If paradise means sailing in clear blue water, sunning on glorious beaches rimmed with palm trees, romantic island hideaways, first class cuisine and shopping, all surrounded by some of the best natural, cultural and historical sites in Europe, then let Dream Yacht Charter take you to a playground of kings and queens—the French Riviera.
Cote d’Azur, or the Azure Coast, takes its name from Mediterranean Sea, which laps the coastline of southeast France. The region stretches 560 miles from the Italian border in the east, to Saint Tropez in the west.
From our base in St. Mandrier sur Mer, Port Pin Rolland, on the western end of the Azure coast, you will experience awe-inspiring sailing along some of the earliest western trades routes. From Marseille to St. Tropez, the Iles d’Or (Hyeres) to the Calanques, there are resplendent beaches, majestic flora, and protected aquatic life.
To the east, embark on a voyage to St. Tropez, Toulon or Hyeres, and explore the Iles d’Or: Porquerolles, Port Cros and Levant. St. Tropez has long been a favorite destination of artists, writers and celebrities. An early wine and cork trading port frequented by Greeks, Etruscans and Romans, St. Tropez became a fashionable “resort” in the 18th century, for its long, golden beaches and nearby Provencal landscapes. And it still aims to please, with fine French cuisine and designer shopping. The region is famous for its shipyards, and is the home of the “tan” and Brigitte Bardot.
Toulon is known for its fountains and opera house. There are sheltered, sandy beaches in Mourillon and a cable car that runs up Mt. Faron. You can visit the Museum of the French Navy, and when hunger strikes, you can sample the famous cade toulonnaise and chichi fregi (a type of donut).
Hyeres was a favorite spot of Queen Victoria; and Edith Wharton wrote “The Age of Innocence” there. A short distance inland is the oldest resort on the French Riviera. Known as Hyeres les Palmiers for its lush pine trees, this resort can be an enchanting interlude to your sailing vacation.
A must on any western Cote d’Azur cruise are the Iles d’ Or, also known as the Iles of Hyeres. Porquerolles is the largest of the three islands, with eucalyptus forests and parasol pines in its nature reserve. You will find protected anchorages, the beaches of Notre Dame, La Courtade and Plague d’Argent, and an 1837 lighthouse. The ile features snorkeling and bike rentals. Port Cros, a national park, is named for its cross-shaped harbor and is surrounded by a coastal maritime zone. Its beach, La Palud, is perfect for lounging and snorkeling. And you can find botanical trails and two old forts to explore. The smallest of the iles, Ile Levant, is a long, narrow rocky ridge; only the western tip is open to the public. From its port, Port Ayguade, follow its jasmine hedges to the village of Arbousiers. More daring visitors can spend some time at the naturist center in Heliopolis.
From Port Pin Rolland, set sail west to visit the haunting Calanques, enroute to Marseille.
Marseille is France’s second city, and a port, so it is a vibrant mix of diverse cultures. It is where bouillibase was born and has a lively urban appeal with museums and theatres. A variety of cuisines are offered in its many fine restaurants, and a sophisticated nightlife will entice you away from the Sea, if only temporarily.
About 12 nautical miles east of Marseille, navigate your way to the Calanque Cassis. The Calanques are often called the Fjords of the Mediterranean. They have deep valleys with steep, sheer sides of rock, from which grow an incredible variety of plants. Anchor between them and enjoy an onboard gourmet meal in one of the world’s most dramatic locations. Except in mid-summer, when they are closed to visitors, the Calanques are a fascinating stop in a stunning Mediterranean cruise of western Cote D’Azur.