Coastline and Port in Toulon, French Riviera

Toulon is an important centre for naval construction, fishing, wine making, and the manufacture of aeronautical equipment, armaments, maps, paper, tobacco, printing, shoes, and electronic equipment. The military port of Toulon is the major naval centre on France’s Mediterranean coast, home of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and her battle group. The French Mediterranean Fleet is based in Toulon.

Thanks to its exceptional natural environment (the city is bordered by hills overlooking the bay), Toulon is France’s only natural harbour combining naval and land defence posts. Its military heritage, featuring forts, towers and fortresses, together with the historical Naval Base, boasts exciting stories of strategy, battles and, of course, the French Revolution.

Enjoy a guided boat tour of “Europe’s finest bay” (Vauban) and discover Toulon’s military port, also France’s largest naval base. Relive the city’s maritime history at the National Naval Museum (Musée National de la Marine).

Climb aboard at the port of Toulon to discover the various warships anchored at the Naval Base (including the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier), fortifications bordering the bay,

The port
The commercial port is managed by the Var Chamber of Commerce and Industry associated with the Toulon-Provence-Mediterranean metropolis. Since the 2000s, the private Franco-Italian company Corsica Ferries – Sardinia Ferries mainly provides daily connections all year round to Corsica with a departure every evening to Bastia and Ajaccio and weekly crossings to L’Île-Rousse and Porto- Vecchio as well as to Sardinia with weekly rotations to Porto Torres. This company also provides seasonal connections to the Balearic Islandsand Sicily between April and November. A cruise activity developed since 2007 made it possible to welcome more than 150 stopovers in 2016. TL is the Toulon code according to the list of maritime districts.

Taking a boat bus across the bay, visiting the extraordinary Golden Islands, heading off to Porquerolles, Corsica or on a Mediterranean cruise, the Port of Toulon offers numerous maritime services.

Bay of Toulon boat bus services
Services to Saint-Mandrier peninsula, La Seyne-sur-Mer and Les Sablettes beaches. Discover the many sights around the Bay thanks to our boat bus services from the Port of Toulon.

Toulon-Porquerolles crossing
Enjoy a day out on Porquerolles island – the most famous of the Golden Islands! The service runs from the Port of Toulon from May to October.

Ferry services to Corsica, Balearics, Sicilia and Sardinia from Toulon
Year round ferry services to Corsica, Balearics, Sicilia and Sardinia from the ferry terminal.

National Naval Museum in Toulon
The National Maritime Museum of Toulon has been installed since 1981 next to the Clock Tower of the arsenal, one of the rare historic sites to have survived the Second World War. True memory of the arsenal of Toulon, from which it retains the majestic monumental gate dated 1738, the museum has a collection of models of vessels and galleys. The Toulon Marine Museum, along with the Paris, Brest, Rochefort and Port-Louis museums, is part of the National Marine Museum. Its existence is intimately linked to the history of its port and its arsenal. It is reached by the old door dating from 1738.

Tucked away behind the monumental door built in 1738, the “Musée National de la Marine” offers a fitting tribute to Mediterranean maritime traditions through an exceptional collection of model vessels and galleys. Entirely refurbished in 2011, the museum now features areas dedicated to the military engineer Vauban and original naval base, the Toulon convict prison including a reconstruction of the prison hospital, and a focus on French Navy submarines and aircraft carriers from WWII to current day on the 1st floor.

Housed since 1981 near the main gate of the base defense of Toulon, the National Museum of the Marine illustrates the exceptional activity of one of the greatest French arsenals since the xvii th century. True memory of the Toulon arsenalhis collection consists of models of ships, frigates, galleys, but also submarines and aircraft carriers. A sample of sculpted decors, representative of the expertise of the master sculptors of the arsenal, large paintings illustrating the port of Toulon over the centuries, navigation instruments and weapon systems tell how the port of Toulon became over time the first war port in Europe.

Reorganized in 2012, the ground floor in the first part is devoted to the establishment of the Toulon Navy from the 17th century, under Louis XIV and Colbert, underlined by the fundamental contribution of Vaubanin the creation of the Toulon arsenal. There is a very beautiful model of the royal rope of 5.36m long. In the central part of the museum, two models, made to scale, of a ship and a frigate, were used for the instruction of cadets at the xviii th century. Further on, the space on them reminds us of the longevity of a typically Mediterranean form of ship with its roots in Antiquity. History, however, only retains its role as an inhuman prison from which the convicts were born in 1748. Other works attract attention such as the figurehead of the 80-gun vessel Le Neptune, the figures at the foot of Abraham Duquesne, of the Count de Tourville or Jean Bart. They bear witness to the intense activity of the sculpture workshop at the Toulon arsenal, which will not close until the end of the 19th century.

After a stop at the 19th century dedicated to the Industrial Revolution and technical innovation, the first floor has the arsenal to the 20th century, shipbuilding but also the major historical events of the port of Toulon, those who remain in the imagination collective of Toulonnais. So gifts representative of the Franco-Russian alliance (1891-1914) or, more tragically, the scuttling of the Toulon Fleet during the Second World War. Finally a space is dedicated to submarinesfrom the launch of the first Gymnote (1888) to the all-new nuclear submarines expected in 2017, the Barracudas. Another is devoted to aircraft carriers with the Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier at the heart of this space. The museum also keeps the switchboard for the rear machines of the aircraft carrier “ Clemenceau ”, the pride of the French Navy – with the aircraft carrier Foch – in the 1960s

Toulon arsenal
The military port of Toulon is the principal base of the French Navy and the first naval base in Europe by size, sited in the city of Toulon. It holds most of France’s force d’action navale, comprising the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle as well as its nuclear attack submarines, in total more than 70% of the tonnage of the French Navy. About 20,000 military and civilians work at the base.

It is the main French naval base, ahead of that of Brest and that of Cherbourg. At the beginning of 21th century, including houses the bulk of the Naval Action Force, including the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the helicopter carrier amphibious (PHA) of Mistral class (BPC) Mistral, Tonnerre and Diksmuide, as well as the six nuclear attack submarines, Ruby class. In total, more than 60% of the tonnage of the French Navy is docked in the harbor of Toulon. Constituting the largest Defense base in France since1 st January 2011, it is supported by the Toulon defense base support group created on the same date.

History of the military port
The ‘modern’ history of the port began when Louis XII built his Tour Royale at Toulon in 1514. A naval arsenal and shipyard were built in 1599, and small sheltered harbour, the Veille Darse, was built in 1604–1610 to protect ships from the wind and sea. The shipyard was greatly enlarged by Cardinal Richelieu, who wished to make France into a Mediterranean naval power. In 1680, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Secretary of State of the Navy and Controller of Finance of King Louis XIV, began building a much larger port, called the Darse Vauban or the Darse Neuve, and shipyard, designed by his commissioner of fortifications, Vauban.

In 1697, Vauban built the impressive corderie, a building designed to make ropes. The corderie, still standing, is 20 metres wide and 320 metres long, built so that ropes could be stretched the entire length of the building as they were twisted together. Power for the ropemaking was provided by convicts from the adjoining prison, who walked in an enormous treadmill. A triumphal gate (now the Museum of the Navy) was added to the Arsenal in 1738.

The Arsenal port was enlarged still further in the 19th century and the 20th century. The construction of the arsenal du Mourillon began at the start of the 18th century, as an extension of the major Toulon arsenal on the roadstead’s east coast. Until the 20th century this extension held stores for the wood to build the French Navy. From the late 19th century it was this shipyard that built France’s first ironclad frigates then the world’s first modern submarines.

Rather than joining the Free French forces in North Africa and to avoid capture by the Germans, the French fleet based at Toulon scuttled itself on 27 November 1942 on the orders of the French admiralty. During the 20th century the Mourillon arsenal was mainly dedicated to submarine activity as a French submarine base until 1940, then a German one from 1940 to 1945, then a dockyard and torpedo factory after 1945. The Arsenal was badly damaged by Allied bombing in World War II, but since has been reconstructed and modernised. It has eleven drydocks for ship repair, the two largest of which are 422 metres by 40 metres. The Arsenal is still the principal military port of France, the home port of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, France’s attack submarine squadron, and the other ships of the French Mediterranean fleet.

The Arsenal is not open to the public, but the Naval Museum at its entrance has a remarkable collection of enormous ship models from the 18th century, used to train the heir to the throne in seamanship, as well as other naval memorabilia. The building of the Corderie can be seen beside the road nearby. Boat tours depart regularly from the waterfront, and allow visitors to have a good look at ships of the French fleet.

Main infrastructures
The military base is divided into five main areas, each with their own access to the sea. From east to west:

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The base has three main entrances:

The first, located in the Vauban area, near the civil port; it is the main door, attached to the marine museum whose facade, classified as a historic monument, is none other than the ancestor of this new door which is also located near the honor quay of the arsenal and of the monumental facade of the maritime prefecture of the Mediterranean, flanked by cannons and gilding.
The second opening called Castigneau, at the western entrance to downtown Toulon and which has the same name, is much more practical. It ensures the supply of freight as well as the circulation of military and civil convoys of the military base;
The third, Malbousquet, derives its efficiency from the fact that it is located less than 200 meters from the motorway exit on a four-lane road.

The other three doors are only secondary entrances little or no longer used, but nevertheless guarded, of the arsenal. In the far west in the municipalities of La Seyne-sur-Mer and Ollioules the military base is in contact with the commercial port of Brégaillon, attached to regional and national transits as well as to pyrotechnics for ammunition supplies.

The leading industrial employer in the Var, the NAVAL GROUP company has 3,500 employees in the department, 2,200 of whom work at the Toulon naval base. Its activities are the maintenance of the buildings of the French Navy and some foreign navies but also the maintenance of civil boats like those of the SNCM. The company also deploys its skills in the field of energy services.

The Mourillon arsenal, located on the east side of the harbor, is directly accessible by its northern arsenal which shelters the base of the submarines until the end of the war. The southern arsenal is accessible by the small Mourillon dock located next to the torpedo workshop which is no longer there.

Maritime infrastructure
From east to west:

The honor quay: it is used to accommodate foreign or large capacity buildings and, as its name suggests, the buildings to be honored for facts deserving of it. Located opposite the merchant port, it displays the honored building to the sight of large ferries and cruise ships;
the dry docks and dock Vauban (basins): the first four provide ship maintenance of medium to large. The Vauban dock serves as a quay for small vessels (divers-deminers, tugs, patrol boats) as well as end-of-life vessels;
The quays of Missiessy and Malbousquet also have dry docks but they are better known for accommodating nuclear attack submarines and their “pots” as the sailors call them, who are in fact only large sheds on rails which cover submarines during maintenance of their nuclear cores. In 2009, the reception and support of the SNA was perpetuated on the basis of Toulon, settling the question of their transfer to Longue Island, raised in 1997;
The Milhaud wharves are the main wharves of the arsenal since they welcome the naval action force (frigates, light stealth frigates, aircraft carriers) but also support vessels (oil tankers- workers…) and more recently the PHA (Mistral class amphibious helicopter carrier).

Base land infrastructure
This includes a variety of radar antennas for both maritime and aerial surveillance of the area. In addition, it has a petrol service with several service stations and pipelines to the quays, and services for the maintenance and repair of naval and land units.

The base is supported by the company of Toulon firefighters. The infrastructure for staff includes several dining rooms, sports halls and grounds, a cinema and various living spaces.

The beaches of Toulon
Sun-lovers can opt for the Mourillon family beaches flying the European Blue Flag, or adjacent little coves shaded by pine trees. Boasting a variety of sailing clubs and water sports amenities, plus disabled facilities, Toulon is also a great place for soaking up the sunshine.

The Mourillon beaches
These are the city’s most popular beaches thanks to their location, extensive facilities for families and the disabled, playgrounds, restaurants and large landscaped areas where you can lay down your towel in summer. This is also the venue for major summer events, such as the Fort Saint-Louis firework display, Patrouille de France airshows, the “Lire à la plage” book readings and Fishermen’s Evening… The Mourillon beaches have been awarded the following quality labels: The European “Blue Flag” for their environmental quality. The “Tourism & Handicap” label for their disabled facilities, including an access ramp, amphibious chair operated by lifeguards and path leading to the water’s edge.

The coves of Méjean and Magaud
Set at the foot of cliffs and lined with pine trees and fishermen’s huts, these discreet shingle coves, so typical of the Var coast, are the perfect choice for a day out in the company of chirping cicadas and swishing waves. Snorkelling lovers – don’t forget to take along your mask, flippers and tuba to explore the Mediterranean sea beds! You can reach the coves of Méjean and Magaud easily on bus number 23 (Réseau Mistral public service).

Gardens and footpath
Although Toulon is the Var region’s largest city, its coast has maintained all of its original charm, with unspoiled shores, footpaths and gardens abounding with Mediterranean vegetation, and the typical Mourillon quarter… In short, all the wonderful atmosphere of the South of France.

The coastal footpath
Stretching from the Tour Royale tower to Méjean cove, via the Mourillon beaches, this gorgeous footpath set directly overlooking the waves is several kilometres long and lined with Mediterranean vegetation. Dotted with family beaches and secret little creeks, it offers a wonderful nature walk in both summer and winter. You will also love seeing the ancient fishermen’s cottages overhanging the sea. As nature is fragile, some sections of the footpath may be closed temporarily. Please respect the instructions in order to preserve our environment.

The coastal parks and gardens of Toulon
Popular strolling venues for all ages, the tropical garden (Jardin d’Acclimatation) located on Littoral Frédéric Mistral, Tour Royale garden and gardens bordering the Mourillon beaches offer spectacular panoramic views over the bay. Topped with play areas and staging major events throughout the year, Toulon’s coastal parks and gardens are part of everyday life in all seasons.

The Mourillon quarter
Originally a fishermen’s village, the Mourillon quarter still boasts its original, picturesque architecture. Its daily market, chic little boutiques, many restaurants and seaside location make it Toulon’s most coveted quarter. So if you fancy a shellfish platter facing the sea, a spot of jogging on the beach, listening to some jazz on a summer evening or admiring a firework display,

French Riviera
The French Riviera is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from Cassis, Toulon or Saint-Tropez on the west to Menton at the France–Italy border in the east, where the Italian Riviera joins. The coast is entirely within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France. The Principality of Monaco is a semi-enclave within the region, surrounded on three sides by France and fronting the Mediterranean. Riviera is an Italian word that corresponds to the ancient Ligurian territory, wedged between the Var and Magra rivers.

The climate of the Côte d’Azur is temperate Mediterranean with mountain influences on the northern parts of the departments of Var and Alpes-Maritimes. It is characterized by dry summers and mild winters which help reduce the likelihood of freezing. The Côte d’Azur enjoys significant sunshine in mainland France for 300 days a year.

This coastline was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as a winter health resort for the British upper class at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it became the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander II and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales. In the summer, it also played home to many members of the Rothschild family. In the first half of the 20th century, it was frequented by artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Francis Bacon,h Wharton, Somerset Maugham and Aldous Huxley, as well as wealthy Americans and Europeans. After World War II, it became a popular tourist destination and convention site. Many celebrities, such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot, have homes in the region.

The eastern part (maralpine) of the Côte d’Azur has been largely transformed by the concreting of the coast linked to the tourist development of foreigners from North Europe and the French,. The Var part is better preserved from urbanization with the exception of the agglomeration of Fréjus-Saint-Raphaël affected by the demographic growth of the maralpin coast and the agglomeration of Toulon which has been marked by urban sprawl on its part West and by a spread of industrial and commercial areas (Grand Var).

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