Sanary sur Mer is a colourful town on the mediterranean coast, 35 minutes east of it’s more famous neighbour Cassis. We recently visited this region and here’s some tips for visiting Sanary sur Mer in 72 hours, or whatever time frame you like! We also explored the smaller villages inland, as well as an island just off the coast.
Sanary sur Mer
Originally a fishing village, Sanary sur Mer is full of charm. Colourful traditional fishing boats line the harbour and boutiques populate the winding streets. This town has a less-touristy feel than Cassis. It can brag that it’s one of the sunniest places in France though the Mistral wind is often here was well.
Tour de Sanary sur Mer
Make sure to visit the Tour de Sanary sur Mer. This is a tower, originally built in 1300, that guarded the harbour. It’s located behind a hotel on the port and is free to visit. There you’ll find an exhibition of roman ruins found in the harbour as well as a rather steep staircase that leads to the top of the tower where you can see the entire harbour. This is a must! We visited as soon as it opened on market day and were able to see the market from above.
Address : Place de la Tour
Summer Opening Hours: 10-12:30/14h30-18h
Sanary sur Mer Markets
Wednesday morning market
The Wednesday morning market is the largest of the Sanary sur Mer markets, though you’ll often find smaller versions in the central port during other days of the week. We visited in August (when Parisians descend upon the Côte d’Azur!) so made sure to arrive early. This market is enormous! If you’re a lover of fish, this provencal market will make you want to cancel all plans to eat out in restaurants as the fish on display is so fresh and varied. You’ll want access to a kitchen!
July/August Night market
On the port every day during July and August there is an evening artisan market in Sanary sur Mer. It starts at 7:30pm and goes until 1 am, although this year it was closed earlier. Make a reservation at a restaurant and wander the market after your meal. This is a must-see if only for the beauty of the wooden boats lit up at night.
“Les Joutes” is a water jousting sport practised all along the Mediterranean in France. The most famous town for Les Joutes is Sète. It’s an exciting sport where the competitors carry a lance and balance on the stern or platform of a boat. The goal is of course to knock the other person into the water. Who doesn’t like a little medieval-style fun? In summer, Les Joutes takes place every Tuesday and Thursday around 5pm in the old port of Sanary sur Mer. However, I would check at the Sanary tourism office beforehand as the schedule often changes.
Small Villages Inland From Sanary sur Mer
These villages are small and can be visited in an afternoon or morning. They’re about twenty minutes from Sanary sur Mer. You can also make a day of it if you visit close-by Bandol wineries or go hiking.
This “Village du Caractère” is a perched hilltop village. It’s full of artisan boutiques.
You’ll also find here a bakery that is a homage to La Femme du Boulanger, the film directed by Marcel Pagnol. Just outside the village there is also the Maison des Vins de Bandol a one-stop shop where you can taste wines from all different kinds of vineyards in the Bandol appellation.
La Cadière d’Azur
Across from Le Castellet, you’ll find La Cadière d’Azur.
Évenos is a tiny hamlet that surrounds the ruins of a castle first built in the 10th century. Visit here to admire the view from the village onto the surrounding hills and the Falaises du Cimay quarry where you can see where marble was extracted from the cliffs.
Walk: Les Grès de St Anne d’Évenos (interesting geological formations) 1.5/2hrs
There have been grape vines in this region since the 6th century BC, when the Phocaeans brought then here.
AOC Bandol wines are known for their high quality, complex, tannic reds that are perfect for ageing. Because the powerful Mourvèdre is the star grape of Bandol, even the rosés can be aged. Bandol wines are highly regulated to maintain quality. Among the rules, Mourvèdre grapes need to composed at least 50% of each vintage. The grapes are all hand-harvested and there are many organic or biodynamic vineyards. These are the few that we visited after doing some research.
If you’re in the United States you may have heard of this vineyard. The wines are excellent though I have to say the tasting lacked any enthusiasm and there was only one red vintage to taste, while the other vineyards offered at least 2 different vintages.
Excellent wines in a stunning setting.
Domaine Saint Anne
This is for the lovers of natural wine. Recommended to us by our friends at Domaine Milan, these wines are very interesting. The tasting is also very informal and convivial.
We didn’t have time to visit this vineyard but drank their wine in a local restaurant and I have to say we thought it was absolutely delicious! The prices are also more reasonable at about 17€ a bottle rather than 35€.
Where to Stay
Of all the many places to stay in the area, we chose a village off the beaten track. Ollioules is just 5 kilometres inland from the coast. This town has a beautiful historical centre as well as restaurants and amenities. We stayed at La Maison Long.
This is a large house owned by Stephanie Long. It’s been in her family for generations. She’s slowly renovating it and feels passionate about preserving it’s history. It was once an old monastery/cloister, then a flower farm. It has a terrace and 12th century vaulted ceilings. Art pieces are feature throughout the home that were made by Stephanie’s father. You can rent this home for a little local flavour! Maison Long is only suitable for people that are comfortable using stairs.
If you’re interested in delicious nougat, make sure to book a tour at Nougat Jonquier where you can find out how this local product is made.
Factory visit from Tuesday to Thursday (10:30am, 2:30pm, 4:30pm)
This is the best bakery in town for pastries and their quiches are excellent too!
Restaurants are very tricky to recommend. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what good food is. However, I recommend them in my personalised itineraries for the Luberon and Alpilles areas, where I’m based. We couldn’t go to all of these of course but after a lot of research and the taking the advice of locals (thank you Stephanie at Maison Long), this is the list that we came up with.
La P’tite Cour Restaurant (Book FAR in advance for this restaurant. They’re closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and only open in the evenings. Gastronomic.
Le Provencale (A local favourite. The food is simple and the decor is kinda odd but good value for Provençal dishes).
Le Baroudeur wine bar (the food here is simple but the waiters are wonderful, it’s fun to people watch on a little street, and the wine list is of course amazing.)
This is located at a 5 minute drive outside Sanary. We liked it because there was lots of seafood on the menu (what you want next to the ocean) and afterwards we walked (a bit tipsy) to Plage de Beaucours, a small pebble beach, for a swim and snooze.
If you’d like to find a big sandy beach, head to Plage de Portissol right next to Sanary sur Mer. The restaurants here have mixed reviews but the area is beautiful.
L’Atelier du Vigneron (fine dining)
Les Etiquettes (Gastronomic bistro in a square in town, need to reserve)
Restaurant La Petite Gargote (on a cute street, simple brochettes/skewers)
La Table de Terrebrune (fine dining at an AOC Bandol vineyard). They also have Sunday brunch.
Day Out – Île Embiez
There are some more famous and perhaps more stunning islands within an hour drive of Sanary sur Mer. Places like Porquerolles come to mind. However, we wanted to stay close to Sanary sur Mer. This island is located just off the mainland. You can probably swim across at the more narrow stretch of sea if you knew where to go!
A Private Mediterranean Island
Île des Embiez is one of the islands owned by Paul Ricard, creator of the eponymous (and much beloved) Pastis brand here in Provence. The island is small and car-free. You can walk around the circumference in around two hours while stopping to admire the views and snoozing on the beaches. There are a couple restaurants in the port and a very good bakery (though it doesn’t look like it from the outside!)
Tips* It’s best to go on a day where there isn’t any wind as you’ll really feel it on the island. If the wind is unavoidable, make sure to grab a spot on the beach on the eastern side of the island where you’ll be more protected. Also, if you don’t have snorkelling equipment don’t worry, there’s a store on the port at Brusc that sells everything you’ll need. If you don’t have a map it doesn’t matter as the only road is basically the ring road of the island.
How to get there:
You can take the boat from the port of Brusc, which is nearest to the island. The ride is about 10 minutes. Or, you can go from the port of Sanary sur Mer. You’ll see the kiosks in both locations. Tickets cost 18€ each per adult. You can also purchase your ticket in advance here : Îles de Paul Ricard.
This was our (quite busy!) itinerary:
Tuesday : Villages & vineyards behind Sanary
Wednesday : Sanary sur Mer market, lunch and beach
Thursday : Île des Embiez, Sanary sur Mer night market
Feel free to add suggestions for readers below on your favourite restaurants around Sanary sur Mer, vineyards, and beaches!