The Port des Salines Nature Centre was established on the exact location of the old salt marshes, still active in the production of salt until the 50’s. Salt production, an important regional economic activity for the island of Oléron given that a quarter of the area is marshland, teetered during the 20th century until it disappeared completely in the mid-eighties. The idea of creating the Port des Salines was conceived in 1989, with the purpose of wanting to restore this threatened environment and make it the focus of new economic activity on the island: salt production. The local council of Le-Grand-Village-Plage, in collaboration with the Regional Council of Charente-Maritime agreed to back this project. Salt production began once again in 1995 with its first tonnes of ‘white gold’.
Now, the Port des Salines, jewel of nature, granted the status of Nature Centre by the Departement of Charente-Maritime, opens its doors to unveil the history of Oléron salt production and the multi-faceted know-how of the salt farmers.
will guid you from hut to hut through the amazing world of salt and saltmarshes. In the first hut, where information on the exhibition is translated into English and German, we are given an explanation of how the marshes are maintained and their history, salt farmers tools and a film about the marshes through the seasons. The other huts house themed exhibits designed to be enjoyed by all ages:
“Sel à vie!”
here we learn why the saltmarshes are home to a very specific biodiversity. In fact, this marshy scenery forms a patchwork of different habitats depending on the water levels and salinity of each pool, with plant life particularly favourable to different species. Halophilic (salt-tolerant) plants such as Salicornia attract iconic waders such as the little egret. Overall, on the 12 hectares of the site, of which 7 are under water, 173 species of flora and 209 different animal species have been recorded at Port des Salines. By maintaining the natural equilibrium of this environment, the salt farmer contributes to the evolution of all these life forms. You are invited to discover that this is indeed the ‘salt of the earth’!
« Univer’sel – a mineral of many uses »
here we find up-to-date information regarding the economy of salt production. In the past, it was used primarily to preserve foodstuffs, today it has somme 1,000 different uses: as a water softener, winter sustainability … the Univer’sel exhibition shows us that there is more than a grain of salt to daily life!
“Bons baisers d’Oléron” (From Oléron with love)
here you are invited to explore the salt landscape in picture postcard form. Post cards add up to an extraordinary visual archive of salt farming, varied and exquisite. Interwoven into the various technical developments of the Post card, so we see the art of the salt farmer flourish and grow.
All the exhibitions provide learning modules particularly tailored for children. A host of facilities have been designed specifically for ease of access around the eco-museum (adapted signposts, stability and condition of pathways, sensory nature of exhibits allowing us to touch, taste and hear them, many interactive tools, welcome tablet specially adjusted for easy access from a wheelchair …). There is also an eco-museum gift shop where you can purchase a range of specialised goods, post cards, children’s games and locally produced goods…
The guided commentary of the salt marsh
this allows you to discover in real terms how salt marshes operate, to observe the time-old process of salt farming and taste this white gold so vital to our lives. For groups of 10 or more, visits conducted in English can be organised with advance warning. A summary of the visit is available in English, German and Spanish at the reception desk and allows you to discover the outdoor part of the site independently.
– For those wishing to hire a rowing boat for the day, this offers a splendid way of exploring the salt marsh landscape, its rich and varied flora and fauna. The tour is a loop of around 1.7 kilometers which normaly takes around 45 minutes.
– During school holidays, events are organised for family activities: learning workshops for children aged 4 to 12, a treasure hunt, “Meet the salt farmer” where you learn how to harvest salt…
Also on site: a free roaming pathway, accessible to all, the salt shop at La Salorge, producers and craftpersons huts, the producers market every Wednesday, the Relais des Salines and La Langrotte restaurants.