Secret islands to discover in France

Ile d'Yeu island ©Crobard-Thinkstock

Ile d'Yeu island ©Crobard-Thinkstock - Credit: Archant

Ever dreamt of escaping it all? Discover these hidden islands off the French coast where you can enjoy true peace and quiet

Beautiful Iles Chausey ©KaYann-fotolia

Beautiful Iles Chausey ©KaYann-fotolia - Credit: Archant

1. Ile d’Yeu, Vendée

This picturesque island jotted in the Atlantic has some great cycling routes which enable visitors to take in the picture-postcard landscape made up of sand dunes held together with pine trees, wild cliffs, brightly coloured houses and marsh countryside. The main fishing port is a delight to stay in to enjoy fresh fish facing the boats.

The emerald sea of Lavezzi Island in Corsica ©Photogilio-Thinkstock

The emerald sea of Lavezzi Island in Corsica ©Photogilio-Thinkstock - Credit: Archant

2. Iles Chausey, Manche

This astonishing archipelago off the coast of Normandy consists of 52 islets at high tide and 365 isles at high tide. 17km from Granville and a short ferry crossing away, you will find the shores of Grande Ile, an unspoilt island where you can discover an old fort, a 19th century chapel, white sandy beaches and a charming fishing village.

Ile de Batz ©Paula Green-dreamstime

Ile de Batz ©Paula Green-dreamstime - Credit: Archant

3. Iles Lavezzi, Corse du Sud

The dozen or so islands of the Lavezzi archipelago are protected and only inhabited by the semaphore’s watchmen. You can head to the beautiful granite islands by boat, departing from Bonifacio, and swim or go snorkelling in the turquoise waters of the tropical-like beaches.

Ile des Embiez ©Marianne Casamance CC BY-SA 3.0

Ile des Embiez ©Marianne Casamance CC BY-SA 3.0 - Credit: Archant

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4. Ile de Batz, Finistère

Leave the car behind and enjoy a hike on the breathtaking coastal path of this little island just 2km off the coast of Roscoff. Feast your eyes on the clear blue waters, pearly beaches and wild coastline of the island. You can also visit the exotic gardens of Georges-Delaselle. Inland, you will discover a peaceful landscape of crops and farmland.

The Vauban fortifications of Tatihou island ©JakezC-Thinkstock

The Vauban fortifications of Tatihou island ©JakezC-Thinkstock - Credit: Archant

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The sunny Ile d'Aix in Charente-Maritime ©Laurent Neumann-Thinkstock

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View on the Ile Molène in Brittany ©Emmanuel Berthier

View on the Ile Molène in Brittany ©Emmanuel Berthier - Credit: Archant

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View on Frioul archipelago opposite Marseille ©prosiaczeq-Thinkstockphotos

View on Frioul archipelago opposite Marseille ©prosiaczeq-Thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

5. Ile des Embiez, Var

Bought in 1958 by entrepreneur Paul Ricard, this island is set just 1km off the coast. Ricard hoped to create this haven of peace and quiet and banned cars to drive on the island but it does have a small train journeying around the island. Although its coastline is mainly still wild, it has an animated little port, shops, an ocean institute and plenty of walking and cycling paths.

Ile Sainte Marguerite in Alpes-Maritimes © Eric Dervaux

Ile Sainte Marguerite in Alpes-Maritimes © Eric Dervaux - Credit: Archant

6. Tatihou, Manche

Depending on the tide, Tatihou is either an island or a peninsula. It has historical significance as Vauban, Louis XIV’s military engineer, built a fortified tower which is listed with UNESCO and the maritime museum houses the wrecks of 11 ships that sunk during the battle of La Hougue in 1692.

Ile Saint Nicolas' pier ©Amandine Picard

Ile Saint Nicolas' pier ©Amandine Picard - Credit: Archant

7. Ile d’Aix, Charente-Maritime

This is another island where cars are banned so you can explore its fun-shaped coastline by foot, bike or horse-carriage. Two forts watch over the island, Fort Enet and the famous Fort Boyard. Nature here is fiercely protected and preserved and you’ll find tiny sandy creeks edged by pine trees and cypress.

Port Cros in the Hyères archipelago ©Dan Talson-dreamstime

Port Cros in the Hyères archipelago ©Dan Talson-dreamstime - Credit: Archant

8. Molène, Finistère

Molène is the largest of the nine islands of the archipelago of the same name. Enjoy lovely view points from its shores which consist of both white sandy and pebble beaches. It is located within the Iroise marine natural park so make sure you explore the surrounding waters by kayak.

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9. Iles du Frioul, Bouches-du-Rhône

Just 4km from Marseille, this archipelago comprises 4 islands that have beautiful calanques and beaches to discover and a bird reserve. Amateurs of history will want to see the Château d’If, a fortress turned prison which famously features in Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

10. Ile Sainte Marguerite, Alpes-Maritimes

Located just opposite Cannes off the Riviera coast, this island is a protected area for local natural species. Fragrant pine trees and eucalyptus, secret creaks and a bird reserve all make up the wealth of this little island. In the 17th century, the island houses Fort Royal, home to barracks and a prison which famously had the Man in the Iron Mask spend time there.

11. Ile Saint Nicolas, Finistère

With turquoise water, silver-sanded beaches and thin strips of sand linking the islands, this Glénan archipelago is not dissimilar to Caribbean islands. The largest of the islands is Ile Saint Nicolas is home to a natural reserve which you can discover underwater by scuba diving or on land by looking for the famous Glénan narcissus.

12. Port Cros, Var

You will find no roads or cycle lanes on this gem-of-an-island set on the marine National Park of Port Cros. The island is only 7km2 but you can see its incredibly diverse flora and fauna by walking along little pathways through the undergrowth and cliffs that lead to three beaches with crystal-clear waters.