Porquerolles

Porquerolles is the largest and most westerly of the three Îles d'Hyères that lie in the Mediterranean just off the coast of the mainland. The other two islands are Ile du Levant and Port-cros (which is actually a national park). They are part of the Cote d'Azur (the French Riviera), and are located about halfway between Nice, about 45 miles to the east, and Marseille, about 45 miles to the west.

The Îles d'Hyères have no airports, and you may not bring motor vehicles onto the islands. Thus, the only way to get here is by boat. There are frequent ferries from the mainland to Porquerolles from Giens, which is only a couple miles away. This is a quick ferry ride, taking only about 15 minutes. During the peak summer months of July and August, there is a ferry every 30 minutes. There is also a water taxi available at all times, with fares that vary depending on the number of passengers. A 40-minute ferry is available from Le Lavandou.

The Porquerolles population numbers only about 200, and most of these people live in or near the small village. The southern coast of the island is rugged with high cliffs. Most of the best beaches are on the sheltered northern coast and easily accessed from the town. A portion of this island is set aside as part of the Port-Cros National Park. There are a number of small guest house and inns in the little town. Perhaps the finest accommodation on the island is Le Mas du Langoustier, isolated on the far western tip of the island. It boasts a gourmet restaurant and bar, 50 charming rooms, a swimming pool, and fabulous ocean views. There is also a spa with massage services and a beautiful beach is just a short walk away. The property even boasts its own vineyard and serves its own wine.

Ile du Levant is the second largest island, and its ferry port of Heliopolis boasts a few small hotels, inns, and guest houses. There are a handful of shops and several restaurants. A portion of the island is off limits as it is a military installation. The beaches along the coast outside of the port area are primarily nudist beaches. Heliopolis on Ile du Levant was founded by two physicians in 1931, who established the settlement specifically as a naturist retreat. The island clothing shops specialize in what is called "Le Minimum," the bare essential clothing expected when one is in town or dining in a restaurant.

Ferries that come into Heliopolis, come from Port-Cros (not the mainland) and it is a very short crossing. Ferries to Port-Cros come from the towns of Hyeres (about a 40-minute crossing) and Le Lavandou (about a 20-minute crossing) on the mainland. This island is covered almost entirely by a national park. Nonetheless, there is one hotel and a very few guesthouses. Hotel Le Manoir is a former manor house built in the eighteenth-century. There are twenty comfortable rooms, some of which are air-conditioned, and a restaurant specializing in seafood.

There is excellent diving on all three of the Îles d'Hyères, but especially on Port-Cros and Levant. In addition to the ferry transportation, many people visit the islands in small private craft.

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