The highlight of my holiday in the Côte d’Azur was my day trip to the island Porquerolles – in French: Île de Porquerolles. I found it so beautiful and peaceful that I literally teared up while I was there. The unspoilt island is boasting with deserted coves, and white sandy beaches with the clearest water you have ever seen. It is like a little piece of Paradise on earth. But that’s not all. Île de Porquerolles is besides a tropical beach destination also a haven for nature lovers, bikers and hikers. As cars are prohibited on the island it is the ultimate escape to enjoy the fragrant pine woods, eucalyptus trees and stretches of family-run vineyards on foot or by bike.
Île de Porquerolles is part of the three Golden islands – Îles d’Or – or more commonly called Îles d’Hyères. Together with Port Cros, and Île du Levant it is situated just of the shore of the Côte d’Azur between Saint Tropez and Toulon. On all three Golden islands, nature has been preserved by strict environmental protection laws; building, smoking, camping and cars are all prohibited. There are just a few sandy roads, a handful of small boutique hotels and B&Bs, and a tiny village near the harbour. Île de Porquerolles is only 7 km long and 3 km wide.
The small village of Porquerolles
On arrival you first encounter the small and only village, located on the northern coast. Built in 1912, it consists of maybe 10 streets and a village square that is surrounded by restaurants, coffee shops and open air terraces. In the main street there are cute little shops and ice-cream parlours. The perfect spot to begin your day with a coffee, to cross for an al fresco lunch, and to end your day trip with a drink or ice-cream before heading to the mainland again.
No noise…Pure Bliss
A day trip to Île de Porquerolles guarantees a day of rest and relaxation. On the ferry it might look like it’s going to be crowded, but once you arrive and everyone disperses to different beaches and parts of the island, it is pure bliss. The fragrance of pine trees, the sounds of birds, the rustle of the breeze and the waves of the sea are the only sensory stimulants to take in once you are there. Beautiful landscapes, vineyards and pristine beaches make you slow down and forget time. It is pure bliss to walk or cycle through the breath-taking landscapes and take in the gorgeous views.
Île de Porquerolles has over 20 beaches so it’s impossible to see them all in one day. Along the north coast you’ll find many pristine coves with azure and crystal clear water. These beaches are all family-friendly as they are shallow and gradually deepen. You can walk in quite far. The most popular beach on the north coast is Plage de la Courtade because of its convenient location close to the harbour and the village. The south coast is more rugged and wild, with rocky small coves that are only reachable via unsafe trails.
Plage d’Argent and Plage Notre Dame
I chose to visit two beaches: Plage d’Argent in the morning, and Plage Notre Dame in the afternoon. Plage d’Argent is a 10-minute bike ride or 30 minute walk from the ferry port. I arrived at Plage d’Argent around 10 a.m. when there was hardly anyone there. After a delicious lunch on the seaside restaurant terrace, I went to explore the village as it was on my way to Plage Notre Dame. Then I continued through the pine woods to Notre Dame beach. Plage Notre Dame is an hour on foot, and 30 minutes by bike from the village and harbour. Both beaches were anything but crowded. The water was refreshing and at both beaches you can seek shelter from the sun under a tree or in a shady spot. Plage Notre Dame does require water shoes as there are a lot of pebbles the few first meters into the sea.
How to get there
Île de Porquerolles is only a 20-minute ferry boat ride from Tour Fondue in Giens (near Hyères), or 2,5 hours from Sainte Maxime or Saint Tropez.
From Tour Fondue you take the TLV for a round-trip ticket of € 19.50. The schedule is frequent, almost every 30 minutes you can catch a ferry. You can park your car at one of the paid car parks. I only paid €6.80 for approx. 9 hours, but I’m not certain if all car parks have the same rate. Maybe I was just lucky by picking the cheapest. From Sainte Maxime or Saint Tropez you take the Les Bateaux Verts.
From Bandol there is a scheduled boat a few times per week with Atlantide boat company. There are also dailyboats departing from Toulon and La Seyne-Sur-Mer les sablettes (free parking) with boat company Bateliers de la Cote d’Azur
Renting a bike
There are many bike rentals on the island. You will see them as soon as you walk up from the harbour into the main street. Nonethess, it might be wise to make advanced reservations in high-season, especially when you have specific requirements like a bike with a basket, an electrical bike, or a bike with a pull cart for your kids and their beach toys. I recommend Porquerolles à Vélo. You can just drop them an email and your bike will be ready for you upon arrival. They will even provide a map of the island with routes and recommendations. However, don’t worry about the routes because there is signage everywhere and there are limited roads so it is nearly impossible to get lost.
This blog post is based on my travel experience on a Saturday in the last week of May. Circumstances might be different in high season. Please be reminded that there are no umbrellas, showers, snack bars and sun chairs available at any of the beaches. Only Plage d’Argent has a restaurant.