Ile de Porquerolles
Île de Porquerolles is the largest and westernmost of the Îles d’Hyères. It has a rugged southern coast, but the northern strand, facing the mainland, boasts a handful of pristine white-sand beaches. The island is about 8km (5 miles) long and 2km (1 1/4 miles) wide, and is 4.8km (3 miles) from the mainland. The permanent population is only 400.
The island is said to receive 275 days of sunshine annually. The landscape is one of rocky capes, pine forests twisted by the mistral, sun-drenched vineyards, and pale ochre houses. It’s best explored on foot or by bike (look for plenty of bike-rental agencies just behind the harbor). The place d’Armes, former site of the garrison, is home to several quaint cafes—your best bet for lunch if you’re here for a day trip.
The island has a history of raids, attacks, and occupation by everyone from the Dutch and the English to the Turks and the Spaniards. Ten forts, some in ruins, testify to its fierce past. The most ancient is Fort Ste-Agathe, built in 1531 by François I. In time, it was a penal colony and a retirement center for soldiers of the colonial wars.
In 1971, the French government purchased a large part of the island and turned it into a national park. Indigenous trees such as fig, mulberry, and olive are protected, as well as plants that attract butterflies.
Ile de Port-Cros
The most mountainous island of the archipelago, Port-Cros has been France’s smallest national park since 1963. It’s just 5km (3 miles) long and 2km (1 1/4 miles) wide. It’s blanketed with beautiful beaches, pine forests, and subtropical vegetation (birders flock here to observe nearly 100 different species). A hiker’s paradise, it also has a number of well-marked trails. The most popular and scenic is the easy, 1-hour sentier des plantes. The more adventurous and athletic take the 10km (6 1/4-mile) circuit de Port-Man (and pack their lunch). There is even a 274m (899-ft.) “underwater trail” along the coast, where you can snorkel past laminated signs identifying the plants and fish you’ll see.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.