After spending the first three years of our worldschooling, slow-travel lifestyle in South East Asia, France was our first stop in Europe! We were excited to land a three-month house-sit in a gorgeous home in rural Poitou-Charentes, while the house owners were in Australia. That three months turned into seven months due to the COVID pandemic situation. During our seven months in the area, we still got to enjoy plenty of what the region has to offer. Based on our time there with our two young girls, here are our top recommendations of things to do in Poitou Charentes.
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- General reflections from a traveler in the Poitou Charentes region of France
- Things to do in Poitou-Charentes | Civray and Gencay area
- Things to do in Poitou Charentes | Poitiers Area
- Things to do in Poitou Charentes | Other lovely towns
- Other places to visit in the Poitou-Charentes region
General reflections from a traveler in the Poitou Charentes region of France
We had a very special time with the girls in Poitou Charentes. We were lucky to be living right next to the woods and in amongst many fields. Watching the seasons change was absolutely glorious, with the abundance of plants and wildlife. Some of our favorite experiences in rural France were very simple. We enjoyed picking wild berries from the roadside (they were almost everywhere we walked) and spotting wild deer running through the fields.
There were times when we didn’t seem to have caught on to how rural we were living. By default, we often head out on a Sunday as a family to explore and perhaps chill at a cafe. However, we kept forgetting that everything closes in these parts on a Sunday afternoon.
Even big supermarkets (in the city) are closed by midday on Sunday. It used to be more like that in New Zealand when I was growing up. After a while, we began to realize that the best place for Sunday afternoon coffee and cake was at home. Otherwise, we could prepare early and take our own out with us!
I like the fact that things are not open all the time though. And since we have complete flexibility with our work we can go for coffee and cake on other days.
Things to do in Poitou-Charentes | Civray and Gencay area
Civray and Gencay were the closest main towns to where we were staying. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Poitou Charentes that are in or near Civray and Gencay.
1. Civray Park
Civray park has a lovely green space with a field, playground, stream, and some small riverside trails. Some people were fishing in the stream, and there’s also a camping area beside the park.
2. Oda Aquatic Center
Oda Aquatic center is located in Civray town. There’s an outdoor pool and grass area and an indoor pool with a lazy river section and toddler splash area. There are also lots of floatation aids that you can use if you want.
A few things that caught us by surprise at the pool:
1. The outdoor pool was lovely and warm in summer but was well over everyone’s heads so we realized we couldn’t swim with Romy in there.
2. Apparently board shorts are “not allowed” at swimming pools in France. Lol. They let Colin off with a warning the first time!
3. Instead of selling junk food in their vending machine they sell things like goggles and swimwear. So we managed to get Colin sorted with appropriate swim attire the second time around;-)
4. There is just one changing room, which is for both men and women. There are signs around saying that nudity is not permitted, but they do have cubicles available for changing
5. We found the indoor pool a bit cold… But were probably still used to SouthEast Asia temperatures!
Entry is 5 Euros per adult and 3 Euros per kid. Under 3’s are free.
3. Le Cormenier
Le Cormenier is located near the town of Civray. It’s a neat little museum that walks you through life with a family in the region during the end of the 19th century. The story is narrated in French by a scarecrow. They also offer an English translation on paper that you can carry into each room.
The second part of the museum is an interactive area set in the 30 years after the 2nd World War when lots of advances were made in technology. You can get a haircut, open fridges and car doors, talk on the telephone, and try to fit all your luggage in the back of the car before the timer is up. Colin managed it ⏲️😜.
We really enjoyed visiting the museum and would highly recommend it as one of the interesting, fun, and educational things to do in Poitou Charentes.
4. Gencay Park
One Sunday we went to Gencay. When we arrived we realized it was that day of the week when nothing is open. We decided to stay out and look around anyway. We had been keen to check out the outdoor swimming pools we’d seen on Google.
I have chased things on Google many times before only to discover the listing hasn’t been updated and well… such was the case here too. We’re not sure whether the pools opened later in the summer or not.
What we did find in Gencay was this nice park area to play in (and enjoy the rain)! It’s just behind where the outdoor pools are meant to be. There’s a track and fitness circuit around the water and it’s a lovely place to enjoy the great outdoors.
5. Summer river swimming
If you’re wondering what to do in Poitou-Charentes during the summer, swim in one of the many lovely rivers there! Ok, so you can probably do this in winter as well if you’re super keen!
Rural France has some gorgeous rivers with beautifully clean water on offer. According to some, the water is good enough to drink!
Romy’s first-ever river swim was in the nearby village of Charroux. It’s an easy place to stay awhile. There is plenty of shade, ledges to jump off, picnic tables, and a little play area. However, we were busy playing in the river so for once the play area didn’t get a look in!
If you’re in the Poitou-Charentes region of France and want to visit the river, you can access the picnic area across from Sarl Gargouil on Google maps (the apple juice factory).
6. Saint Martin l’Ars
Saint-Martin-l’Ars was basically in our neighborhood when you compare things on a rural scale. There’s a fab man-made beach and lake that’s very kid-friendly, and free to use. This was where Romy had her first-ever lake swim!
There’s a walking track around the lake and a fun play area too. They also have an onsite restaurant. It was Sunday afternoon when we went there. As is the case with pretty much everywhere here on Sunday afternoon, it was closed.
If you’re in the area, we highly recommend the Saint Martin l’Ars park and lake as one of our favorite things to do in Poitou Charentes.
Things to do in Poitou Charentes | Poitiers Area
7. Vivonne Park
Vivonne is a nice little town just South of Poitiers in the Poitou Charentes region of France. We enjoyed hanging out at the green space and playground there, alongside the cute river setting complete with lots of ducks and ducklings🦆.
Colin was happy to find a designated area to show us some football skills, and there’s a canoe and kayak club there too. We are presuming that you can hire a canoe or kayak there, although it wasn’t open when we visited.
One of the things I love most about this region in France is the abundance of fruit trees, and especially the wild bramble berries.
Right in the middle of this park was a very abundant apple tree… So you can forage in the comfort of your local park! We went to the local bakery for some lunch afterward. We sat outside and noticed there was an apple tree right next to us there too 🍎.
There’s also a water jump park in Vivonne that we would have loved to have tried out. It was closed while we were there, however, and still appears to be closed.
8. Parc de Saint Cyr
Parc de Saint Cyr just North of Poitiers offers a fab summers’ day out for the family. There’s also the option to stay a little longer if desired, with the on-site campground. It’s definitely one of our most favorite recommended things to do in Poitou Charentes.
The entry fee was only 7 Euros for the whole family and we enjoyed the lovely man-made beach and clear waters, which were full of fish.
Colin and Ayla super-enjoyed the big inflatable water playground. They both said it was the most fun thing they’d ever played on in the water. I’m thinking I should get amongst it next time! There’s a fee of 8 or 9 Euros per person per hour depending on the time of day. Or you can purchase two hours or an all-afternoon pass.
There is also something they call a “toboggan” ride, which is a small collection of waterslides. It’s 4 Euros for 12 descents. We skipped those since they didn’t quite compare to ones we’ve recently been on in South East Asia. The Waterpark playground is only for kids aged 6 and up, so the slides would be a great option for kids from about 3-5 years with their parents.
There’s an on-site restaurant and a pretty neat playground too. You can also rent pedal boats and kayaks and the lake is huge, with a track around the perimeter that’s perfect for off-road bikes or walking. With plenty of shaded spots, it’s easy to spend the whole afternoon or longer there.
DéfiPlanet is a self-described “different and interesting” theme park. And it’s definitely a unique place to add to your itinerary of things to do in Poitou Charentes!
Located about 25 minutes drive South of Poitiers, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained here. Colin caught up on some work in the snack bar while the girls and I discovered the main theme park.
The main theme park is 14 Euros for adults, 8 Euros for kids, and under 3’s are free. They say it will take about 3.5-4 hours to get around. It was more like 5 hours for us, but we like to cruise!
First, you head through a little museum and then into the farm animal section of the park. It’s spread over quite a big area so there’s a fair bit of walking.
You can discover lots of different local animals and learn a bit of history. The girls loved being able to hang out with the goats. There’s a rope climb to get in with them, and a rope climb /slide out for bigger kids.
There are even a few random International sections where you can find out about cattle ranches in Hungary, and go inside a Mongolian yurt!
When you pay for your ticket you get a swipe card that you set up with either English or French. You then use it at certain spots in the park to learn more /be entertained.
The magical forest trail
The second part of the theme park takes you to a magical forest trail where you can ride a flying horse, climb a giant spider web, go inside a leprechaun’s house, watch an entertaining show, find a spellbook inside a treasure chest, and more.
Once you’ve finished the forest trail you’ll head back down the path. Here you will be able to see the very unique types of accommodation you can stay in at the park. These include a castle and structures made in the shapes of various types of animals 🏰🐶.
There’s more to do than the theme park alone. The adventure park (20Euro/14 Euro) has ziplines and more. You can also ride horses, play mini golf, and try archery. We also saw families riding around on family sized bikes.
We had a great day at Defi Planet and highly recommend it as one of the best things to do in Poitou Charentes.
10. Poitiers city
Poitiers was the closest major city to where we were house-sitting. We love the center with a big square, outdoor dining, and of course, plenty of delicious Poitou Charentes food options to try out. The Notre Dame Roman Catholic church is also very beautiful.
If you’re after things to do in Poitiers,Poitou-Charentes with kids, try out Looky Land.
11. Looky Land
The girls loved having a play in Looky Land, an indoor playground in Poitiers. It kept them entertained for a few hours. No doubt they would have played all day if they could have!
Looky Land is located in the Shopping area south of Poitiers so you can get your groceries done or visit a restaurant while you’re there. It’s not visible from the road but is instead located in a warehouse-type place down behind some other shops. Just follow the Google maps location and you should find it!
The main area has plenty of slides and climbing areas, and even some little cars to drive! There’s also a ball pit and slide area for the little ones, and a dance room 🕺. As well, mum and dad can grab a coffee while the kids play☕.
Futuroscope is a unique theme park located on the north side of Poitiers. It’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Poitou-Charentes.
It has a lovely layout and has been well thought out. There are many touches that set it apart from other theme parks we have visited.
There are beautifully landscaped green areas where you can chill out on a giant bean bag or hammock. Therefore, you can take a break whenever you want to.
In true French style, you can get amazing real food at one of the restaurants, so you’re not limited to choosing between the “junk food” options that you’d find in many theme parks. I had an amazing vegan burger and Colin had fish with pasta. You can also take in your own snacks or picnic lunch.
We arrived not long after the 10am opening to aim to make the most of the time we had there. We wouldn’t necessarily advise doing so though. Things didn’t really seem to be running at that time, even though the park was open.
You can get an interactive map to download to your phone, which we probably should have done to save all the time we spent wandering around! We probably would have done well to plan around the opening times of attractions and shows. However, at the time we thought we’d prefer to wing it and see what we came across.
Reality rides, playgrounds, and more!
There are lots of virtual reality-type rides in theatres, and fantastic playgrounds for the kids. There is also a really cool “DIY” type ride area in Futuropolis where you strap yourself in and operate the buttons yourself!
Ayla enjoyed driving her own car and figuring out how to operate a mini digger. You can also jump on trampolines or fly down giant indoor slides on mats that will help you go super fast. We went on a hot day so the girls also loved the water play area. There is also a show each night at 9 pm. However, we called it a day about 8 pm when everything else closed up.
We’d recommend this theme park if you want to try something that’s a bit different. Like many of the theme parks we’ve visited, it was extremely quiet. We visited on a Thursday during the first week back at school so that may have had something to do with it.
13. Ice skating
The ice skating rink in Poitiers (Patinoire de Poitiers on Google maps) makes for a fun morning out. On a Saturday morning from 10 am till 12 pm you can pay 4 Euros and get skate hire for an adult and child, with skates included. Ride on seals and the little ice carts (not sure what they’re called, but they are helpful for those who are learning) are also included.
This was Ayla’s third try after going a couple of times while we were in Malaysia. She will be over taking me in no time!
Things to do in Poitou Charentes | Other lovely towns
Angoulême has got to be one of the best towns in Poitou Charentes. It’s quaint, full of character, and just gorgeous in general. We loved the pedestrianized cobblestone streets in the old part of the town. There is a wide array of alfresco dining options in this area, which we absolutely love too.
It was 37 degrees when we visited so the girls also decided to go for a complete immersion in the town’s fountain 🤣.
Angoulême is sort of built in two layers. We headed to the old town in the upper layer, which had a lovely old Chateau and picturesque views of the town below. If you visit just remember that everything closes for a few hours mid-afternoon (as you now know the case with most places here!)
One of the things I love about French towns and cities is how the central area maintains its lovely old buildings.
Malls and chain stores can be found on the outskirts. The old town retains its charm with its cobblestoned streets, little alleyways, local artisan stores, outdoor dining, and pedestrianized areas.
Limoges is a lovely city with a beautiful old town. We started by meeting some new world schooling friends at the children’s playground on the side of the botanical gardens in the city center. From there we wandered past the gorgeous cathedral and took a look inside. Then we walked along the pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets to enjoy an extended lunch.
Montmorillon is a picturesque town in the Poitou-Charentes region of France.
I’m not sure of how much there is to “do” there. However, it’s beautiful to wander around the old town, which is perched on a wee hill. You can get a lovely view over the river and also enjoy lunch on the riverfront.
Had we been there just to see the town we would have visited the macaron museum, because it sounds yummy and interesting!
However, we were there for a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…to catch a glimpse of the Tour de France as they whizzed through!
Other places to visit in the Poitou-Charentes region
There are so many fun and interesting things to do in Poitou Charentes, France. We have simply shared some of our favorites, based on what we did during our time there. Some of the places we didn’t get to go to in this region but would have liked to are summarized below:
17. Check out La Rochelle, a gorgeous seaside town. The old town and old port are full of character and beauty. It was on our “must-do” list of things to do in Poitou Charentes. However, it was two hours drive from the house sit we were doing, so we didn’t get there this time
18. Visit the town of Cognac and try a bit of the brandy the region is so famous for! This was a place we had planned to meet another worldschooling family. However, they ended up canceling the plans the night before we were due to meet. Next time!
19. Visit the Marais Poitevin Regional National Park. It’s located west of Niort, north of La Rochelle, and south of Fontenay-le-comte
20. La Vallee des Singes is located close to where we were staying in the countryside. We don’t usually visit animal-based attractions, but would have liked to visit this one. They are committed to animal protection, and the park has 450 monkeys that roam freely.
Are you planning a visit to the Poitou Charentes region of France? Do you have anything to add to our list of things to do in Poitou Charentes? Please feel free to join the conversation, and leave a comment below!
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