Overlooking Cassis and the harbor entrance from Cap Canaille
Situated a mere 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) east of Marseille, Cassis is technically too far west to be considered on the Riviera (or even the Cote d'Azur for that matter). Although it isn't as crowded as some of the better known spots on the French Mediterranean, it has enough sun-drenched beaches to be an attractive beach resort.
The coast around Cassis is largely rocky cliffs punctuated by narrow steep-walled inlets called calanques and the occasional pebble beach. The terrain rises rapidly going away from the shore toward the mountain crest behind. The landscape appears to be a light green as the limestone outcrops protrude everywhere through the darker green vegetation.
Cassis' small harbor is protected by a sweep of peninsula with a public beach on the outer shore. The mouth of the harbor is further protected by a sea wall which narrows it to a mere 30 to 40 feet. A small lighthouse guards the tip of the sea wall. The concrete quays are lined by pastel colored three- and four-storey buildings, many housing seafood restaurants. In the mid-morning, the local fisherman can be seen selling their day's catch from the sterns of boats tied up at quayside.
Buildings along the Quay
Also spectacular is the view from the top of Cap Canaille back toward Cassis. Take the A50 toward Toulon, and turn right on the D41A. The road goes past vineyards up to the top of Cap Canaille, then follows the top of the ridge along the ocean arriving eventually in La Ciotat.
Cap Canaille over Bestouan Beach
Another very popular attraction is the calanques. These are long, narrow inlets with steep limestone cliffs on either side. They penetrate the rocky coastline like narrow fingers, providing access in some cases to isolated sandy coves suitable for picnicing or swimming. In other cases, they provide a safe moorage for myriad pleasure boats.
Overlooking Calanque Port-Miou
Copyright 2002 Harry B. Rowe