Simplon - The Passenger Ship Website -
Simplon facebook - Simplon Home - - Recent Updates - Search Simplon - Copyright Information - Contact Simplon
This website has no connection with any shipping company, cruise line, boat operator or other commercial organisation - There are no postcards for sale on this website

Excursion Ships of Var, Provence
This 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
La Londes - Vedettes Iles d'Or
La Londes - SNRTM
Le Lavandou - Vedettes Iles d'Or
St Tropez - Air France/Emeraude
St Tropez - Les Bateaux Verts
St Tropez - MMG
Toulon - Le Batelier de la Rade
Toulon - Lignes Sitcat
Toulon - SNRTM
Toulon - TLV-TVM
Associated Pages:-
Toulon Excursion Ships & Ferries
Nice Excursion Ships
Simplon Postcards Home Page

Excursion 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 link.
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.
map1.jpg (20084 bytes)

Toulon - Lignes Sitcat
Starting 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.

An older generation of Toulon ferry from La Seyne.

One of the latest design of RMTT/Lignes Sitcat fast ferries, the Lou Roucaou, approaching Toulon.
sitcat1.jpg (18822 bytes)

One of the earlier designs of RMTT/Lignes Sitcat ferries, Flibuster, approaching Toulon. There are slight variations between the various ships of this 'class'.
sitcat2.jpg (17178 bytes)

Vessels in Lignes Sitcat colours ran some of the services. These were noticeably less well-kept than those in RMTT colours.
sitcat3.jpg (14168 bytes)

Toulon - SNRTM
Also 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 Nice and Cannes

The 30 knot SNRTM catamaran Star Méditerranée (from a company brochure).
snrtm4.jpg (22714 bytes)

SNRTM Star Côte d'Azur at St Tropez, on a landing trip from along the coast.
snrtm1.jpg (15197 bytes)

SNRTM Fée des Iles arriving at Porquerolles, on a landing trip from La Londe.
snrtm3.jpg (16771 bytes)

SNRTM catamaran Jules Verne at Porquerolles, having arrived from la Tour Fondue.
snrtm2.jpg (13883 bytes)

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.

A general view of Toulon harbour with the Poseidon of Le Batelier de la Rade.

Brochure for Le Batelier de la Rade showing the Poseidon.

Map from the brochure for Le Batelier de la Rade showing the route of Poseidon.

Catamaran Alain II, which runs harbour tours at Toulon with the similar, but yellow-painted Côte d'Azur I .

Hyères/Toulon - TLV-TVM
Moving 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 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.

TLV map showing departure points Toulon, la Tour Fondue and Hyères Port, with destinations Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Ile du Levant.

TLV/TVM brochure showing catamarans Amour des Iles XVI and Vision des Mers.

Traditional TLV excursion vessel Amour des Iles V, at Porquerolles, with catamaran Amour des Iles XVI behind.

Traditional TLV excursion vessel Amour des Iles XI, arriving at Porquerolles.

TLV freight/passenger vessel Porquerolles II, arriving at Porquerolles.

TLV freight/passenger vessel Porquerolles II, at Porquerolles, showing the loading ramp and opened-out cabin.

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 trips.

TVM catamaran Vision des Mers, featuring underwater viewing areas, arriving at Porquerolles.

TVM traditional passenger vessel Amour des Iles VIII, at Toulon, operating harbour tours.

La Londes/Le Lavandou - Vedettes Iles d'Or
Further 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. 

Map of services run by Vedettes Iles d'Or.

Vedettes Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or X from their brochure.

Vedettes Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XIV in run-down condition at Le Lavandou.

Vedettes Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XV from their brochure cover.

Vedettes Iles d'Or fast ferry Iles d'Or XX/Hydrojet arriving at Porquerolles.

Vedettes Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XXI with underwater viewing area, at Le Lavandou.

La Londes - SNRTM
SNRTM's 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.

Vedettes Iles d'Or vessel Iles d'Or XII at La Londes, with SNRTM's Fée des Iles.

SNRTM's Fée des Iles at La Londes.

St Tropez - Les Bateaux Verts
Moving 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. 

Les Bateaux Verts vessel Gipsy IV on their brochure cover.

Les Bateaux Verts vessel Gipsy II at Ste Maxime.

Les Bateaux Verts vessel Gipsy III at Ste Maxime.

St Tropez - MMG
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.

MMG brochure, showing launch in previous pale blue.

MMG brochure, showing fleet in previous pale blue livery.

MMG launch at Ste Maxime, with current dark blue hull.

St Tropez - Air France Service to Cannes & Nice
In 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 available on this link

Areas to the East and West of Var
Marseille 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.

The 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.

The cross-harbour ferry in Marseille.

Two of the Marseille excursion ships, running harbour tours etc.

Excursion Ships of Nice - Toulon Excursion Ships & Ferries  - Simplon Postcards Home Page

Free Web Counter
Times viewed since 27/12/2010: