If you’re planning a French Riviera yacht charter this summer, there are several south of France islands – only accessible by boat – that are a joy to discover. Some are protected nature reserves, one hosts a monastery, while a third welcomes naturists, but all are luxuriously unspoilt, worlds away from the bustling coastline and its chic resorts.
The Golden Isles of Hyères
Collectively known as the Golden Isles due to the warm, sandy colour of the rock from which they’re formed, these three islands lie just off the port of Hyères. They enjoy one of the mildest climates in France and almost daily sunshine.
Undeveloped and protected, Porquerolles’ northern coast has several beautiful sandy beaches and exceptionally clear sea, while its southern coast is rugged and wild. Inland are forested hills of pine and eucalyptus, with olive and citrus trees, and vineyards that produce the well-regarded Côtes de Provence wines. These can be enjoyed in the charming main village, also called Porquerolles, which was built in 1820 as a retirement home for Napoleon’s soldiers.
This designated national park and conservation area is mountainous and untouched, with pine forests, vineyards and rare flora. It also provides sanctuary to around a hundred different bird species. With sandy beaches and sheltered coves, its waters are rich in fish and plant life.
Ile du Levant
If you are approaching this island by yacht charter, be ready for something a little out of the ordinary! While much of it is used by the French navy, the rest is home to Héliopolis, a naturist village established in 1931. Thousands flock here every summer, so unless you are willing to join in the group skinny-dip, this island is perhaps best viewed from afar.
Iles de Lerins
Just a short distance from Cannes lie two remarkably unspoiled south of France islands, providing welcome relief for day-trippers and picnickers longing to escape the bustling crowds of town.
The larger and more lively of the two, this island still manages to offer secluded sandy beaches and beautiful clear waters. Inland, a series of shady paths and picnic areas lead to a bird-watching sanctuary and a 17th-century fort, now home to the Museum of the Sea and with great views across the French Riviera.
Less visited than its neighbour, this is home to a small order of monks who produce some excellent wines. An exquisite destination for a day trip.
The Embiez Archipelago
This group of small south of France islands, located near Sanary-sur-Mer, were bought in 1958 by Pastis manufacturer Paul Ricard. The largest has a coastline of just six kilometres, with seven beautiful beaches. Inland there are pine forests and many different bird species, as well as a vineyard that produces Côtes de Provence wines.
Ile de Bendor
This tiny, palm-filled island lies just a few hundred metres from Bandol. Near its picturesque port, Paul Ricard built several fashionable hotels that were frequented in the ’60s by celebrities and socialites.
There’s so much more to the Riviera than its chic resorts, and these beautiful but understated south of France islands, so close and yet worlds away, make for surprisingly idyllic stopovers during any summer yacht charter.