We have recently returned from the most amazing family break to Ile de Porquerolles, a beautiful island to the south of France. After hearing tales of stunning beaches with clear waters, gorgeous scenery, and a totally laid back island free from over development, I was more than excited.
Located off the Côte d’Azur, Ile de Porquerolles is only a stones throw from the glitzy and popular tourist towns that you would normally associate with the area. But it couldn’t be more different; this little island has managed to create the perfect balance of fun holiday vibes with preserved beauty and nature.
The small island has one village (Porquerolles) which is centred around the port on the north side, and apart from a luxury hotel on the western end of the island, there is very little other development. Being accessible only via passenger ferry, Porquerolles is virtually car free, which makes for very relaxed parents not having worry about busy roads with the kids running around.
So if you are planning or considering a visit to Ile de Porquerolles with kids, read on to get the lowdown on this beautiful, family friendly island.
How to get there
The nearest city with good transport links is Marseille, but you will also find an airport at Toulon-Hyères, which has direct flights from London City.
Access to the island is via boat only, with a passenger ferry running daily from Giens La Tour Fondu between 7.30am and 7pm. The crossing takes about 15 minutes and with both indoor and outdoor seating, you get a fab view along the way.
There are also a few taxi boats, for those who miss the boat, and the prices range from 90euro to 140euro depending on the time of day.
When to go
We headed to the island for May half term and were treated to the loveliest weather; blue sky, very warm sunshine, and a mild sea breeze to take the edge off. At this time year it was still popular with tourists but quieter and more relaxed than July and August. We were told that in August the population of the island, which normally has only 300 residents, rises to 10,000 people per day, with 500 boats moored off each beach!
Some of the hotels have golf buggy type vehicles which collect guests and their luggage from the port, but with a network of cycle paths across the island, hiring a bike is the best way to explore.
There are a selection of bike rental shops in the village, very close to the port, and they all have a variety of bikes, kids seats, trailers, kids bikes with attachment poles, and even electric bikes which will help with some of the steeper routes! Almost as soon as we arrived we picked up some bikes and a trailer for our two littlest ones from the Le Team rental shop, who were really friendly and helpful.
We had the best time exploring on our bikes, and when I asked my 9-year-old what his favourite part of the holiday was he quickly stated “my bike!” We managed to find some really great little beaches, which were much quieter than those walking distance from the port.
Where to stay
Accommodation on the island is limited; the strict rules preventing extensive development mean that there are no big hotels or apartment complexes, and even no campsites (and wild camping is strictly prohibited). You therefore need to book far in advance if you want to stay on the island, and be prepared to pay a bit more than on the mainland.
We stayed in a little ‘bungalow’ at Le Clos des Galejades, just behind the village square. Surrounded by pretty flowers, towering pine trees and even a lemon tree, it was a little haven.
We had a terrace, where we sat to eat our breakfast each day (croissants from the bakery a few minutes walk away), and some of our lunch and evening meals too. Inside there was one bedroom with a double bed, and just off the living room area there was a corner snug containing two bunk-beds with curtains to draw across at night. The small kitchenette had everything we could need, even a full size dishwasher, and the bathroom was clean and had plenty of storage. We were very happy here for the week and agreed that we would happily return.
If you are lucky enough to secure accommodation on the island, you will be treated to the most perfect evenings when the masses have got the last boat at 7pm and the vibe becomes much more relaxed. The beaches are just dotted with locals, catching up and having a dip in the warm late evening sun, and later the local kids come out to play on the square.
Where to eat
Despite being a small village, you are spoilt for choice for restaurants, and you could easily eat in a different restaurant each day, even on a two-week holiday.
We had a lovely meal at the L’Orangerie which overlooks the village square at the front and has a fantastic terrace overlooking the port at the back. As well as their main menu they also have a menu du jour of one fish dish and one meat dish each day, and a great kids menu; the food is fresh and delicious.
L’Escale also has great views of the harbour and despite being a bit of a trendy bar, in the evenings they serve a tapas menu. When we visited they had live music which Baby DaisLikeThese enjoyed bopping along to and with a great looking cocktail menu and those all important views, this is a perfect way to watch the sunset after a busy day exploring – even with the kids in tow!
We had a fabulous lunch at the Le Restaurant La Plage D’Argent, which is located quite obviously on the Plage D’Argent. Here you can eat on the large terrace, shaded by pine trees, and over looking the silver sands and clear waters. Our boys absolutely loved it here, and being able to run down to the beach when they had finished eating. As well as a great menu including absolutely massive salads and fab kids options, your waiter will also bring along a platter displaying the catches of the day!
If you don’t fancy eating out, but can’t face cooking at your accommodation (or if you have a toddler who terrorizes restaurants like ours!) there are some great take away options available. We had a really delicious take away pizza one evening, eaten on our terrace which was ideal. But our hands down favourite take away meal came from Restaurant La Calanque where we ordered fish soup (with all the trimmings), moules-frites and paella. We had the best of both worlds – a delicious restaurant cooked meal, but with the relaxed setting of our own terrace where Baby Dais Like These could do her worst without disturbing other diners!
I have previously written a post on some of the most exotic destinations that you can find in France and Porquerolles is certainly that – you couldn’t be blamed for mistaking some of the beaches for those on a Caribbean island.
Even if you just visit for a day, and decide to not hire a bike, you can still quite easily walk to some gorgeous beaches. Plage D’Argent, which is a 15-20 minute walk to the East of the village lives up to its name, with silver sands and crystal clear waters. To the west of the village you will find three more stunning beaches, with Plage de la Courtade being the closest.
My favourite thing about all of the beaches that we visited was the fact that they all had vast shallow areas which were perfect for little ones to paddle in safely.
I have written a full post detailing our five favourite beaches on the island, which is definitely worth checking out if you are lucky enough to be heading to the island.
Other sites to check out
If you hire bikes, you can cycle up to the lighthouse on the southern side of the island, and stop off at the Gorge du Loup where, if you are brave enough, you can climb down to the beautiful blue sea and have a little dip!
Up in the hills outside the village you can find the Moulin (or windmill to you and me), which has been fully restored using traditional methods and materials. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it is fully functioning as well! It is generally reserved for special occasions and celebrations when it is used by the people of the village. The views from up at the Moulin are spectacular, and apparently locals head here for an aperitif watching the sunset.
We were treated to a brilliant speed boat trip around the island by a relative who works at the port, and we had the most amazing time. I would highly recommend taking a boat trip if you can, ours took a total of two hours which included a stop for a swim. There are companies based at the port who offer scheduled trips, or you can hire boats with or without a permit. For the most powerful boats you will need to have a permit, but if you do not have one, you can still hire a smaller boat and explore the beaches closer to the port.
Place d’Armes is the main square in the village of Porquerolles, and in the evenings it is a fab and fun meeting place for kids; our three were so happy here. For the little ones there is a small playground and the older kids tend to play football. By the second night our boys felt confident to join in games with local kids and it was so lovely watching them all using lots of pointing and arm gesturing to organise teams and goal markings!
Our trip to Ile de Porquerolles has honestly been my favourite holiday for such a long time. I loved the laid back nature of the island, I loved the fact that the kids could have a bit more freedom because there were no cars, I loved the adventure of getting out on our bikes and finding new places, and I obviously loved the beautiful beaches and warm weather! I would return in a heartbeat…in fact we are already planning our next visit!
Have you visited Ile de Porquerolles? I would love to hear about it!