How about discovering the Côte d'Azur in a different way? Far from the crowded beaches and bustling seaside resorts, the Côte d'Azur is home to small islands worthy of the Caribbean. The Lérins Islands near Toulon and the Golden Islands off Hyères will give you a wilder image of the south-east!
The Golden Isles: Porquerolles, Port Cros and Ile du Levant
The Isles of Gold, also known as the Isles of Hyères, are one of the must-see spots in the Var. Let's start with the largest of the three islands. Off the coast of Hyères, Porquerolles is full of heavenly spots, starting with its beaches, which are well worth a visit. It can take 45 minutes to walk to them from the village, but they are well worth the effort. Crystal-clear waters, fine white sand, everything you need for a complete change of scenery. Visit Notre-Dame beach, voted "most beautiful beach in Europe" in 2015! Hiking, cycling and diving are the favourite activities of tourists. And for an exotic touch, head for the Emmanuel Lopez garden, home to tropical plant species from the 4 corners of the world.
Port-Cros is very popular with divers and hikers. Its wild and protected nature sets it apart from the other islands. A national park extending to a large part of Porquerolles was created in 1963. Smokers should be aware that it is forbidden to smoke on the island, except in restaurants. A mountainous island, its highest peak, Mont Vinaigre, rises to 194 m and offers breathtaking views over the turquoise waters. Its rocky landscapes, scrubland and deserted coves, accessible only by boat, are reminiscent of the wilds of Corsica.
The most bohemian of the Golden Isles! In the air of Le Levant floats a hint of freedom, carefreeness and reverie. Here you'll find artists' studios and yoga classes, colourful houses and tikis, Tahitian statuettes carved on coconut tree trunks. Calm and serenity are the order of the day on this car-free island. The island is best known for the small naturist village of Heliopolis, founded in 1932 by the Durville brothers. Whether in the streets of the village or on the beach, nudity is everywhere. The other part of the island is occupied by the Missile Test Centre, a rather surprising contrast!
The Lérins islands: Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat
Off the coast of Cannes, theLérins archipelago comprises theisland of Sainte-Marguerite, the largest, and Saint-Honorat, its smaller sister. Once you've dropped anchor at Sainte-Marguerite, you'll be enchanted by the scent of pine and eucalyptus trees. Its coastline is covered by 152 hectares of forest, home to a wide variety of animal and plant species: head for theEtang de Batéguier to observe almost 133 species of migratory birds.
Both wild and heavenly, this island is a real little corner of paradise, despite a tragic piece of history in which Le Masque de Fer, a famous prisoner during the reign of Louis XIV, spent 30 years of his life in the prison wing of the Fort Royal. This has now become a tourist attraction. Just a few fathoms away, France's first underwater museum has just opened. Don't forget your mask and snorkel!
With a surface area of 40 hectares, the island of Saint-Honorat is smaller than Sainte-Marguerite but just as charming. An important spiritual site, it is the ancestral home of the monks of the Abbaye de Lérins. Today, around twenty of them live here. You can visit the fortified monastery free of charge. Whether you take the pine-wooded paths leading down to the turquoise sea, or discover the island's lush greenery and vineyards, there's no doubt that your trip to Saint-Honorat will be one of positivity and calm.
📍 Location: the archipelago can be found here on Google Map.
⛴ Getting there:
- Îles d'Or: shuttle boats run between Hyères and the islands all year round.
⏳ Crossing time: 15 minutes to Porquerolles and 1 hour to Port-Cros andIle du Levant.
👛 Fare: approx. €20.00 return.
- Îles de Lérins: by shuttle boat from Cannes.
Duration of crossing: approximately 15 minutes.
👛 Fare: approx. €15.00.