The Calanques by Boat
Yes, this is completely touristy and very catered to (boat companies wait in the port and take visitors on tours ever few minutes in high season).
However, the Calanques are a unique formation of rock cliffs (originally formed by glaciers!) on the ocean, which along with the weather, has worn them away into some very odd shapes. They start just outside of Marseilles along the coast, and end just a bit after Cassis.
You can only view them properly from the water, so a boat tour is recommended. After this, explore them further by hiking along the shore or rent a kayak and snorkel.
They offer several tours of the Calanques - 3, 5 and 8 Calanques. We took the 8 Calanque tour (1.5 hours) and paid €15 each. I think the extra €5 was worth it, as some of the more interesting things to see are further away than the short trip which only goes from Cassis to En Vau and back.
- Family Travel
The Sea (of course!!)
There are several beaches in Cassis. The main one near 'downtown' is always full of people (La Grande Mer). It is a true sand beach (the shore is otherwise rocky). No dogs are allowed at this beach. There are showers, WC, volley-ball and restaurants nearby. It is supervised (lifeguards). A bit further on is the 'clothing optional' beach - more topless really - Plage du Bestouan. Also sand and patrolled with a couple of snack bars nearby, but slightly more out of town.
Other less crowded places to sit in the sun do exist! The Plage de l'Arene and Plage du Corton are both rocky beaches which are not supervised with small parking facilities (better to walk). You can bring dogs to these, and find plenty of hidden places to hang out in peace and watch the waves crash.
The Calanque du Port Pin also has a pebble/sand shallow beach (you can hike there from town in about 45 min-1 hour). The Calanque d'En Vau is more remote, and either is a very long hike (1 hour more past Port Pin) or faster - requires a boat ride to get to (you can arrange a round trip in the AM) and is very gorgeous - there is also rock climbing at En Vau.
There are also diving outfits in Cassis which can take you out (we didn't have time to try this) and kayak or canoe rentals (a bit pricey, actually).
June is a bit early for 'warm' feeling water - it was actually a bit too cold for our tastes - we 'waded' more than swam. But plenty of kids and other brave souls did swim (I would say many more people were just out sunbathing, however and would also wade in to cool off, then wade out again). July and August and even into September we are told is better for the water temperatures.
- Diving and Snorkeling
Walk around: Cap Canaille
Canaille means rascal, villain but comes from Latin "Canalis mons", "the mountain which swims into the sea".
The Cape Canaille is magnificent.
It forms an immense stone rampart. The cliffs of this mountain are the highest maritime cliffs in Europe. Their main feature is the Grande Tête or Large Head with its 394m cliff.
The 15km tourist route along the Peaks snakes through the rocks and joins with La Ciotat. It offers some spectacular viewpoints of the Gulf of Cassis, the Calanques, the archipelago of Riou, the roads to Marseilles in the west and views reaching until the Var in the east.
There are some well situated carparks along the route that allow access to the best vantage points.
For those on foot or bicycle : there is a 12 km path (one way) which traverses the massif (easier here than in the Calanques) - see picture #2 (map)
- Hiking and Walking
Visit the city
A magical effect? I think yes: vineyards and pine forestin around, narrow streets and squares bordered by the colourful houses, local fishermen and the the port, hot spot for tourism (with its boats and inviting terraces).
Don't be affraid to be lost in the small streets.
Tourism office (english) website just after
- Historical Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Walk around: the calenques
A classiefied site, 20km of sign posted paths, the Calanques are limestone cliffs which plunge into the Mediterranean Sea, can be visited either on foot or by boats that set sail from Cassis.
(I recommend both, as you don't have the same view)
The Calanques are a paradise for the diver, the climber and for those who wish to discover the local fauna and flora..
Some "WARNINGS" (visit on foot):
- good shoes are mandatory,
- smoking and fire are NOT ALLOWED.
- Access could be restricted by the Authority (
- Requires some attentions (could be dangerous for childrens),
Voice mail available for access control checks (see Tel)
Pic from tourism office, some others in my HP
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Hiking and Walking
- Mountain Climbing
Calanque from Cassis : Calanque de Port Miou
Port Miou is the deepest Calanque and the Calanque that is the best protected against all winds. The Romans called it "Portus melior" : the best harbour.
Since the begin of the second wold war, but mainly since the sixities, the water sports have developped a lot in France and Port Miou that only sheltered boats that loaded the "stone from Cassis" extracted from the nearby quarry was filled more and more with jachts and will be transformed in a real marina. The organisation ot this natural harbour has preserved the naturel character of the place. And we can enjoy the perfect intergration in the landscape from the point of view at the beginning of the harbour. There is also a park where you can enjoy a walk and see the boats...
- Sailing and Boating
- Water Sports
Picnic on the rocks
Immediately to the west of Cassis are some great rocks and beaches on which you can have a great picnic or barbecue, particularly in the evening. You can buy some baguettes, cheese and wine and have a great al fresco experience as you absorb the wonderful views of Cassis and the nearby cliffs. Obviously, one shouldn't over indulge in alcohol and you must take away any rubbish. In my experience, a lot of young french tourists picnic on the rocks - les rochers - pronounced roshay - and behave very sensibly. Also, be careful if Le Mistral is strong.
- Budget Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Calanque from Cassis : climbing !
The Calanque d'En-Vaut is visited by a lot of climbers...its walls are irristibles...so we did it also!!! Well, in fact, we just wanted to take a shorter way between En-Vaut and Port-Pin that was the red GR walk (closed for danger...I guess)...and we ended up climbing walls because we did not found the good way !!!! it was quite funny and not that difficult (except maybe one step) but only for confirmed climbers....!
- Hiking and Walking
Visit "Les Calanques"
You can take a boat tour around so called "Calanques". Your will bee taken a pleasant ride around creeks and blue sea.
In one hour, you can see nice creek views. Inside the creekes, there are many beaches and fishing spots.The creek coast stretched to Marseille. From your boat, you can see a good view of the Cassis harbor and the castle.
Boat ride to see the calanques
When we walked into town, just past all of the restaurants lining the waterfront there was a booth selling boat trips out to the calanques, you can purchase 1/2 hour before the scheduled time. You can visit 3, 5, 8 or 9 calanques and the rates and length of cruise vary depending on how many you select. We opted for the 8 calanque tour which lasted for 1 1/2 hours and cost 21€ per person.
The boat had covered and uncovered seating all on the same deck, the commentary was all in French so for us English speakers it was just a scenic boat ride.
A calanque is a steep walled cove or inlet on the sea, the boats take you inside the cove, some of which have beaches although you can't get off the boats during the cruise.
Go to the beach
There were a lot of people hanging out on the public beach near the harbor, I didn't bring a swimsuit but it didn't matter, the water was filled with litter and stuff that floats around in the sea and most of the beach was pebbles not sand. I was a little surprised to see this in the south of France where I assumed all of their beaches were well maintained, maybe after the high season gets started the beaches are nicer?
I would say 90% of tourist who comes to Casis does the Calanques as it is one of the main tourist spot. There is actually 2 ways to do it:
1) By boat - you can do the boat ride along the 3 calanques. I don't remember how much it cost but then when you go to the pier, you will see boat operators offering boat tours.
2) Hiking - take a hike to all the 3 calanques. Hike takes about 6 hours and you get to go down all the way to the beach area of the calanques and have a dip. Be ready for it. Wear a good hiking shoe, bring some food and water. There is hiking times that you must adhere to. Consult the tourist information centre for info as they will let you know the hiking conditions for the day and timing. I started mine early in the morning when its nice and cool.
I did both the option and was a great experience but if you have only 1 chance to do it, I recommend the hiking route hands down!
The Chateau (Castle)
If you just up and across up on the hill top, you will find a the chateau. Apparently it used to be a tourist spot but was told that someone bought it up and now has become a private property. Not sure how true it is.
Take a boat tour around the little harbor for a glimpse of cool rock formations and crystal clear views into the Med.
Also, have dinner at one of the many little restaurants lining the harbor; you won't be let down.
Calanque from Cassis : Calanque de Port-Pin
This is the closest calanque to Cassis where you can bath...it is small and narrow but also really irresistible!
- Hiking and Walking
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