10 Islands to Explore Provence and the Côte d’Azur
As is the case in the rest of France, in Provence and along the Mediterranean coast, you don’t need to go far for the landscape to change dramatically. There are mountains, vineyards, orchards, gorges, lakes and sometimes crowds. So, if you feel like you need to get away without going far, then why not head to one of these islands off the coastline for a quick break?
This article highlights islands in Provence that are popular for day trips and short getaways.
When it’s hot in the city, catch a ferry for the short ride to the Îles de Frioul archipelago with four (4) islands. Ferries run from the Vieux Port regularly during the summer months. You can easily spend a day hiking the trails or lounging on the beaches of Ratonneau. Do not miss visiting If, the smallest island with the fortress-prison Château d’If (home of the fictional character Count of Monte Cristo).
Ferries for the island board at the Old Port – Quai de la Fraternité – at the bottom of the Cannebière). The four (4) islands are Pomègue, Ratonneau, Tiboulen, and If.
Please note the price of the boat crossing does not include access to Château d’If. The Centre des Monuments Nationaux manages the venue with tickets to visit the castle and island purchased onsite.
Minutes from La Ciotat
There’s only one island in Provence’s Bouches-du-Rhone with trees, and that’s L’île Verte, off the coast of La Ciotat. It’s just a 10-minute hop by navette from the Vieux Port of La Ciotat to this tiny island, only 430x260m in size.
Once there, you can enjoy the little beaches or follow the two (2) kilometre marked path around the island. Fort Saint-Pierre stands at the summit of the island – 49m! When we visited, we did two circuits and enjoyed a picnic at one of the calanques. Learn about Lynne’s trip to L’île Verte.
Shuttle Information L’île Verte
The ferry (navette) leaves from 12 Quai Général de Gaulle in La Ciotat
Telephone: +33 (0)6 63 59 16 35
The service is seasonal, beginning in April through October, departing from La Ciotat hourly starting at 10 am and returning at 15 minutes past the hour.
Aside from beaches, picnics and short walks, diving and fishing possibilities are also.
Close to Hyères
Minutes away from the shoreline, three tiny islands are far from the glitz and glamour of places like Saint-Tropez. They are also known as les Îles d’Or (Golden Islands), located just off the coast of Hyères. Porquerolles is the largest of the three islands in the Îles d’Hyères Archipelago. In addition, Port Cros is a national park, and Île du Levant is a military installation and a nudist colony.
A 10-minute ferry ride from the port of Hyères, Porquerolles, is only 7 km (4.3 miles) long and 3 km (1.9 miles) wide. Porquerolles attracts day-trippers from Hyères and vacationers looking for an escape from the crowds and hoping to experience the more “native” side of the Cote d’Azur. Since 1820, there has been a small village on the island and a lighthouse dating from 1837. Francois Fournier purchased the island in 1912 and planted 200 hectares of vineyards. These vines were some of the first wines classified as Côtes de Provence.
For art lovers, Porquerolles is home to the Fondation Carmignac, which was established as a corporate foundation in 2000. Today there are now over 300 artists’ works in the collection. In addition, the Foundation provides an annual photojournalism award, valued at 50,000 Euros, to the successful applicant.
Things to Do
Rent a bike (or take your own) on Porquerolles. You can cover most of the island on two wheels.
Hike the many trails.
Head to a secluded beach.
Visit Fondation Carmignac (make sure to book your tickets in advance)
Enjoy a variety of watersports, including stand up paddleboarding.
Quick from Cannes
Only a 15-minute ferry ride from Cannes, the two Lérins islands, Saint Honorat and Saint-Marguerite, are popular with folks who want to spend the day by the Mediterranean. L’île Saint Honorat is home to the 19th-century Abbaye de Lérins, a religious refuge for 16 centuries. Its separation from the mainland afforded the monks from the Cistercian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception a place for reflection. Moreover, L’île Saint Honorat’s enviable position near the coast with moderate breezes allows the monks to live a chaste life surviving off the kitchen garden, local seafood and eight (8) hectares of grapevines. Today there are still about 21 monks who call the island home and are most likely relieved when the Cote d’Azur hordes leave at the end of the day. But then again, it was not always peaceful on the island – read more about the history here.
Ferry shuttles to Saint Honorat run seven (7) days a week starting at 8 am from Cannes.
Book your return tickets online here.
The Écomusée sous-marin de Cannes is another reason to visit the Lérins islands, and this project is the first of its kind in France. Six (6) oversized sculptures by artist Jason deCaires Taylor are submerged in an area for swimmers and scuba divers south of l’île Sainte-Marguerite. The city of Cannes invited DeCaires Taylor to develop the Écomusée sous-marin de Cannes, and he created these giant two-metre faces resting on the seafloor. His inspiration was the Cannes Film Festival, the city’s 7th art (murals), and the mysterious prisoner – the Man in the Iron Mask – imprisoned for over a decade (1687-1698) l’île Sainte-Marguerite, the underwater park’s theme surfaced. Read more about this underwater museum.