From stunning Saint-Tropez to glorious Cannes and Monaco, the French Riviera—or Côte d’Azur, as the French call it—is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Indeed, the roughly 125 kilometres of gorgeous Mediterranean coastline in question boasts an enormous variety of beaches: some pebbly and others white sand, some on long open stretches and others in rocky coves, some urban, and some wildly secluded. Whether you choose to spend your day on the beach with friends or enjoy a luxury yacht charter with your fiancé, here are just a few of the best French Riviera beaches worth visiting along the way.
Pampelonne Beach in St-Tropez is the longest, most famous, and most popular beach on the Riviera. Close to 5 kilometres of soft sand adorn a magnificently curved bay, offering a breathtaking natural backdrop of gentle dunes to one of the world’s most glamorous beach party scenes. There are no high buildings interrupting the coastline, no seaside walkway, and no snack stands or souvenir stalls. The bohemian energy of the area dates back to the 1950s when Brigitte Bardot, Juliette Greco, and other members of Paris’s postwar landscape turned the beaches of the region into their summer hangouts. Their ethics of “free love,” and “clothing optional,” still shape the scene today.
Larvotto Beach in Monaco, also known as Monte-Carlo’s only beach, is located on Avenue Princess Grâce, with a backdrop of luxury skyscrapers, and is a persistent favourite of urban beach lovers. There are two coves on this sandy beach, and more pebbly areas as well. Extending for over 400 metres directly below a beautiful promenade where the locals enjoy walking or skateboarding, it can be a challenge to find a spot among the throngs of people to lay down your towel, but it is well worth it, especially if you love great people-watching. At the eastern end of the beach, enjoy an intelligently designed, family friendly garden in the shade of generous pine trees.
La Pointe de l’Aiguille
La Pointe de l’Aiguille (Needle Point) marks the start of the beautiful coastal mountain range Esterel Massif. This beach consists of a long stretch of sand, broken up by small breakwaters. Its red rocks and clear dark blue water are manna for the senses. If you are looking to avoid the crowds, the mid-season months of May, June, September and October are quietest. Expect shallows with fish darting about, rocks with a view, and best of all, an underwater trail for snorkelling. Pick up a waterproof map from the lifeguard post: it shows what you are likely to see underwater, marking out the different sea life habitats for your adventuring pleasure.
The boat from Cannes sails to Sainte-Marguerite regularly every day. The 15-minute ferry ride will transport you to a small but gorgeous island bursting with small coves, tiny rocky bays, umbrella pines, ancient eucalyptus forests, and a long line of stunning beaches, of course—some of them sandy and others lined with pebbles. The majority of the island is in fact covered in protected forests. Expect a truly calm haven here, as there is no traffic to be found—only walking paths.
Sablettes Beach, located along Bonaparte Quay, is situated between the Old Port of Menton and Port Garavan. These 350 meters’ worth of coast, covered with fine gravel, are perfectly suited to relaxation and recreation. When the morning sun illuminates the sleepy town of Menton, its homes light up with a full range of brilliant reds and oranges. Nicknamed “la perle de la France” (the pearl of France), it’s easy to see why the area is named after a gem. A stunning view of the Alps is what really brings this beach together, however. Ideal for family holidays, friend getaways, and romantic escapes alike.
La Baumette Beach
La Baumette Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand located in the village of Agay. Known as the last sandy beach heading toward the Maritime Alps, it is less crowded than the downtown beaches, and a truly ideal place to swim the turquoise and crystal clear waters in peace. Extending for about 300 metres, this beach is a slight remove from the road and naturally sheltered from the wind. Rent paddleboards or other nautical equipment and make a day of it with the entire family.
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