Passage du Gois is a natural passage with a length of 4,3km (2.58-miles), located on the Atlantic coast of France in the Vendée department. This stretch of the D948 road is periodically flooded leading to the island of Noirmoutier in France. It is 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. Located on France’s Atlantic coast, the road floods twice daily with incoming tides and as the tides go out slippery seaweed is left all over it.
Passage du Gois (also known as Gôa) is located between Île de Noirmoutier and Beauvoir-sur-Mer, in the department of Vendée, and it’s one of the routes that connects the island to the mainland. The Passage du Gois is an extraordinary location in France and a national monument. The 4,150 meters long causeway is only accessible with the low tide and then only 1 ½ hour before the lowest tide and 1 ½ hour afterwards. The stone paved causeway was first used during the 16th century and is still used daily by tourists and locals. At high tide the road lies under 1.5 - 4 metres of water. It’s one of the periodically flooded roads around the world.
To drive on 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. 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).
A drive littered with seaweed in places
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 4.3 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. At high tide, this road lies under 1.30 meters to 4 meters of water. 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. The road gets flooded twice daily. 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.
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 featured several times on Tour de France race. This causeway is so unique, that you cannot encounter it anywhere else in the world. The 4,150 meters long causeway is only accessible with the low tide and then only 1 ½ hour before the lowest tide and 1 ½ hour afterwards. Passage du Gois is an extraordinary location in France and a national monument.
Pic: Christophe Terrier