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39km (24 miles) SE of Toulon; 119km (74 miles) SW of Cannes
Off the Riviera in the Mediterranean is a little group of islands enclosing the southern
boundary of the Hyères anchorage. During the Renaissance they were called the Iles
d’Or, from a golden glow sometimes given off by the rocks in the sunlight. Nothing in the islands today will remind you of the turbulent time when they were attacked by
pirates and Turkish galleys, or even of the Allied landings here in World War II.
Mass tourism has arrived on these sun-baked islands, with some of the tackiness
that goes with it. Cars are forbidden on all three major islands, and they cannot be
transported on any of the ferryboats. Expect a summer holiday spirit not unlike a Gallic
version of Nantucket, with thousands of midsummer day-trippers arriving, often
with children, for a day of sun, sand, and people-watching.
Which island is the most appealing? Ile des Porquerolles is the most beautiful.
Thinking of heading to Le Levant? You might want to steer clear—only 25% of the
island is accessible to visitors, as three-quarters of it belongs to the French army, and
it is used frequently for testing missiles.
Note: Héliopolis, a section of Ile du Levant, is home to the oldest nudity colony in
Europe. Islanders and visitors go au naturel on the beaches. Many of the more daring
visitors also don’t wear a lot of clothing in the village.
GETTING THERE Ile de Porquerolles Ferryboats leave from several points
along the Côte d’Azur. The most frequent, most convenient, and shortest trip is from
the harbor of La Tour Fondue on the peninsula of Gien, a 32km (20-mile) drive east
of Toulon. Depending on the season, there are 4 to 20 departures a day. The roundtrip
fare for the 15-minute crossing is 16€ ($21). For information, call the Transports
Maritimes et Terrestres du Littoral Varois, La Tour Fondue, 83400 Giens (& 04-
94-58-21-81). The next-best option is the ferryboat from Toulon but only between
June and September. Other options, each of them available only between June and
September, involve taking one of the ferryboats maintained by the Compagnie Maritime
des Vedettes Ile d’Or & Le Corsaire (& 04-94-71-01-02). Their ferryboats
offer crossings from Toulon’s quai d’Embarquement for the Ile de Porquerolles, as well
as slightly longer crossings from either of Les Gares Maritimes in Le Lavandou and
On any of the venues noted above, round trip fares to the Ile de Porquerolles from
Toulon cost 22€ ($29) for adults, and 18€ ($23) for children 4 to 11. Round-trip
fares to the island from Le Lavandou or from Cavalaire cost around 5€ ($6.50) more,
VISITOR INFORMATION Other than summer-only kiosks without phones that
distribute brochures and advice near the ferry docks in Porquerolles and Port-Cros,
the islands have no tourist bureaus. The offices in Hyères and Toulon try to fill in the
gaps. Contact the Office de Tourisme, 3 av. Ambroise Thomas, Hyères (& 04-94-
01-84-50), or the Office de Tourisme, place Raimu, Toulon (& 04-94-18-53-00).