A gateway to the Calanques
Like a fairy tale castle, its origin remains a mystery. Mentioned in 1810 on the deed of purchase of the building by the State, it is not known when it was first built, nor who added its famous tower. Another mystery: the roof is supported by beams sculpted in the shape of animals, like gargoyles, which are thought to have come from a ship... Nothing more is known about this.
The building may first have been used to store the equipment necessary for the use of a fishing trap in the Calanque. In 1867, the State sold it to the Marquis de Fesque de la Roche who subsequently sold it in 1897, along with the surrounding land, to Mr Boude, a sulphur refiner.
An industrial building
In 1898, the building became the property of Solvay. This Belgian entrepreneur decided to set up a quarry in the Calanque to extract the limestone granulate needed for making soda. Prepared in the group's factory at Salin de Giraud in the Camargue, the soda was then used to make Marseille soap, a major industry in the region. The château housed the site manager's accommodation, the management and accounting offices, as well as an infirmary and a small kitchen for the workers.
Today, various remains of this quarry remain in the Calanque de Port-Miou: silos, a shed behind the castle, rails for the wagons, etc. Traces of the stone quarries can also be found on the Pointe de la Cacau and on the Cassis peninsula, on sites that have now been returned to nature.
Defending the natural beauty
Faced with this industrial activity, a feeling of revolt arose among the inhabitants and walkers. The demonstrations that took place at Port-Miou were the result of an awareness of the beauty of the site, revealed in particular by the painters of the Provençal School. In 1893, Joseph Garibaldi painted the Château de Port-Miou: it was at the time when the site was being worked on, but the Calanque had already begun to be worn away by human activity...
In 1982, when the quarry's activity stopped, the castle and its surrounding land were sold by Solvay to a private individual, but subsequently became public property again, that of the town of Cassis.
The château today
Today, the building watches over the sailors and users of the Calanque, with the harbour master's office installed there. It is an unusual building for an unusual port: it is what is called a "ZMEL", a Mooring and Light Equipment Zone.
Between 2017 and 2020 renovation work was carried out as part of a training and integration project led by the organisation Acta Vista, to restore this building to its full majesty and enable it to be a reception area for the Calanques National Park.
Visiting and regulations
Before coming to the Calanques National Park, plan your visit and read the best practices to adopt and the rules to be followed.
The Château de Port-Miou serves mainly as a harbour master's office for the Calanque port.
From 1st April to 30 Cctober, generally on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Calanques National Park opens the top floor of the tower and its adjoining terrasse to the public for exhibitions and events. Stay connected to find out the latest news.
For your safety, access to the pontoons is prohibited.
Access is from Cassis: the Château de Port-Miou is located around 30 minutes walk from the town centre. From the free park and ride car park Les Gorguettes, a shuttle bus will take you to the Calanque de Port-Miou.
GPS coordinates: 43.208422, 5.517952