Île de Bendor

Island in Bandol

A place of exile during the 17th century, once-desolate pinprick Bendor was subsequently abandoned for 250 years. Then in 1951 along came Paul Ricard, a pastis millionaire, who transformed the islet into one of the most fashionable spots on the south coast. The islet, 300m offshore from Bandol, 19km east of Toulon, is now filled with structures that look like a Disney set, such as Mediterranean-style villas and neo-classical statuary.

The port itself, with its shrunken toy-town buildings and meticulously planned alleys and squares, is quite surreal. Seasonal exhibitions (check www.bendor.com) are held on the island and its shallow-sloping beach, with lifeguards, is great for tiny kids. Les Îles Paul Ricard ferries cross from Bandol (five minutes, at least hourly June to mid-September; less frequent at other times).