Stretching over almost 15 mi between Marseille and Martigues, the Blue Coast mixes, in one colourful triptych, the intense shades of the blue of the sea, the green of the pine forests and the white of the limestone rocks.
The site, which is the largest in the 'conservatoire du Littoral' (Coastal Conservatory) in continental France, is comprised of around 6 mi of entirely preserved nature. It is known as a Provençal Venice.
Its landscape is punctuated with charming enclosed coves which open out to the sea, such as Carro, Carry-le-Rouet, Sausset-les-Pins, la Redonne or Niolon. The limestone massif, interspersed with 'calanques', small valleys and plateaux covered in 'garrigue' scrubland, is home to two kinds of plant habitats. The first is essentially the 'leopard skin' look of the scrubland which is mainly found on the east coastline of the massif. The second is scrubland covered in rosemary and kermes oaks and small but permanent plants including dense and prickly species like gorse and cistuses. Holm oaks, olive trees, almond trees, fig trees and Aleppo pines grow over the whole area.
This quite arid vegetation does not support much variety in terms of animal life. Due to the unsuitable nature of the soil and the climate, very few animals are able to find enough food to live on. Therefore, birds of prey like Bonelli's eagles, long-eared owls, peregrine falcons and kestrels rule the roost. The many little beaches dotted along the Blue Coast make it well worth a visit. The most noteworthy are the vast and fine sandy beach of Caro; the popular beach of Sainte-Croix; the series of little coves and rocks of Sausset and the beach of Rousset with its pines and rocks.
There is something for archaeology enthusiasts too, as there are lots of archaeological sites along the coast, for example the shelters at Méjean and Châteauneuf, Saint Michel Chapel, the Roman quarries of la Couronne and the 'oppidum des Nègres'.
The Blue Coast provides shelter for a number of little harbours between Marseille and the Golfe de Fos.© Rrrainbow / iStock
The Blue Coast is dotted with many coves in rocky limestone inlets, and although they are not easily accessible, they are well worth the effort.© Florian Pépellin
The name 'the blue coast' is in reference to the turquoise-blue colour of the water around the massif.© Rrrainbow / iStock
The Blue Coast of Marseille is quickly becoming less and less of a secret!© GRAPHICOBSESSION