Parc Calanques and Friulian Islands: how to get to the best wild beaches near Marseille
Marseille's reserve beaches: Calanques and Friuli

Parc Calanques and Friulian Islands: how to get to the best wild beaches near Marseille

Do you want a concentrated beach paradise amidst the beauty of a nature reserve and with the possibility of seclusion? Are you not afraid of hiking along mountain trails? Then Marseille’s Calanques and Friuli are your option. Follow us!

Friuli and Calanqui

Friuli is a chain of Friulian islands 4 km from Marseille. This mini-archepelago includes four islands: Ratonno, Ife, Tiboulain and Pomeg. Two of them: Ratonneau and Pomeg, were used as quarantine zones for cholera patients in the 19th century, and a century later the Germans were based here during World War II. Today it is a picturesque piece of the Mediterranean near Marseille, preserving pristine nature and rare species of plants and birds.

The Calanques are Provencal fjords, small coves («calanque» means «small bay» in French) stretching along the Mediterranean coast from Marseille to Cassis and La Ciotat. For their natural beauty and unique geological formations — limestone cliffs of white color, the Calanques have been protected by the state since 2012 and given the status of a national park — Parc National des Calanques.

What you need to know before traveling to Calanques and Friuli:

  1. These are not so much beaches as rocks. For a quiet beach vacation — on the city beaches of Marseille, and here you should be ready for the sometimes steep ascents and descents, have comfortable, non-slip shoes: in any case not heels and flip-flops. Sprains and strains are not conducive to enjoying the surrounding beauty.
  2. It is better to leave early in the morning to get to the place before the onset of heat.
  3. High season: from May to September. The special peak of tourist excitement is in July and August. And the most comfortable time to visit Kalanok is from March to May.
  4. Have a supply of drinking water with you: the more the better. Often there are no springs or stores nearby.
  5. Don’t forget a powerful sunscreen and a hat: the sun bakes mercilessly, and finding a shady spot is a challenge.
  6. There is no beach infrastructure, so we also take a beach towel with us, and for comfortable bathing we will need special slippers to avoid cutting our feet on sharp stones.
  7. If you plan to spend a whole day in the Calanques or Friuli, it’s also worth taking care of picnic food.

Friouls Islands (Friouls)

Frioul If Express boats run to the Frioul Islands from the old port. Keep in mind that this mode of transportation is tied to weather conditions, and they are fickle in Marseille. The higher the waves, the less likely you are to get to Frioulie.

The most suitable islands for beach activities are Pomegues and Ratonneau, connected by an isthmus. There are cafes, a mini-market and cozy coves. Ratonneau even has a public beach with a lifeguard station.

You can walk around the islands, snorkel, study posters with signs of local flora and fauna (Frioul Archipelago is a protected area, included in Parc National des Calanques), looking for a place to throw your towel.

The walk will not be tiring, because each island is about 2.5 km long.

For the return to Marseille, I recommend not to rely on the last boat: everyone wants to leave later and there may not be any seats available. Leave yourself time to maneuver and arrive at the pier early.

  • How much: boat ticket 10 € per person one way.
  • Travel time: about 30 minutes.
  • Departure frequency: boats run regularly, every 40 minutes.
  • Up-to-date timetable: boats Marseille — Frioul.

When you buy your ticket at the ticket office, grab a boat schedule and a map with hiking trails around Friouls.

Friuli Islands, Marseille
Friuli Islands, Marseille
Friulian Islands, Marseille
Friulian Islands, Marseille

Calanques National Park (Calanques)

The number of coves included in the Marseilles part of the calanques is incalculable, but more or less suitable for visiting and bathing — about 20.

It is not possible to see everything at once in one day. Firstly, the calanques cover an area of about 160 hectares. Secondly, the coastline is winding and rocky. Between some bays there are cliffs and impassable mountain ridges. You can reach them only from the sea side.

The most comfortable way to see more with minimal physical effort is a 2—3 hour boat tour, costing 15—35 € per person. The price depends on the number of calanques visited and the season. Tourist boats depart from the Old Port of Marseille and go around several of the main bays. They do not dock at the shore, so the ability of passengers to swim well in this case is mandatory.

Map of Marseilles calanques
Map of Marseilles calanques

How to get to Marseille calanques

The most picturesque, most accessible and most comfortable calanques for swimming are Sugiton, Marseilleveyre, Port-Pin, Méjean et Niolon.

You will have to walk for about an hour to reach the bathing places. It is worth stocking up on food and drink: there is no tourist infrastructure in the protected calanques.

The top 5 calanques in Marseille

Calanque de Sugiton (Calanque de Sugiton)

Suzhiton is one of the most popular kalanoks. It is relatively easy to get there, an hour-long promenade can be accomplished even by an unprepared tourist. It is difficult to get lost, as the route is signposted. Even if you have doubts, you can always meet a hiking group and ask for directions. At the same time, there is plenty of space on Sujiton to find a secluded spot and be alone with the pristine Mediterranean nature.

Kalanka Sujiton
Kalanka Sujiton
The beach in the bay
The beach in the bay
Calanque de Sugiton
Calanque de Sugiton
  • How to get there: look for the campus located in the Luminy neighborhood. It is reached by bus number 21 from Marseille. Take the bus at the metro station «Rond Point du Prado» and go to the final stop. Then there is a walking route to the bay. Information boards in French and English will tell you the right direction.
  • Travel time: about 1 hour.
  • Here is a photo of the start of the trail and instructions on how to navigate.

Vehicular traffic is prohibited within the national park. This rule even applies to bicycles, so you can only walk from the parking lot to the cove. From the fork (point 2 on the diagram) you should go towards the gorge (red dotted line), where the cove is located.

Diagram of the route to Calanque de Sugiton
Diagram of the route to Calanque de Sugiton

The first part of the path to Sugiton is easy and comfortable, in the form of a small path in the shade of pine trees. The second part will require physical effort, it is more rocky and steep.

As you descend into the bay, at the last turn of the winding path, you get a spectacular view of the calanque de Sugiton: 2 small coves with a pebble beach and a small island in the shape of a torpedo carrier (so it seems to men) or a swan, as it seems to romantic ladies.

Set aside an hour and a half for the drive back.

Sujiton is loved by divers and wild boars. Both are not afraid of tourists. But tourists should be wary of the latter. In 2014, a wild boar viciously attacked a man, seeing him as a threat to her cubs.

Calanque de Sugiton
Calanque de Sugiton
Kalanki Sujiton, Marseille
Kalanki Sujiton, Marseille
Kalanki Sujiton, Marseille
Kalanki Sujiton, Marseille

Calanque de Marseilleveyre (Calanque de Marseilleveyre)

One of the closest calanques to Marseille, in Goud, and one of the most picturesque, with a sandy beach and clear turquoise water. Second only to Soujiton because of the connecting road.

  • More information: Calanque Marseillever
  • How to get there: the port of Callelongue is a landmark. Take bus number 19 from the metro stop «Castellane» or «Rond Poind du Prado» to the final stop (La Madrague port). Then transfer to bus number 20 and go to the stop «Callelongue» (final stop). Then it’s a 50-minute walk to the calanques.
  • Where to find timetables and other information about public transportation in Marseille.
Calanque de Marseilleveyre
Calanque de Marseilleveyre
Kalanka Marseillever
Kalanka Marseillever

Calanque de Port-Pin (Calanque de Port-Pin)

Port-Pin is considered a Marseille calanque, although it is located closer to Cassis than to Marseille. The coveted bay with sandy and pebble beaches is only a 25-minute walk away. Kalanka got its name thanks to the picturesque pine trees that grow on the snow-white rocks. Take a snorkeling mask: there is a lot to see underwater.

From June 1 to September 30, due to the threat of wildfires, visits to the Port-Miou, Port-Pin and En-Vau calanques are strictly regulated.

Kalanka Port Pin
Kalanka Port Pin
Kalanka Port Pin
Kalanka Port Pin
Port-Pin, Marseille
Port-Pin, Marseille
More information: Kalanka Port Pin

How to get there: from Marseille (from Place Castellane) to Cassis there is an intercity bus Bus Marseille — Cassis (to the city center): Ligne M08. There are two options: by water or by land.

  1. By sea: you can rent a kayak in Cassis or take a tourist boat and visit three calanques at once by sea, including Port-Pin.
  2. By land: from Port Miou bay, on the western edge of Cassis, follow the road above the sea, along the edge of the bay to the Port Pin calanque (green line on the map). The route is of medium difficulty, unprepared beginners are advised to take a boat.
Diagram of hiking routes to CalanocPort-Miou,Port-Ripi En-Vau
Diagram of hiking routes to CalanocPort-Miou,Port-Ripi En-Vau

Calanque de Méjean et de Niolon (Calanque de Méjean et de Niolon)

These calanques are located in the bay of l’Estaque and are conveniently accessible by the Blue Coast tourist train (la Côte Bleue-Marseille). You can go to Niolon station, or take a ticket to Ensuès la Redonne and then follow the GR51 hiking route, called the «path of the customs officers».

Detailed instructions on the Customs Officers' Trail

Along the way there will be at least 4 calanques with beaches, one more beautiful than the other. An ideal route to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city and the bulk of tourists, get lost in the mountain trails winding along the sea, and enjoy the silence and solitude.

Kalanki Mezhan and Nyolon
Kalanki Mezhan and Nyolon
Kalanki Mezhan and Nyolon
Kalanki Mezhan and Nyolon
L’Estaque Bay
Calanque de Méjean et de Niolon
Calanque de Méjean et de Niolon
Calanque de Niolon
Calanque de Niolon

Photos by Alina Alekina (Friuli) and Maria Barybina (Kalanki) are used in the article.