The Côte d’Azur. Can you think of a more versatile and beautiful area to visit in the glowing summer months? With more beaches to explore and relax on than you can ever imagine, you really are setting yourself up for success with this beach destination. And even more so now that you’re about to discover the best beaches in the South of France.
Before you sigh with the knowledge that everyone else also had the idea to come and tan here, fear not! There are so many beautiful spots that have remained hidden away and can offer a quieter experience.
So pack that stripey towel and a bottle of sunscreen and remember that on your journey you might stumble upon even lesser-known beaches (hence their omission from this list). But be sure to keep the secret to yourself so they remain hidden away! So without further ado, here are the 9 best beaches in the south of France that you need to visit.
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Mitoshka Alkova.
1. Les Fosses in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Address: Passage des Fossés, 06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
The idyllic fine gravel beaches at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat are perfect for peaceful relaxation by the water. There are three public beaches nestled around the peninsula, all with gorgeous panoramic views across the sea. Showers are available here, but no toilets so keep that in mind. You’ll find the washing facilities on the west of the beach.
Les Fosses is one of the most beautiful beaches in this area so visit this one if you only have time to visit one. One of the reasons it’s so popular is due to its teeming seabed life! If you can, book a snorkelling session to discover an underwater world of coral and tiny fish.
If you want to enjoy the quieter part of this beach, make sure you rest your towels on the western side away from the main road. On that point, you should come here early as there’s very limited parking and it’s often hard to find. There’s a designated area on the east, but it fills up quickly.
2. Calanque D’en Vau in Cassis
Address: Calanque d’En-Vau, 13009 Marseille, France
Getting to this beach is a challenge. However, this also means that it’s a quiet little paradise. I mean, just look at those steep cliffs and turquoise water! Find yourself in the quiet fishing port of Marseille, Cassis, where you can feast on colourful harbourside buildings, tiny cafes, a beautiful chateau and the Parc National des Calanques. There’s a reason this place is a hidden treasure: because it requires you to work for your view.
You can pick between a two-hour hike from Cassis Harbor which will take you through a varied landscape and gorgeous views, or park up at Port Miou and only walk for an hour. The reason to pick dropping the car at the Miou car park (around €8) is that you’ll probably be eager to get home as quickly as possible at the end of the day.
The route is clearly marked and pretty straight forward. Once you head down the narrow harbour and reach the steady incline, you’re basically on the right track. Look out for the cute rocks with painted signs. You’ll reach a smaller beach, Calangue Port Pin, pretty soon after heading off but this isn’t your final destination so keep following the red and white signs. The long hike is worth the unforgettable view from the top.
If you’re going to visit any of these best beaches in the South of France, make it this one! You won’t regret it. However, please keep in mind that you can’t buy any water on this hike or on the beach so come prepared. The French heat really makes this day trip a hydration struggle.
3. Plage Notre-Dame in Porquerolles
Address: Plage Notre-Dame, Porquerolles Island
This next beach is technically cheating as it’s not actually along the Riviera. Instead, you’ll find it on the tiny island paradise of Porquerolles just off from it. I recommend this place to any budding traveller who wants to experience a true, island paradise not too far from home.
Words can’t describe the serenity and gentle beauty of this place. Even if frequented by daily tourists there’s something about being on an island that makes the beach all the more special. A quick ferry from Hyeres/Toulon will get you here in no time. (Keep in mind no cars are allowed on the island.)
Situated on the other side of the island to where you’ll be dropped off, Notre-Dame beach is one of the best beaches in the south of France. Yes, there are many beaches on the island, but this one provides lovely shade in the morning through its little wooded area and is less visited by tourists as it’s further away. (Don’t worry, you can hire a bike to get you there in no time!) There’s no trading allowed here which makes it a lovely, uninterrupted experience. However, if you’re craving some fresh calamari head to the little restaurant close by.
4. Plage des Marinières in Villefranche-sur-Mer
Address: Plage des Marinières, Villefranche-sur-Mer
This is a gorgeous beach. But before I go on it has to be noted that unlike the other beaches, this one can get very crowded in the summer months. And as it’s a long stretch of narrow beach, it might not be for some travellers. However, when it’s made up of crystal water and fine pebbles there’s really nothing to complain about. You also get lovely views of the old town as you rest up and feast your eyes on a balance of nature and elegantly aged architecture.
The great thing at Villefranche-sur-Mer is that you get the best of both worlds. You can rest and paddle in the water, and also explore the little village with its local shops, boutiques, cafes and tiny restaurants. After a morning of tanning, followed by a quick shower, you can easily spend the rest of the day exploring.
5. Plage de la Bocca in Cannes
Address: Plage de la Bocca, Cannes
So, you’ve decided to visit Cannes and of course, you have to take a dip here. However, if you visit in summer, you’ll find that every other tourist in the area had the same idea. For a slightly quieter and more spacious experience take the 5km (60 min) walk along the Cannes promenade. As you walk, you’ll notice the way the beach changes the further you get away from the centre.
As this spot is a little further away from the crowds, it’s easier to find a place to lay your towel here that isn’t right next to someone. And yes, the sand is just as fine! The water is shallow and clear so it’s perfect for a splash or a long paddle into the deeper end. (Don’t worry, there’s a lifeguard here.)
Bocca beach has everything you can find on the busier side, including showers, toilets and restaurants, but just without the queueing. And the calamari is also slightly cheaper – what more could you wish for?
6. Plage De Portissol in Sanary-Sur-Mer
Address: Plage De Portissol, 1-131 Ave Frédéric Mistral, 83110 Sanary-sur-Mer
The little harbour of Sanary is a lovely alternative to other, more popular coastal spots in the area. The harbour is packed with tiny, delicious fish restaurants, and much smaller boats than the ones at Nice, Cannes, and Marseilles… You get the idea: small, quaint fishing village.
Plage De Portissol is a beautiful spot with lovely views over the little bay. But the reason this is a lovely beach to visit is that it’s mostly used by locals and therefore not commercialised like other beach spots in the area. You won’t find sunbeds or masses of tourists here. Instead, you’ll be greeted with a sheltered bay and a natural environment.
As this is a local spot, do expect seaweed buildup and other natural elements at the beach and in the water. If you don’t mind this, then just leap over the seaweed and swim out into the clear water. But if you do then maybe this isn’t the beach for you. Enjoy a crêpe in Sanary instead!
7. Plage du Grand Travers in Montpellier
Address: Plage du Grand Travers, 2 Rue du Levant, 34280 La Grande-Motte
There are many beaches to visit in Montpellier, but this one is definitely up there! With clear water, fine sand and parking to fit in everyone, it couldn’t be easier to enjoy the sun in this part of the Riviera. The lovely thing is that this beach expands over a large area so you’ll never be squished next to someone. You’ll always find a quiet spot a little walk away!
There are sunbeds and umbrellas available here if you’re into that or want to experience the more glamorous lifestyle. However, they can be pricey so I’d recommend bringing a towel too. The multiple bars and restaurants mean you can also get your gin on in the afternoon and enjoy the dream you’re living.
Perfect for shallow swims, relaxing, drinking and even kite surfing on the right day, Plage du Grand Travers is easily one of the best beaches in the south of France. A quintessential part of the Côte d’Azur!
8. Plage De La Mala in Cap-d’Ail
Address: Plage de la Mala, 06320 Cap-d’Ail
I can predict what will happen already. You’re travelling between Sain-Jean Cap-Ferrat and Monaco and commenting on how this holiday has turned into a never-ending search for a free spot at a beach. A free spot that’s relatively far away from the other loud tourists or sun-burned toddlers.
Well, I’ve got you covered with this picturesque, and relatively quiet, cove. The reason it’s so hidden away is mostly because of the limited parking available here. However, there are some parking spots by the train station, or alternatively, bus route 100 goes through here between Nice and Monaco.
On arrival to this paradise, you’ll be greeted by a steep decline onto the golden sandy beach. You can get up to all sorts here from cliff-diving to snorkelling to watersports. And after you’ve been active, you can tuck into some treats from the two restaurants. This is definitely a slightly more tourist-friendly beach. However, it’s still quieter than the rest you’ll find at the hot spots along the Riviera. Cocktails and sunbeds are available, but so are quiet, uncrowded waters – especially during the offseason.
9. Pointe de l’aiguille in Théoule-sur-mer
Address: Pointe de l’aiguille, Théoule-sur-mer
There really is only one way to appreciate the beauty of pointe de l’aiguille and that’s from the water looking back. It feels like one of those hidden beaches discovered by a castaway by accident, but that’s also miraculously been carved into the rock.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the rocks here are red and seem to have nature growing out of them – truly a sight to see. This general area is popular with tourists but the beach itself is quieter and more preserved than the rest. (There’s parking along that stretch of beach that will let you explore the area as you make your way down.)
There are so many boats that whizz past the water in the busier months so set your towel down and enjoy your little enclosed cove. Remember to take a towel as there are no sunbeds. The beach is made from fine pebbles and larger boulders closer to the water, so I promise you’ll thank me later. Oh, and the best part… just as you begin to fry in the sun, the lovely rocks above you will provide that shade you’re yearning for. Thank goodness!
So there you have it: the 9 best beaches in the south of France that you need to visit! Which of these best beaches in the south of France are you most desperate to visit? Please let me know in the comments below. I can imagine it’s all of them, and who could blame you?
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