Hyères is the oldest resort on the Côte, listing Queen Victoria and Tolstoy among its early admirers. Set back from the coast, it lost out when the focus of tourism switched from winter convalescence to the beach. Today it exports cut flowers and exotic plants – the most important being the date palm, which graces every street – and it’s a garrison town. Walled, medieval old Hyères perches on the slopes of Casteou hill, 5km from the sea; below it lies the modern town, with its elegant villas in fanciful pseudo-Moorish styles; avenue Gambetta is its main north–south axis. At the coast, the Presqu’Île de Giens is leashed to the mainland by an isthmus, known as La Capte, and a parallel sand bar enclosing salt flats.
More about France
Find out more
The wild, scented greenery and fine sand beaches of the Îles d’Hyères are a reminder of what much of the mainland was like half a century ago. You can stay on all three main islands, though accommodation is scarce, coveted and expensive. Visitors should observe signs forbidding smoking (away from the ports), flower-picking and littering.
The fire risk in summer is extreme: at times large sections of the islands are closed off and visitors must stick to marked paths. A haven from tempests in ancient times, then the peaceful home of monks and farmers, the I^les d’Hye`res became, from the Middle Ages, the target of piracy and coastal attacks. The three main islands, Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Levant, are covered in half-destroyed, rebuilt or abandoned forts, dating from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, when the German gun positions on Port-Cros and Levant were put out of action by the Americans. Porquerolles and Levant still have a military presence, which has helped prevent development. The islands’ fragile environment is protected by the Parc National de Port-Cros and the Conservatoire Botanique de Porquerolles.