Discover Passage du Gois: France's Enchanting Tide-Covered Road to Noirmoutier Island
Located on France’s Atlantic coast, Passage du Gois is a natural passage leading to the island of Noirmoutier, flooded twice a day by the high tide. Pack an inflatable boat for driving this 4.3km road because just say for some crazy reason you mix up the tide times, then – like vehicles in the past – you might disappear beneath the salty brine.
How long is Passage du Gois?
Tucked away in the Vendée department, in the administrative region of the Pays de la Loire, Passage du Gois (also known as Gôa), is a stretch of the D948 road. It links the island of Noirmoutier and the main land at Beauvoir-sur-Mer. It’s 4.125 kilometres (2.6 mi) long. It’s one of the routes that connects the island to the mainland. The road floods twice daily with incoming tides and as the tides go out slippery seaweed is left all over it. At high tide, this road lies under 1.30 meters to 4 meters of water. It’s one of the periodically flooded roads around the world.
When to pass the Passage du Gois?
This is a remarkable road trip. Remember to bring your camera. The causeway is an extraordinary location in France and a national monument. It is only accessible with the low tide and then only 1 ½ hour before the lowest tide and 1 ½ hour afterwards. To drive this road ask about the tide times. In all cases, follow the advice given on the panels installed at both ends of the passage, which will tell you if the road is passable or not. So you better be dead-on accurate when you look up tide times. As if that isn’t bad enough, you have to dodge slippery seaweed after the floods subside. It is prohibited by law but tolerated, however, to dwell on the foreshore. It is also strictly forbidden to park on the pavement. To avoid skidding on this slippery road, drive more slowly, to avoid having to brake suddenly when needed. In general, operate the vehicle controls slowly. In case of dense fog, turn on your headlights and your fog lights front and rear (if available). For the rest of the day it is not possible to cross the Passage du Gois, because it is flooded, however you can still visit Noirmoutier via the bridge from Fromentine.
When was the Passage du Gois built?
This uneven stone paved causeway was first used during the XVI century as the Baie de Bourgneuf gradually silted up. Today the causeway attracts thousands of visitors a year to watch the twice daily uncovering of the 4.1 kilometres of road as it miraculously appears from the sea during the ebbing tide. Trucks and buses can drive only in one direction, from the mainland to the island. Covered by the sea twice a day, this paved road is littered with seaweed in places and can be particularly slippery. And a thick fog can rise quickly in this part of the Vendée zone. When this paved sandbar that’s flooded twice a day at high tide isn’t submerged, this narrow causeway—flanked by fishing boats and littered with errant clumps of seaweed—is a slippery stretch indeed and especially treacherous on two wheels. This road has been featured on Tour de France race.
Pic: Christophe Terrier