Ships of Var, Provence
page is a brief survey of the excursion ships on the southern
coast of France between Toulon and St Tropez. This part of Provence
is known as Var. The links below show the ports covered in alphabetical
order. The sections below are in geographical order from East
to West, apart from Marseille which is only briefly mentioned
at the bottom of the page.
Nice is covered on a separate page.
- Ports and Companies
on this Page:-
- Hyères - TLV-TVM
Londes - Vedettes
Londes - SNRTM
Lavandou - Vedettes
Tropez - Air France/Emeraude
Tropez - Les Bateaux
Tropez - MMG
- Le Batelier de la Rade
- Lignes Sitcat
- Toulon - TLV-TVM
- Toulon Excursion
Ships & Ferries
Nice Excursion Ships
- Simplon Postcards
Ships of Var, Provence
- This is a brief
survey of the excursion ships on the southern coast of France
between Toulon and Ste Maxime/St Tropez. This part of Provence
is known as Var. Sea trips in the area fall into three main types:-
- 1: Ferry services
linking resorts and towns along the coast.
- 2: Ferry services
to les Iles d'Hyères.
- 3: Non-landing
excursion cruises "around the bay".
- Les Iles d'Hyères
(also known as les Iles d'Or) consist of the small islands Porquerolles,
Port-Cros and le Levant. The islands are between 2km and 6km
long, and are visited for their beaches, walking, cycling, etc.
All are designated nature reserves, whilst le Levant is also
a designated naturist reserve! Brief mention of vessels east
and west of Var is also made. Nice, further to the east, has
a its own page on
- This map shows
the area covered in this review, which coincides with the SODETRAV
bus route 103 Toulon-St Tropez, which is effectively a rail replacement
service for the metre-gauged Chemins de Fer de la Sud de France,
which closed in 1948.
Toulon - Lignes Sitcat
in the west, the large city of Toulon has a network of three
ferry routes which form part of the city's transport system RMTT.
These are numbered amongst the bus routes as Lignes 8M, 18M and
28M, serving La Seyne, Sablettes/Tamaris and St Mandrier respectively.
They all operate from the old harbour, along with all other local
excursion services. Through bus/boat tickets are available, and
the ferry alone costs 10F per journey (£1). Toulon is France's
second naval base (after Brest) and has a large natural harbour
similar to Portsmouth. The routes provide quick access to the
towns around this harbour, saving lengthy road journeys. A fleet
of fast launches operate the services, of three different classes.
The latest design is very attractive and comfortable, and includes
the vessels Lou Misrau, Lou Roucaou and l'Esquinade.
These are noticeably faster than the older, smaller vessels,
although all seem to intermingle on all the routes - the new
ships just wait longer at their destination ports. The ferry
and bus routes also carry the name Lignes Sitcat (a privatised
operator of RMTT?) and whilst most ferries, including all the
new ones, are in the same blue and white livery as the buses,
some are in Sitcat's yellow colours.
older generation of Toulon ferry from La Seyne.
of the latest design of RMTT/Lignes Sitcat fast ferries, the
Lou Roucaou, approaching Toulon.
of the earlier designs of RMTT/Lignes Sitcat ferries, Flibuster,
approaching Toulon. There are slight variations between the various
ships of this 'class'.
in Lignes Sitcat colours ran some of the services. These were
noticeably less well-kept than those in RMTT colours.
Toulon - SNRTM
running from Toulon are the excursion vessels of Transmed 2000,
le Batelier se la Rade and SNRTM. SNRTM operate the large 1995-built
fast catamaran Star Méditerranée on services to Porquerolles
and Port-Cros in the east, and west to the town of Cassis. This
is a genuine fast ferry of 30knots. Most other ships in the area
also operate at much higher speeds than typical UK excursion
ships (maybe 15-20knots?) but which would not be viewed as true
fast ferries as the term is now understood. They also operate
the stylish excursion ship Star Côte d'Azur, also
of 1995, which operates longer coastal cruises as far as St Tropez.
The company also owns three slower catamarans Jules Verne
I, II and III, and another smart monohull the Fée
des Iles. SNRTM also operate from
la Londes, and, as Trans Cote
d'Azur, out of
30 knot SNRTM catamaran Star Méditerranée (from a company
SNRTM Star Côte
d'Azur at St Tropez, on a landing trip from along the coast.
Fée des Iles arriving at Porquerolles, on
a landing trip from La Londe.
catamaran Jules Verne at Porquerolles, having arrived
from la Tour Fondue.
Toulon - Le Batelier
de la Rade
- Le Batelier
de la Rade runs the monohull Poseidon to the islands and
to Cassis. Transmed 2000 offer trips to the islands, but I did
not find out which vessel they used. Most operators, plus various
smaller single ship concerns, also offer trips around the harbour
to see the naval vessels, which included the carriers Foch
and Clemenceau when I was there. They do not go very close
to the warships, as they do at Portsmouth, because close-up photography
as not allowed. A one hour trip costs 40F.
view of Toulon harbour with the Poseidon of Le
Batelier de la Rade.
for Le Batelier de la Rade showing the Poseidon.
from the brochure for Le Batelier de la Rade
showing the route of Poseidon.
Alain II, which runs harbour tours at Toulon with the
similar, but yellow-painted Côte d'Azur I .
Hyères/Toulon - TLV-TVM
east along the coast, one reaches the two ports of Hyères-Plage
and la Tour Fondue. The latter is at the end of a peninsular,
Presqu'Ile de Giens. This is the closest point to the island
Porquerolles, and frequent services are run, taking 20 minutes,
by joint operators TLV and TVM, who have a useful website at
www.tlv-tvm.com. They run up to 21 services a day in
peak summer, far more than on other routes to the islands. The
fare is 80F return, with no reduction for children. Most of the
TLV (Transports Maritimes et Terrestres du Littoral Varois) fleet
are named in the style Amour des Iles X, and their livery
is blue and white. I saw Amour des Iles V, VIII, XI,
XVI, but many others could have been on other routes at the
time. They have a mixture of traditional (slow) excursion vessels,
and modern faster catamarans. They also operate the Porquerolles
II, which carries mainly freight. This is a monohull launch
with the back cut down and a ramp fitted. It is scheduled to
take some of the early morning passenger services.
map showing departure points Toulon, la Tour Fondue and Hyères
Port, with destinations Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Ile du Levant.
brochure showing catamarans Amour des Iles XVI and Vision
TLV excursion vessel Amour des Iles
V, at Porquerolles, with catamaran Amour
des Iles XVI behind.
TLV excursion vessel Amour des Iles
XI, arriving at Porquerolles.
freight/passenger vessel Porquerolles II,
arriving at Porquerolles.
freight/passenger vessel Porquerolles II,
at Porquerolles, showing the loading ramp and opened-out
- The associate company
TVM (Transport et Vision Sous-Marine) runs a bright yellow catamaran
Vision des Mers of similar appearance to those in the
TLV fleet, but featuring underwater viewing areas to watch the
fish. At least one of the Toulon-based SNRTM catamarans, Jules
Verne, was also running between la Tour Fondues and Porquerolles.
TLV services to the other two islands are mainly run from Hyères-Plage,
8km along the coast, although linking services are offered so
that all three islands can be visited in a day, with an hour
or so on each. A TLV vessel was also in Toulon, running harbour
catamaran Vision des Mers, featuring
underwater viewing areas, arriving at Porquerolles.
traditional passenger vessel Amour des Iles VIII,
at Toulon, operating harbour tours.
La Londes/Le Lavandou - Vedettes Iles d'Or
east along the coast, the services from la Londes and le Lavandou
are dominated by Vedettes Iles d'Or, whose vessels are all named
Iles d'Or XX etc. They run services to all three islands
and along the coast to Cavalière, Cavalaire, la Croix
Valmer and St Tropez. They have a fleet of older looking launches,
plus the fast monohull Iles d'Or XX, also known as the
Hydrojet. I saw the Iles d'Or X, XII, XIV, XV, XX,
XXI, but others certainly exist.
of services run by Vedettes Iles d'Or.
Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or X from their brochure.
Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XIV in run-down condition at
Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XV from their brochure cover.
Iles d'Or fast ferry Iles d'Or XX/Hydrojet arriving at
Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XXI with underwater viewing
area, at Le Lavandou.
La Londes - SNRTM
Fée des Iles operates from la Londes to the islands.
This seems to do rather well for passengers, since it is a stylish
modern vessel, which rather overshadows the more frequent Vedettes
Iles d'Or launches which are all rather elderly. The latter company's
better vessel, Iles d'Or XX/Hydrojet is unable to enter
la Londes. La Londes is now a typical over-developed yachting
marina and resort (as is Hyères-Plage) but it does have
a history as a commercial port, and was once served by narrow
gauge railways of two companies, one metre gauge and one of 60cm.
Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XII at La Londes, with SNRTM's
Fée des Iles.
Fée des Iles at La Londes.
St Tropez - Les Bateaux Verts
east again and one comes to the Golfe de St Tropez, and the resorts
of St Tropez, Port Grimaud and Ste Maxime. Ferry services from
St Tropez to the two other towns are run by two concerns, MMG
and Les Bateaux Verts. Both companies run about every hour to
Ste Maxime, between 8am and 1am the following morning. Typical
fares are 64F return. Les Bateaux Verts, have a fleet of traditional
(slow) excursion vessels named Gypsy II, III, IV, etc,
unsurprisingly in a green and white livery. Some journeys take
a longer route via the Baie des Canoubiers, for which a higher
fare of 70F applies.
Bateaux Verts vessel Gipsy IV on their brochure cover.
Bateaux Verts vessel Gipsy II at Ste Maxime.
Bateaux Verts vessel Gipsy III at Ste Maxime.
St Tropez - MMG
uses a number of high speed, wooden-hulled launches and all sail
direct between St Tropez and Ste Maxime (ie: no diversions for
sight seeing). The inevitable soaking from spray on these fast
vessels is quite pleasant in the heat of the day in these parts.
The ride is quite lively as they cross the wake of other large
motor yachts. MMG also operate to Port Grimaud, with an hourly
service which ends at 8pm. Their brochure mentions a fleet of
seven vessels, but I only saw two. Both MMG and Les Bateaux Verts
operate an extensive range of excursions in addition to their
ferry routes. Various other single-ship concerns offer similar
trips, and St Tropez is busy with vessels from other operators
mentioned on this page who run trips from along the coast to
give a few hours ashore.
brochure, showing launch in previous pale blue.
brochure, showing fleet in previous pale blue livery.
launch at Ste Maxime, with current dark blue hull.
St Tropez - Air France
Service to Cannes & Nice
June 2000, a fast ferry service started between Nice Airport,
Cannes and St Tropez, marketed by Air France but operated by
Emeraude Ferries. This service continued to run in 2001, and
photos of the Sea Shuttle I arriving at St Tropez are
shown below. More information and photos on this service are
on this link
to the East and West of Var
is outside the region of Var, to the west, so technically not
within the scope of this webpage. It is added below until sufficient
photos are available to justify a dedicated page. To the east
of Var, there are excursions out of Cannes, St Raphael, Nice
etc. Excursion ships in Nice are covered on a separate page
on this link. Information on Cannes,
St Raphael etc is being prepared.
resorts to the west of Var, such as Bandol, have limited excursion
services which have still be be explored. Further west still,
Marseille has an extensive fleet for harbour tours and trips
to the Iles du Frioul and Chateau d'If in the Rade de Marseille.
Marseille also has a cross-harbour ferry operated by a double-ended
vessel similar to ferries in Bergen and various Baltic cities.
cross-harbour ferry in Marseille.
of the Marseille excursion ships, running harbour tours etc.
Ships of Nice
Excursion Ships & Ferries
Postcards Home Page