This legendary Vendée road is submerged half the time

Discover the mystery of the Passage du Gois, this island route rich in history which lives to the rhythm of the tides. A true link between the island of Noirmoutier and Vendée.

The Passage du Gois, this jewel of Vendée heritage, has fascinated travelers for centuries. Before the famous Noirmoutier Bridge was erected, it was the only path across the ocean to reach the island of Noirmoutier. From its first mentions in the 8th century to its consecration in the 18th century and its strategic roles throughout history, this sand and salt bridge has secrets to reveal.

Although roadways similar to the Passage du Gois exist in other places in the world, the unique character of the Passage du Gois lies in its exceptional length: 4.5 km.

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A historic crossing

Between tradition and legend, Gois has seen eras and courageous people pass by. THE archives mention the passage as early as 830, but it was in 1701 that it actually appeared on the first maritime maps. A popular anecdote tells that in 1766, Auguste Gauvrit was the pioneer of this journey on foot, although probably many Vendéens had already dared to do it before him.

The name “Gois” comes from the verb “goiser” which means to walk while wetting one’s hooves.

With time, the Gois adorned himself with beacons from 1780 to guide travelers. These modest landmarks paved the way for a more stable and reassuring roadway, but it was not until 1840 that the first horse-drawn vehicle dared to cross. Each stone placed pays homage to the pioneers of this legendary passage.

A modern odyssey

During the Second World War, Gois became a strategic point essential: it is the only land passage to Noirmoutier. But it was in 1971 that modernity definitively linked it to the continent by a bridge, initially equipped with a toll, quickly contested and then abandoned by the island community.

The curious who aspire to follow in the footsteps of the ancients must pay attention to the capricious tides. The crossing is dictated by the ballet of the waters: only two daily opportunities allow you to reach or leave Noirmoutier. The golden rule? The tidal coefficient, which determines the necessary passage time before and after low tide.

Shutterstock – Editor’s note PHOTONONSTOP

Crossing the Passage du Gois is a question of timing: low tide opens an ephemeral window not to be missed. Translate it tidal coefficient in minutes, and you hold the key to the time available to cross this passage. A coefficient of 70, for example, offers a safety margin of 70 precious minutes on either side of the lowest point of the tide.

Crossing the roadway is considered dangerous. Although tide times are precisely marked on each side of the causeway on large signs, the water comes in at incredible speed and many tourists get caught every year. High rescue towers are located all along the Passage du Gois for those caught between the tides.

In summary
  • Le Gois, a thousand-year-old passage between Noirmoutier and Vendée.
  • A rigorous calculation to make before embarking on your crossing, depending on the tides
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