A relatively unknown island to foreigners, Porquerolles is located off the coast of Hyères in the south of France. It is the largest and most westerly of the three islands that make up what is known as the Iles d'Hyères, which also include Port-Cros and the Ile du Levant. Enjoying over 300 days of sunshine per year, the island enjoys a varied landscape despite its size (just under five square miles). Much of the island was bought by the state several decades ago in order to protect it from being developed which means that it has remained quaint and relatively untouched. Despite being a popular tourist destination, especially for locals, there are still areas of the island that remain fairly quiet. Easy to access, great weather and stunning scenery, Porquerolles is a must-see if you're journeying through the south France.
Much of what there is to do on the island of Porquerolles is out in the open. The fact that there are no cars allowed on the island makes for an ideal location for all sorts of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and sun bathing. There are miles and miles of easily negotiable walking paths all over the island, through the forests and up the coast from where you can see the magnificent calanques in the south. Equally, there are plenty of cycle paths across the island which you can cover with your own bike or one rented on the island. Along the north coast you have the best beaches with beautiful clear water and lots of space on the good quality sand. The finest beach and the least crowded is Notre Dame which is about an hour's walk from the ferry terminal hence the lack of sun worshipers. If you prefer to be under or on the water then you can have a go at diving or sailing, both of which can be arranged on the island.
Although small, the island has its fair share of sites to discover. Perhaps the most popular attraction is the lighthouse, one of the earliest edifices to be built on the island back in 1837, from whose top you can see all over the island. Right at the top of the island is the Fort St. Agathe from where there are equally impressive views as well as an exhibition about the site. There is another smaller fort to see, that of the Grand Langoustier while the Moulin du Bonheur is also worth a look as is the church. Then of course is the actual village of Porquerolles which won't take long to wander through but which is quaint enough and is where you can grab a bite to eat and look in some of the shops. The Jardin du Conservatoire Botanique is an open air garden with a collection of fruit trees and information on the island's biodiversity.
Getting to Porquerolles is a simple affair. A ferry service leaves from La Tour Fondue at the end of the Giens peninsula close to the town of Hyères. The shuttle operates all year round and takes 15 minutes to reach the island. This is a passenger only ferry and does not take vehicles. The cost of a return trip is 15.70?. If you are in the area around July then think about coinciding your trip with the annual jazz festival.
Although there is a mix of restaurants to choose from on the island, some are more expensive than others, unjustifiably so. The best way to avoid any nasty surprises is to bring a picnic or get recommendations. There are supermarkets on the island but these are hugely expensive so stock up before you arrive on the island.
Porquerolles does not have a culture or cuisine of its own, however it does have vineyards which produce highly regarded wine. This is probably the one thing that you should try before you leave the island, along of course with fresh seafood and other typically French dishes.
As mentioned above, the island does not have its own culture or specific speciality, aside from its wine. Anything you can find on the island you can find elsewhere in the region. So, aside from bringing back a case of its reputed wine, there is nothing of note that you should consider purchasing, apart from perhaps some locally produced jams or the like.