Hiking in Brittany: L’île de Houat and L’île Hoëdic
Île de Houat and Île d’Hoëdic lie outside the Gulf of Morbihan, in the Bay of Biscay. They are a bit east of, but equidistant from, the tip of the Quiberon peninsula and the largest of the nearby islands, Belle-Île-en-Mer. Both Île de Houat and Île d’Hoëdic are inhabited, but their year-round populations only reach about 300 and 100 persons, respectively.
We set off once again from Port Blanc, in Baden, just 15 kilometers from Auray, on the Gulf of Morbihan. Izenah Croisières offers a ferry that allows you to visit either the island of Houat or the island of Hoëdic, or both in one day. There is plenty of free parking at Port Blanc, but if you do not have a car, there is bus service from Auray and from Vannes (which both have TGV stations).
Unfortunately, the Port Blanc ferry only runs once a week (for the 2012 season, it was on Thursdays) and only in July and August. This gives you an idea of how unspoiled these islands are. (Although there is also ferry service part of the year from Vannes, Locmariaquer, La Trinité-sur-Mer, Port-Navalo, La Turballe and Le Croisic.)
We decided to visit both islands, which left us with about 5 hours on Île de Houat and 2 hours on Île d’Hoëdic. In hindsight, this was perfect timing as it takes 3-4 hours to circumnavigate Île de Houat and about 2 hours to do the perimeter of Île d’Hoëdic (we cut off the far eastern end of the island).
When we arrived on Île de Houat, we were once again shocked that an island in the same region could have such a different feeling from the other islands we had visited.
Île de Houat is spectacular. The northwestern side is more lush, with high cliffs dropping down to pristine beaches only accessible by boat. The southern coast and eastern end are more rugged, facing the open ocean and the strong waves and wind that come with it.
Unfortunately, the town is not so interesting. Most of the buildings are from the mid-20th century and the ensemble gave off an eery vibe of an abandoned film set.
Île d’Hoëdic is the opposite. I did not find the landscape particularly interesting compared to that of its sister island: it is rather desolate, but without the lusher side or the high cliffs. However, the small town is older, charming, full of character and offers several small shops and restaurants. Visiting the two islands in one day makes for a perfect combination of impressive landscape and quaint living.