The deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea, the rocky cliffs and the song of the crickets are the unmistakable signs of a holiday in the South of France. And, I almost forgot, the smell of olives in the markets! That’s pretty much the summary of my last road trip with my friends in Provence. And not only that! During 4 days, we explored beautiful places around Marseille for an unforgettable weekend trip. So I’m sharing our 4-day itinerary with you so that you too can make the most of this trip in France by combining leisure and exploration. After the trip in Corsica in May, we will discover another part of the Mediterranean area with the Bouches du Rhône this summer.
Day 1: La Baie des singes
We left very early on Saturday morning in order to arrive in Marseille in the middle of the day and not lose too much time from our weekend. And what could be better after a 6 hour drive in the summer heat than a little afternoon of swimming and relaxing in one of the most beautiful places around the city? One of my friends had noted La Baie des Singes among the nicest places to visit around Marseille. She showed us some pictures and it didn’t take much to convince us.
Where to park at the Bay of Monkeys (La Baie des Singes)?
If you arrive a bit late like us, this can be tricky. However, if you continue along the main road through the Goudes area, you will find a FREE car park overlooking the town and giving you relatively easy and quick access to the path leading to the Baie des Singes.
Where to find a place to stay at the Bay of Monkeys?
One important thing to know is that there is no actual beach at the Bay of Monkeys. You have three options.
The first, as many people do, you can sit on the rocks. We quickly understood why the locals all had small mattresses in addition to their beach towels! This way you can find a quiet spot that is not too crowded. However, the access to the water will only be via a dip from the rocks! If the water temperature is good, great, if not, beware of the thermal shock…
Second option, forbidden by signs but still chosen by many people. Settle on the overhang in the small bay of the Baie des Singes harbour. It is not really a harbour but there are one or two small boats moored and a few boats on this overhang.
Third option, rent one of the beach chairs from the restaurant at the Baie des Singes. There is no beach here either, so you will have to dive straight into the water. However, you will be comfortable.
After this well-deserved moment, we went to La Ciotat to get the keys of our accommodation called “Les Anges du Vieux Port“. The location of the appartment is perfect, 2 min walk from the port of La Ciotat, and it is ideal for 3 or 4 people.
Dinner at the harbour of La Ciotat
As with most southern towns and villages, we fell under the spell of the unique architecture and warm colours. What a pleasure to stroll along the port at sunset and enjoy the moment. It was great to be back in a social life after the last few months, to see people and to eat in restaurants again.
We stopped to look at the menu of several restaurants and chose one called “La Grotte“. I ordered a local dish, called Aïoli. I am a flexitarian, 99% vegetarian but when it comes to discovering local cuisine, I usually make exceptions. Especially if the products are local. This dish, also called “the poor people’ s dish” was composed of steamed vegetables, fish, shellfish and aioli (garlic mayonnaise). A very hearty and delicious dish.
La Ciotat night market
After such a dinner, a digestive walk is a must. We had done the opposite, the market first and then dinner, but I would recommend doing it the other way round, it’s just as pleasant. Located on the port, along the restaurants, this market is really nice. You will find everything but mainly local products and crafts.
Day 2: Cassis
A relaxing day on the second day of our itinerary to discover the best places around Marseille. Direction the charming coastal town of Cassis. Very touristic but its charm and beauty make it a must-see.
Where to park in Cassis?
We have found the right plan for parking in Cassis. Park your car at the Gorguettes car park, which is also FREE. Then take the shuttle bus which will take you directly to the entrance of the calanques or to the casino of Cassis located in the town centre. The shuttle costs 1.60 euros return.
Beaches in Cassis
There are two beaches in Cassis close to the town centre, the Grande Mer beach and the Bestouan beach. We chose to stay at the Bestouan beach. The panorama is incredible since it is overlooking a beautiful private villa over the beach and the entrance to the port of Cassis. The perfect place to chill for a day enjoying the warm sun while cooling in the crystal clear water.
Day 3: A day in the calanques of Cassis
How to go to Marseille without visiting the famous calanques of Cassis? This place that leaves everyone speechless with its wild beauty. I had already been there two years ago and the feeling in front of this landscape remains the same. It leaves you speechless.
I will write a more detailed article on the calanques very soon, otherwise this article would be much too long. However, I will give you some information until then.
Where to park to visit the calanques of Cassis? The easiest and most cheapest option
During the summer season, at the Gorguettes car park too. It’s free and the shuttle bus fare is much cheaper than a closer car park, so there is no reason not to use it.
Out of season, you may find a parking space or street parking directly at the Calanque de Sormiou, which will be more accessible by car than in summer. In summer, if you don’t arrive at dawn, forget about finding a place there.
Creeks of Port Pin and En Vau
The calanque of Port Pin is the most accessible. A short half hour walk from the Sormiou cove and you will already reach the small beach of the Port Pin cove. We chose to go to the calanque of En Vau first because it is, in my opinion, the most grandiose. It is also the most difficult to access.
The calanque d’en Vau is a place that has to be earned, especially in the middle of summer. But I will tell you more in the article dedicated to it.
Dinner in Cassis
We finished this pleasant but tiring day on the Grande Mer beach in Cassis, the second beach I have talked to you about above. If you have also parked your car at Les Gorguettes, keep in mind that the last shuttle bus is at 9:20 pm in summer. If you want to stay longer, you have two options. Either find a taxi to the car park or, like us, walk back to the car park (allow for an extra half a walk).
If you are looking for a good address in Cassis, we tried an Italian restaurant offering pizzas on the spot or to take away, the Casa Roma Pizza al taglio. It was great because you can get a piece of each pizzas and thus, try them all! Finally the temperature started to drop and we were able to sit on the beach for a little picnic with a view of the sunset. Nothing better to end a perfect day.
Day 4: The Ocher Massif and Gordes
The fourth day of our itinerary also marks the day of the return trip to Biarritz. Therefore, the Ocher Massif and Gordes were not on our route at all and we had to make a small diversions. We had included them in our itinerary of things to do around Marseille so it was not a problem for us. It’s up to you to decide whether or not this is right in your itinerary.
The Ocher Massif in the Luberon
This place is also called the “Provencal Colorado” because of the red ochre colour of its rocks. The Ocher Massif is located in the Provencal countryside, 1h45 north of La Ciotat. Luckily we had looked on the internet beforehand as the visit of the site does not take more than an hour (for the big loop). That’s why we decided to do it in the morning and to visit the village of Gordes afterwards. I advise you to do it if you are in the area or if you want to visit something else nearby because the site is very beautiful but very small.
Entrance fee: 3 euros per person
The cute village of Gordes
Next to the entrance to the Ochre Trail you will see the village of Roussillon which looks just as charming as Gordes. We couldn’t visit it due to lack of time but if you can I think it’s worth a visit.
The village of Gordes is located 15 minutes from the “sentier des ocres” on the heights, offering a magnificent panorama of the region. As soon as you enter this village, which is classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, you are already under the spell of its small, pastel-coloured streets.
The main square is a real vibrant place with its little shops, terraces and especially the castle in the heart of the town which you can visit. Get lost in the narrow streets of Gordes, it is simply beautiful and ideal to end a weekend discovering the places around Marseille. You have the summer atmosphere of the coast and the charm of the land of Provence.
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I hope you enjoyed this little itinerary, there are plenty of places to visit around Marseille if you have more than 4 days to spare, so don’t hesitate to go on an adventure in this beautiful region of southern France. Once again, this little Mediterranean getaway proved that there are many treasures to discover in our beautiful country. Thank you Mr Covid for forcing us to discover more of what is around us.
If you like this type of article please let me know in the comments, it’s the only way I can tell if you like it or not. And I’m including a small list of similar itinerary articles below if you’re looking for inspiration!
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