All aboard the little train on the Train de la Côte Bleue line for a short trip (1 hour 25 minutes in all) but oh so full of sensation – the tracks wind along the cliffside with a succession of spectacular views over the bay of Marseille and limestone Calanques (creeks) plunge into the Mediterranean.
When the train de la Côte Bleue stops in the little station in Niolon, just a few minutes after leaving Marseille, you’ve already had an incredible eyeful. You’ve admired the little harbour of l’Estaque, which used to be a fishing harbour. Then a wide sweeping view of the whole of the bay of Marseille with, in the distance, the first calanques of the National Park. The little port of Niolon, nestling in the bottom of a calanque overlooked by the railway line, is very attractive with its uncontrived charm. Out of season, you can swim there undisturbed. Or make the most of a beautiful hike on the Sentier des Douaniers (GR51 – Custom’s Trail), towards the sublime Calanque de Méjean. Niolon is also a well-known diving spot with the biggest training centre in France.
Where to eat, sleep and what to do in Niolon (Le Rove) ?
You’re back on the train, heading for Carry-le-Rouet. Welcome to the biggest seaside resort on the Côte Bleue! An opportunity for a walk along the harbour’s wharves, with the many cafes and restaurants that liven up the town. If the sun is out, you might be tempted by a dip at one of the beaches – Plage du Cap Rousset or Plage Fernandel – the famous actor French actor Fernandel was born in Marseille and had a house in Carry-le-Rouet. The town is also known for its oursinades (sea-urchin festivals) which take place on the first three Sundays in February. The atmosphere is festive and you buy your sea-urchins and other seafood directly at the fishermen’s stalls to enjoy with white wine in the gentle sunshine of winter.
Where to eat, sleep and what to do in Carry-le-Rouet?
Now it’s time to make tracks for another seaside resort on the Côte Bleue: Sausset-les-Pins. It’s smaller than its neighbour, Carry-le-Rouet, but it has the same family atmosphere. The town earned its living for a long time from tuna fishing. Sausset-les-Pins is now appreciated for its oursinades (here they’re on the last three Sundays in January), and its natural aspect, particularly the pretty seafront. Take a walk along the corniche, with alternating sandy beaches and little creeks, for a lovely moment in the fresh air.
Where to eat, sleep and what to do in Sausset-les-Pins?
Climb aboard the Train de la Côte Bleue again and you’re off to Istres. After a stop in Martigues station and then Fos-sur-Mer, take a moment to look at the pink ponds of Lavalduc and Engrenier, beside the railway line. It’s almost as if the train was running on the water. The little railway line is definitely something of a sea voyage. When you get off in Istres, you can wander around the old town, where the little streets have kept their Provencal accent. And with the family, you can learn as you have fun on the Dinosaur’Istres trail with its life-sized replicas of dinosaurs.