Amazing Day Trips to Take From Marseille by Boat

Calanque de Sugiton, between Marseille and Cassis, is a popular sailing spot
Calanque de Sugiton, between Marseille and Cassis, is a popular sailing spot | © Nick Higham / Alamy Stock Photo
Alexis James

Founded by seafaring Greeks over 2,600 years ago, signs of rich maritime history are everywhere in Marseille. There’s no better way to learn about the city’s past than by beginning your day in the bobbing waters of its charismatic Old Port. Then set sail for a voyage of discovery, sailing or yachting to hidden coves, deserted beaches, and traditional fishing villages. Each of our top trips can be reached in a day from Marseille.

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This humble fishing town is not only the perfect antidote to the urban bustle of Marseille, but it is also a fine example of what happens when you cross a Provençal village with the coastal allure of the Côte d’Azur. Take your pick from several beaches, including the family-friendly Plage de la Grande Mer, but the real treat can be found at the port just after sunrise. Moor up early enough to have your pick of sea bream, octopus, monkfish, and more at the small but vibrant daily fish market.

Frioul Islands

Just off the coast of Marseille, this rugged archipelago offers a quirky charm and the best views of the mainland. There is a maze-like mix of walking trails around the four islands; some are safe for families, others more suited to intrepid visitors, such as the 800 participants who race the Monte-Cristo challenge every year. Their task is to reach the Château d’If, the fortress made famous by author Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Calanques

The islands of Frioul form part of the Calanques National Park, which spans over 20km (12mi) in length along the coast between Marseille and Cassis. Some 26 limestone karsts are not only spectacular to look at, but they’re also home to over 140 protected species of animals and plants, many of which live in the blue waters below these imposing formations. Pack your binoculars and a snorkel to see how many you can spot on land and sea.

The Junkers JU 88 Diving Site

The coastal waters around Marseille provide some of the best diving experiences in France, with dozens of drops, caves, and wrecks in and around the Calanques. If you’re an experienced scuba diver, one of the most fascinating is the wreckage of Junker JU 88, found 53m (174ft) west of the island of Ratonneau. This German World War II bomber crashed in 1943 and has been remarkably well-preserved in its Mediterranean resting place.


Head east towards the Giens Peninsula to spend a day at the Hyères Islands, nicknamed Les Îles d’Or or Golden Islands. The largest of the three is Porquerolles, which, thanks to Belgian adventurer François Joseph Fournier, is the perfect place to stop for some refreshments. For not only did Fournier buy the island as a wedding present for his wife in 1912, but he also planted vineyards to celebrate.


The waters are calm and clear on this protected island named after France’s second-ever national park in 1963. No cars are allowed here, and, as the highest of the Hyères Islands, wild and rugged walks offer expansive views over the coast. You can also go hunting for some of the 17th-century forts dotted around the island. As one of the best-preserved nature and marine reserves in Europe, the island is a snorkelling hotspot.

Les Goudes

There’s a saying in Marseille that translates as “go throw yourself into Les Goudes,” a play on the fact that this swimmers’ paradise at Cap Croisette could well pass for the edge of the earth. It won’t take you long to locate the picturesque village, where a smattering of restaurants circles the small port. Simply navigate south past the Frioul islands and head towards the Baie des Singes. A popular tourist spot, arriving by sea means you won’t have to deal with the notorious traffic jams.

La Ciotat

This pleasant spot 15mi (24km) east of Marseille is often ignored in favour of the higher-profile town of Cassis, but this unsung gem is worth adding to your maritime itinerary. Not only is it the birthplace of French cinema, but it is also where Provence’s favourite pastime, pétanque, was first played. A museum located in the port tells all. Back on board, enjoy a picnic in the secluded coves of Île Verte.

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