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Porquerolles : Secrets of an Island Paradise

Within a short cruising distance from Toulon or St Tropez, Île de Porquerolles is the largest island off the French Riviera coast and the most accessible of the trio of islands – the other two are Île de Port Cros and Île du Levant – that make up the Îles d’Hyères.

Porquerolles island was settled by monks in the 5th century, who seemed to have a penchant for island fortifications as they also colonised the Lérins Islands near Cannes. In the 12th century, the Saracens took the island before Francis I overtook them and built Fort Sainte Agathe to protect Porquerolles from further piracy attacks.

If you’re looking for an unspoilt island paradise, Bespoke Yacht Charter recommend including Porquerolles island on your French Riviera yacht charter itinerary.

Village Houses in Porquerolles

Why visit Porquerolles Island

Today, day trippers flock to this car-free island to enjoy beautiful scenery of stunning coves, coastal cliffs, island wineries and sprawling pine and eucalyptus forests.

The beaches of Porquerolles island are among the best in France including Plage d’Argent, Plage de la Courtade and Plage Notre Dame. Plage Notre Dame claimed the top spot over some sublime beaches in Spain, Greece, Croatia and Turkey to be crowned the best beach in Europe in 2015 by European Best Destinations, a Belgian-based organization that promotes culture and tourism to over 150 European destinations.

Popular Porquerolles island activities include hiring cycles, diving and hiking – we recommend stocking up on artisan bread at La Boulangerie de l’Île at the main village square Place des Armes then heading off on the 90-minute round trip walk to the Phare du Cap d’Arme lighthouse south of Porquerolles village, or for a shorter hike head to the Fort Sainte Agathe and the Moulin de Bonheur (Windmill of Happiness).

These hikes have lots of opportunities to stop for an impromptu picnic with stunning views over the Mediterranean, fig plantations, vineyards or olive groves though visitors are not permitted to enter the interiors of the lighthouse, Fort or Moulin.

Port on the island of Porquerolles

How to get to Porquerolles Island

The nearest airport to Porquerolles island is Hyères-Toulon Airport, situated on the mainland 3 kilometres southeast of Hyères and 19 kilometres east of Toulon.

Public transport in the region is surprisingly limited – there is a coastal bus service on the mainland but no trains, and traffic crawls along the Mediterranean beach resort roads during peak season.

Ferries to Porquerolles island depart in summer months from La Tour Fondue, Bandol, Le Lavandou, Cavalaire, Toulon and La Londe, but the best way to experience Porquerolles island is on a yacht charter.

The benefit of visiting Porquerolles island by private yacht is you are not bound by the ferry schedules and restrictions (there is a limit to daily visitor numbers arriving on the ferries due to the island being a protected environment), and you have quicker access to the island’s magnificent beaches – some such as Plage Notre Dame are 45 minutes’ walk from Porquerolles village.

Five places to discover nearby

Here are Bespoke Yacht Charter’s recommendations for five places to visit near the island of Porquerolles:

1. Île de Port-Cros

The smallest island of the Îles d’Hyères group, the entire island was designated a national park in 1963.

Immerse yourself in adventurous walking trails with vertiginous clifftop views among maquis scrub and oak forests. Bespoke Yacht Charter recommend the Vallon de la Solitude walk, however as island facilities are sparse ensure you carry plenty of water.

There is good snorkelling at Plage de la Palud, which can be reached by strolling along the pleasant (though steep and rocky in places) Sentier des Plantes trail overgrown with fragrant lavender and island herbs.

www.portcrosparcnational.fr

2. Hyères

A popular resort town, Hyères exudes sophistication from a bygone era with boulevards bordered by date palms and the bustling Casino des Palmiers.

Hyères was awarded the ‘Station Voile’ that symbolises excellent water sports, but top attractions also include Villa Noailles (that once hosted parties for Picasso and Man Ray and now functions as a contemporary art space), lovely parks including Jardins Olbius-Riquier and Parc St-Bernard and the Site Archéologique d’Olbia, a small archaeological area west of Hyères that bears remnants of a Greek trading post with ruins of Roman baths, homes and an abbey.

www.hyeres-tourisme.com

3. Cap Bénat

Underdeveloped and unspoilt, Cap Bénat juts out from the mainland begging to be explored beyond its fame as the site of Fort de Brégançon, the former summer retreat for French presidents until 2013.

Visit the Château de Brégançon, a 17th century vineyard estate open 7 days with medal-winning Rosé Cuvées, then venture west to claim your spot on the sandy beach at Plage de l’Estagnol. The beach restaurant there, Restaurant L’Estagnol, is a superb choice for dinner and you can savour specialities such as wood-fired fish and langoustines as you enjoy views across the pine-fringed bay.

www.chateau-de-bregancon.fr/en/

www.restaurant-lestagnol.fr/

4. Bormes-les-Mimosas

A picturesque hillside village christened due to the yellow-flowering mimosa that was introduced from Mexico in the 1960’s, Bormes-les-Mimosas offers visitors a satisfying escape from the coast.

Wander the cobblestone streets with bubbling fountains and flowerboxes of bougainvillea, oleander and hydrangeas, then climb to the medieval castle ruins (not open to the public) for views reaching to the sea.

www.bormeslesmimosas.com

5. Cassis

It’s easy to see why Cassis was a favourite subject of painters such as Matisse and Signac – a pretty fishing town set on a rugged coastline dotted with limestone calanques (fjord-like rocky coves).

Drop anchor at En Vau, our pick of the best of the calanques, then head to a portside restaurant for a seafood lunch where you can pair your meal with the local Cassis or Bandol wine as you admire the view across to the 14th century castle that was restored by the famous Michelin family.

www.ot-cassis.com

Cassis, France - boats in harbour

This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in France and beyond.

To discuss chartering a yacht to the island of Porquerolles and other French Riviera yacht charter destinations, please contact:

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