The area today is a highly convoluted coast line of steep fjiord-like limestone inlets. The hinterland consists of low mountains covered in low lying shrubs and trees with deeply eroded dry river valleys.
From the fishing port of Cassis you walk around the Quai des Baux, passing chic waterside cafes and a multitude of boats. As you pass by the up market Plage de Bestoun, lapped by turquoise blue water, you thread your way through the streets of Port Miou before descending to the waterside at the Calanque de Port Miou, crammed with gleaming white watercraft. After a short ascent, you descend back to sea level at the Calanque de Port Pin. From the beach, you climb up a rocky track to the high point of Pointe d'en Vau from where you continue to walk high above the Calanque d'en Vau itself with fleeting glimpses of its calm water and island views beyond. You then plunge to the bottom of the Vallon d'en Vau which leads through a pinnacled, rocky ravine to the serene beach of the Calanque itself. Retracing your steps, the gorge threads through the Foret Domaniale de la Gardiole which climbs steadily through a landscape of rock pillars and cliff faces until you emerge into the sun at the Col de la Gardiole. The route completes the circle with a long downhill walk through low vegetation to track along the cliff tops of the quarry beside Port Miou where you finish the walk.
Always check the weather before setting off, and take heed of any paths that have been closed by the authorities.
Temperatures in Provence can soar, and you can't always rely on passing a water supply on your walk. Take at least 2 litres of water per person, perhaps even more on very hot days. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, and take regular sips as you go.
Tips, hints and links
There is no where to pick up food or drink along the way so a picnic and plenty of water is necessary. You can ask you hotel to provide this (always ask upon check-in) or you can pick up supplies from the local bakery or supermarket before setting off.
Points of Interest
1) The Calanques National Park - is France's tenth and most recent, having been opened to the public in April 2013. Remarkable for its biodiversity, including protected species of; avians- Bonnelli's eagle, fish- brown meagre, grouper, marine- rare dolphin and turtle. The aim of the park is to preserve its wonderful environment, flora and fauna whilst opening it to the public and access is tightly regulated for boats, vehicles and hikers. The period between 1st June and 30th September has additional restrictions that either restrict or prohibit entirely access to the park due to the risk of forest fire.
2) Port Miou - The huge limestone quarry at Port Miou is a relic of the export of the famous “white stone of Cassis”, one of the most famous examples of which forms the plinth to the Statue of Liberty in New York. This material was quarried before modern records began, however the large scale extraction was carried out between 1900-1982 using dynamite and heavy machinery, for prosaic uses as toothpaste, chalk and plastic as well as a building material.