Degaby Island Jootlcm 2Degaby Island Jootlcm 2
©Degaby Island Jootlcm 2

Degaby Island

You’re probably familiar with the Château d’If, Frioul and Ile Maire, but have you ever heard of Ile Degaby? This small fortified islet opposite Malmousque offers a breathtaking setting. This exceptional site, with its fortress seemingly at one with the rock, is rich in history. Let us take you on a tour of this little-known part of Marseille.

Let’s go back in time

In 1680, Louis XIV had a fort built on the island, “Fort de Tourville”, to protect the city from possible maritime attacks from the south of Marseille. The island remained a military possession for a long time, and it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century, around 1915, that the army parted with it. The island was then bought by André Laval, a wealthy industrialist from Marseilles, who gave it to his wife, Liane Degaby, a music-hall performer. The island became a festive place where all the bourgeoisie of Marseilles came to party. This wealthy industrialist owned some real works of art, which attracted covetousness, and it was around 1921 that thieves broke into the property and looted the island. The despondent owners left. For almost 40 years, the island was abandoned. It was then bought up by a number of people, all of whom had eccentric plans for the island, but none of them ever saw the light of day. In 1990, L’île Degaby was bought by jeweler Pascal Morabito, who renovated the island and turned it into his artists’ residence. He also hosted a number of soirées there. In 2001, the island was once again bought by property developers and then sold. Today, Île Degaby belongs to a Belgian group and is managed by the “Société d’exploitation de l’île Degaby”. The group has invested heavily in refurbishing the fortress (kitchen, gardens, roof terrace, reception room, etc.), hosting private events, seminars and parties. In 2023, it was possible to dine there for one-off events and enjoy a unique experience.

Did you know?

A natural cave leads directly to the center of the island. A central well, where, depending on the time of day and the position of the sun, the water changes color and explores the palette of green and blue.

Degaby Island today, an ephemeral experience

In addition to private events and parties, this year from May to October the island hosts an ephemeral restaurant and bar. Access is by boat, and the crossing takes around 15 minutes (access is subject to weather conditions). The restaurant features Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, highlighting seasonal produce and local artisans. The regularly changing menu features 3 starters, 3 main courses and 3 desserts, as well as signature dishes designed to be shared. Open Wednesday to Friday evenings only, Saturday lunch and dinner, and Sunday from noon to 4pm. The Bar offers tapas and cocktails in a relaxing, musical atmosphere. You can also take a dip if you like! It’s open Wednesday to Friday from 5pm to 11:30pm, Saturday from 4pm to 11:30pm and Sunday from noon to 9pm. Access to the island is by online reservation only, which includes the boat trip and access to the bar and/or restaurant. Boarding takes place under the Mucem footbridge. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable evening in a timeless setting, with breathtaking views of the “Bonne Mère” on one side and the Frioul islands on the other. Please note that the island is private and not open to the public unless you book in advance, even if some daredevil swimmers do come from the corniche!