The French Riviera has a long history of sailing, with some of the best marinas in the world and amazing blue waters. The east coast is particularly striking and has many ports, marinas and anchorages, which will add to an amazing vacation on Cote d’Azur. Between Marseille and St. Tropez, a sailing distance of around 95 nautical miles, you will find over 35 ports. The Côte d'Azur is a light sailing area fitted for every skipper, even for beginners and less experienced yacht charter crews, with good winds and where the tides and currents have little effect and cause no major issues.
Arriving in Marseille
You can arrive in France by plane at Marseille Airport, being the closest airport to your point of departure, Marseille. You can book a transfer from the airport, take a taxi or rent a car to Vieux Port de Marseille or Port de la Pointe Rouge, from where you can rent a boat for holidays on Cote d’Azur. The port has lots of rent-a-boat offers, suited even for the most demanding ones.
Weather on Cote d‘Azur
In the Côte d’Azur, the Mediterranean climate will welcome you with beautiful weather from May to October. Summers are dry and temperatures can reach highs of about 35 °C in July and August, but fortunately, the temperatures are generally bearable due to the influence of the sea and its cool breeze. Winters are pretty mild, even if the temperature can drop to 7 °C in January and February. Rainfalls are more abundant in the eastern area mainly between October and April, while on the western side they tend to decrease.
Sailing in this area, the winds will usually be calm and will blow from North-West. However, the captains should always take into consideration the intense north-westerly wind, the Mistral. It blows mainly in winter time but, occasionally, it blows on the coasts during the summer too. It can reach up to 185 km/h, however, in summer time is less intense and not as frequent as the southeast wind. As a bottom line, the best sailing season on Cote d’Azur is from May to September.
Planning the itinerary
Prepare for a 7 days unforgettable sailing adventure along the Cote d’Azur, one of the best places in France and Europe, to spend the summer vacation with your family and friends. For this sailing itinerary, the starting point is Vieux Port de Marseille and you will sail more than 170 nautical miles around a very unique landscape, amazing Mediterranean cuisine, remote coves and amazing blue waters. Depending on your yacht type, course and pace, the below information may vary.
- Leg 1 – Marseille to Parc National des Calanques – 15 NM – 2.5 hours
- Leg 2 – Parc National des Calanques to Toulon – 30 NM – 5 hours
- Leg 3 – Toulon to Saint Tropez – 48 NM – 8.5 hours
- Leg 4 – Saint Tropez to Ile de Hyeres – 35 NM – 6 hours
- Leg 5 – Ile de Hyeres to Iles de Frioul – 45 NM – 8 hours
- Leg 6 – Iles de Frioul to Marseille – 3 NM – 1 hour
Cote d’Azur itineraryPicture copyright: navionics.com
1. Marseille to Parc National des Calanques – Leg 1
Sailing to Parc National des Calanques
If you rent the boat from Vieux Port de Marseille, you will start the sailing week on Saturday, and you can be accommodated starting with 14:00. Sailing to one of the gulfs in Parc National des Calanques is a 15 nautical miles trip, so you can reach the destination in the same day your charter starts.
In the old port there are lots of supermarkets so you will find lots of possibilities to provision your boat and make all required adjustments before departure.
Once returned to your boat, you can set sail for the Parc National des Calanques. Close to the port exit you will see on your starboard side Fort Saint-Jean and then on your port side, The Pharo Palace. You can find good anchorage at 43°12'04.9"N 5°30'04.4"E, but keep in mind that during summer could be crowded. The national parc should be reached in about 2.5 hours and offers many good remote spots for spending the night at anchor.
Sightseeing in Parc National des Calanques
Parc National des Calanques (National Park of Coves) on the coast surrounding Marseille, became France's 10th national park in 2012, preserving their unique natural beauty and harbouring an extraordinary amount of flora and fauna: including 900 plant species, Bonelli’s eagle, Europe’s largest lizard (known as the 60cm eyed lizard) and its longest snake, the 2m Montpellier snake. The park measures around 515 square kilometres, 85 km terrestrial, while the rest extends into the Mediterranean Sea.
The park brings together imposing uplands, like the Massif de Calanques with heights of 565 meters at Mont Puget, coves plunging narrowly to almost-inaccessible fishing towns and swimming spots and endless kilometres of fantastic and amazing hiking trails, which you should definitely try. Keep in mind that during summer time, you should be good hydrated on the trail, because the trails in some parts are very demanding.
Accomodation when sailing to Parc National des Calanques
Good accommodation can be found in Cassis, and if you don’t want to spend the night in Port de Cassis, we recommend on the island, like Hotel Plage St Jean*** with starting price from 115 € / night or Best Western Gemenos en Provence*** from 163 € / night.
If you decide to spend some time close to the port, we recommend having dinner at La Vieille Auberge.
Parc National des Calanques – Port Mioucapetanos.com
2. Parc National des Calanques to Toulon – Leg 2
Sailing to Toulon
After leaving the Parc National des Calanques, take the E-SE course to Toulon at 43°07'10.4"N 5°55'57.9"E. You should reach Port de Toulon in about 5 hours, so you should consider leaving earlier, because Toulon offers lots of sightseeing activities.
Sightseeing in Toulon
Once you reach Port de Toulon, we recommend to visit the Musee Memorial du Debarquement, a commemoration to the Allied landing on the coast of Province on 15th of August 1944. If you’re interested about military history you’ll be riveted by the presentations of the different operations and battlefields around Toulon, elaborated with maps, models and photographies.
The museum can be visited as follows:
- April to June: 10:00-12:30 – 13:15-19:15
- July to August: 10:00-19:15
- September to October: 10:00–12:30 – 13:15-19:15
- November to March: 10:00-12:30 – 13:15-17:15
Mont Faron, the hulking 584-metre mountain behind Toulon made it such an attractive harbour in ancient times, mostly because it blocked the north-westerly Mistral wind and, being right on the coast, was the ideal lookout post to monitor sea traffic and spot incoming enemy ships.
Nine towers and forts once watched over the bay, remnants of which are still visible up here.
If you don’t want to reach to the summit by foot, there is a cable-car running from a terminal in the north of the city. After a six minutes ride, you will fall in love with the view, and you should definitely go for walks on cliff-top tracks. If your kids join you in this adventure, don’t miss the sanctuary for wild cats.
- Round trip ticket for adults: 7.80 EUR
- Round trip ticket for children: 5.70 EUR
Accomodation when sailing to Toulon
Discover the streets of Toulon and go to the Cours Lafayette market, where you for sure will be tempted by the smell of a couple of local snacks being cooked by locals: Cade toulonnaise is a flatbread similar to Nice’s socca, made with chickpea flour and seasoned with salt and pepper or chichi frégi, a cross between a donut and churro, flavoured with olive oil and orange blossom extract.
Mont Faron cable car, Toutoncapetanos.com
3. Toulon to Saint Tropez – Leg 3
Sailing to Saint Tropez
This leg will give you the opportunity to visit Saint Tropez, famous for its glamour, celebrities, yachts and exclusive clubs, and is true: the city has it all. It does not matter if you are looking for a luxurious, tranquil getaway or you want to dance the night away with celebrities in one of the local famous clubs – Saint Tropez is a great place to check out for a day or two.
After an early breakfast, head E-SE, between the continent and Iles d’Hyeres, Cap Benat and finally alter the course to Port of Saint Tropez at 43°16'20.7"N 6°38'11.5"E. This passage will be long, around 8 hours, but don’t worry, will give you some remarkable landscapes on your port side, and time will pass really fast.
Sightseeing in Saint Tropez
In the old times, Saint Tropez was just a simple fishing village, but over the years it has become a world-renowned seaside resort, a sophisticated destination for the wealthy and famous. Wondering on the streets of Saint Tropez will give you the chance to meet many celebrities.
Depending on how much time you want to spend in this amazing location, we advise you to visit the Saint Tropez Citadel, built between 1602 and 1608 on the drawings on Raymond de Bonnefons, will impress you with its bastions and the hexagonal shape. Here, you can also visit the Maritime Museum, an open invitation to discover the heroes Saint-Tropez such as: Bailli de Suffren, General Allard or Hyppolite Bouchard, as well as thousands of anonymous sailors who served the nation aboard the navy’s vessels or who faced stormy seas aboard merchant ships.
April to September, 10:00 – 18:30
October to March, 10:00 – 17:30
- Tickets: 3 EUR
The most famous activity though, is relaxing on the beach. The beaches of Saint Tropez are truly marvellous, and the turquoise water will simply amaze you, offering you the best time of your holiday, even if you just want to sunbathe or serving a cold drink in one of the restaurants and bars close to the beaches.
Find below a list with the most recommended beaches in Saint Tropez:
- Plage de Pampelonnee, the most famous, thanks to Brigitte Bardot who filmed here back in the 50’s “And God created woman”.
- Plage de la Bouillabaissed, located close to the harbour.
- Plage de la Ponche, it’s a small beach, but is not crowded.
- Plage des Graniers
- Moorea beach
Accomodation when sailing to Saint Tropez
Saint Tropez top view, Francecapetanos.com
4. Saint Tropez to Ile de Hyeres – Leg 4
Sailing to Ile de Hyeres
After a good deserved stop in Saint Tropez, it’s time to set sail to Ile de Hyeres, 35 NM away and an incredible view on your starboard side. Port de Porquerolles is located at 43°00'07.7"N 6°12'09.6"E, around 6 hours away. Check the weather forecast, and in good conditions, raise the sails and enjoy a wonderful sailing experience to Ile de Hyeres.
Sightseeing in Ile de Hyeres
Once you reach the island, you will discover lots of activities to relax and enjoy the calm of the island. You can snorkel in clear water, dine in style and try some of the finest local wines. Ile de Hyeres is also the perfect destination for hiking along botanical trails, roam craggy cliffs, or bump around dusty paths on a bicycle.
Though the island is only about nine kilometres long and two kilometres wide, there are plenty of possibilities for exploring. Start by heading east to Fort Alycastre and its coveted creek and one of the loveliest beaches like Notre Dame, surrounded by pines and preferred by captains for the good anchoring spot. From there you can take the uphill route inland, past the lighthouse and across to the rocky capes of the wild southern coast: there are magnificent views from the sheltered cliff, l'Oustaou de Diou (House of God).
Accomodation when sailing to Ile de Hyeres
Good accommodation can be found on the island, like L’Oustaou de Porquerolles*** with starting price from 220 € / night. Try some local dishes at the restaurant Le Pelagos, which will amaze you with the flavours and traditional recipes.
Ile de Hyeres top view, Francecapetanos.com
5. Ile de Hyeres to Iles de Frioul – Leg 5
Sailing to Iles de Frioul
Raise the sails and take a W-NW course until you reach Les Goudes and then alter course to North for Port du Frioul, located at 43°16'47.0"N 5°18'27.4"E. This is a 45 NM leg and will take around 8 hours to reach the harbour. Keep an eye on the traffic and enjoy the picturesque landscape on your starboard side. Sailing on Cote d’Azur brings many unforgettable landscapes, so keep your camera close.
Sightseeing in Iles de Frioul
The Frioul archipelago has four islands: Pomegues, Ratonneu, If and Tiboulen. With the numerous coves and sandy beaches, these islands attract sailors all over the world for their picturesque sceneries and with its still wild and unspoiled landscapes. The archipelago extends over 200 hectares along a coast of 30 kilometres and separated by 7 kilometres from Marseille.
Even though Ratonneau Island is now a vacation area, in the past it was a military base and also a quarantine area for ships coming from foreign countries after the great plague which affected Marseille in 1720.
Pommegues Island remains wilder and more authentic. Former military activities left traces also on this island, such as the battery of Cap Caveaux in South, the battery and fort of Pomegues to the North and the Tower of Pomeguet in the centre, offering an astonishing panorama.
Located to the East of the archipelago, the island Tiboulen which is not inhabited, nor served by a ferry. The island only has a landing lighthouse visible from 7 NM.
Last but not least, If Island is the closest to Marseille and it’s a must-see tourist attraction, due to the castle on this island – Chateau d’If - made famous by the Count of Monte Cristo, written by Alexandre Dumas.
Chateau d’If at sunset, Francecapetanos.com
6. Iles de Frioul to Marseille – Leg 6
Sailing to Marseille
Being the final leg, it will take around one hour to return to Vieux Port de Marseille so, you should take your time and enjoy a good breakfast aboard your yacht or in one of the restaurants around Port du Frioul. Once leaving the harbour, head NE to Marseille and admire on your starboard side, Chateau d’If and the turquoise waters surrounding the island.
Sightseeing in Marseille
After checking out your boat and if you have some more time before the flight back home, take some time and enjoy Marseille, the second largest city in France.
Notre Dame de la Garde Church is a 19th-century neo-Byzantine church rising 150 metres above the sea level, with a large golden statue of the Virgin Mary and Child at the top of its tower to watch over Marseille’s maritime communities. There had been religious sanctuaries and watch towers on La Garde for many centuries, and the basilica incorporates the lower levels of a renaissance fort that also included a chapel.
Inaugurated in 2013, MuCEM is a cutting-edge museum that regenerated a portion of Marseille’s waterfront next to the 17th-century Fort de Saint-Jean. The architecture is breath taking, but what’s inside is actually quite difficult to sum up: it’s actually an overview of the Mediterranean culture and civilisation trough art, photography and historic artefacts.
Accomodation when sailing to Marseille
Vieux Port Marseille, view from Notre Dame de la Gardecapetanos.com
Capetanos sailing and general recommendations
For an amazing sailing week on Cote d’Azur, we strongly recommend to plan in advance, consult the charts, weather conditions and choose the most suitable time and boat, according to your sailing skills.
We hope that information in this article will contribute to your decision for your next holiday in France – Cote d’Azur, one of the top destinations in Europe. Celebrities all around the world spend the summer holidays across the Cote d’Azur, mostly due to the pure beauty of nature, the sophisticated locations and one of the best accommodation services in the world.
Sailing bugdet calculator / rent boat calculator Cote d’Azur
These calculations are performed for one-week charter on a 42 feet sailing boat in mid-august and crew of 8. The total may differ depending on many factors like boat amenities and construction year, mooring fees, dinner out, etc.
|1-week total||6.125 €|
|4 cabins sailing boat||3.100 €|
|Skipper (optional)||1.050 €|
|Food out||850 €|