10 great South of France beaches to visit
The beaches on the French Riviera are some of the best in France. It also has to be said that there are also some pretty mediocre beaches in South of France. A lot of them can get very over-crowded in the summer and are either very stony or the beaches are backfilled with sand each summer (normally with coarse sand). We are based in the South of France all year around. Following many summers spent visiting the coast all along Southern France with our 3 boys, here is our insider's guide to the best French beaches to visit in Cote d'Azur.
Some beaches did not make the top 10 list (but these are also worth checking out such as the beaches near Hyeres and the St Raphael beaches). If you are coming to the South of France this summer, then our top 10 collection of the South of France best beaches to go to will help you find the perfect beach to relax on and top up your tan.
1. Best South of France beach - Cap d'Antibes
Like Cap Ferrat, Cap d'Antibes has had a long association with the rich and famous. Since 1870 the glamorous Hotel du Cap high up on the dense tree covered cliff has been one of the most luxurious resorts in the world. Guests who have stayed there included Marlene Dietrich, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Winston Churchill. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton conducted an affair and honeymooned there. Pablo Picasso came to the town in 1946 and was invited to stay in the castle. During his six month stay, Picasso painted and started his fascination with ceramics and tapestries. When he departed Picasso left a number of his works for the municipality. The castle has since officially became the Picasso Museum. Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea football club has a palatial mansion in Cap d'Antibes
There are 48 beaches along the 25 km of coastline that surround Antibes and Juan les Pins. The main public beaches are La Salis, on the edge of Le Cap d'Antibes and Plage du Ponteil. But be warned, the public beaches are usually very crowded in the summer time. The bay of La Garoupe has some beautiful soft sand beaches and provides a magnificent view of Antibes. This is also a popular spot for snorkelers, attracted by the clear blue water. Classy (and expensive) beach clubs occupy most of the beach spaces, the coolest ones reportedly being Plage Keller and Plage Joseph.
2. Roquebrune-Cap-Martin beach South France
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, is beautifully situated on the French Riviera and enjoys spectacular views of the bay of Menton and the Italian Riviera. This pretty French Riviera vacations resort is one of the most picturesque places to visit on the Cote d'Azur. The beaches around the Roquebrun Cap Martin are stylish and chic, offering visitors a true taste of the Riviera lifestyle. Roquebrun Cap Martin's proximity to Monaco ensures that it is very popular with visitors throughout the tourist season.
3. Theoule-sur-Mer beach in South France
Théoule-sur-Mer is an idyllic small town located in a prime spot on the French Riviera between Cannes and St Tropez. French Riviera. The town is a favourite holiday destination for the rich and famous, seeking some seclusion from the crowds. Théoule-sur-Mer provides a number of public and private beaches, together with a Marina and provides the perfect base for a beach holiday in France.
You might find a perfect base for your holiday at one of our popular villa or apartment rentals in or near Cannes.
4. Les Issambres beach, South France
Les Issambres is a popular destination for South of France beach holidays. Situated on the beautiful coastline of the Bay of St. Tropez, between the Mediterranean sea and the wooded hills of the Massif des Maures, Les Issambres provides 8 km of inlets and fine sandy beaches.
This French Riviera resort provides a calm and tranquil holiday base and is especially popular with the French, Scandinavian, German and British holidaymakers.
5. Tahiti beach, St Tropez
If you are staying near St Tropez this summer, then finding a great South of France beach to soak up the sun must be high on your list of priorities. We have had many great holidays in St Tropez and if you can find a quiet beach, then the place is perfect (minus the traffic jams of course).
Probably the best and most famous beach near St Tropez is Tahiti beach. This is about a 4km drive from the centre of St Tropez, but it is well worth the trip. The sand is soft and golden and the water is clear. This beach does get extremely busy. An alternative to Tahiti beach is the small beach at Rayol Canadel-sur-Mer (see below)
6. Calanques beach between Cassis and Marseilles
The stretch of the Mediterranean coastline between Marseille and Cassis has quite a few dull beaches, but the cove near Cassis called Les Calanques offers perhaps the most dramatic beach you will find in the South of France. With crystal clear water and the dramatic cliffs plunging into the sea, the Calanques is a spectacular location.
It is not easy to get to and in actual fact the easiest way to arrive is to take a boat from the port in Marseille. Failing that, you are faced with a 20 minute walk and steep descent from the main public car park in Cassis itself.
7. Best South France beaches - Cap Ferrat, Paloma Plage
Cap Ferrat is reportedly one of the richest areas of Europe. It rivals Monaco for more millionaires per hectare. Cap Ferrat first became the destination of the rich and famous just after the First World War. King Leopold II of Belgium, started the trend for building magnificent villas.
The writer W. Somerset Maugham bought Villa Mauresque in 1928 and lived there before and after World War II.
Current famous residents include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in Villa Maryland and musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Just below the classy village of Saint-jean you will find a tree lined stretch of sand with a shallow bay. The water is crystal clear and you can get a wonderful view of the palatial mansions by swimming out into the bay. The beach of Paloma Plage is popular with divers (on account of the clear water). The public stretch of beach at Paloma Plage can be found by heading towards Paloma point and walking down the short footpath to the beach.
8. Best South of France beaches - Cannes: Plage du Midi, Plages de la Boca
The beach at Cannes tends to divide people into two camps. Some people love the feel of this beach right in the centre of glamorous Cannes, with its world famous film festival. Others complain about this crowded South France beach and the quality of the sand. To be honest I am in the latter category and would recommend you make the short drive round to Theoule-sur-mer (a lovely little coastal village). The long strip of golden sand to the north of Theoule-sur-mer is a quite calm, with a few bars and cafes around to give you respite from the sun.
The public beach at Cannes is situated near to the Palais des Festivals. Also look for signs to Plages du Midi and Plages de la Bocca on the western edges of the town. Yes you may get to see some of the 'beautiful people' wandering around the beach side promenade in central Cannes, but they are more likely to head for some of the private beaches owned by the hotels.
9. Best beach South France - Villefranche-sur-mer: Plage des Mariniéres, Plage de la Darse
Villefranche-sur-mer, is a picturesque old fishing village located just a few kilometres outside of Nice. Compared to other beaches surrounding Nice, the beaches at Villefranche-sur-mer are relatively quiet even in the summer months. Plage des Mariniéres is the main beach and is located at the north end of the bay. It stretches for 1 km under the track of the railway line linking Nice to Italy. The deep bay off Villefranche was exploited by the French and American navies for many years and is now a popular mooring point for cruise liners.
The old town and the bay have been used as the setting for many famous films, including Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery, The Jewel of the Nile with Michael Douglas and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin.
These South France beaches are popular with families and snorkelers (there are plenty of rocky inlets to explore). The beaches are lined with some nice cafes and shops. The Plage de la Darse beach, South France, is made up of sand and some pebbles and is located behind the main jetty of the harbour of La Darse.
10. South of France best beaches - St Tropez: Port Grimaud beach, Tahiti plage and Rayol Canadel-sur-mer
Port Grimaud is located in between Saint-Tropez and Sainte-maxime. This seaside town was created by architect François Spoerry in the 1960s and built out of the marshes of the bay of Saint Tropez. Built with small canals like Venice, the mainly traffic free town is popular with boat owners as most properties come with their own berth. Port Grimaud beach is located slightly away from town is one long stretch of golden sand. The sea is shallow and gently sloping, making it perfect for families. Windsurfing and kayak hire is also available. Port Grimaud beach does get quite busy during the high season, but it is probably one of the best beaches around St Tropez.
Another St Tropez beach that we love going to is located on the Southern side of the St Tropez headland and is called Tahiti Plage. The beach itself is not very large, but it has a great beach bar with an amazing view out to sea. When we were here with our boys it was like being in another world. There were helicopters landing at the back of the beach and A list celebrities being brought in off the yachts moored in the bay.
Moving along the coast from St Tropez towards Toulon, Rayol Canadel-sur-mer is a small stretch of coastline, which rarely gets busy, even in August. This is the coolest beach in the area, and has a few great bars. Our kids loved going to this beach because there is a diving platform a little way out in the bay. The beach can be tricky to find and the best way to find Rayol Canadel-sur-mer, is by taking the track from the airstrip at nearby Cogolin, past the campsite and up over the hill. The views coming down the other side of the hill are magnificent.