Sea trip to the Frioul islands and the Château d'If

Looking out over the horizon from Marseille, you can't miss the four limestone islands that stand out against the Mediterranean: these are the Frioul Islands. If, Pomègues, Ratonneau and Tiboulen enjoy an arid climate, making them home to a rare and sometimes endemic flora that is particularly popular with hikers. People also come here for its creeks, with their clear waters spared from the crowds. It's also a favourite nesting place for gulls, which can become violent if they feel their nests are in danger, so keep an eye out! On the Ile d'If, the famous Château d'If, a former prison made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo, faces the town. The only way to get to the Frioul islands is by sea, so take a short cruise in the bay of Marseille. The island of Château d'If and the Frioul islands are part of the Calanques National Park.

View of the Frioul islands and the Château d'If from Marseille.

- © Ariena / Shutterstock
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The history of the islands of Frioul and the Château d'If

The Frioul islands have been occupied since Neolithic times, but by the 17th century they had become one of the largest sanitary complexes in the Mediterranean. Located right at the entrance to the port of Marseille, the crews of ships likely to be carriers of contagious diseases - such as the plague or cholera - were quarantined there to protect the inhabitants of the city.

Frioul and Château d'If, with Marseille in the background.

- © Zyankarlo / Shutterstock

Because of their ideal location, the Frioul islands were also central to the city's military strategy. As early as the 16th century, a fort crowned the island of Ratonneau, then it was the turn of the island of If to be fortified before Louis XIV extended these military constructions to the entire archipelago. The last military building on the Frioul islands was erected in 1902. Many military and sanitary remains can still be found on the Frioul islands.

Why visit the Frioul islands and the Château d'If?

Situated six kilometres off the coast of Marseille, the Frioul islands offer a change of scenery and a great way to get away from it all, just a few minutes away by boat. Maritime shuttles drop travellers off on the island of Ratonneau, which is linked to the island of Pomègues by a footbridge. Covering almost 200 hectares, the Frioul archipelago is criss-crossed by hiking trails offering breathtaking views of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea.

The coastline of Ratonneau Island in the Frioul archipelago.

- © Francesco Bonino / Shutterstock

The islands are inhabited, so you can also stroll around the picturesque port of Frioul and have lunch facing the sea in one of the archipelago's fifteen restaurants. Finally, as the Frioul islands are only accessible by boat, the small coves and beaches are spared from mass tourism, making them perhaps the most pleasant coves in the National Park!

The famous Château d'If in the Frioul archipelago.

- © Gurgen Bakhshetyan / Shutterstock

The If island is more of an islet than an island in the strict sense of the word. This isolated and unique landscape is the pride of the Frioul archipelago. If is best known for its majestic castle, built on the orders of King François I at the beginning of the 16th century to deter maritime attacks on Marseille. It worked so well that it was never attacked! A few years after its construction, the Château d'If became a prison from which, it was said, there was no escape. The fortress owes its fame toAlexandre Dumas' famous novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.

Our favourite accommodation on the Frioul islands

Flat le friouli in Friuli Marseille
Booking.com

Flat le friouli in Friuli

This charming two-bedroom flat on Ratonneau Island sleeps up to 6 people.
9 Fabulous
From
£155 / night
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Practical information on the Frioul islands and the Château d'If

For their history and unique natural setting, the Frioul islands and the Château d'If are well worth a visit on your next trip to Marseille! Allow at least a full afternoon to tour the archipelago.

📍 How do I get to the islands of Frioul and the Château d'If?

The Frioul Islands can only be reached by sea, either by your own boat or thanks to the maritime shuttles operated by the metropolis that leave from the Vieux-Port. If you don't have your own boat, you can of course hire one, with or without a licence.

A boat in the waters of Frioul.

- © JeanLucIchard / Shutterstock

⏰ Timetable for the maritime shuttle and the Château d'If

The maritime shuttle to the Frioul islands crosses the islands every day of the year. It operates from 8.30am to 7.30pm in April and May, from 8.30am to 10pm in June and September and from 7.30am to 10pm in July and August. Between October and March, the shuttle runs from 8.30am to 5pm. Detailed timetables are available on the official website.

The Château d'If is open every day from 10.30am to 6pm from 1 April to 25 September. The rest of the year, it is open from 10.30am to 5.15pm and is closed on Mondays. The Château d'If is also closed in the event of bad weather.

👛 Prices for the maritime shuttle and the Château d'If

Shuttle fares :

  • Single shuttle journey: €5.70
  • Return journey for one island: €11.10
  • Return ticket for two islands: €16.70

To book your ticket and find out all the fares, go directly to the official website for the maritime shuttle to the Frioul islands.

Château d'If fares :

  • Full price for the château d'If: €6
  • Under 18s: free
  • Under-26s from EU countries: free

To book your ticket and find out all the prices, go directly to the official website of the National Monuments.

A few tips for your visit

  • An application for visiting the Château d'If is available free of charge on IOS and Android.
  • Swimming is prohibited on the island of If.
  • During the summer season, the maritime shuttles fill up very quickly. We advise you to go to the pier when it opens or to book your ticket online.
  • Unfortunately, the site is not accessible to PRMs.
by Val HANCOCK
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