France is a have-it-all country- dazzling capital, incredible regions, famous french cuisine, stunning fashion, and many famous french and European landmarks. However, what tends to fly under the radar of many travelers is its astounding collection of beautiful islands that are scattered of its breathtaking coastlines from the northern coast of Brittany down to the famous French Rivera near the Italy border. This post consists of some of the islands in France, which all holidaymakers should without a doubt add to your bucket list.
Islands of mainland France
Metropolitan France has a very large number of islands and islets (nearly 1,300) located mostly in Brittany and the Mediterranean. Corsica alone representing more than 90% of island surfaces
Île de Ré
Île de Ré is a small island at the West Coast of France and is only reachable by toll bridge from La Rochelle. Needing to pay to reach the island is a blessing. It means there are fewer daytrippers and it remains to be a true gem.
The best way to discover Île de Ré and all of its treasures is by bike. If you couldn’t bring your own, you can rent it in one of the many shops. There are cycle paths everywhere, from the coast to the inland.
Start by exploring some of the lovely little towns with their authentic small streets and white houses. Be sure to have a stopover at St Martin de Ré or La Flotte and act as a true Frenchman, by having a glass of rosé overlooking the harbour.
The island is also famous for its fresh oysters, the local drink Pineau de Charentes and the salt production. When you are cycling to the northern part of Île de Ré (Les Portes-en-Ré), you can explore the salt planes. Buy a small bag of salt at one of the little huts along the road (don’t forget some small cash).
The highlights is a visit to Phare des Baleines, which means lighthouse of the whales. It is possible to enter the lighthouse and climb the stairs. Take some time to enjoy the breathtaking views.
Contributed by Heleen Van Assche from https://theglobalwizards.com/
Nicknamed ‘la lumineuse’ (the luminous) for its agreeable climate, Oleron Island is also blessed with expansive beaches, cute-as-a-button towns, idyllic vineyards, and its iconic oyster huts. Situated just off the west coast of France, it’s reachable via a 3km bridge between La Rochelle and Royan. It is, therefore, an excellent place for a day trip, but to make the most of the island, it’d be wise to stay much longer.
Some of the best things to do on l’ile d’Oleron include gorging on the island’s famed oysters, taking a stroll around the Citadell du Chateau d’Oleron that greets you as you enter the island, taking a bike ride around the salt marshes, discovering the Chassiron lighthouse and its accompanying museum and gardens, and of course, soaking up the sun on the glorious beaches. From Oléron Croisières you can take the day or sunset cruise to nearby Fort Boyard.
Needless to say, it’s an excellent summer holiday destination, but if you visit at other times of the year, you’ll still find plenty of local life, including markets, fairs and annual events such as the oyster and mussel festival. The shoulder seasons are also the ideal time to cycle around the island, taking in the brightly painted oyster huts, bucolic landscapes, and maritime history.
Belle Île en Mer
With a name that translates to ‘beautiful island’, Belle île en Mer is just a must-visit for anyone that finds themselves in the Brittany. Its the largest island in Brittany and is home to around 5,000 people. Belle-Ile-Mer is home to some of the most spectacular coastlines and cliffs, beautiful fishing villages with pastel-colored houses, serene countryside, and a wide range of dining options, accommodations, museums, and things to do. It is also known for hosting the largest opera festival in the region called Festival de Belle-Ile.
Visitors also appreciate the mild climate of the island, which is the reason for its stunning countryside full of Mediterranean plants.
Belle-Ile-en-Mer has inspired heavy-weight artists like Monet and Matisse, who created a number of paintings from the island. Authors like Dumas and Flaubert have also been known to live on the island in the past.
The largest city on the island is Le Palais, a quaint town where boats dock from mainland France. The city is a perfect place to chill and enjoy some cool drinks as well as shop in local markets.
Located at the south-western edge of the English Channel, and thus marking the westernmost end of metropolitan France, Ushant Island is known for its lighthouses and a number of seafaring heritage as well as its indigenous sheep.
The Pointe de Pern, France’s westernmost point, is a protected site due to its rich maritime history. Even rocks in the area enjoy a protected status, with the most recognizable one being the white rock used as a marker for seafarers to get their directions.
Due to its location along the English Channel, Ushant usually receives more than 50,000 ships every year, and it has been like that for years. For this reason, there are up to six lighthouses scattered around the island, the most famous one being Creac’h.
Lampaul is the main village on Ushant Island, with more than 900 inhabitants. The village is famous for its cemetery featuring graves of unknown sailors as well as an eerie list of lost ships. Here you will also find the Proella tradition; small wax crosses that symbolized people lost at sea. It is also in this small village that you will find Ushant’s most beautiful sand beaches.
In addition to the stunning coastline, the island is also home to more than 400 bird species and around 600 small black sheep.
Île aux Moines
Translating to “island of the monks”, Ile-aux-Moines is an island of Brittany. Stepping on this island will feel like you are in a completely different country with different landscapes and vibe.
This island enjoys mostly the southern climate, which is responsible for its diverse fauna. There are more than 350 species of plants. The island’s thick vegetation and scrubs are ideal for the local sparrow while the island’s natural location at the Gulf of Morbihan makes it a perfect stopping place for many migrating birds.
Ile aux Moines is the second-largest island in Brittany and though the sea plays an important role in its rich history, which can be witnessed in its heritage, the locals on the island still live to the tune of the sea and sailing, with many sea festivals staged all-year-round.
It takes only five minutes to reach Ile aux Moines from mainland France and it takes around four hours to cover the 17 kilometer trip of the island using the footpath.
This small island is located off the Vendee coast of western France near the city of Nantes. It is known for its rich fishing heritage and is the first tuna fishing seaport along the Atlantic coast. Your boat will dock at Port Joinville, a quaint town that is an ideal base during your stay on the island.
The main attractions of Île d’Yeu are the Vieux-Chateau, the Grand Phare lighthouse, and the many seafood dining options.
Located close to Port-Joinville is a small village of La Meule. It is a little bit calmer compared to the island’s capital. The chapel of La Meule is the highlight of the village.
The island is generally known for lobster and tuna fishing with fishermen offloading their catches right in front of the seaside cafés. It is also home to a number of castles, churches, and a jumble of megalithic obelisks and menhirs. Ile d’Yeu has also attracted numerous artists to its shores including Jean Dufy who created more than 20 paintings at the island in the 1920s and Jean Rigaud.
Île de Noirmoutier
Occupying 49 square kilometers, Noirmoutier is an island south of the Atlantic coast in the Vendee department of Pays de la Loire. With a population of around 10,000 people, it is one of the most populous islands in mainland France. Unlike its Breton counterpart, Noirmoutier has well-connected to the mainland via a road bridge. The island can also be accessed on foot when the water recedes from the main causeway.
Its accessibility from the mainland has made Noirmoutier develop more compared to other islands. The evidence for this is the housing developments along the soggy stretches between the town and the bridge as well as campsites that are string along the sunny sandy beaches. There are also a cluster of restaurants and some prehistoric castles.
The island is divided into four regions – la Gueriniere, Barbatre, Noirmoutier-en-I’Ile, and l’Epine. Noirmoutier is also known for La Bonnotte potatoes, which are the most expensive in the world.
Île de Batz
Located in the Finistere, Ile de Batz is one of the Brittany islands with a population of around 550 people. This 3 square kilometers island can be accessed by ferry from Roscoff, though when the tides are low; it can look like one could walk across to the island but this is not advisable.
Ile de Batz is famous for its silvery sandy beaches and dunes, exotic plants, and small coves. The island experiences a mild climate that enables market gardening, which specializes in vegetables as well as more than 2,000 exotic plant species.
The geological of Ile de Batz is also very unique as it comprises two main islands joined together by the bridge and an archipelago of neighboring islands.
Ile de Arz
Ile d’Arz is a small island on the French Atlantic coast, in the region of Brittany. Unlike other destinations on the coast of Brittany, Ile d’Arz 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 d’Arz 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 d’Arz, there is a small Bourg 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 and to keep you busy for the day. The island is totally flat, and there are different signposted bike paths (marked with different colors) to explore the place 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 Groix
Located in the Morbihan department of the Brittany region, Ile de Groix is a known for its high granite cliffs and sandy beaches in secluded harbors. Groix is home to a variety of sea birds and is known for hosting the only convex beach in the whole of Europe, which moves following the sea tides. Its geology is a bit different from the rest of the Brittany islands, and its south and east coast have been designated a mineral nature reserve for almost forty years.
Ile de Groix is the second largest of the Brittany islands. It is flat, green, and covered in moorland, which is perfect for bike riding and has more than 40 kilometers of the bicycle path. Groix 15 square kilometers, reached by ferry from the nearby city of Lorient, which is just a few kilometers away.
The Chausey Islands are France’s best-kept secret. Despite being the largest archipelago in northern Europe, these place welcome just a handful of visitors every year. Located off the coast of Normandy in the southwestern edge, the Islands feature rugged coastline and white beaches and were at some point in history, a battleground.
The islands are home to a number of thriving fishing villages owing to the abundance of lobsters, crabs, and mussels.
The dominant structure on the island is the 39 meters tall lighthouse from 1847, with a landing strip that was built during World War I. The fort was commissioned by Napoleon II and was finished in 1866.
Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most beautiful places in Europe.
St. Michel is situated on a granite tidal island. The rock formation climbs 78 meters above sea level, high tide wraps around it twice a day, flooding the bay with 100 million cubic meters of water at a speed of 6 km / h.
Mont-Saint-Michel It now attracts over two million tourists a year. At its peak, there are up to 16,000 people a day on the island. But the influx of tourist onto the island is nothing new. Mont Saint-Michel was an important pilgrimage point since the early Middle Ages. As a result, a village was created around the abbey on the hill that lived – and still lives today – mainly from visitors attracted by the faith and unusual nature of the island, its mysterious and turbulent history, and the unusual architecture of the abbey.
Beautiful French islands in the Mediterranean coast
This Mediterranean island is politically among the eighteen regions of France and the fourth-largest island in the sea. Corsica is famous for its stunning beaches with crystal clear, turquoise blue waters.
The island is known for its wild nature and the beauty of its landscapes and is a renowned holiday destination. A 1000 km long coast, beaches, coves and clear sea water, which earned Corsica the nickname “The Island of Beauty”.
It is in Corsica that the French Emperor Napoleon I was born. In Ajaccio, you can visit his family home and the streets of the city are full of memorabilia, monuments and historical monuments.
Getting to Corsica is very easy. .There are 4 airports on the island (Bastia, Calvi, Ajaccio, Porto-Vecchio), with cheap airlines like Ryanair flights from many European cities, and there are also numerous ferry connections from many French (Nice, Toulon, Marseille) and Italian (Genoa, Livorno, Piombino, Portoferraio, Porto Torres, Santa Teresa di Gallura and Savona).
Located off the southern coast of Corsica in the Strait of Bonifacio that separates Corsica from Sardinia at just a few km from mainland, Lavezzi Archipelago comprises the islands of Lavezzi (also referred to as Lavezzu), île Piana, Ratino, Porraggia and Sperduto and Cavallo, the only inhabited one.
All islands are characterized by granite rocks and reef. Piana and Lavezzu are the perfect destinations for a day boat trip from Santa Teresa di Gallura, in Sardinia. Boat trips are in the range of €70 to €80, depending on the kind of boat you may opt for and on whether lunch is included or not. Keep in mind that there are no kiosks, drinking water and any services on the island, so you will have to bring with you anything you may need for the day.
Blessed with beautiful sand, thick Mediterranean vegetation and incredibly clear waters, Lavezzi islands are perfect for a day in the sun.
Piana island is at just 300 meters from mainland Corsica, and since the seabed is very shallow you can easily get there by simply walking inside the transparent water. Lavezzu is more fun to explore: there are a couple of beaches, a walking trail that goes around the island and you’ll also find a lighthouse and two memorial cemeteries that host the remains of the victims of the shipwreck of French frigate Sémillante, which occurred in February 1855.
Île de Porquerolles
Porquerolles is an island in the Mediterranean Sea just a few kilometers from the mainland and near Hyères. Despite welcoming up to 6,000 tourists a day in the summer, this island is still largely unspoiled. Around two-thirds of its sandy beaches, maquis, eucalyptus, and pine woods are
protected by the Parc National de Port-Cros. In terms of natural resources, the island is home to a wide array of indigenous and tropical flora, including the famous Requien’s larkspur, which is only found on the island.
Île du Levant
Levant Island or Le Levant is an island located just off the coast of the Mediterranean along the Riviera coastline, near the city of Toulon. It is part of the Iles d’Hyères and is majorly occupied by the military. It is also home to the naturist resort of Heliopolis.
The island is geographically located in the Gulf of Lion and visitors depart from either Hyères or Le Lavandou and Cavalaire-sur-Mer.
Just like Porquerolles, vehicles are not allowed on this island as well.
You can check out the chapel and Domaine des Arbousiers nature reserve or walk naked along the island’s nude beach or swim naked at Cave beach.
Port-Cros was originally a property of the Greeks but was donated to the French with the promise of construction of the Port-Cros National Park.
It is the smallest, yet wildest of the Iles d’Hyeres, though most of the action takes place around its harbor. The rest of the island is a free and protected area. With that in mind, it is also an ideal place for hiking and long walks along the beach.
Boast regularly departs Port Saint-Pierre in Hyeres to Port Cros.
St.Margaret (Île Sainte-Marguerite) is the largest of the group of the ÎLES DE LÉRINS (Lérins) located just off the coast of Cannes. The island is just over 3 kilometers long and about 900 meters wide. We can walk the entire island in 2-3 hours without much problem.
The island has been inhabited since Roman times. From the Middle Ages, there was a military complex known as Fort Royal, which was turned into a prison. various political prisoners were held here, but the most famous of them was “the man in the iron mask”
Islands on rivers and lakes
Stretching about two kilometers long, L’ Ile I’Aumone is an island in the Seine River located in the Yvelines between Limay and Mantes-la-Jolie, downstream from Ile aux Dames. The island is accessed by a bridge that connects it to the Ile aux Dames and is connected to Limay and Mantes-la-Jolie via Pont Neuf de Mantes.
The island of Saint-Denis is located around 9 kilometers from Paris city center. It is connected by several transit connections, with the closet being Saint-Denis station.
This island is located in the department of Hauts-de-Seine. It was once home to a military camp that was later abandoned. The island was redeveloped later in 1980 and today it is divided into two, the most developed part includes residential areas and offices while the other side, which is less developed includes a park.
The Ile Saint-Louis is one of the only two natural islands in the Seine River. It is connected to by four road bridges t both river banks and to the Ile de la Cite (the other natural island) by Pont Saint-Louis.
Ile Seguin is located on the Seine River between Sevres and Boulogne in the western parts of Paris. It is located a few meters downstream from the Ile Saint-Germain and is usually included as part of Boulogne-Billancourt on the right bank of the Seine rather than a part of Sevres on the left bank. The island used to be the headquarters of the Renault factory for most of the 20th century.
Ile de la Cite
Together with Ile Saint-Louis, Ile de la Cite forms Seine’s only two natural islands. It is located in the heart of Paris and the exact spot where the medieval city was refounded. The western corner of the islet is home to a palace since the Merovingian era and its eastern side was consecrated to religion and is home to the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.
Ile de Nantes
The Island of Nantes forms the city center of Nantes in River Loire. It is also one of the eleven suburbs of Nantes. The island is connected to the city by 13 bridges. The most popular point of interest on the island is the Machines of the Isle of Nantes.
Ile du Belvedere
This island is located on the lake of Parc des Buttes Chaumont and covers around 6,700 square meters. It is linked to the banks of the lake by two bridges, to the south by a suspended walkway made of wood, and to the west by Pont des Suicides made of stone.
Ile de Reuilly is one of the two main islands of Lake Daumesnil in the Bois de Vincennes in Paris. The island is connected to the westbank by a bridge to the Ile de Bercy and the east by another bridge to the banks of the lake.
French overseas islands
Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (In North Atlantic Ocean)
Officially known as the Territorial Collectively of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a French overseas island located close to Newfoundland and Labrador province in Canada.
French West Indies
In the Eastern Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, Guadeloupe is a French island with a Caribbean twist. You’ll find boulangeries selling croissants next to stalls selling tropical fruit, and the island’s unique French-Creole culture makes is a fascinating place to visit.
Guadeloupe is made up of five islands, with the largest two – Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre – connected in the middle to form a butterfly shape. Grande-Terre is the drier and flatter of the two, with beaches and sheltered bays. Whereas Basse-Terre is more mountainous, with lush green jungle and dramatic peaks.
The island’s coastline is a mix of rocky shores and sandy beaches, with the most beautiful beaches found around Sainte-Anne and Gosier on Grande-Terre and Deshaies on Basse-Terre. Deshaies town and Anse de la Perle beach have become famous as filming locations for British TV series Death in Paradise, which features a detective based in the fictional island of St Marie.
As well as its beautiful beaches, there are plenty of other things to do in Guadeloupe. On Grande-Terre you can learn about the history of slavery at the moving Mémorial ACTe museum and taste rum at the Damoiseau distillery – used in Guadeloupe’s local drink ti-punch, made with rum, sugar syrup and lime.
Or on Basse-Terre you can road trip through the mountains along the Route de la Traversée, climb the highest peak in the Antilles at La Soufrière volcano or get up among the treetops at the Parc des Mamelles.
Contributed by Lucy from On the Luce
Saint Martin may be one of the most interesting French Islands in the world. Located in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea, the Collectivity of Saint Martin shares the small island with the Dutch territory of St. Maarten. The island is known for its beautiful, white sandy beaches and is a popular destination for sun-seekers from the United States and Canada.
Despite being farther from France than many other beautiful French islands, this small, hilly collectivity with just over 30,000 inhabitants living on the French side, is a unique blend of French and Caribbean culture. In the capital city of Marigot, you’ll also find a number of quaint cafes and bakeries selling delicious pastries and other French delight like quiche, croissants, and eclairs. But you’ll also find plenty of African-Carribean influence on the island, particularly in the music and art.
And unlike the Dutch side of the island, where beachgoers mostly sport swimwear both in and out of the water. On many of the beaches are clothing optional. And while the beaches on the Dutch side may be better suited for families, Saint Martin is great for a romantic getaway!
Contributed by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
This rugged Caribbean island is part of the Lesser Antilles. The largest town and capital are Fort-de-France, which features steep hills, the famous La Savane, and narrow streets.
Martinique offers a charming blend of stunning beaches, tropical gardens, dramatic mountains, and rich history.
Saint Barthelemy lies about 35 kilometers southeast of Saint Martin and north of the Dutch islands of Sint Eustatius, Saba, and the country Saint Kitts and Nevis. The island was part of Guadeloupe until 2003 when it voted in favor of secession to form a spate of overseas collectivity.
French Guiana (Indian Ocean)
Mayotte is located in the Comoros archipelago halfway between Madagascar and Mozambique. It is similar in size to Malta – an area of 376 square kilometers. Its territory consists of three islets – Grande Terre, where the main city of Mamoudzou is located, Pamanzi (Petite Terre), where the airport is located, and the small, rocky Dzaoudzi, which used to be the role of the capital, and today is connected with the Petite Terre dike.
Reunion Island is a French overseas territory located in the Indian Ocean, approx. 700 km east of Madagascar and approx. 200 km southwest of Mauritius. For centuries, the island has been visited by Arabs, Portuguese, British and Dutch people, but it was the French who managed to colonize Réunion in the 17th century. One of the most spectacular places is the summit of Piton des Neiges volcano, which rises over 3,000 meters above sea level.
French Islands on the Pacific and Oceania
Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean and south of the Republic of Vanuatu, some 1,210 kilometers east of Australia, New Caledonia is part of the Melanesia subregion. It has an area of 18,576 square kilometers and is divided into three provinces, namely the North, South, and Loyalty Islands Province. The first two (North and South) form the New Caledonian mainland while the last one consists of several islets off the mainland.
Wallis and Futuna
Officially the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, this French island is located in the South Pacific between Fiji to the southwest, Tuvalu to the northwest, Samoa to the east, Tokelau to the northeast, and Tonga to the southeast.
The island is home to around 11,500 people, most of which live in or around the capital Mata Utu.
French Polynesia has 118 islands, 76 of which are inhabited, divided into five archipelagos : the Society archipelago (including the Windward and the Leeward Islands), the Austral archipelago, the Marquesas archipelago, the Tuamotu archipelago, and the Gambier archipelago.
Moorea is a beautiful French island that should be on everyone’s bucket list. You can find this paradise in French Polynesia, just off the coast of Tahiti.
One of the best things to do on Moorea is to enjoy the beaches. Along the coastline, you can discover many picture-perfect white beaches where you can spend days relaxing in the sun.
If you want to get more active, you should try one of the many watersports available here. Rent snorkelling gear and you have the chance to discover lots of colourful fish as well as manta rays, sharks and other underwater creatures. You can also rent a glass-bottom kayak which will allow you to paddle and see the underwater world.
From July to November, you can go whale watching. French Polynesia is one of the few destinations in the world where you have the chance of snorkelling with humpback whales. And did you know that water carries sound very well? Watching these gentle giants while listening to their songs is a unique adventure you should not miss.
Moorea is not just about beaches and the sea. You can also enjoy hiking. An excellent hike takes you to 3 Cocotiers, a viewpoint on top of a mountain. Expect to see the jungle stretching out underneath you, with the ocean in the distance. From here, you can clearly see the reef that surrounds the island, with a lagoon filled with turquoise water and the dark blue ocean behind it.
Contributed by Daniel and Ilona from Top Travel Sights
French Southern and Antarctic Lands
Iles Amsterdam et Saint-Paul
Saint-Paul and Amsterdam form a district of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories and comprise the islands of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam, located around 90 kilometers apart. The islands are located in the southern Indian Ocean at the southwestern edge of the Australian Plate.
The waters surrounding the islands are rich in lobsters and fish.
The Crozet Islands are located in the southern Indian Ocean around 2,400 kilometers off the coast of Antarctica. It consists of numerous small uninhabited volcanic islands. The islands experience a cold climate that only supports grasses, lichens, and mosses as well as insects, seals, seabirds, and penguins.
Also commonly known as Iles de la Desolation or Desolation Islands, They are a collection of islands in the Antarctic comprising one of the only two exposed parts of the Kerguelen Plateau – a large igneous province submerged by the ocean waters.
The largest city on the islands is Port-aux-Francais though it is pretty hard to visit the city and the island as a whole.
The Scattered Island consists of four small coral islets, a reef, and an atoll in the Indian Ocean. Though politically the islands belong to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, a good number of them are contested by Mauritius, the Comoros, and Madagascar. Europa, Juan de Nova, and the Bassas da India atoll lie in the Mozambique Channel west of Madagascar. Tromelin, the third island is located some 450 kilometers east of Madagascar while the Glorioso Islands are located about 200 kilometers northwest of Madagascar.