Largest of the Verdon lakes, the 2,200 hectares of Lac de Ste-Croix is actually a man-made reservoir created by damming the Verdon River.
Hire a sailing boat at watersports centres in Bauduen, Ste-Croix du Verdon and Les Salles sur Verdon where lessons are also available.
Go kayaking between Aiguines at the beginning of the Verdon Gorges and Ste-Marie Moustiers just into the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Kayaks and canoes can be hired by the lake at Aiguines.
The lake is a favourite with fishermen for trout, pike, pike-perch, black bass, carp and white fish. Contact local fishing tackle shops or bars and tabacs for licences and Tourist Information Offices can give advice.
The clear waters around Port-Cros are an extension of the island’s National Park and also protected.
Only mask, flippers and snorkel are needed in the shallow sea between the beach at plage la Palud and Rascas Island to follow the marked underwater trail. It’s possible to see octopus and moray eels as well as sponges and many varieties of fish in a meadow of Posidonia seagrass.
Free plastic aqua guides can be obtained from the park office at the port. For non-swimmers, an Aquascope boat with transparent hull makes half hour trips from the port between April and November.
Vineyards in the limestone hills close to Bandol between La Ciotat and Toulon produce some of the finest wines on the Cote d’Azur. The Mourvedre grapes produce full, spicy, velvety AOC reds. Bandol roses are also fruity and good and some white wines are produced.
The maisons des vins in Bandol offer tastings, or make a tour inland and follow the degustation (tasting) signs. These can be arranged at the Ott Domaine (Chateau de Selle) near Taradeau, tel (00 33) 4 94 47 57 57, and Domaine Tempier at Plan du Castellet.
Tastings and tours of Chateau de Berne near Lorgues are in the centre of a 500 hectare park with open-air theatre and waterfall and V&S Domaine Christiane Rabiega at Draguigan offers summer guided tours and tastings, tel: (00 33) 4 94 68 44 22
Provencal markets are a delight to see, smell and taste. Expect to find locally grown fruit and vegetables, olive oil, wines and honey as well as lavender products, stunning flowers and local textiles.
There are markets throughout Provence – check with the property owner or local tourist office for precise information. And throughout the winter, there are truffle markets, such as that at Aups on Thursday mornings.
Var has the weather, hills and mountains for perfect hang-gliding and paragliding.
There is a school of hang-gliding (parapente), canyoning and mountaineering at Moustiers-Ste-Marie 12km from Aiguines just across the border of northern Var into the Alpes-de-Haute Provence. For details see French website www.verdon-passion.com
Watch experts in sailplanes from Europe’s largest gliding centre performing their aerial acrobatics above the hilltop village of Fayence. Beginners can take an hour’s lesson in this expensive pastime at the International Gliding Centre of Fayence-Tourettes at the aerodrome, tel: (00 33) 44 94 76 00 68.
There is also a hang-gliding centre close to Fayence. Contact the local Tourist Office for details, tel: (00 33) 4 94 76 20 80.
There’s plenty of scope for rambling in the Var countryside. Over half the terrain is woodland and there’s over 400km of coastline, giving variety to Var’s 1,600km of hiking paths. Several marked long distance walking trails - GRs - cross the department.
The famous Chemin des Douaniers (customs officers’ road) follows sections of the coast for 187km beginning at Saint-Cyr and ending at St Raphael. From here, the GR51 travels inland through the red rocks of the Esterel Massif and Maures forests back to the coast at La Mole and on through beautiful countryside around Pierrefeu to Bandol wine country.
Follow either the GR99 from the west near Toulon or the GR45 starting at St-Raphael for hikes ending at the spectacular Gorges of Verdon. The GR90 follows the wooded hills of the Massif des Maures through magnificent chestnut woods around Collobrieres.
The ski resorts of Isola 2000 and the Foux d’Allos/Pra Loup in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence are just a 2 hour drive from Fayence.