“Au Passage du Gois” a sneaky road that will disappear twice a day! It can be in the list of the most special places to drive.
Where is Passage de Gois?
Passage du Gois is a road (a natural way before) that connects the continent (the city of Beauvoir sur Mer) with the island of Noirmoutier (Barbâtre village). The road crosses the Baie de Bourgneuf.
It is located in the Vendée department (Pays de la Loire region) in the central-western part of France.
The interesting aspect of this road is that it’s quite atypical. Indeed, it is flooded twice a day by the tide which makes it inaccessible.
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Why is this road so famous ?
Is the Passage du Gois dangerous?
Passage de Gois is actually a natural 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) long passage. It is covered by the tide twice a day and that makes the crossing deathly dangerous if you are not aware of the tide hours.
The road, depending on the coefficient of the tide, is flooded by 1,30 to 4 meters (4.2 ft to 13ft). That’s why to keep it safe you are allowed to drive on this passage only 1h30 before the low tide and 1h30 after.
As a matter of fact, in 2017, 37 cars were trapped by the tide and had to be rescued by local emergency services.
In fact, there is a stop sign that lights up when the tide starts to rise up. But too many people ignore the rules and got trapped by their own fault.
A natural passage that become a vital road:
Noirmoutier Island was not always connected with the mainland by road. Before this “passage” was discovered, the inhabitants of the island had to use boats. Although it is mentioned that some locals used to cross the bay by foot, it was quite a risky adventure.
The first mentioning of the Passage du Gois dates back to the 9th century.
The first time it was mentioned on a map in 1701 and in 1832 it was registered as an official road by local authorities.
During the 18th century, lamps were installed on each side of the passage in order to help people. Also, refuges were installed for trapped people to wait to tide to go away.
1840 was the year when a regular connection was established.
In the early 20th century the passage was crossed yearly by approximately 600 hundred horses, 600 hundreds cows, 100 automobiles and more than 12000 pedestrians.
When, in 1971 a bridge was built between the island and the continent, the passage became a touristic attraction.
Today, local authorities ask to join the UNESCO’s listing.
Other interesting things:
The Passage du Gois is a well-known spot for walk fishing. Fishermans recolt clams, cockles or oysters. But you have to know that walk fishing there is very dangerous when the fog comes out: you can lose all sense of orientation and can be trapped by the rising tide.
The road is also know by sports events:
- An association organizes a foot race, “les Foulées du Gois” every year since 1987. The race starts when the tide begins to flood the road, last participants arrive with water by knees.
- The famous cycling competition “Le Tour de France” crosses the Gois passage several times.
How to get to Passage du Gois?
To get to the famous road on the Sea from the mainland you have to drive to the Beauvoir sur Mer city. Then follow the “Noirmoutier par Passage du Gois” direction it is the D948 road.
If you are already in Noirmoutier, go to Barbâtre and take the D948 in direction of Beauvoir sur Mer.
A preview of what is waiting you:
Take a look at the following video to have a preview of the crossing:
Here is what you can expect if you don’t respect the rules. You will at least give a saltwater bath to your car:
Is the Passage du Gois open?
The road is open all year around. Just don’t forget that the road is covered twice a day by the sea.
Please be aware that the road is very slippery and there is often foggy weather. You have to respect the speed limit to avoid some unwanted situations.
Always look at the tide hours (in French here) before planning the cross of the bay.
Remember that parking on passage du Gois is strictly forbidden. Nonetheless, it is tolerated to park on the foreshore for walk fishing. But if you park there don’t wait the last minute because you risk losing your car with the tide.
You can also look at the road live with the official webcam: here.
Pictures source: Florian Pépellin – Patrick Despoix / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) / Steve Walesch
Discover other roads in France: click here or use our road trip map!