5 Islands Off the French Riviera


What’s as great as the French Riviera? An island that captures the same magic, but on a smaller less touristy scale. Sound good? Read on!

Here are 5 islands (and peninsulas) off the southern coast of France. In French, a peninsula is a “Presque-ile”, or an “almost island”, attached to land. Each island has a different flair.


Ile de Porquerolle (near Hyères, east of Toulon)

Off the coast of Hyerès (near Toulon) are four islands, les Iles d’Hyerès. Here are two: Porquerolle and Port-Cros. Ferries for both leave from the Saint Pierre Marina in Hyerès.

Rocky cliffs cover the southern side of Porquerolles, with secluded paths accessible to hikers. On the north side are sandy beaches. The island is large enough to host a lively tourist trade, with hotels, restaurants, and activities.

Hotels range from high-end to camping. There are restaurants, events (like regattas and jazz festivals), snorkeling, swimming, and many other ways to stay happy and entertained. Enjoy boat and bike rentals, and most of the water activities you can dream up.

Of course, you should visit the lovely and lively Hyères before or after your trip to Porquerolle. The best of both worlds! 


Port-Cros (Day trip or more)

The second island near Hyères is Port-Cros. At 2 miles wide, it’s a much smaller destination perfect for scuba diving or uncluttered relaxation.

You can catch a ferry from Hyères or Le Lavendou. Be sure to visit Port-Cros National Park, where you’ll see a bird refuge and rare & exotic plants. The island is ideal for whale and bird watching. You may see dolphins and sea turtles too. Of course, hiking and water sports including diving are available.

Round-trip ferry costs 29€ from Hyeres. From May to October, you can stay on the island. There are restaurants, bars, and grocery stores open then. For diving instruction, check Sun Plongée, a company based in Hyères.


Ile Sainte Marguerite (Day Trip)

Take a ferry from Cannes and in 15 minutes, you’re there on the largest of the five Lérin Islands, Sainte Marguerite.

It’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, bird watching, and walking on paths surrounded by stunning beauty. There’s even an underwater museum with sculptures.  Enjoy the small, lovely beaches.

It’s not just a deserted island for nature lovers. There are 2 restaurants on the island too! L’Escale and La Guerite. Though there is one rustic lodging option, you’d likely be better off staying in Cannes.

Ile Sainte Marguerite is ideal for a day trip from Cannes. You can visit in about 3 hours unless you decide to swim and sunbathe, snorkel, or have a meal at a restaurant.

Other things to do

A visit to Fort Royal built in 1635, the prison of the Man in the Iron Mask. You can see his prison cell and beautiful views of the Bay of Cannes. Also inside the fort is the Museum of the Sea.


St. Mandrier-sur-Mer (near Toulon)

Near Toulon, there’s a land mass that juts into the Mediterranean. Then a smaller one, like an island, but attached. St. Mandrier-sur-Mer, no ferry needed! It extends about two square miles and is surrounded by a glittering sea.

There you’ll find a fishing port in an inlet, a village, and vineyards. Colorful buildings line the seaside before you stumble on two beaches. Coudoulière is a magnificent beach where you can swim and lounge.

To see: The Fort de la Croix des Signaux and the lighthouse of Cap Cépet. There are hotels and restaurants there as well.


Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (near Nice)

 Another peninsula, or  « presqu’ile » is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. If you love to see or sample opulence and wealth, this is your place. This “cap” (cape) is known as the second most expensive residential location in the world after Monaco.

Certain hotels won’t break the bank, though. If you prefer, a day visit is perfect to enjoy natural beauty and gawk at millionaire villas. (Famous past residents included Yul Brynner, Jean Cocteau, Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, and French singer, Edith Piaf.)


Walk along the shady renovated pedestrian streets of the Old Port. Don’t miss the Villa Ephrussie, a stunning palace built by the Baroness Rothschild. Visit the palace and the gardens, in which are 9 landscaped organic parks in various styles.

The Shell Museum: View this unique collection of 7,000 shells on the Quai Lindbergh. It is the largest shell collection in the area.

If you’re visiting the nearby town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, you can take a scenic walk along the Maurice Rouvier path, offering sea views. It’s just under 1 mile (1.5 km.) St. Hospice Point is also a nice shady walk of just over a mile (2 km.) This path provides 6 observation points as well as some monuments to see. Everywhere you look, the views are gorgeous!

Along with all that, there are 5 public beaches.

And you thought the mainland was fabulous! Just spend a few days on one of these islands or peninsulas for a getaway to paradise!

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