Best Beaches: Iles d’Hyères and Porquerolles, France
The Ile de Porquerolles, an idyllic island located off the French Riviera shore between Marseille and Cannes, is the exact opposite of what visitors expect from the glam and glitz of the towns on the mainland. Though this part of the Riviera is known for celebrity hot spots like Saint Tropez, Monaco and Cannes, the Ile de Porquerolles is instead a tiny, undeveloped and protected paradise.
The Ile de Porquerolles is part of a group of three islands called the Iles d’Hyères and also the largest, though still tiny in size (just a bit under 5 square miles). Also referred to as the Îles d’Or (or the golden islands), these little slices of peaceful beach are known for their golden sands.
The majority of land on Porquerolles was bought by the French government in the 1980’s as a measure to protect the island against overdevelopment, and it remains an untouched Mediterranean paradise – what one can imagine the nearby shoreside towns looked like once upon a time. Covered by lush, vivid green Mediterranean forest, the pine trees spill out to a pristine, turquoise slice of the sea. The best beaches are found in the north of the island, Plage de Notre-Dame and the Plage de la Courtade, and are often voted amongst the most beautiful in Europe.
The south of the island is more rugged and wild, lined by high cliffs and breathtaking views, but there are easily found dirt paths that lead down to secluded coves and grottoes perfect for swimming.
Porquerolles is the only one of the Iles d’Hyères with a town and a “center”, where you can find restaurants and shops, as well as places to rent a bicycle (it’s lovely to explore by bike!). It’s an easy ferry ride from land, from the town of Hyères, but during high season ferries access the islands from as far away as St. Tropez.
For those looking to “island hop”, the second biggest island, Île de Port-Cros, is a national park with fantastic snorkeling, though lacking the facilities of Porquerolles. There is also a vineyard located on Porquerolles, and they make excellent Côte d’Azur wines and also host tastings.
The Iles d’Hyères and Porquerolles are a great stop to escape the lights and sights of the famous French Riviera. Though we love what the mainland towns and cities have to offer, a short stop to the islands is a great way to recharge and unplug, and see the area as it was before the mega yachts and beach clubs. It’s a pristine, simple Mediterranean paradise a short ferry ride from one of the most luxurious areas of the world.