From the terrace of Résidence Les Marronniers, three islands can be clearly seen on the horizon. Called Iles d'Hyères as a group, they consist of three separate islands: Ile de Porquerolles, Ile de Port-Cros and Ile de Levant. The islands belong to one of the most charming corners of the Côte d'Azur.
Pine, eucalyptus and myrtle trees grown profusely on the central ridge of Ile de Porquerolles and Ile de Port-Cros, while their southern shores offer some stunningly beautiful beaches.
The Golden Islands
Getting to the Islands
Thanks to the multiple daily departures from Port d'Hyères and La Tour Fondue, getting to the islands from Résidence Les Marronniers is very convenient.
Geologically, the islands are related to Maures mountain range. Peaks in the mountain range became islands when the sea level rose in the Antiquity.
More recently the islands have become known as Iles d'Or (the Golden Islands), because of the sun's metallic reflection on their cliffs. Only later on did they take on the name of Iles d'Hyères due to their close proximity with the city of the same name.
During the Middle Ages, the islands were feared as a harbor for pirates. The king of France put an end to this at the end of the sixteenth century. Several decades later, Cardinal Richelieu built a number of fortifications in order to protect the mainland's coast from attacks from neighboring Spain.
At the beginning of last century, the islands were once again conquered and since have been firmly in the hands of tourism. Guests of Résidence Les Marronniers have found the most attractive time to visit the three islands is either in Spring or at the end of Summer. Unfortunately, in July and August they are a little overcrowded.
You will have to leave you car on the mainland when you visit the islands, as the Iles d'Hyères are the exclusive domain of pedestrians and cyclists. If you are looking for complete peace and tranquility, then we recommend that you either stay overnight on the island or go out of season.
Ile de Porquerolles
With her 1254 hectares, Ile de Porquerolles is the largest of the three islands and lies around twenty minutes by boat away from the mainland. It is therefore, not surprising that in the season, the island is full of day trippers: For every of the island's 330 inhabitants, 30 people come from the mainland.
This has not always been the case: Until the end of the 30s, the island belonged to a wealthy Belgium engineer, called Jean-Francois-Joseph Fournier, who protected his hideaway like a Prince defends his kingdom. Only later on, did Ile de Porquerolles became accessible to the public.
At the beginning of the 70s, the destiny of the island became unknown. Madame Pompidou convinced her husband, the French Head of State, to purchase the island in the name of the state and designate it as a nature reserve.
In order to protect the island against forest fire, a stripe of land was leased to a young wine grower from the Alsace. On this land, the Domaine de la Courtade was born, which to this day, enjoys an excellent reputation.
Thanks to a well established network of paths, Ile de Porquerolles is best explored by bicycle. The paths go to all the sites that are worthy of a visit: On the northern side of the island, the beaches are numerous and idyllic. Equally delightful are the Plage d'Argent on the west coast, the Grand Plage and the Plage Notre-Dame in the east.
The southern side of the island is not really suitable for sun bathing, as the sea bank is a sheer cliff face. There is an impressive lighthouse on the south tip of the island (Cap d'Arme), which is very worthy of a visit. At night, the light from the lighthouse can be clearly seen from the three upstairs bedrooms of Résidence les Marronniers.
One is often reminded of the island's turbulent history: Fortifications are spread out across the island. The Fort Sainte-Agathe, for example, which lies above the village, can be visited between June and September. It presents the history of Ile de Porquerolles with its many archeological finds from the sea bed, some dating back to the Antiquity.
Ile de Port-Cros
Ile de Port-Cros is greener and has thicker vegetation that the neighboring island Ile de Porquerolles. This is mainly due to the island's many springs and other natural water sources. The highest peak, which stretches 197 meters above sea level, belongs to Mont Vinaigre. The island has remained relatively unspoiled thanks to the careful planning of Marceline and Marcel Henry.
In 1963, the couple gave their island to the French state, on the condition that the island, complete with her natural beauty, would be designated as a national park. In contrast to other protected areas, the national park on Ile de Port-Cros covers not only the land of the island but extends 600m in to the area of sea around the island.
The 600,000 visitors that come annually to the island pose a severe danger for this idyllic, protected area. The numerous parties on private boats that take place around the island and in her harbor contribute significantly to the degradation of the sea. Pitifully, the water quality around the island is one of the worse in the Mediterranean.
In French national parks, a long list of rules designate what is permitted and what is prohibited. For example, on Ile de Port-Cros, hunting on the land and in the sea, smoking on the whole island (except in the harbor) and camping in the forest are strictly prohibited. The rules are enforced by a small army of National Park wardens, who hike through the hills all day on the look out for people who disregard the park's rules.
Ile du Levant
The long and thin, most easterly lying island of the three, is only partly accessible to the public. Around 90 percent of Ile de Levant is used by the French marine as a testing ground for rockets.
On the remainder of the island, the very well visited naturalist area - Heliopolis - that was founded in 1931 by the doctors André and Gaston Durville, enjoys are good reputation throughout the world.
Ile du Levant brings together an ideal selection of qualities: a mild climate with more than 300 days of sunshine each year, wonderful nature, clear sea water and underwater conditions, fine sandy beaches, and of course exceptional air quality. Very few vehicles drive around the island (those that do, belong to the authorities) and thus the only noticeable noise pollution is the songs of the crickets which reign over the island.
In this wonderfully preserved wild natural habitat you can enjoy a magnificent quality of life and idyllic naturalist holidays in complete harmony with nature.
Getting to the Islands
Boats, operated by Transport Littoral Varois, sail from Hyères to the three islands all year round.
Boats to Ile de Porquerolles depart from the Gare Maritime de La Tour Fondue on the Presqu'île de Giens, with departures every 30 minutes or so between 07.30 (7.30am) and 19:00 (7pm) daily, May to September, and six to ten times daily during the rest of the year. Sailing time is 20 minutes.
In July and August, two-island tours of Ile de Porquerolles and Ile de Port-Cros (using the regular TLV boats) are available Monday to Friday.
You can also sail from La Tour Fondue to Ile de Porquerolles in a glass-bottomed boat. There are two to four sailings daily.
Boats to Ile du Levant and Ile de Port-Cros leave Hyères from Port d'Hyères (also called Port de la Gavine) on La Capte. There is one return sailing daily from Port d'Hyères to Ile du Levant (one and a half hours) in April, June and September, two daily in July and August, and four per week October to March. The boats stop en route at Ile de Port-Cros for around one hour.
Transport Littoral Varois has a comprehensive web site, detailing all routes and timetables:
Blog Posts about Porquerolles
To learn more about Porquerolles, her history, cultures and traditions, please take a look at the following entries in the Provence Blog:
- Porquerolles: cut off for the Summer?
- Jazz à Porquerolles
- Sailing around Ile de Porquerolles
- Photographs of Ile de Porquerolles
- Ile de Porquerolles
- Tourist quota for Ile de Porquerolles and Ile de Port-Cros
New posts that point to interesting articles about the Provence and her surrounding area are added to the blog on a daily basis.
Further Information about Iles d'Hyères
For more information, please contact Office de Tourisme Hyères les Palmiers (see below). They will be only too pleased to assist you further and to send you tourist information via snail mail.
Office de Tourisme Hyères les Palmiers
3 Avenue Ambroise Thomas
Tel: +33 4.94.04.84.50
Fax: +33 4.94.04.84.51