The Great Elephant and Marine Worlds Carousel at Les Machines de l'Île : Things to do in Nantes, France

The Great Elephant at Les Machines de l'Île in Nantes

"I didn't know that you wanted to go for a ride on the elephant," Stéphane said before consoling me with a spin on the carousel. Lest you think that I've become a petulant child in the past couple of weeks, let me explain that the elephant that I wanted to ride is as tall as a four-story building and carries 50 passengers at a time. The Great Elephant, as he's appropriately called, is one of the attractions at Les Machines de l'Îles. It's as if Leonardo da Vinci joined forces with Jules Verne, a native son of Nantes, to design a mechanical creature that sprays astonished onlookers with water from its trunk. Made out of American Tulipwood, the majestic animal sounds its trumpet as it carries passengers around the former shipyards.

The Marine Worlds Carousel on which Stéphane proposed we go for a ride is equally amazing. Winner of the 2014 THEA Awards Los Angeles for the most original attraction in the world, the carousel's three levels take you from the depths of the sea to the surface. A giant crab and reverse propulsion squid inhabit the sea bed while a Deep Sea Lanternfish, Manta Ray and Pirate Fish are suspended above the floor of the ocean. On the third floor, boats are tossed about by 24 mechanical waves as ship captains steer their vessels through thick fog. Stéphane and I almost spent New Year's Eve inside the belly of a colorful fish when the attendants didn't see that we were still locked inside. Fortunately, we caught their attention before they departed for the evening. Everyone had a good laugh about what would have been a unique way to welcome in the new year.

Located in the former shipbuilding warehouses of Nantes, Machines de l'Île is part of the Île de Nantes urban renewal project. Unlike enclosed theme parks, the site it open to visitors and conveniently close to the historic city center. Admission is charged for the rides and to visit the Machine Gallery, workshops that feature the entire creative process of the machines. The next ambitious project is a monumental tree that will have 22 branches on which people will be able to walk and ride mechanized insects, like caterpillars and giant ants.

Les Machines de l'Île
Parc des Chantiers
bd Léon Bureau
44200 Nantes

Where to sleep and eat in Nantes: The Radisson Blu Hotel and La Cigalle

Marine Worlds Carousel at Les Machines de l'Île in Nantes


  1. Great post! Nantes is a surprisingly interesting city to visit! I wrote about the Elephant a few months ago :)

    1. Thanks! We really enjoyed our recent trip to Nantes. The only downside is that we didn't have enough time to visit all of the places that we wanted to see. Thank you for including the link for your blog post about the Machines de l'Île. You took some great photos of the Heron Tree. It's quite an ambitious project!

  2. Incredible. So steampunk. I would love to see the elephant. It reminds me of that Norwegian man who builds self-locamoting creatures and releases them on the beach--have you seen those videos?



Post a Comment