Location: Cote d’Azur
Iles d’Hyeres Archipelago
Due to strict environmental protection laws, the Iles d’Hyeres archipelago (also known as the Iles d’Or or ‘Islands of Gold’), have maintained a natural beauty and wildness that’s largely untouched by tourism. The islands are rich in woodlands, idyllic beaches and Roman history. Visit the largest of the islands, Porquerolles. Here you can perhaps hire a bike in town and head inland to explore olive and fig orchards in the wooded countryside. Maybe just relax on the island’s northern beaches or admire ocean views from the plunging cliffs on the south coast. For a quintessential island experience, watch the locals play petanque as you sip on a pastis in the village’s Place d’Armes. Stop by Port-Cros, the archipelago’s smallest island but one with a big history, having played host to pirates, monks, artists and soldiers through the centuries. This is a pristine environment, where no automobiles are permitted and you can stroll along walking paths through untouched pine forests. In 1963 the island became France’s first marine national park, so snorkel in the clear waters, following a recently established underwater nature trail.
The friendly seaside town of Cavalaire-sur Mer is more modest than its flashy neighbours and is a great place to see the traditional side of the Cote d’Azur. Explore the area and perhaps pull up a sun lounge on the town’s three kilometer-long main beach. Catch a shuttle bus to one of the quieter beaches along the coast, such as Le Dattier in the southwest. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, wander through a nature reserve along the precipitous Fenouillet path towards Cap Camarat.
St-Tropez is your next destination. A summer playground for the rich and famous, the city has a lot of charm once you see past the glamour. Relax at a cafe under a plane tree in the Place des Lices or step back in time in the old fishing quarter of La Ponche. Check out the 17th-century Citadelle de St-Tropez for a detailed history of the town (with great views), which was built to defend the coast against Spain. Chill out in an upmarket beach bar on the flashy Plage de Pampelonne or beach-hop along the coastal walking trails. All of the beaches have facilities like toilets and change rooms, and sun lounges are available for hire or take to the water and try your hand at paddle-boarding. If you’re feeling cheeky, perhaps head to one of the town’s nudist beaches in your birthday suit. In the evening, if you are thinking of heading to one of the city’s many bars, restaurant or clubs, make sure you dress up a bit, as mere shorts and sandals won’t cut it here!
Sail for the Iles de Lerins, a group of four islands off the coast of Cannes. On the island of St Honorat, which has been continuously occupied by monks from as early as the 5th century, perhaps dine at La Tonelle, a restaurant run by monks who serve wine produced from their vineyards. Discover Ille St Marguerite, the island fortress where the Man in the Iron Mask was held captive. There is also a small museum on the island and some lovely white beaches. From here sail on to the glitzy city of Cannes, a pristine hotspot for the affluent and home to the famous film festival. Perhaps share in a little bit of the limelight by walking the red carpet on a tour of the Palais des Festivals. Alternatively, you can take a tour to the Massif de I’Esterel and either walk or ride through the forest to the highest point. In the evening, dine at one of the restaurants along the Rue Saint-Antoine in the old quarter of Le Suquet.