The sun has warmed up my skin more than I can bear while the warm wind spreads a scent of pine through the air. My backpack is filled with delicious fresh fruits from the market of the Cour Lafayette in Toulon, ready to be munched away during a picnic at a secret cove, by one of the most beautiful beaches of the French Riviera.
It is August and that means peak season in the most beautiful towns and villages while we roll our bikes along the hilly cycle path heading east from Toulon. We pass through the village of Le Pradet and we cycle along Carqueiranne. On our right, the blue of the Mediterranean Sea shows itself more and more. Wild grapes and fig trees grow along the path, and provide us with a welcome sugar boost for the last uphill, after which we arrive at the windsurfing and kitesurfing Mecca of France: L’Almanarre.
The three-kilometre long Route du Sel (Salt route) takes us along salt marshes from the main land to the peninsula of Giens from where the islands of Port-Cros, Porquerolles and Le Levant can be discovered. A flock of pink flamingos flies over to land in the salines which are stuck within the double tombolo, a very rare geological formation liking Giens to the continent. Dating back to at least the Middle Ages, at most the Antiquity, the salt production is history. Today, more than 250 different bird species can be observed in this quite unique setting, with the turquoise sea next to it.
Arriving on the peninsula, La Presqu’île de Giens, we pass by the cute harbour of La Madrague with its traditional fishing pointus before continuing on foot. Le sentier du littoral (coastal path) is a yelllow-marked hiking trail that follows the coastline, and from its cliffs, stunning vistas on the dark blue to turquoise Mediterranean Sea can be enjoyed. Junipers, rosemaries, and pine trees sculpted by the wind form a green carpet while the hiking trail cuts its way under vegetal vaults and along rocky slopes, towards Pointe d’Escampo Bariou.
There, the remains of a searchlight can be used to access a fantastic rocky and secret creek where we snorkel and explore a half-immerged cave. Installed along the French coasts after the war of 1870 against Prussia, searchlights were used to protect strategic sites like Toulon by spotting enemy ships and submarines at night. The precious light was pulled up from its casing along a very steep slope during the day to be maintained. Further down, a steep and impressive staircase leads to the former electrical pump that used to suck in seawater to cool down the generator of the 1.5-metre projector. Batteries installed close-by would then shoot at the enemy in order to not betray the position of the searchlight.
After a sporty stretch, we end our hike at the Plage des Darboussières, a pebble beach and one of the most beautiful ones along the French Riviera. It is a pleasure to cool down in its warm waters, looking at the beautiful cliffs covered by majestic pine trees against the deep blue sky, plunging into the sea and forming coves of white pebbles on which our colourful pareos contrast.
As we make our way back to Toulon along the sandy beaches of L’Amanarre, an uncountable amount of kitesurfers has invaded the beach and daredevils try out high and tricky jumps on the choppy waves. Tomorrow, we will be back to explore what lies beneath: the archaeological dives on the antique and partially submerged Olbia…
Claire & Marcella
- Refer to the website of the tourist information office of Hyères to choose your points of interests to visit Hyères and its surroundings.
- The French Riviera is very touristy, and hiking these remote trails provide access to fantastic spots even during the high season.
- L’Almanarre is a long and sandy beach that tends to be crowded. Around the peninsula of Giens, there are plenty of opportunities to access the sea and the bravest who dare to hike will be rewarded. These coves and beaches can also be accessed by boat or canoe.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!