We’ve all heard of Le Tour De France, right? Well it’s no secret that biking is one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) sport in France. At any time of the year, you will see cyclists on the roads and mountain bikers in the hills. The scenic landscape on the open roads and the abundance of trails all around offer up some of the most sportive fun you will have. If you love mountain biking or just cycling in general, then biking on the Île de Porquerolles in Provence is exactly what’s called for.
How to get to Île de Porquerolles
In order to hit those biking trails you need to first get to the Île de Porquerolles. This is about a 10 minute ferry ride off of the coast of Hyères at a place called Port de la Tour Fondue. Booking of the ferry, departure/arrival times, ticket prices and transport prices if you are bringing your own bike are here.
NOTE: Departure and arrival times vary according to the season. Ticket prices are round trip and are for an open return. You can come back to the mainland at any time. There is no assigned seating. Please be vigilante on the return times. You wouldn’t want to miss the last boat!
You can find the location map and my Google Local Guides review of the ferry company, TLV, here.
Île de Porquerolles
Once you’ve landed on the Île de Porquerolles, head straight up the port walkway and it will lead you directly to the Office of Tourism.
Make sure you get a map of the island, it’s free, and will be a valuable asset while you are traveling around the island. Ask the person at the desk where the bike rental locations are (if you haven’t brought your own with you) and they will point you in the right direction.
Nearly all the bike rental places are located in close proximity to each other. The last time I was on the island, I counted a grand total of 8, all within a 5 minute walk from each other. Some of the bike rentals on Porquerolles will have electric bikes. This is a recent thing so there are not many of them to rent. My advice is if you want to go with an electric bike rental, then call some of the rental agencies in advance to see about making a reservation, or be the first to arrive in the morning to beat out anyone else. Truth be told, all the bike rentals on Porquerolles will pretty much be the same and rent at the same prices.
Porquerolles Velo-Renting a Bike for Half a Day or Full Day
When on the Île de Porquerolles, I rented a bike for a half day. This is the best option for those of us who are not avid bike riders, but it’s also a great option when you are only going to be on the island for the day and would like to get in some other site-seeing and things to do. If biking is your thing, then you should go for the full day option as this will allow you to do both the easy and more difficult trails and you could easily bike the whole island in a day.
With the half day bike rental, I recommend getting to the island and bike rental location as early as possible, i.e., first boat out from Provence and be at the door of the bike rental place when it opens. This will allow you to get the best pick of the bikes as well as getting in a really good, half-day ride. Once you’re all set with the rules and the basics of good, bike etiquette, you’ll sign a waiver, get a bike lock and be given a map that will look something like this.
Since I was doing the half day trip, the numbers written in red that the nice, bike rental guy wrote for me is what he suggested as the highlights for my trip. As you can see, there are four suggestions. We actually were only able to make it to two of them because we got rained on, but nevertheless, his suggestions were brilliant and we came away with some fantastic photos and got in some exercise to boot.
Plage Notre Dame on Porquerolles
In looking at the map, you can see a little area due North that says Le Port, that is where we took off from in search of our first destination, Plage Notre Dame. The cycling is an uphill battle the first, small bit of the way, but then after that it’s smooth sailing. This particular trail will be the most crowded because it is parallel to the most popular beach area. If you go to the Île de Porquerolles during tourist season (Spring Break or mid-June through the end of August) you will find that you are going to have to maneuver through a lot of people. The island is a pretty popular destination for the locals. If you can swing taking your vacation at any other time during the springtime or sometime in September or October, the weather will still great but the tourist are not around so you feel like you have the island a little more to yourself.
A along the way to the Plage Notre Dame you can stop at the suggested lookouts and get some great views of the Mediterranean and the mainland of Provence in the distance. There are also some beautiful vineyards along the way. There are so many picture opportunities that it’s impossible to count them all. You are free to stop anywhere at any time.
Once you arrival at Plage Notre Dame, there is an area to lock up your bike and you can walk down and enjoy the beach. The photos from here are AMAZING! The sun never came out for us, but we still got some really beautiful pictures.
Take the stairs down to the sand and walk all along the length of the beach. If you take the time to go to the very end of the beach, it offers a fantastic view of the island. You will most likely see yachts and sailboats docked just a little ways out to sea and in the distance there is usually a cruise ship.
When you head back down the beach and back to your bikes, you will cycle back up the trail the way you came. This will be a little bit more sportive than arriving because it’s slightly up hill in many parts and then towards the end it’s really uphill for a few minutes. I could feel my thighs burning!
You will end up passing the rental place in order to get to the second trail on the map.
Ice Cream Break Time
The next bike trail will take you through the little village and right passed a delightful, little ice cream place called Coco Frio. Now, I figure that the first trail was bit arduous, you know with the uphill riding and all, that right about this time before heading off onto the next bike trial would be a good time to have some delicious Gelato. The guys here give you the most generous scoops of ice cream in Provence, no doubt about it. Just look at this cone-full of deliciousness! The prices are pretty fair, too, and they play good music! Try them out and let me know what you think!
You can find the location map and my Google Local Guides review of the ice cream shop, Coco Frio, here.
Calanque de L’Indienne Look Out Point
After the ice cream break, you will continue on passed the end of the village and out into the wide open spaces. On both sides of the paved road are vineyards and olive trees. It’s magnificent!
Just be aware to watch for yellow signs along the road indicating the different trails to take. You will want to follow the one that says Indienne. When you come upon it, you will make a sharp left off of the main street and onto a dirt trail that will lead you passed open fields, vineyards and olive trees.
After about 5 or 10 minutes you will see another sign for Indienne that will take you to a small trail through the trees and brush. The bike trail will dead end at a huge, open space right above a cliff.
Hop off your bike, chain it up and take a look around. You can walk all up onto the cliffs and around them for a wonderful vantage point and great photo opportunities. There are little walking trails all around so feel free to hike in the trees for a while.
As you’re hanging out on the edge of the cliff, I caution you to be very careful. There are signs that indicate danger because of the instability of the soil at the edge. There is, however, no reason to go super close because the view is impressive no matter where you are standing!
Look down and see if there is still a little, white boat that is anchored there. It seems to be a fixture of the area. It’s here each time I’ve been to the island.
Between trail number 2 and trail number 3 on the map, is the island lighthouse. You cannot get up close and personal with it because it’s government owned and still used, but if you venture around on the side of trail number 3, which is the Gorges du Loup, then you have a pretty good chance at getting close enough to it. This last time I was on the island, they had it all closed off for renovation so I couldn’t get as close to it as before. Therefore, no good photo opportunities. but it was worth a shot to try and go check it out.
Unexpectedly is started to rain just as we were leaving the lighthouse to hit up trail number 3 so we ended up going back to the village and hiding out under a restaurant terrace. Once the rain let up, it was too late to go back out onto the trails so we returned our bikes to the rental agency just at closing time.
Returning to the Mainland of Provence
Depending on the time of year, the bike rental agency will close at different times. Since we didn’t go in the summer, the agency closed at 5pm and the last boat back to Provence was at 5:30pm so there was no time to spare in looking around. If you are there during tourist season you’ll have a lot longer of a time period to look around and explore and you will definitely want to!
I would love to hear how your adventure went so please let me know by leaving me a comment below.