Together with Port-Cros and Ile du Levent, Porquerolles makes up Les Iles d’Or, a tiny archipelago lying a few miles off the Côte d’Azur. But despite its proximity to the mainland, on a charter vacation, the island feels like a million miles away.
Measuring just three by seven kilometres, croissant-shaped Porquerolles is small enough to explore by foot but large enough to find some peace and quiet. And it's this treasured tranquillity that serves as a major draw for yacht-goers looking for an antidote to the unabashed extravagance of the French Riviera.
The Riviera of yesteryear
Porquerolles is the South of France in its unspoiled and un-styled manifestation and much of this is down to a wealthy Belgian adventurer named Francois Joseph Fournier, who bought the island as a wedding gift for his new wife in 1912.
When the Fournier family put Porquerolles up for sale in 1961, the island was purchased by the French state which, protecting it against urbanisation, granted it national park status before designating it a conservation area during the 1980s.
As a result, the landscape resembles the French Riviera of centuries ago. The breathtaking cliffs, crystalline coves and fine sandy beaches have remained untouched, and oak forests, olive, fig and strawberry trees, lavender, rosemary, myrtle and other Mediterranean flora continue to thrive.
Private cars are even banned and there is no public transport. And, as hotels are in short supply, overnight visitors are scare. This means as night falls and the day-trippers disappear, luxury yacht-goers can anchor in a hidden cove and feel like they have the entire island to themselves.
Idyllic island life
Island life centres on Porquerolle’s only village, located on the northern coast next to a small harbour. The charming settlement was created in around 1820 as a convalescent centre for soldiers returning from colonial wars and it hasn’t changed much since.
At the hub is Place d’Armes, a sandy square surrounded by eucalyptus trees and most of the island’s restaurants and cafés. From early evening, with no day visitors left on the island, it returns to its own unhurried pace luring those who remain to unwind on a café veranda with a glass of island-made mandarin liqueur.
Standing watch over the village is the 16th-century Forte Sainte Agathe where panoramic views of the interior can be enjoyed. Among the few other points of interest on the island are three vineyards, a botanical conservatory, a monastery and more than 30 miles of footpaths meandering among the oak and pine forests.
Beaches for you alone
Luxury yacht-goers in search of an idyllic beach will not be disappointed with Porquerolles’ selection. Even at the height of the summer season, it’s possible to find a deserted stretch of sand with unbroken views of the sparkling Mediterranean.
Coming out on top in the beauty stakes is Plage de Notre-Dame. Found on the north-east coast, the crescent-shaped strip of golden sand is lapped by cornflower blue waters and backed by emerald green pine trees filling the air with their pleasant aroma.
Also on the north coast and similarly easy on the eye is Plage d’Argent, translated as 'silver beach' due to the shimmering metallic colour of its sand. This is the only beach on the island with any facilities on, a restaurant serving caught-that-day fish.
Plage du Langoustier sits on the north of the western peninsula. Sheltered from the wind, this beach is known for its crystal clear waters while a beach to the south – Plage Noire – gets its name from the distinctive dark sand. Hard to reach from the mainland, it’s one of the island’s quietest beaches.
Culinary treasures to uncover
Given that much of Porquerolles is protected, there is a surprising slice of luxury hidden away in a pine grove on the island's western tip. It goes by the name of Las Mas du Langoustier, a four-star hotel built by the widowed Madame Fournier in the 1930s.
If the wellness treatments don’t lure yacht-goers ashore, the gastronomic offerings will. The main restaurant – L’Olivier – has a Michelin star to its name and wows with modern reinterpretations of traditional Provençal fare served over seven courses.
The second dining option is La Pinedea which, spread across a shady terrace, is ideal for more relaxed gatherings. Those in the know come here for long, lazy lunches over dishes such as bouillabaisse, grilled lobster and the catch of the day. Naturally, the eatery specialises in seafood, which is perfectly complemented by a glass of local wine.
Those travelling by superyacht can anchor off the coast of Plage Noire and take the tender ashore. The hotel is less than a five-minute walk away along a path flanked by pine and eucalyptus trees.
Porquerolles’ little sister
Yacht-goers who get a hankering for desert island life should add on a visit to Porquerolles’ smaller neighbour, Port-Cros. Lying just a few nautical miles away to the east, this rugged blanket of mountainous forest rising from the sea comes complete with native flora and fauna, old forts and hidden coves.
The entire island, as well as the sea that surrounds it, is a national park. On land, trails weave through verdant woodland, over cliffs and across lonely valleys, while an underwater trail off La Palud beach showcases its marine-rich waters to snorkelers.
The little life there is on Port-Cros can be found in a small hamlet near the harbour. Stepping ashore onto the sandy quayside with its scattering of beach bars and a row of palm trees, travellers may think they’ve landed in the Caribbean.
This is what makes Porquerolles and its surrounds so alluring. As pristine Provençal landscapes, elusive old-world charm and blissful tranquillity become the stars of the show, it feels like a world apart from the in-your-face glitz and glamour usually associated with the Riviera.
For help planning a Porquerolles yacht charter, speak to your preferred charter broker.
Alternatively, view all luxury yachts available for charter in the South of France.