The Calanques National Park in the Mediterranean, a magical place that illuminates small fjords of turquoise waters and white cliffs that look like paradise on earth. The landscape of Marseille in the Calanques is steep and rugged, full of cliff paths, beautiful white beaches and secret coves that suddenly appear where the Mediterranean Sea has sculpted the rock.
Some of these coves, called "calanques", are only accessible by sea, by boat or kayak. With this in mind, an original way to discover the area is to take a cruise in Marseille to enjoy the views, a sunny day and the sea breeze in your face.
What is a boat trip in the Calanques National Park like?
The feeling of sailing aboard a sailboat, having a delicious lunch and relaxing in the sun while observing the great outdoors is what everyone dreams of on holiday.
The adventure starts at 11:00 am at Pier 72 of the harbour, where you will set sail along the French coast on a fascinating 7-hour trip through the Old Port and the island of If to the beautiful Calanques National Park.
This is where one of my favourite parts of this excursion takes place: the captain drops anchor in the Calanques so that travellers can dive into the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean. And that's not all! You'll even have the opportunity to use the snorkelling equipment provided by the activity operator to dive under the sea. That's great!
Recommended if... You don't want to miss out on this experience in Marseille where you can enjoy a relaxing day on board a comfortable sailing boat including lunch, drinks and snorkelling equipment.
What will you see on the boat trip in Marseille?
Today, the Vieux Port serves as a marina, but it was once one of the most important ports in the western Mediterranean. Some of the surrounding monuments are:
- Fort Saint-Jean: dating from the 12th century, it is a unique place to observe the skyline of the city. It is connected by a footbridge to the MuCem museum.
- The Mucem: is the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, inaugurated in 2013 for the dissemination of the different Mediterranean cultures. You can visit it by buying tickets for the Mucem in advance.
- Fort Saint Nicolas: a 17th century military building commissioned by King Louis XIV to control maritime access to the city. Its ramparts can be visited to admire the views of the port and Marseille.
- The Cathedral of Marseille: built in the 19th century, this Romanesque-Byzantine style church is unique in France, as it evokes the oriental air very much in vogue at the time.
- The Lighthouse Palace: Napoleon III had this palace built for his wife, Empress Eugénie, in 1852. It was later used as a hospital and medical school.
- Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde: located on the highest hill near the Old Port. This Byzantine-style basilica is crowned by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, protector of sailors and of Marseille.
- The Château d'If: this 16th century fortress inspired the writer Alexandre Dumas to locate the prison where the protagonist of his famous novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" was imprisoned. You can book tickets for the Château d'If to see inside.
- Finally, the boat arrives at the Calanques National Park, a magical place with white cliffs and small coves with turquoise waters. The scenery is magnificent, worthy of a postcard.
Why the Calanques are worth a visit?
In the Calanques National Park, south of Marseille, there is a coastal strip of more than 20 kilometres between the village of La Madrague and Cassis, whose coves are very popular with the people of Marseille.
Many travellers flock there, especially in summer, for a relaxing holiday in Provence to enjoy the sun, water and nature in all its splendour.
If you are planning a trip to Marseille, Les Calanques can be the perfect complement to your trip to the city to enjoy a few moments of relaxation and disconnection while admiring the beautiful scenery from the sea. In this incredible place you can also enjoy the following activities:
- Calanques National Park cycling tour from Marseille - From £69
- Hiking tour of the Calanques National Park from Marseille - From £35.
Boat trip, the best option
These popular coves in Marseille are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the south of France for their beauty.
In my opinion, this boat trip is the best way to discover the Calanques National Park and spend a relaxing day in Marseille while being in touch with nature and enjoying the spectacular views of the Mediterranean.
Whether you choose the shorter cruise or the more comprehensive option, seeing the cliffs and waters of the Calanques from the boat is incredible.
Tips for enjoying a Calanques cruise in Marseille
Book in advance
To guarantee your place on a cruise in Marseille, my advice is to book online as far in advance as possible. This will allow you to make the best choice.
Once you have made your booking, you will receive a confirmation email with all the details which will serve as your receipt.
Arrive in time to get the best seat
Try to arrive at the pier a little early to get on board first and get a good spot on the deck of the boat for the best photos, the views from these coves are beautiful!
Don't get obsessed with photos
Once you start sailing, you'll have plenty of time to take lots of photos of the scenery along the way. So enjoy the trip at your leisure and let you be the star of the moment, not your camera.
Combine it with other activities
You've already seen that there are cruises that also include other experiences such as picnics, dinners, dancing or swimming in the coves. With these packages, you can save time and money, so if you have another activity in Marseille in mind, I suggest you consider this option.
Choose a sunny day
For a Mediterranean cruise, it's best to check the weather forecast to make sure it's going to be sunny on the date you want to book your place.
Marseille has a pleasant, mild climate most of the year, and as the summer is dry and hot, everything is much more pleasant in the sunshine of Provence!
Protect yourself from the sun during the cruise
During the cruise, your skin will be exposed to the sun, so protect yourself with a good sunscreen to avoid sunburn, a hat to protect your head and sunglasses to protect your eyesight, as the light of the Mediterranean can be very intense around midday.
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear
When dressing for a cruise in the Calanques or Marseille, I recommend that you take into account the type of cruise you are going on. That is to say, a cruise with dinner and dancing on board is not the same as a cruise where you will have a picnic or stop for a dip in the sea.
I suggest you wear comfortable shoes and casual clothes for this type of activity, to which you can add a more elegant touch with accessories if, for example, the event takes place in the evening, and you are going to have dinner and dancing on board the boat.
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A cruise to Marseille is a wonderful experience to relax during your holiday and enjoy the Mediterranean and this corner of Provence in a different way.
However, a walking tour of Marseille is also an excellent plan to discover its most emblematic monuments, learn about the history of this city and its rich cultural heritage - it's the oldest city in France! In my post What to see and do in Marseille, I tell you the essential things you shouldn't miss.
This is your chance to stroll through its charming streets, soak up the relaxed atmosphere of its neighbourhoods and let yourself be seduced by the best bouillabaisse in the world that is prepared there. You'll fall in love with Marseille!