The call of the sea
Ever since Phoenician times, ports have shaped Mediterranean history and civilisation. Today, many of these former Phocaean trading posts are no longer used for commercial purposes, but are now devoted to sailing. However, these ports, all of them different, are still the heart and soul of the resorts where they are located. Here’s a quick summary.
IN THE VAR
SAINT-TROPEZ, AN ICONIC RESORT
Dominated by a 16th century citadel, this small picturesque port, adored by painters, suddenly became one of the most fashionable resorts thanks to Brigitte Bardot. Once the warm weather arrives, holidaymakers sit on the café terraces and enjoy the colourful view of the white luxury yachts, the ochre facades of the buildings and the blue sea and sky. It is famous for its nightlife and beaches, such as the Pampelonne and Tahiti beaches. But once you’ve left the harbour district, the narrow little streets lined with old houses are delightfully calm and full of olde worlde charm. A temple of modern art, the Annonciade Museum is housed in a chapel dating from 1568.
Tourist Office : www.sainttropeztourisme.com
Home port of the French Navy, Toulon is also the birthplace of underwater navigation and has seen the development of the most powerful and effective weapons and equipment. But the great eastern harbour still serves many different purposes: it is used for fishing, commercial shipping with routes to Corsica and Sardinia and pleasure sailing. With over 100,000 registrations, the departmental Directorate for Maritime Affairs at Toulon is also the leading one in France for pleasure sailing. A popular port of call, synonymous with getting away from it all for those who tie up at the dock.
Tourist Office : www.toulontourisme.com
With its bay sheltered from the Mistral wind, the port of Hyères is one of the busiest on the Var coast thanks to its 1,350 places, including 120 reserved for boats passing through. Visitors can sit at one of the many terraces lining the quay and watch the constant toing and froing. It is the training venue for the French team and a large number of regattas are held here throughout the year. A sporting, family atmosphere.
- Port Saint-Pierre
- Port du Niel
- La Capte
Tourist Office : www.hyeres-tourism.co.uk
Just off the southern coast, this island is a paradise where yachts can stop over.
Tourist Office : www.hyeres-tourism.co.uk
Although Bandol has carved out an international reputation for itself with its wines, its port has earned its stripes with seafarers thanks to its excellent amenities: 1,500 year-round berths and 70 temporary moorings. French actress Mistinguett, Bertolt Brecht and many sporting champions have all stopped there to breathe in its fresh sea air. It still serves as a fishing harbour thanks to fifteen or so skippers who regularly use it. During their stopover, visitors can stroll along the famous promenade, visit the Bendor islanders or grace the wonderful restaurants in Bandol.
Tourist Office : www.bandoltourisme.fr
- Port Grimaud
- Les Issambres: San Peïre and Port St-Ferréol
- Saint-Cyr-les-Lecques and La Madrague
- Ile des Embiez
- La Seyne-sur-Mer
- Carqueiranne and Les Salettes
- La Londe les Maures and Miramar
- Le Lavandou
- Saint Aygulf
STOPOVERS IN BOUCHES-DU-RHÔNE
As indicated by its nickname ‘the Venice of Provence’, Martigues is more than just a port; it’s a genuine lakeside town where hundreds of boats glide along on the shifting waters of the lagoon. Yachtsmen, regatta fans and lovers of big game fishing rub shoulders with professional fishermen, the town’s experts. You simply must go and see their boats on the central docks where they lay out their nets and crates of fish. In summer, open-air guinguettes (cafes/restaurants) serve delicious grilled sardines and mouclade of mussels.
- Port de Ferrières
Tourist Office : www.martigues-tourisme.com
The port of Marseille was the city’s birthplace, founded by the Greeks in 600 B.C. The whole city fanned out around the hub of the Old Port: it spread across the north shore before expanding on the south shore, called the « New Shore », a few centuries later. In the mid-nineteeth century, the Quai Napoléon, today the Quai des Belges, was widened from 12 to 45 metres. However, the Old Port, which had been the heart of Marseille’s trading activity for 25 centuries, began to be deprived of its strategic nature by the Joliette Docks, excavated a few kilometres away, where the bulk of the maritime activity was focused. And even though today, with the understated layout of its facades, it has lost its haughty swagger, it still retains much of its delightfully hectic past, which comes back to life with the fishmongers’ cries. Guarded by the Saint-Jean and Saint-Nicolas fortresses, the view from the Old Port walkway of the Pharo gardens is unforgettable.
- Old Port
- Port de I’Estaque
- Port du Frioul
Tourist Office : www.marseille-tourisme.com
Nestling at the end of an inlet, sheltered by steep rock faces, the little port of Morgiou is hidden among the Marseille calanques. Tucked away in a narrow gorge are the outlines of makeshift fishermen’s huts. A private haven of peace, barely disturbed by the flapping of a sail in the wind. A little gem for connoisseurs!
The little Provençal port as you imagine it, surrounded by high hills between Cap Canaille and the pine forests of Bestouan, quietly lying in the hollow of a valley. Cassis is one of the most beautiful stopovers on the coast, with its maze of narrow streets in the old town, the colourful, bustling terraces on the quay, its forests, arid peaks and beautiful waterfront. You can dock from the sea or from inland.
Tourist Office : www.ot-cassis.com