Port Cros National Park is one of the 10 French national parks. Be ready to walk: the island may only be visited on foot. There are no cars and no bikes in Port Cros National Park. We had a fantastic day exploring the island, the first land-based and aquatic park in Europe. If you like snorkelling and hiking, you’ll have a blast in Port Cros National Park. I’ve added a map at the end of the article of all the things we did during our day trip to Port Cros.
Port Cros or Porquerolles?
Port Cros and Porquerolles are neighbours, so you may wonder which one you should visit. Porquerolles is lovely, but definitely not our first choice. Port Cros is more wild and pristine. It’s been protected by its national park status since 1963, almost 50 years earlier than Porquerolles.
If you like snorkelling, Port Cros – a protected marine park – is for sure a better choice. Scroll down to watch the video and see the difference between the two islands.
We love national parks. Back in Australia, we spend most of our weekends exploring them. It was about time for me to discover a French one. Well, believe me, France can be proud of it. On land or underwater, Port Cros was fantastic.
Our short one-day itinerary in Port Cros National Park
It was good to visit Port Cros as a day trip. We loved every single minute. But it was so good that we almost missed the last ferry back. I wouldn’t have been too sad to spend one night on the island, but capacity is very limited, and it would have required a lot more advanced planning as all accommodations were booked out.
Things to bring to visit Port Cros National Park
Except at the port when you arrive, you won’t find shops or water while you explore the Port Cros National Park. So don’t forget to fill your water bottles before hitting the trail! You should bring your snorkelling gear, it is one of the best things to do in Port Cros!
It is also recommended to wear good shoes. The trails are well marked and maintained, but there are still some steep parts with uneven terrain.
Responsible travel tip: Carry your own water bottle to refill. If you don’t have a choice and end up buying a plastic container, make sure you take it back with you and put it in a recycling bin!
Hiking the wild south-west coast of the island
We started with a hike along the South-West coast of the Island, on the Circuit des Cretes.
We went there at the end of the summer, mid-September. The closest beach from the port, La Fausse Monnaie, was still very popular (we’re used to Australian standards now, with long, empty beaches!). However, we surprisingly saw almost no one else on the track.
We didn’t have time to do the full circuit, so we stopped at the Pointe du Cognet (1) and went back the same way. It’s wild, and the views were stunning. I really want to come back to Port Cros to hike the entire island.
Exploring on land and underwated the north-west of the island
We then quickly checked out the Fort de l’Estissac (2) on our way to Plage de la Palud/Palud Beach (2) on the North-West of the island, following the Sentier des Plantes for 45 minutes. If you want to avoid steep parts, you can follow the inland path (Circuit des Forts).
Whichever path you choose, you’ll get stunning views of La Palud Beach with the Rascas Rocks in front of the bay.
Port Cros snorkelling
We were lucky to only share the beach with a few people. We followed the underwater trail for a great snorkelling session that lasted longer than we thought, so we came back running to catch the last ferry back to Hyeres at the very last minute!
It’s really fun to go snorkelling in Port Cros. There are underwater signs (in French, but with a lot of images) to educate visitors about the marine critters they can find in Europe’s first marine park. If you pick a less busy time to visit Port Cros, you’ll have a higher chance of spotting interesting marine life.
Responsible travel tip: Try not to use sunscreen before going into the water by wearing a wetsuit. When using sunscreen, apply it at least 20 minutes before getting wet. Ideally, you’ll pick an eco-friendly sunscreen with no nasty chemicals for the environment.
A few months after our visit, this video of Guillaume Nery (a freediving world champion) in the Mediterranean Sea where he spent his childhood, shows the difference between Port Cros, a protected marine reserve, and Porquerolles, an island a couple of kilometres away that is a lot less protected from boat access and fishing. It’s in French, but the images speak for themselves.
Back on the mainland, we still had time to watch the sunset from Bormes-Les-Mimosas, a beautiful Provencal village, where we could enjoy the last view of Port-Cros from far away.
Have you been to Port Cros National Park? Did you like it? Leave a comment below!
When is the best time to visit Port Cros National Park?
Summer is busy all around the Mediterranean. It is highly recommended to visit Port Cros outside school holidays, especially July and August.
September can be a good month to visit Port Cros as it is less crowded than the rest of summer and the water is still warm. You should still have great weather in May, June and October, but the water may be colder.
Where to stay to visit Port Cros
If you’re lucky to have time to visit Port Cros for more than just a day trip, you should book accommodations as soon as possible. Accommodation options are very limited on the island. Check out La Maison du Port*, located right on the charming small port, and Le Manoir de Port-Cros* if you prefer to be a little bit further away in a splendid property. If you’re a big group, you may find a villa on Airbnb*. Travellers on a budget can look for a camping site to set up a tent.
Accommodations on Port-Cros are likely to be booked out during the summer peak season, so you may want to check what’s available on Airbnb* on the nearby island Ile du Levant. A boat shuttle will take you to Port-Cros for the day.
Otherwise, the best option will be to spend the night near where you’ll board the ferry to go to Port-Cros – in Hyeres or Le Lavandou. In Hyeres, a room with sea views at Hotel La Potiniere* or Le Bor* will let you enjoy Port-Cros from far away before you set foot on the island, and it’s very close to the port.
Where is Port Cros National Park? Map of our one-day itinerary
Trains from Paris, Lyon or Marseille will get you to Hyeres station, from where you can catch a bus to the ferry.
The airport – with daily flights to and from Paris – is only 1km away from Hyeres marina.
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