Tatihou Island: what to do in this little paradise?

A Vauban tower, a museum, gardens, bird watching: all our suggestions for exploring Tatihou Island
Photo, © Best Jobers

Just opposite Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, Tatihou Island is an unspoilt paradise full of surprises. Secluded and wild, this gem of a place has a rich past and some unique scenery. In the distance, the Vauban tower watches over visitors and invites you on a journey back in time. With its maritime history, bird reserve, themed gardens and music festival, Tatihou Island has plenty to offer. Prepare to dock there, either on foot or on board the curious amphibious boat! Here are our suggestions for activities during your trip to Tatihou.

The Vauban tower:

a UNESCO World Heritage site

An unmissable part of Tatihou’s heritage is the Vauban tower that looks out over the sea and the surrounding area. Right at the end of the island, this stone guardian stands proudly facing its twin in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. These two marvels of military architecture have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2008. They once played a strategic role in defending the harbour against attack from the sea.

Photo, © Best Jobers

On Tatihou Island, the Vauban tower is surrounded by a fortified farm with barracks and a chapel. Explore the heart of this monument and the heritage of the work by the engineer Vauban. Inside, there’s an exhibition telling you more about the maritime past of the island. Climb the steps to admire the view from the top of the tower, including the Fort de l’Ilet, built to store munitions. Accessible at low tide, the fort can’t be visited, but it’s a great place to spot different birds.

Come, eat, sleep in Tatihou

The Traversées Tatihou festival:

dance to the rhythm of the tides

Every year in August, the Traversées Tatihou festival takes over the island and surrounding area. An unmissable summer event, this festival has a varied programme that spotlights world music. From Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, head over to Tatihou at low tide, walking in time with the beat. Enjoy a vibrant atmosphere in a natural setting with stunning views and great music. During the festival, the sea leads the dance: the concerts are timed according to the tides, making this a truly unique cultural experience!

Tatihou’s gardens:

unique biodiversity in the middle of the sea

In the centre of the island, Tatihou’s three themed gardens are sheltered by the old lazaretto. Protected by stone walls and lulled by the sea, many different plant species grow happily here. Stroll through the gardens, enjoy the salty sea air and let yourself be transported by the magic of these carefully tended natural spaces.

The maritime garden, the botanical garden and the acclimatisation garden: choose where you want to start your exploration. Step-by-step, you’ll discover different worlds, with wild flowers, exotic trees, succulent rockeries and stretches of heather. In just a few hectares, Tatihou Island takes you on a journey around the world.

There are information panels along the paths of the island telling you all about this unique environment. If you want to find out more about Tatihou’s gardens, you can join a botanical guided tour.

Must-see gardens in la Manche

  • Photo
    Photo, © Xavier Lachenaud
  • Photo
    Photo, © Xavier Lachenaud
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    Photo, © David Daguier - CD50

The maritime museum:

Uncovering the secrets of Tatihou

Discover the naval history of Tatihou

Once you’ve seen the Vauban tower, head to the Tatihou maritime museum. Situated inside the old lazaretto, this museum will take you to explore the history of the island through its unique archaeological collections. The different artefacts will tell you more about the lives of mariners at the time, the construction of ships and the strategic role of Tatihou Island in the naval battles. Journey back in time as you look at the remains of the wrecks of the royal fleet sunk during the Battle of La Hougue in 1692.

Photo, © Xavier Lachenaud

The natural history gallery: dive into island life

The Tatihou maritime museum also explains the formation of the island and presents its flora and fauna. Walk through the displays on coastal life and into the natural history gallery. In this former boathouse, which has a unique charm, you’ll find models, multimedia displays and animal specimens. Follow the fun interactive trail through the heart of the natural habitats of Tatihou Island.

The Sainte Thérèse Souvenez-Vous hangar and the boathouse

Not far from the Tatihou maritime museum, you’ll find an interesting hangar, which houses the Sainte-Thérèse-Souvenez-Vous. This longline fishing boat from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue was built in 1948 and you can admire its impressive wooden frame. The boat’s former workshop is now a museum dedicated to its construction and its history, but also to the traditional practice of longline fishing.

Continue your visit outside the hangar

Behind the maritime museum is a real treasure: the museum’s collection of boats. This big hangar houses around 30 fishing boats of different kinds, telling the story of the fishing and sailing activities along the coasts of the Manche.

The island bird reserve:

a birdwatching paradise

On Tatihou Island, the birds rule the roost! Three hectares of this little island paradise have been recognised as a bird reserve since 1990. As you walk around, you’ll share the place with 150 different bird species that live their lives here according to the seasons.

From April to July, take the time to observe the nesting birds around you. Keep an eye out for the chicks hidden in the wild grasses on the way to the Vauban tower. As you stroll through the maritime gardens, you might see some young gulls with grey feathers resting in the leaves. The birds here are protected, and should not be approached. Stay at a distance and enjoy watching them in their natural habitat, all around you. In the low season, other species settle in to enjoy the peace and quiet of Tatihou Island; including Canada geese and razorbills. Grab your binoculars and head to the observation platform at the top of the Vauban tower to discover this wildlife.

The Saint-Marcouf islands:

a surprising archipelago on the east coast

Just a few kilometres from Tatihou and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, a mysterious archipelago can be seen out to sea. The Saint-Marcouf Islands are made up of two surprising islets that are forbidden to the public. On Ile de Terre, there’s a bird reserve that covers several hectares and is home to gulls and cormorants. The bigger island, Ile du Large, is an important historical site, with an impressive military fort dating back to Napoleonic times. The fort is currently being restored during the summer months by the association Les Amis de l’Ile du Large Saint-Marcouf and its passionate volunteers.

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