by Maddy Coleborn
The French Riviera is one of the world’s oldest and most popular holiday destinations,
renowned for its glitz and glamour as much as for the azure waters and golden sandy beaches of its coastlines.
But for those of us who lead busy lives, the fast pace of the region’s chic cities can seem exhausting. If you love Rivieran culture, but prefer your beaches more quiet and secluded than ‘sardines on the sand’, you might well find your holiday heaven in the stunning Hyeres Islands, which lie just off the coast of Nice.
Nicknamed the îles d’Or (or the Golden Isles), the three islands of Porquerolles, Port-Cros and the île du Levant are well and truly off the beaten track, known only to a select few – making them perfect for a ‘getaway from it all’ style break.
Fly to Nice and from there it is just a short trip overland to Hyeres where you can catch the ferry to the main port in Porquerolles.
Where to stay
Accommodation is limited on these tiny islands (the largest, Porquerolles, is just 7km long and 3km wide), so make sure you book in advance. Whether you fancy the luxury of a hotel stay or the seclusion of a private villa, there should be something to suit every taste. But be aware that camping is forbidden on the island.
What to see and do
As soon as you arrive at the port of Porquerolles, you’ll be captivated by the island – from the boats bobbing in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, to the first glimpses of the quaint houses nestling in the lush greenery (the island is a Nature Reserve). Head north for golden sandy beaches, or south for rugged cliffs – the wild and majestic landscape will take your breath away. Don’t forget to explore the array of olive and lemon groves that line the island’s interior for a taste of rural Provence.
Food and drink
With over 300 days of sunshine a year, you’ll find that exploring the Hyeres can be thirsty work. Porquerolles is home to some of France’s finest vineyards, so you should make sure to try some of the local plonk during your stay. And of course, the al fresco restaurants which line the picturesque main square will be serving the top notch cuisine for which France is famous.
There are plenty of flights leaving from airports across the UK, so bag a bargain Riviera break before France’s best kept secret gets out.