The Hyères Islands: Porquerolles, Port-Cros, Le Levant

 
From West to East: Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Le Levant

The Hyères Islands, or « Les îles d’Hyères » are among the jewels of the Côte d’Azur. Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Le Levant are the three main islands and great stopovers for sailing cruisers. The blue Mediterranean waters associated with the charm of typical Provençal villages provide both great moorings and great moments ashore.

Rock beach on Porquerolles Island

Porquerolles' harbour and typical Provençal village
Porquerolles’ harbour and typical Provençal village

The biggest and most visited island is Porquerolles, on the west of the Archipelagos. On the north coast of Porquerolles, there is a nice harbour – Port de Porquerolles, which has a relatively big capacity to welcome visitors. Of course, the high season is not the best time to go there as tourists arrive by thousands from Hyères and Toulon by ferry.  In summer, yachts anchor just about everywhere along the N coast of Île de Porquerolles, so that from the distance it’s difficult to distinguish the masts of the yachts at anchor from those in the marina.

Another nice and very popular anchorage on Ile de Porquerolles is Baie du Langoustier, a sandy bay on the NW side of the island.  Of course, with its clear blue water and good holding in sand, it also gets very busy in the summer months.

Porquerolles is a great place to relax for a few days, eating breakfast sitting on a Provençal terrace, and visiting the island by bike. There are literally thousands of bikes to rent here, but none as stylish as the Strida SX Limited

The island offers on 1250 hectares a lot of wonderful landscapes. If you have some time ashore, there are wonderful walks to do by feet or by bike. There is a good walk up to Fort St Agathe, a 16th century fortress with spectacular views of the bay. Downhill offers you two possibilities: continue on the north, or take to the south coast of the island. By contrast with the north, the south coast is steep and rocky, with gorgeous pine-fringed coves.

Porquerolles sand beaches are very popular mooringsAlong the north coast, amid the sweetest of landscapes, there are some specific botanical walks. You’ll also find there many white sand beaches and maritime pine forests that come all the way up to sea, which is azure and as crystal clear as one can expect to find only in the Caribbean.

There is a lot of café and restaurants in Porquerolles, but the large part of them isn’t noteworthy. Fortunately, there are also some remarkable ones. For the fine dining we recommend “Le Mas du Langoustier” gastronomic restaurant, for the magnificent bay view –“L’Orangeraie” (place d’armes), and “Le Fly Deck” (rue de la douane) – for the large and inventive menu and welcoming staff.

Ile de Port Cros is smaller, largely undeveloped and, as no cars or cycles are allowed on the island, completely traffic-free. It is also one of France’s oldest national parks, which allow visitors to see its untouched wonders.

This means no camping, no fires and, on the large part, no smoking. But it also means no constructions outside the villages (no concrete buildings), only the magnificent nature, plenty of pine forests, white sand beaches and the clear turquoise water.

View from Port-Cros National Park
View from Port-Cros National Park

The waters around Port-Cros are a marine reserve, part of the national park, and it is prohibited to fish around much of the coast (including spear-fishing). It is also prohibited to anchor off around Île de Port-Cros (except Port-Cros and Port-Man), Île de Bagaud and Île du Levant coasts (except at the western end), for 600m off the coast. So, inform you before going there.

The only alternative anchorage to the main harbour on Ile de Port Cros is the bay of Port Man at the eastern end of the island. Be careful, the bay faces NE and anchorage would be hard to defend by strong NE winds.

As all forms of traffic except pedestrian are forbidden here, island offers nearly 35 km of walking trails in the middle of the sub-tropical vegetation and cicadas songs. A good walk from the port takes you around the west side of island. The water on the south coast is even clearer than in Ile de Porquerolles.

Ile de Port Cros is the highest of the Hyères Islands. If you climb the highest peak of the island, Mont de Vinaigre, you’ll see the breathtaking views over the whole archipelago.

Snorkelling and diving are also excellent around the island, since a marine conservation zone extends 600 meters all around the coast.

The third island, on the east of the archipelagos,  Île du Levant offers limited access for yachts as it’s divided between French naval military establishments and the naturist colony at Heliopolis. You can visit Heliopolis if you leave your camera behind, as the naturists don’t like visitors taking pictures of their “nature life”.

The anchorages around the Hyères Islands, especially Porquerolles, are among the most beautiful Mediterranean spots, and the area is great for sailing.

I hope you will enjoy your time in the Hyères Islands.

Thanks for reading,

Aurélien

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