of white and reciting a very un-Catholic prayer. The tone of the day is set, under the sign of conviviality.
Ile aux Moines, the pearl of the Gulf of Morbihan
Ile aux Moines, the largest in the Gulf, may be only 5 minutes by boat from the continent, this short trip is enough to disorient us.
As soon as you land, you are struck by the ambient softness, which you appreciate while strolling through the flowery alleys of the village. On the village square, it is good to have a coffee on the terrace, in the sun. This is where a small market is held (Wednesday mornings out of season, and every day in July-August).
Several signposted routes on the ground allow you to discover the island, on foot or by bike. There is no risk of getting lost, especially since you almost always keep an eye on the sea. It is never more than 500 meters away, due to the very elongated shape of the island.
By following the red course, from town to Brouël point, we follow the coast, crossing the Sainte-Anne chapel, property of the neighboring castle of Guéric, but also fountains and stone wells surrounded by greenery.
Le blue course, him, crosses the island of the village to the south. On the way, we discover lush vegetation, traditional thatched-roof thatched cottages, and a number of megalithic monuments, starting with the Kergonan cromlech : an exceptional set of 24 menhirs arranged in a semi-circle.
One of the standing stones has been nicknamed "the monk". It is, in fact, the only one who has ever taken up residence here, those of the Abbey of Redon, who once owned the island, never having settled there.
Finally, to the south, do not miss the Penhap dolmen, and the panoramic view of the Rhuys peninsula from the point of Nioul.
As to yellow circuit, it will lead you north to the Pointe du Trec'h, via the white Saint-Michel church. Do not hesitate to stop by Martin, passionate oyster farmers who have worked for three generations, to taste a dozen oysters (succulent!) Or leave with a basket.
Arz, the wild island
Its motto, “Stand up and hold on! ", And its name, often translated as" the island of the bear "(Enez Arh), summarizes well the character of the small Isle of Arz (324 ha). Less lush and rougher than its neighbor, Île aux Moines, it is attractive for its wild and authentic side, even if tourism has developed well in summer in recent years.
To fully enjoy the island and soak up its atmosphere, the ideal is to spend at least the whole day there. As soon as you land, at the northern tip, you can rent a bike or lace up your hiking boots to walk its marked trails, all easy to access, the island being flat (the highest point does not exceed 13 meters in altitude).
Le coastal path which goes around the island offers a succession of peaceful coves, ponds, sandy beaches, mud flats, small pine woods and ancient salt marshes, on the Bilihervé peninsula.
Northwest, go see the Berno's tide mill, placed between the pond and the sea, which was restored in the 1990s by an association led by Jean Bulot. Former captain of the ocean-going tug Abeille Flandre, this native of Arz is one of the many sailors who have earned the island its other nickname: "the island of captains".
The maritime tradition is perpetuated in the four sailing schools that have established themselves here, including that of Glénans, installed along the large beach of Kéroland.
Finally, do not miss going to nibble or drink a very cold draft cider in the pretty little town, whose houses nestle in the center of the island.
More info: https://mairie-iledarz.fr/Iledarz2/index.php/les-circuits-pedestres
Nature stopover in Ilur
Arriving on ilur island, south of Arz, we almost think we are Robinsons. Here, no regular shuttles, no hold, no landing stage. It is with your feet in the water that you land on its shore, after having anchored in one of the bays. A good way to limit tourist visits to this protected site.
Formerly private, like most of the Gulf Islands, Ilur was purchased in 2008 by the Conservatoire du Littoral, which entrusted its management to the Gulf of Morbihan Natural Park.
The guardian of the island, Vincent Chapuis, watches over this paradise of around forty hectares with a unique ecosystem, welcoming the public in fine weather. To clear the meadows, he is helped by a herd of rustic local breed sheep, which live in freedom. You will be able to cross them during your walk, also discovering landscapes alternating groves, woods, marshes and sandy beaches.
In the small hamlet, undergoing restoration, you can imagine what was the daily life of the inhabitants who lived here at the beginning of the last century, in total autarky. An autarky which is brought up to date, the island is now self-sufficient in water and electricity (thanks to a well and a photovoltaic plant).
And don't miss going to see the pretty little one Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes. Every summer, a pardon dedicated to sailors is organized there, bringing together nearly 200 people. A great moment in Ilur's life!
Back to the Neolithic era in Gavrinis
Departing from Larmor-Baden, it only takes a quarter of an hour to reach by speedboat Gavrinis Island, usually translated as "island of the goat", and step back in time.
After an introduction to the history of the place, the guide takes you to the cairn, an impressive dry stone monument, housing a dolmen, built nearly 6 years ago, before the Egyptian pyramids!
In single file, we slip inside the long paved gallery leading to a burial chamber, and we admire the 23 slabs adorned with enigmatic engraved figures, which archaeologists struggle to interpret.
The rest of the island being private, we are then invited to return to the boat, to continue the visit on the water, this time, on the side of the tiny islet of Er Lannic, where you cannot dock (it is an ornithological reserve). We walk around it, the time to observe its double enclosure of standing stones: 49 menhirs, 33 of which are entirely covered at high tide. Note that all visits do not include the Er Lannic tour.
Change of atmosphere on the neighboring island of Gavrinis, the green Berder, accessible only at low tide. Allow about an hour to go around it (2,6 km) and discover Mediterranean-type vegetation, enjoying a breathtaking view of the passage of the mare and its formidable current.
Be careful to check the tide times. It would be a shame to find yourself stranded on the island!
More informations :
- Transit times for Berder Island
Around the Gulf of Morbihan, land side
To go around the Gulf by land and stop wherever you want, the ideal is to be motorized, or, if you have good calves, to get on a bike.
De Port-Navalo, at the end of the Rhuys peninsula, there is a spectacular view of the narrow gully that marks the entrance to the Gulf. From the top of the coastal path, we never tire of watching the ballet of boats of all kinds, sailing in the strong currents and eddies that shake the waves at this place.
Gulf side, on the Rhuys peninsula, succeed the sandy coves, small marinas (Kerners, Le Logeo) and oyster beds. Megalith lovers are sure to stop by Arzon, to admire the tumulus of Tumiac and the cairn of Petit-Mont.
Going north, you can do some shopping at the Saint-Armel cider house, which also offers guided tours, then come and see the old tide mill of Hezo and, why not, take a look at Tascon Island, accessible on foot at low tide, off the Lasné salt marshes.
For an iodized aperitif, go to the Conleau point, to taste some langoustines accompanied by a glass of white wine, watching the boats at anchor. And, in fine weather, dining on the terrace by the water in Arradon is a must.
To conclude the tour of the Gulf in Locmariaquer, you have to make a detour - very pleasant - by Auray. The opportunity to stop in the pretty port of Saint-Goustan, along the Auray river. Finally, arrived at Locmariaquer, there are other important megalithic sites, including the Merchant Table. The circle is complete !
Find practical information, tips and the best addresses in the Routard Golfe du Morbihan in bookstores.
Consult our Brittany online guide
Morbihan Departmental Tourism Committee
Brittany Regional Tourism Committee
How to get there ?
- By car: from Paris, allow around 4h30 by road to reach Vannes.
- By train: from July, the LGV will put Vannes just 2h29 from Paris.
- By plane: Lorient, Nantes and Rennes airports served by Hop Air France.
Getting to the islands
Several shipping companies provide shuttles between the islands, some offering cruises in the Gulf, with or without stopovers.
- Isle of Arz: from Vannes (30 min), Sené or Conleau. Return ticket: € 10,20 (adult), € 5,60 (child) with the Gulf Water Bus. www.ile-arz.fr
- Île aux Moines: 5-minute crossing, departing from Port-Blanc (Baden), with Izenah Croisières. Return ticket: € 5 (adult), € 2,70 (child).
- Island of Ilur: no regular shuttle. To get there, you must either have your own boat, or call on a service provider who organizes sea trips in the Gulf. In summer, the regional natural park offers paid outings on Sundays, including the crossing and the guided tour.
- Gavrinis Island: the ideal is to leave from the hold of Pen-Lannic, in Larmor-Baden. Crossing + guided tour (18 € / adult, 22 € with the bypass of Er Lannic).
Visits are also organized from Port-Navalo, with Passeur des Îles (crossing + visit: 24 € / adult).
Navigate the Gulf on a traditional sailboat
- Belle Plaisance : Nicolas Bourdy organizes various sea trips aboard his small traditional sailboat, the Fal Ben: day (€ 50), half-day (€ 29), sunset aperitif formulas (€ 29) or oysters and muscadet (€ 15) ). We highly recommend! And if you know how to navigate, Nicolas can also rent you a cheetah, a traditional Gulf dish.
- Friends of Sinagot : to spend a day on a sinagot in the company of the friendly members of the association, all you have to do is join the association (adults: 35 € / children 7-14 years: 15 €) and set an exit date.
Every 2 years in May, the Gulf Week is held, a major maritime festival bringing together traditional and classic boats. In 2017, it will take place from 22 to 28 may.
Rent a bike on the Ile d'Arz and Ile aux Moines
You can rent a bike next to the landing stage, on Île aux Moines as well as on Île d'Arz. Count 12 € per day (20 € for 2 days), with Véloc'Ouest.
Where to eat, where to sleep on Île aux Moines?
- The Way of the Islands : in the heart of the village, Françoise Mugnier welcomes you to her charming guest house, surrounded by a very zen garden. A real haven of peace. Double from € 125 per night, breakfast. included. Well-being area (massages, aesthetic and energy treatments). Table d'hôtes (with organic products) on reservation.
- Hotel San Francisco: a charming hotel, housed in a beautiful 19th century building with breathtaking views of the Gulf. The restaurant serves delicious seafood, using products from the island. Superb terrace. Open from April to October. Room from 100 €. Lunch menu at € 22, lobster menu at € 50.
Where to taste oysters?
- At the Martin establishment, on Île aux Moines (Beg Moussir). The oysters are raised and refined on the island. Tasting: € 12 per dozen oysters, served with a glass of white wine, bread, butter and lemon.