Marseille is surrounded by beautiful islands in the Mediterranean Sea and harbour that offer everything from beach fun to historic exploration. Marseille is positioned as a port city dating back to 600 BC, and the nearby islands boast a variety of military fortifications, mysterious shipwrecks, fascinating landmarks and more.

    Whether you want to relax on a quiet cove beach with the kids, explore abandoned lighthouses or search for wrecks and ruins on the seabed, you can do it all near Marseille. Take a look at the 10 best islands around Marseille.

    1

    Ratonneau

    Explore incredible historic sites

    • History

    Ratonneau is an island in the Frioul archipelago of the Mediterranean Sea that’s home to stunning beaches and a vast national park. Located off the southern coast of France and west of the Marseille city centre, Ratonneau is long and narrow, offering miles of coastline with sandy beaches, tourist shops, and restaurants.

    Along with the beaches, Ratonneau is home to fascinating historic sites. The island has been used as a haven for Ancient Roman fleets, a quarantine site for foreign sailors, and reinforcement during wartime. One of the highlights is the neoclassical hospital ruin site that was destroyed during World War II.

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    2

    Pomègues

    Relax on picturesque beaches

    • History

    Pomègues is a narrow island that features numerous cove beaches and pebble beaches for a relaxing seaside holiday. Located in the harbour of Marseille, Pomègues is easily reached by boat from the old port and connects to the other islands and beaches of the Frioul archipelago.

    Pomègues was once used as a quarantine island to protest Marseille from outbreaks, but it’s now a popular seaside resort area. You’ll find numerous sandy beaches that offer calm waters for swimming and stunning views of the Bay of Marseille and Monkey Bay. The island is also interesting for its batteries and military fortifications, including the Pomègues battery and fort and the Semaphore battery.

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    3

    Île de Riou

    See native wildlife on a hike

    • History

    Île de Riou is an uninhabited island off the massif of creeks south of the heart of Marseille that’s part of the Conservatoire du littoral. Once a national nature reserve, the island is now part of the Calanques National Park and provides a natural habitat for a variety of flora and fauna.

    When you visit, you’ll see several species of birds, including the grey shearwater and the storm petrel, black rats and rabbits, garden shrews, and the unique Cestoni Hound. The area surrounding the island is a hub of marine archaeology as well, with cave diving sites, shipwrecks and the remains of a World War II fighter plane.

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    4

    Île Maire

    Explore remarkable historic ruins

    • History

    Île Maire is an uninhabited island that’s home to observatories, ruins, and other remnants of its time as an important industrial site. Located to the south of Marseille's city centre near the Croisette Cape, the island was once used to harvest mineral resources and provided an important strategic position.

    Île Maire is a haven for divers and history buffs. The island has an islet with a lighthouse and a prominent dive site with the wreck of the Lebanon, a liner that sank in 1903. Being so close to the Port of Goudes, the island can be reached by car from the port.

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    5

    Île Jarre

    Discover a plague ship

    • History

    Île Jarre is a small island south of Marseille's city centre that’s home to the Grand Saint Antoine, a merchant vessel that sank in 1720. The large vessel was on its way back from Syria with textiles and attempted to avoid quarantine, bringing the plague to the city.

    The plague infected all of the city and killed around half of the people in Marseille by 1723. The ship was anchored at the island, burned, and sunk to limit further spread of the disease. Much of the wreck is still in that location, but archaeological excavations have brought up artefacts that are now on display in the Caroline Hospital.

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    6

    If

    See the inspiration for Dumas’s adventure tale

    • History

    If is an island in the Frioul archipelago that’s home to the famous Château d'If fortress and prison. Located on the Mediterranean Sea near the Bay of Marseille, Château d'If is famed as a setting from Dumas’s iconic novel, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’.

    The chateau is still intact and features 3 storeys with large gun embrasures and other defences. Though it was used as a fortress, its position on the island with rough currents made it an ideal escape-proof prison. In Dumas’s novel, the main character makes an adventurous escape from the prison.

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    7

    Île Verte

    Explore hiking trails with wildlife and military sites

    • History

    Île Verte is a beautiful island and part of the Calanques National Park that’s home to a variety of flora and fauna. Located southwest of Marseille near the Port of la Ciotat, Île Verte is the only wooded island in the area and a popular hiking spot for visitors.

    You’ll find a variety of hiking trails to explore the island and take in the views of massif de la Ste Baume and la Ciotat. Along the way, you’ll pass military fortifications that range from the 17th century to the 20th century, such as the Saint Pierre and Saint Louis forts and German-built blockhouses from occupation during World War II.

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    8

    Île Calseraigne

    Try a fun diving excursion

    • Couples
    • Families

    Île Calseraigne is an uninhabited island within the Calanques National Park and features topography that made it a safe shelter for planes and boats when the winds are strong. The island is located in the archipelago of Riou south of Marseille.

    Now, the island is the perfect spot for relaxing hikes and family beach days. The water is clear and calm for swimming, and you’ll find a variety of scuba diving sites that are ideal for beginners. To get to the island, you must travel to the coastal fringe of the Pouars calanque, which is marked by a deep gap in the coastline that provides protection from the wind.

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    9

    Îles d'Endoume

    Wander through sea caves

    • History

    Îles d'Endoume is an archipelago that includes the uninhabited islands of Degaby, Endoume Island, and the Hanged Rock. Located in the harbour of Marseille, Îles d'Endoume, or the Endoume Islands, are home to numerous military fortifications, stunning natural scenery, and spectacular dive sites.

    If you enjoy history, Degaby boasts the Fort de Tourville, an 18th-century fortress that you can tour. If you prefer outdoor fun, all of the islands have creeks, walking areas, and sea caves to explore. Be sure to see the Pendu rock, a spectacular natural formation that overlooks the Malmousque cove.

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    10

    Île du Planier

    See an iconic lighthouse

    • History

    Île du Planier is a fascinating island that’s home to the iconic Planier Lighthouse. Standing at 66 metres, the Planier Lighthouse is one of the tallest traditional lighthouses in the world and features a stunning design. While you can’t tour the interior of the lighthouse, you can visit the island to take pictures of its imposing form and check out the views of the coast.

    Located just about 9 miles from the Old Port of Marseille, Île du Planier is only accessible by boat and boasts a thick reef that has caused many shipwrecks. The site is popular for diving to check out wrecks of ships and planes.

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