While mere mortals celebrity spot at Plage Pampelonne, the discreet elite drop anchor at these Côte d’Azur island gems. In truth, the French have been actively dissuading the hoi polloi from descending upon their lesser-known isles for centuries. Several were military forts, where retired captains could sip pastis in peace. Others were placed under national park protection, with the proviso that those wealthy enough could moor alongside at night. Only four of these island jewels can be reached by public ferry, and even then the service is patchy at best. The rest require a seaborne assault by yacht – or chopper. Cars are banned on all. But don’t think a boastful Champagne selfie will win you any friends. Carrying anything as unseemly as an iPhone on Cavallo Island will see you relegated to the Prosecco league.
Hideaway Rating: ****
The Romans chose Cavallo as a penal colony. It’s remote, has minimal harbour facilities and is nigh impossible to find on a map: the perfect conditions for today’s A-list habitués. The secret spilled out in the 1970s when Catherine Deneuve and Petula Clark would beach up by speedboat. Roberto Cavalli is part owner of the tiny marina that opened on the private island’s southern tip a decade or so ago. He and his beloved dog Lupo regularly stroll the silken sands, greeting guests such as Paris Hilton and Alicia Keys. Island transport is by mountain bike, Mustique-style “mule” (otherwise known as a golf buggy) or on one of the horses kept by discreet island hotel Les Pêcheurs. The hotel can also provide passing yachts with anything from a sushi platter to a full-blown beach party catered by a private chef. Intrigued? Sailors can take a leisurely cruise across from Corsica. Alternatively, Les Pêcheurs can organise a €500 four-person chopper from Arzachena airstrip near Porto Cervo.