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France mediterranean Coast : What is your kind of boat?

France mediterranean Coast - our advices for your cruise



By Anaïs BEDE 

Managing Editor of Filovent magazine. "As a travel enthusiast, my holidays always equate to boat trips!"

 

28 September 2021

 

Reading time: 6 minutes

 

 

In a nutshell

 

Unmissable: the Calanques or the islands of Hyères, depending on the sailing conditions

Special features : translucent waters, pine forests, and cicadas: welcome to the French Mediterranean!

The most beautiful anchorages : Cape Taillat, South-West of Ramatuelle, and the Calanque d'En Vau

 

 

map of the sailing areas of the French Mediterranean
The sailing areas of the French Mediterranean (clickable map)

 

Contents

 

  1. Practical information for your rental
  2. Why go to the French Mediterranean?
  3. What are the main sailing areas?
  4. The best anchorages in the French Mediterranean
  5. Which itineraries to follow for your cruise?
  6. What are the weather conditions?

 

 

 

 

"The best part of my cruise departing from Toulon is the time spent sailing. On the way back, we were progressing at 9 knots off the Giens peninsula. It was pure joy to see our boat sliding on the water with speed and ease" Eric told me, and also: "Passing through the peninsula of Giens, we arrived with our boat in Porquerolles: the bay was magnificent, the weather was beautiful, and the island was in full bloom. Porquerolles is a real little jewel of the South!" Philippe told me. These are the words of most Filovent clients when they tell me about their cruise on-board a sailing boat rented in the French Mediterranean. Sailing in this part of France is very popular with boaters, especially during the summer season. It must be said that the Mediterranean basin is showcased by a multitude of assets, ranging from historical heritage to gastronomy, along with exceptional biodiversity, and a pleasant climate.

 

Eric and his crew sailing on a Bavaria 38
Eric and his crew sailing a Bavaria 38 (photo by Eric Philippon)

 

 

1. Practical information for your rental

 

 

The different starting bases

 

To sail in the Mediterranean basin, you can start from various bases: Marseilles, Bandol, Port Pin Rolland, Toulon, Hyères, Bormes-les-Mimosas, Saint-Tropez, Saint-Raphaël and Golfe-Juan.

Here are the basics for starting your sail, if your criteria are:

-the price of your rental : Bandol, Port Pin Roland and Bormes-les-Mimosas

-the accessibility of the starting base

  • the departure base is near a railway station: Marseilles, Toulon, Saint-Raphaël and Golfe-Juan (Cannes station);
  • the base is near an airport: Marseilles (Marignane), Toulon, Hyères and Golfe-Juan (Cannes airport).

-the geographical position of the starting base

  • for a sail in the Calanques, take possession of your boat from Marseilles or Bandol;
  • for a sail in the Islands of Hyères, leave from Toulon, Port Pin Rolland, Hyères or Bormes-les-Mimosas;
  • for a sail in the Corniche d'Or, choose Saint-Raphaël or Golfe-Juan as a departure base;
  • for a navigation including various areas of the Mediterranean coastline, choose to leave from Bandol, Port Pin Rolland or Toulon to sail either towards the Calanques in the West, or towards the Islands of Hyères in the East. Choose Saint-Tropez if you want to discover both the Islands of Hyères and the Corniche d'Or.

 

Which licence is required?

 

For sailling in the French Mediterranean, no licence is necessary. However, if you want to skipper your yacht, you will have to provide a nautical CV. This document certifies your level of sailing and allows you to decide whether or not you are fit to take on the responsibility of skipper of your boat.

 

Average rates depending on the season and the size of the boat

 

For sailing in the French Mediterranean, you will find as many mono-hulls as catamarans for rent. The table below gives you an order of magnitude of the average prices of the boats. These prices are likely to evolve according to the age of the boat, its size, the model, the period...

 

Type of boat High Season
July and August
Mid-Season
May, June and September
Low Season
April and October
Mono-hull (2 cabins) €2,200 €1,800 €1,500
Mono-hull (3 cabins) €2,700 €2,100 €1,800
Mono-hull (4 cabins) €3,200 €2,700 €2,200
Catamaran (between 30 and 40 feet) €3,500 €4,500 €3,500
Catamaran (between 40 and 50 feet) €6,000 €5,000 €3,800

 

Our main partners on site

 

Here is the list of our main partners who rent boats in the French Mediterranean:

  • Seaways Yachting offers from Toulon, Saint-Raphaël and Golfe-Juan over thirty boats for rent, including mono-hulls (Bavaria, Dufour, Oceanis), and catamarans (Excess, Lagoon, Leopard);
  • Set Sail - Amiral Nautic offers from Toulon, Hyères, Marseilles and Port Pin Rolland about fifteen boats including mono-hulls (Bavaria, Oceanis, Sun Odissey), and power catamarans (Highland, Lagoon);
  • Locasail has been in Bandol for over 45 years. This rental company offers nearly 20 sailing boats for rent, mostly Sun Odysseys and motorboats (Tempest and Cap Camarat);
  • Dream Yacht Charter was founded in 2000 in the Seychelles, and offers more than 1,000 boats for charter from some 60 destinations. Departing from Toulon or Marseilles, this rental company offers catamarans (Lagoon, Bali) and mono-hulls (Dufour, Sun Odyssey).

 

2. Why go to the French Mediterranean?

 

The Mediterranean basin is a complete destination that will amaze you with its rich and preserved biodiversity, its turquoise waters, its historical past, and its culinary heritage. A change of scenery, relaxation, and sunbathing will be the order of the day during your holiday!

Marseilles with its Old Port and the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, Cassis with its typical harbour lined with colourful houses, Nice and the Promenade des Anglais, Cannes, and Saint-Tropez are all cities that will enable you to discover the region's identity.

 

3. What are the main sailing areas?

 

The Calanques

 

The Calanques massif is a natural wonder located between Marseilles and Cassis. It's a geological formation that extends for 20 kilometres in the form of a valley. Translucent waters, wild coves, vertiginous cliffs, wild coves, lush vegetation, wild coves, a huge seabed, beautiful climbing spots: there is no lack of reasons to go there, and everyone will find something to do. However, to protect this exceptional biodiversity, the Calanques have been protected as part of the Calanques National Park since 2012.

 

Calanque d'En Vau
View of the Calanque d'En Vau (Adobe Stock photo)

 

Here are the main places of interest not to be missed during your sail in the Calanques:

  • the Calanque de Sugiton known in particular thanks to the Blue Cave, an ideal spot for snorkelling enthusiasts;
  • the Calanque d'En Vau, breathtaking with its high limestone cliffs falling into the turquoise water, and its beautiful pebble beach;
  • the Calanque de Sormiou offers you from the pontoon of your boat a colour palette that harmonises perfectly between the azure blue of the water, the white of the limestone cliffs and the green of the scrubland.

 

Calanques of Sormiou
View of the Calanques de Sormiou (Adobe Stock photo)

 

Careful;, since 2021 the Premar decrees have come to regulate anchoring and sailing in the Calanques. To learn more, click here.

 

The Frioul Islands

 

"Sailing in the middle of the Frioul Islands is really nice, the rocks offer a very interesting change of wind for sailing. We can go all around the islands and the Château d'If, from here we can encompass all of Marseilles" Michel told me. The Frioul Islands are an archipelago comprising Pomègues, Ratonneau, the islet of If, and the islet of Tiboulen. They provide you with a peaceful stopover, far from the hustle and bustle of the Old Port of Marseilles. On the island of Pomègues, the wildest and most authentic of the archipelago, enjoy the many coves; (Calanque des Cambrettes, Calanque du Cap Frioul, Calanque de Crine, Calanque de l'Huile) which offer magnificent diving spots. The Islet of If, and more precisely the Château d’If, will plunge you into memories of childhood reading since it hosted some passages of the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas. This castle has been classified as aHistoric Monumentsince 1926.

 

 The Frioul islands seen from Marseilles
View of the Frioul islands from Marseilles with the Chateau d'If in the foreground (Adobe Stock photo)

 

The Hyères Islands

 

The Hyères Islands, also known as the Golden Islands, are an archipelago comprised of 4 islands: Porquerolles, Port-Cros, the island of Levant, and Bagaud island.

Port-Cros is an essential stopover in your navigation in the Hyères Islands. Classified as a National Park since 1963, all the people I was able to interview described this island as "a marvel of nature", "a little piece of paradise" or "a jewel of the South". As Eric told me about Port-Cros: "this stopover reconciled me with the Mediterranean, often damaged because of human activities and fishing. The setting is truly beautiful and you can only appreciate it when you are on the pontoon of your boat".

On site, enjoy unspoiled nature thanks to the many trails that will help you discover the four corners of the island. Indeed, only the area around the port is developed, so you will mainly "walk on remote paths in the middle of an exceptional and protected biodiversity" as Jacques Sornay, founder of the boat rental company SEMAPHORE360, told me.

The underwater path of La Palud, in the South of the island, has been especially created to make the general public aware of the wealth of the Mediterranean seabed. The concept is simple: you will swim from buoy to buoy equipped only with a mask or snorkel to read the underwater explanatory signs. As for beaches, Flavien advises you to go to the South beach, on the West side of the island: "after a short hike to get there, we had a picnic on the beach and went snorkelling. The seabed of this beach is a real natural aquarium! ". Port-Cros is therefore, rightly, among the best diving spots in the Côte d’Azur.

 

 Port-Cros
View of Port-Cros (Adobe Stock photo)

 

Your navigation off the Hyères Islands continues in the largest island of the archipelago: Porquerolles, to the West of Port-Cros. This island is a favourite of many boaters, like Philippe who told me: "passing through the Giens peninsula, we arrived with our boat in Porquerolles: the bay was magnificent, the weather was beautiful, and the island was in full bloom. Porquerolles is a true little gem of the South!". Whether you discover this island by bike, on foot, or by sailing around it with your boat, you will realise that Porquerolles has several facets: cliffs dominate the South coast, fine sandy beaches and turquoise waters line the North coast and, finally, a vast scrubland covers the heart of the island.

 Porquerolles
View of Porquerolles (Adobe Stock photo)

You can't go to Porquerolles without putting your towel down on one of its many beaches that promise relaxation and a change of scenery. For Stéphane, a Filovent customer, "sometimes it feels like being in the Maldives!”. They have their own identity:

  • Notre Dame beach, on the North-East side of the island, is bordered by a forest of eucalyptus trees which give a pleasant smell during the summer season. It's not for nothing that this beach was elected the most beautiful beach in Europe in 2015, ahead of over 200 European beaches;
  • Langoustier beach and Langoustier black beach, on the North-West side of the island, face each other. Located in the Baie Du Langoustier, these two beaches will delight you for their translucent waters and the richness of their seabed: "we swam amongst the fish, there were so many of them, which surprised me because we were quite close to the beach, the colours were wonderful" Cécile told me. From Langoustier beach you will have a direct view of the peninsula of Giens;
  • Argent beach, in the North-East of the island, can be described as atypical thanks to the fineness of its sand pulling towards the grey. There is therefore no "equivalent in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur", according to Jacques Sornay. For Cécile: "its colours, its calm, its open side towards the sea, and intimate at the same time; in a word, this beach is heavenly!"
Argent beach in Porquerolles
View of Argent beach, a pleasure for the eyes (photo by Cécile Doutriaux)

The right addresses tested by Filovent customers are the "Mas du Langoustier", especially for its beautiful sea view, and the "Glacier Porquerollais".

 

Finally, the third place of interest of the Embiez archipelago is the fort of Brégançon, to the South of Bormes-les-Mimosas. Official holiday resort of the French President, we advise you to book your seats in advance at the Tourist Office of Bormes-les-mimosas.

 

The Embiez archipelago

 

The Embiez archipelago is comprised of five islands: the island of Embiez, the island of Grand Rouveau, the island of Petit Rouveau, the island of Grand Gaou , and the island of Petit Gaou.

If you have to visit only one of these five islands, choose the island of Embiez. Owned by Paul Ricard since 1958, a stopover on this island embodies relaxation, above all: "on the island of Les Embiez we have above all enjoyed the sun, swimming and games of pétanque (bowls): what good times! We did a tour of the island on the specially-devised path, it was great! We also had the chance to taste royal sea bream on the boat that we bought filleted at Sàrti restaurant" Flavien told me. The island of Embiez has a concentration of a large proportion of typical Mediterranean biodiversity: pine forests, wild coves, green valleys, vineyards, former salt marshes… In order to preserve the island's natural wealth but also to educate the general public, in 1966 Paul Ricard inaugurated the Oceanographic Institute that you can visit in the North of the island.

On site, some beaches are worth the detour! La Croisette beach, on the West side of the island, is wedged between two cliffs. It is therefore only accessible by boat, a godsend for boaters who can enjoy this rather uncrowded beach. The plage des Allemands, just above Croisette beach, is a succession of small beaches interspersed by large rocks. It's from this beach that you will be able to see the lighthouse of Grand Rouveau island, the only one built on the island.

 

anchorage in the Embiez
Anchoring at the arge of the Embiez archipelago to admire the sunset (photo by Stéphane Fievet)

 

The Lérins archipelago

 

Off the coast of Cannes and far from the hustle and bustle of the Croisette, Lerins archipelago will provide you with a tranquil stopover. This archipelago consists of two islands the island of Saint-Honorat and the island of Sainte-Marguerite.

The island of Sainte-Marguerite, the largest of the archipelago, has a rich natural and historical heritage. The Fort Royal, in the North of the island, is a reminder of its historical past. Classified as a Historic Monument since 1927, it has been used as a prison on several occasions, notably after the Revolution, and would have accommodated the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask, whose identity remains unknown to this day. The underwater eco-museum, in the South of the island, offers a unique experience. The concept is simple: you will swim equipped with a mask and snorkel to admire the 6 submerged statues of the artist Jason deCaires Taylor. This British sculptor is world famous and exhibits his works in the seabed of the Bahamas and Cancun in particular. Very committed to the preservation of the biodiversity of the underwater environment, his creations are evolving and poetic: they will change over time under the action of the ecosystem in which they are located, until they completely melt away

The island of Saint-Honorat, to the South of the island of Sainte-Marguerite, is one of the first places of Christianity in France thanks to the Abbey of Lérins, the first monastery of which dates back to the 5th century. During your visit to this abbey, you will be the guests of the Cistercian monks who have lived there since 1869. This island is, like the island of Sainte-Marguerite, a natural oasis. While walking along the coastal paths, you will be surrounded by the acanthus (perennial plant), and by the maritime pines whose trunks have been deformed by the wind.

 

Lérins Abbey on the island of Saint-Honorat
View of the Abbey of Lérins on the island of Saint-Honorat (Adobe Stock photo)

 

4. The best anchorages in the French Mediterranean

 

"A boat at anchor is a boat that sails" Eric told me, before adding that "each anchorage is unique, we choose it meticulously according to the wind conditions, the weather, the posidonia, and the seabed if it is comprised of rocks or sand. This is why it would be impossible for me to tell you which was my favourite anchorage, they're all exceptional and superb in the Mediterranean". Although it's difficult to decide between them, you will have below a small overview of the beautiful anchorages that a navigation in the French Mediterranean offers.

 

Anchorage between the Lérins Islands

 

This anchorage has left fond memories for most of the boaters who have visited it. To quote a few of them: "this anchorage was beautiful and well-sheltered, with tropical waters. In the evening, the whole group of friends met on the boat to admire the sunset and prepare the meat we had bought on the griddle. It was really one of the highlights of our sailing trip" said Flavien, and also: "a complete anchorage: between the abbey, the swimming, the fact of being well-protected and the wild side of the landscape" according to Philippe.

 

Anchorage at Cape Taillat in Ramatuelle bay

 

Wedged between Cape Lardier and Cape Camarat, Cape Taillat has everything to please: good shelter from the Mistral, translucent waters, green vegetation, and a fine sandy beach. Its special feature is that it is connected to the coast by a sandy isthmus, which makes it one-of-a-kind. It is therefore, rightly, among the most beautiful anchorages in the Var.

 

Cape Taillat
View of Cape Taillat (Adobe Stock photo)

 

Anchorage at Douane beach on the peninsula of Taillat

 

Although this anchorage is quite popular with boaters during the high season, it's still worth a visit! This beach offers a beautiful view of Cape Taillat, wonder of the Saint-Tropez peninsula. For Jacques Sornay, "between its wild side and its white sand beaches, the resemblance to a small corner of Southern Corsica is obvious!".

 

Anchorage in the port of Cassis

 

The port of Cassis is one of the typical Provencal ports. From the deck of your boat, you will have a view of the colourful houses lining the harbour, and in the background, the 8th century castle overlooking the city. This stopover will also enable you to visit Cassis which has seduced a number of people. Indeed, as Frédérique Mistral used to say:"Who has seen Paris and not Cassis, has seen nothing!".

 

The small fishing port of Cassis
Small fishing port of Cassis (Adobe Stock photo)

 

Anchorage in the Port of Lavandou

 

Located between Cape Bénat and Cape Nègre, the port of Le Lavandou is an ideal shelter from the Mistral and the East wind. The Marina is comprised of two ports: the old port and a modern port built at the end of the twentieth century. The historic port is full of life with its many shops, bars, restaurants and of course, how can we not mention them, its bowls!

 

5. Which itinerary to follow for your navigation?

 

For a few days of sailing we advise you to head for the islands near your departure base, i. e., either in the Calanques, the Hyères Islands or the archipelago of Lérins.

For a one-week cruise, you can afford to go a little further away and still have a relaxed cruising pace. This is what the following itineraries enable you to do.

Itinerary 1: Discovery of the Hyères Islands, the Embiez archipelago and the bay of Saint-Tropez - Total distance covered: 138 nautical miles

  • Day 1 : departure base (Toulon - Hyères - Port Pin Rolland) → Porquerolles and anchorage at the point of Alycastre in the North-East (18 nautical miles from Toulon and Port Pin Rolland - 6 nautical miles from Hyères)
  • Day 2: Pointe de l'Alycastre → Ramatuelle bay and anchorage at Pampelonne beach (30 nautical miles)
  • Day 3: Pampelonne beach → anchorage at L'Estagnol beach to the North-West of Cape Bénat (25 nautical miles)
  • Day 4: L'Estagnol beach → Port-Cros (10 nautical miles)
  • Day 5: Port-Cros → Embiez island (40 nautical miles)
  • Day 6: Embiez island → departure base (15 nautical miles from Toulon and Port Pin Rolland - 25 nautical miles from Hyères)

 

Mono-hull yacht sailing in the Mediterranean Sea
Mono-hull sailing boat in the Mediterranean at sunset (photo by Eric Philippon)

 

Itinerary 2: Discovery of a part of the Calanques - Total distance covered: 82 nautical miles

  • Day 1: departure base (Toulon - Hyères - Port Pin Rolland) → Embiez island (15 nautical miles from Toulon and Port Pin Rolland - 25 nautical miles from Hyères)
  • Day 2: Embiez Island → Calanque De Port D'Alon (7 nautical miles)
  • Day 3: Calanque De Port D'Alon → green island below La Ciotat (6 nautical miles)
  • Day 4: Green Island → Riou Archipelago (13 nautical miles)
  • Day 5: Riou Archipelago → Calanque d'En Vau, then Cassis (6 nautical miles)
  • Day 6: Cassis → departure base (35 nautical miles from Toulon and Port Pin Rolland - 40 nautical miles from Hyères)

 

6. What are the weather conditions?

 

As far as the weather is concerned, the temperatures are quite mild all year round.

During your cruise in the French Mediterranean, you may encounter two types of wind. The prevailing wind is a thermal breeze, wind created by the temperature difference between the sea and the land when it is hot. Generally speaking, this wind rises in the early afternoon and falls in the late evening, which is ideal for sailing. The second wind is the Mistral. It can make your sailling athletic because it blows in gusts that can reach 100 kilometres per hour. We advise you to anticipate your itinerary and to adapt your cruise according to the wind conditions.

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Stéphane Fievet, Flavien Bernard, Cécile Doutriaux, Philippe Beguerie, and Eric Philippon for their testimonies and their photos which perfectly illustrate this article. A big thank you also to Jacques Sornay, founder of the professional rental company SEMAPHORE360, for his time and advice.

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