Corsica Island - France
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Best French Islands to Visit

12/29/2020

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There are many beautiful French Islands to explore, islands in France and other French tropical islands at the ends of the world for an exotic holiday.

For this piece, we asked some travel bloggers and friends to help us find the very best French Islands to visit. Here’s the list of best islands in France and French-speaking islands in France Overseas, so pack your bags and get ready for a wonderful island vacation in France.

Best French Islands Map

Best French Islands Map made with Google My Maps

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Best French Islands in the Mediterranean

The list of best French Islands in the Mediterranean includes four islands south of France, in the regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Corsica Island. These islands in Southern France are for all holiday types, from day tours to relaxing beach holidays or more adventurous road trips.

La Corse (Corsica Island)

Calanques de Piana - Corsica

The Island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean sea, lies 200 kilometers off the French Riviera. Napoleon Bonaparte’s homeland is like a small continent: its rugged landscapes, beautiful beaches, picturesque villages, and walking trails make this island an ideal destination for everybody.

Corsica is one of the 13 French regions located in metropolitan France. It has only one department, and the capital is the city of Ajaccio, the starting point of most of the Corsica road trips.

Corsica is one of the most popular summer destinations for the French, eager to discover this island’s extraordinary landscapes. Visit Corsica for sightseeing, a relaxing beach holiday, hiking, and great food and wine.

Corsica is best explored by car, and you can transport your car by ferry or rent one on-site. Don’t underestimate The Island of Beauty as Corsica is commonly referred to: there are many things to see and do to keep you busy one week or more!

Île d’If

Ile d’If is a small island south of France part of the Frioul Archipelago. Located off Marseille’s coast, this island fortress-prison became world-famous thanks to the novel Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Here, the hero Edmond Dantès was imprisoned for 14 years.

The island is occupied by the Château d’If, built by King François I in 1524. During its 400 years of activity, the imposing Château d´If was used primarily as a state prison. On the ground floor, the cells only allowed a life expectancy of 9 months due to imprisonment’s deplorable conditions. Upstairs, more spacious cells were reserved for wealthy or prestigious prisoners.

Until 1950, Ile d’If was inhabited by the lighthouse’s guardian and his family. Today, this small French island is a tourist sight very easy to visit on a day trip from Marseille. Numerous shuttle boats link Marseille’s Old Port to Ile d’If hourly, and the guided visit of the island and the château is fascinating. Finally, enjoy one of the best views of Marseille from the summit of the fortress.

Îles d’Hyères

Porquerolles

The Iles d’Hyères, also known as the Golden Islands, is an archipelago of three main islands: Porquerolles, Port-Cros, and Le Levant. These French Mediterranean islands are off the city of Hyères at the extreme south of Provence in southern France.

This vast territory is famous for its varied land, marine, and submarine landscapes and its mild climate. These three main islands south of France are different and unique, and they fit all the ideas of a holiday.

Porquerolles is the biggest of the Hyères Islands. The north coast is made up of sandy beaches covered with pine trees, heather, and fragrant myrtles, while the south coast is steep. Porquerolles is great for hiking, beach days, biking, and snorkeling.

Port-Cros is the wildest and best-preserved of the Hyères Islands (no cars or bikes here) and the heart of Port-Cros National Park. People visit Port-Cros for the day to enjoy one of its numerous marked hiking trails.

Le Levant is a naturist paradise, home to the famous Naturist Domain of Heliopolis. Here, you have a magnificent beach, a cute village and shops and everyone is allowed to walk naked everywhere except for a few public spaces.

Îles Lavezzi

Suggested by Claudia | Strictly Sardinia

The islands of the Lavezzi Archipelago are among the most unique islands in France. They are right off the southern coast of Corsica, in the Strait of Bonifacio, and just a few km from Sardinia.

The Lavezzi Archipelago comprises the islands of Piana, Ratino, Porraggia and Sperduto, and Cavallo. It is blessed with unique rock formations, thick Mediterranean vegetation, pristine beaches, and incredibly clear and mostly shallow waters that are just perfect for a summer day out.

In Lavezzi, you will find a (not accessible) lighthouse and two small cemeteries where the victims of the 1855 shipwreck of the French frigate Sémillante are buried. A couple of trails go around the island, connect the main beaches, and a couple of viewpoints to admire the sea. 

Piana island is just 300 meters from mainland Corsica, and since the water is incredibly shallow, you can literally walk there. The tiny island is characterized by dunes, thick vegetation, and a small beach with white sand.

These French Mediterranean islands can be visited on day trips departing from mainland Corsica or Santa Teresa di Gallura in Sardinia. Keep in mind that there is no service of sorts on the islands, so you will need to bring whatever you may need for the day.

Best French Islands in the Atlantic Ocean

The list of best French islands in the Atlantic Ocean, in Western France, includes islands in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Normandie, Bretagne, and Pays de la Loire. Most of these islands in France are great holiday destinations for themselves, or you can combine them with other beautiful places in the region.

Île-de-Ré

Ars-en-Ré - Ile-de-Ré

Ile-de-Ré, lying off La Rochelle’s coast, is an attractive and popular summer destination amongst the French, with pretty coastal towns and a lively atmosphere, especially around the port. Located between Nantes and Bordeaux, in the French region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Ile-de-Ré is linked to the mainland by a bridge allowing easy access from La Rochelle.

With more than 100 km of good cycle paths, Ile-de-Ré is an excellent destination to explore on two wheels to the point that many residents rarely use cars or other means of transportation.

The island has a good choice of camping grounds, hotels, bars, and restaurants. Apart from the beaches and the bike rides, the Phare des Baleine, the Fort la Prée, and the ruins of Abbaye des Châteliers are worth visiting.

On Ile-de-Ré, the oysters and fresh fish are excellent, and the fishermen have the habitude of selling a small portion of their catch directly on the quays enabling them to buy a drink before going to the market.

Île d’Oléron

Ile d'Oleron - France

Suggested by Nadine | Le Long Weekend

La Lumineuse, as Oléron is commonly referred to, is an island off the west coast of France. Known for its agreeable climate, chocolate-box towns, notable historical attractions, beautiful beaches, and foodie delicacies (including the famed Oleron oysters), it’s a popular destination for French people and visitors alike.

Reached via a 3km toll-free bridge that spans the Atlantic Ocean between the coastal towns of Royan and La Rochelle, it makes an easy day trip from the mainland. Take the car or your bike to explore as the island is large, but riding along the salt marshes and between the vineyards is a particularly enjoyable way to experience the island. 

Key things to do on Oleron Island include popping into the Citadell du Château d’Oléron to appreciate the island’s history, discovering the colorful fishermen’s huts turned art studios and browsing the creations on display. Taking a drive out to the Chassiron lighthouse and admiring the gardens and museum on site. Swimming and sunbathing on one of the island’s expansive beaches, and riding Le p’tit Train de Saint-Trojan for a unique and fun way to explore the coast and pine forests of the island.

Ile d'Oleron - France

Mont St Michel

Suggested by Norbert | World in Paris

Mont Saint Michel is a beautiful island off the coast of Normandy, home to a medieval abbey dedicated to Saint Michel, and it was an important pilgrimage center for Christians during medieval times. Mont Saint Michel is listed UNESCO Heritage Site for its history, beautiful setting, and religious importance.

A pedestrian path links Mont Saint Michel to the French coast during the day, but the island is cut off from the rest of the world with the highest tides. This area is known for having the highest tides in Europe, so you must be careful and leave the island well before the first waves arrive.

The island has some medieval streets with beautiful stone architecture. Some houses host small restaurants, and there are a couple of accommodation options too. Then, there’s the medieval abbey, built in Gothic style. The construction of this abbey is very particular and had to adapt the different spaces to the island’s geography. The sanctuary’s top is crowned by a golden statue of Saint Michel, the saint patron of the abbey.

Mont Saint Michel is one of the best day trips from Paris, or you can also combine it with other stops in a Normandy road trip. If you want to visit Mont Saint Michel for the day, a guided tour with transportation is the best option.

Île-aux-Moines

Ile-aux-Moines is a small island on the French Atlantic coast, in the region of Brittany. It is nestled in the Gulf of Morbihan, which protects it from the strongest winds and waves, creating a particular micro-climate. Therefore, the weather in the Gulf of Morbihan is always good!

Ile-aux-Moines is an excellent day trip from Vannes, perfect for a beach day or a bike ride to explore the island. Ferry boats leave from Vannes hourly, and you can carry your own bike or rent one on-site.

On Ile-aux-Moines, there is a small village with a hostel, a couple of bars and restaurants, and a food store. The island is a quiet place and popular family destination, and renting a house for the week or a full month is very common.

Despite its small size, there are many exciting things to see and do on the island to keep you busy for the day. The island is totally flat, and there are different signposted bike paths to explore the island on two wheels. Some of these paths explore the coast, and there are some cool spots for a bath. There are also some prehistoric stone alignments free to visit, or you can decide to do a picnic on the beach.

Île de Noirmoutier

Noirmoutier Island - France

The island of Noirmoutier is located in the French region of Pays de la Loire and, more particularly, in the Bay of Biscay. With its dunes, pine forest, salt marshes, and peaceful life, Noirmoutier is a beach destination where life is good, and time seems to slip over you.

Don’t miss Plage des Dames and its beautiful promenade, wooden pier, and pretty beach huts. For a bit of sightseeing, visit the 15th-century Château de Noirmoutier. The rampart walk provides pleasant views of the town, the salt marshes, and the ocean. The Romanesque Saint Philbert Church or the Sealand Aquarium are also interesting to visit.

Noirmoutier is very flat, so it is perfect for exploring by bike. We particularly recommend the ride through the Bois de la Chaize, a shady forest of oak, pine, and eucalyptus trees. For lunch or dinner, you have many restaurants in the port offering great fish and seafood for all budgets.

Best French Islands in the Caribbean

The list of best French islands in the Caribbean includes three islands in the French Antilles. While Martinique and Guadeloupe are two Department-regions of France Overseas (DROM), Saint Barthélemy has the status of Collectivité d’Outre Mer (PTOM) since 2012, and it does not belong to the European Union.

Martinique

Best things to do in Martinique, French Antilles

Martinique is a kind of postcard island, a tropical paradise with beautiful beaches of all kinds, sun & blue sky, and Rum everywhere. The Ile aux Fleurs (Flower Island) is one of the French region-islands in the Caribbean, very appreciated by the French when it is too cold in Europe.

The beaches in Martinique are world-famous, but the island also has great hikes, exuberant gardens, and colorful villages.

Martinique also has an interesting heritage, influenced by various cultures. Many museums, distilleries, gardens, and Creole houses are fun to visit, and they are a good way to learn more about the island’s fascinating history.

Martinique is perfect for a romantic holiday or honeymoon, but ecotourism is also gaining ground thanks to the island’s numerous water activities, jungle hikes, and waterfalls.

The best way to explore Martinique is with your own car as public transportation is scarce, and some of the best excursions are off the beaten path.

Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe - France

Guadeloupe is another of the French Islands in the Caribbean. It is part of an archipelago made up of five islands: GuadeloupeMarie-GalanteLa Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings.

The main island, Guadeloupe, is a postcard island with the shape of a butterfly. The island’s left side (Basse-Terre) is mountainous, wild, and with lush forests, while the right side of the island (Grande-Terre) is the beachy side of Guadeloupe.

The perfect Guadeloupe itinerary combines time spent on both sides of the main island plus a day trip or a short stay in one of the other islands. Dream landscapes, great hikes, good living, and the pleasure of the senses under the gaze of the volcano La Soufrière, Guadeloupe is all this and more.

Like neighbor Martinique, Guadeloupe is very popular amongst the French, especially during the coldest months in Europe’s mainland. The best way to explore Guadeloupe is by car so you can enjoy the main attractions and the island’s numerous hidden gems.

Saint-Barthélemy (St. Barts)

Suggested by Isabella | Boundless Roads

Saint-Barthélemy (St Barts) is the perfect mix between the tropical Caribbean vibe and the European feel. Very much French in many ways, this unique tiny island is the quintessence of elegance and glamour with its world-class luxury hotels and fancy restaurants but also packed with beautiful beaches and hiking trails.

There is an impressive amount of things to do in St Barth, for such a tiny territory, and the excitement starts from the very beginning of your trip when your small plane needs to make a very precise U-turn to make a perfect land on the runaway tucked between to stretches of rocks.

The best way to enjoy the island is to rent a car right at the airport and drive around. Impossible to get lost. If you turn right you end up to the elegant Gustavia, the main town, if you take the left you will reach small hidden bays where the most beautiful hotels are hiding for the privacy of their VIP Guests. On this essential guide to St Barts, I share in detail my experience and all the most amazing things to do even in a short time.

Best French Islands in the Pacific

The French islands in the Pacific are represented by the French Polynesia (a COM or Overseas Collectivity) and New Caledonia which has a status sui generis.

Nouvelle Calédonie (New Caledonia)

Suggested by Christina | Travel2Next

New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie) is a French overseas territory in the South Pacific that consists of several islands. The main island, Grand Terre, is home to the territory’s capital of Nouméa and is surrounded by a reef. One of the main attractions of Grand Terre is its massive UNESCO World Heritage-listed lagoon, which is one of the world’s largest lagoons and home to an assortment of marine life.

Snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, and boating in the lagoon are must-do activities to experience while on land, hiking and golf are top attractions.

Nouméa has a relaxed vibe, and everywhere you go, you will see a unique fusion of Melanesian and French cultures. The best place to learn about this fascinating cultural diversity is the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, which is an impressive contemporary architectural structure that houses displays of Kanak culture. Other museums to tick off your to-visit list are the Museum of New Caledonia and the Maritime Museum of New Caledonia.

Nouméa also has boutiques with fashion from Paris, French-influenced restaurants, cafes where you can drink excellent coffee and eat croissants. With spectacular white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and a string of remote islands, New Caledonia is a South Pacific paradise.

Moorea

Suggested by Daniel and Ilona | Top Travel Sights

One of the most beautiful French islands you can visit is Moorea in French Polynesia. Here, you can discover white beaches, coral reefs, migrating humpback whales, and jungle-covered mountains.

You will find many beaches along the coast where you can spend your holidays relaxing and doing nothing. When the sun gets too hot, jump into the water for a swim.

You can also rent a car and explore the island’s interior. Even though Moorea is not large, you can find lots of hiking trails in the jungle. One of the best ones takes you to 3 Cocotiers, a viewpoint from where you can see almost the whole island.

The main highlight of a trip to Moorea, though, are the humpback whales. From July to November, they migrate to the waters around the island. Moorea is one of the few places in the world where you have the chance of snorkeling with them. Imagine swimming next to one of those gentle giants – it’s an experience you will remember forever.

If you arrive outside whale watching season, go snorkeling in the lagoon. Here, you can spot manta rays, sharks, and hundreds of colorful fish.

Best French Islands in the Indian Ocean

Here, the French islands in the Indian Ocean are represented by Réunion but there are many more!

Île de la Réunion (Reunion Island)

Ile de la Réunion is one of the best French islands of the Indian Ocean, and it is located between the islands of Madagascar and Mauritius. Nicknamed Île Intense (Intense Island), Ile de la Réunion is a land of contrasts and a concentrate of adventure, exotism, and different flavors waiting to be explored.

Réunion is a paradise for hikers. With 40% of the territory is listed as UNESCO World Heritage, this wonderful island is well-known for its volcanic, rainforested interior, coral reefs, and beaches.

The Piton de la Fournaise is Réunion’s most iconic site, and it is one of the world’s most active volcanoes today. The list of other natural wonders in Réunion includes more volcanoes, three calderas, and many fairytale waterfalls.

If you want to combine natural wonders with sightseeing, Réunion has an important number of colonial buildings from the 18th century and various museums. Also, the colorful Marché de Saint-Paul, in Saint-Paul, is worth exploring.

And there you have it, the best French islands to visit. Which islands in France would you like to visit right now?

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