I was late to discover this incredible gem of an island in Provence and have hesitated to post too much to preserve its secrets, but alas, this wild beauty will not stay guarded from anglophone visitors for too long. And with the recent addition of a world-class art museum, this tiny island hideaway off the coast of Hyères, is quickly becoming a Mediterranean hotspot.
The island of Porquerolles, is a total paradise complete with stunning beaches, bike trails and underwater shipwrecks that French and tourists in-the-know, flock to for an exotic weekend getaway. Accessible only by boat, yacht or ferry, the tiny island of Porquerolles is comprised of beautiful wild beaches, world-class modern art museum and a small quaint town center with a handful of hotels, bars and restaurants overlooking the harbor. The French government took over Porquerolles in the 1970s to protect it from overdevelopment and granted it national park status, which is why the island’s Mediterranean flora resembles the French Riviera of centuries past. Discover paths lined with oaks, olives, figs, junipers, wild lavender, rosemary, rock rose, myrtle and more.
What To Do
In addition to relaxing at the island’s stunning turquoise clear water beaches, the island also boasts a handful of vineyards and a fantastic modern art museum. The Villa Carmignac opened in 2018 with its first exhibition, filled with an impressive collection of artists, from: Basquiat, Botticelli, Picasso and Warhol and is located in the heart of this protected island. This year’s exhibition opened April 13, 2019 and is titled, The Source (images below courtesy of the Carmignac Fondation).
“For the Villa Carmignac’s second year of existence, the Fondation Carmignac has invited Chiara Parisi as a guest curator. Both the architecture of the Villa and the island itself have provided inspiration for La Source (The Source), the resulting show. Emerging from the woods, visitors are invited to take off their shoes before plunging beneath the surface of the Provençal farmhouse, where they can discover over sixty artworks from the collection, as well as important loans and new productions.” – Source, Fondation Cramming
Book your tickets online in advance and slip your shoes off for the Fondation Carmignac experience. There’s a lovely outdoor bistrot outside the museum for a cafe, glass of wine or healthy lunch under the pine trees. Then, reserve an hour-long wine tasting in advance to enjoy a selection of red, white and rosés made from Rolle, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault varieties at the Domaine La Courtade, an organic winery on the island open from 11am – 4pm during the summer months.
Getting Around The Island: Biking
Several bike rental agencies are available on the island from the village port, most with pricing from 13 euros for a half-day for basic VTTs to electric bikes around 30 euros. Biking the island takes roughly 30 minutes from one side to the other, so is a great family activity with mostly shaded paths, when the temperatures are not too scorching.
Our Favorite Beaches
A lazy day swimming and hanging out by the water is a must. The crystal clear, turquoise waters are extraordinary. Plage Notre Dame is the largest of the island, and one of the most beautiful beaches of Europe with plenty of space for swimming in it’s wide sandy bay. It’s definitely a must-visit, although the most popular spot in the high summer months. Plage d’Argent, is a beautiful smaller inlet, and ideal to discover by boat. Each beach offers clear turquoise waters and golden sand. Explore and bike the island to experience its many inlets, creeks and beaches that are ideal for swimming and lazy all-day picnics.
Where to Eat
After a full day in the water, start your evening with a sunset apéro and tapas at L’Escale (2, rue de la Ferme – 83400 – Porquerolles – France) complete with lovely port views.
For a great quality dinner (and recommended by the locals), reserve a table at Villa Sainte Anne (24, place d’Armes – 83400). Located on the main plaza, discover a small but lovely selection of fresh fish and local cuisine served in an unpretentious setting overlooking the pétanque area. L’Etal du Boucher was also a great second spot for a family or more casual dinner right on the plaza, with a friendly staff and fresh asian-inspired Thai cuisine. Bonus for a a great boucherie and rare special attention to those with food allergies/intolerances.
When to Go
The island awakes from its winter hibernation a bit late, in mid-April to October each year. Throngs of locals and visitors arrive from Hyères by ferry every 15-30 minutes during the weekends. Our favorite time to visit is either June or even better September, when the waters remain warm and tourists have faded away. Swimming is best from July to September when the Mediterranean water warms.
How to Get There
Our ideal way to access Porquerolles is by yacht with mooring available by advance reservation in the port (space is very limited in the summer months), or in one of the beautiful bays. Alternatively, arrive by ferry, navette or water taxi which is a mere 20 minutes ride from Hyères for a daytrip. During the busy summer months, ferries arrive every 15 minutes into the tiny island. Ferry tickets are available to purchase in advance and recommended, especially in the summer months of July and August.
Author & Photographer: Tarik Koivisto, Founder, Luxe Provence. Pictured wearing the Porquerolle-inspired, Camille Jumpsuit (left), perfect for biking and Mediterranean beach strolls made in lightweight, OEKO-Tex striped linen, and the Bianca Halter Dress (right) coming to our Mediterranean Gold Subscribers this September.