Top five French Riviera beaches

A writer and Francophile's love affair with the French Riviera's shores

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Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
HomeAway travel expert


Menton beach - French RivieraSomerset Maugham famously described the French Riviera as a ‘sunny place for shady people’ and it has a gloriously nefarious reputation, what with its world-famous casino and Grand Prix in Monaco, the glamfest of the Cannes Film Festival, and as home to that most glamorous of glamorous resorts, legendary St Tropez. What brought people here in the first place, though, were its famously balmy climate and the necklace of beaches that still make it ideal for a sunny break.

The French Rivera, or Côte d'Azur as its known locally, stretches its glitzy tentacles all the way from the bustling city of Marseilles in the west through to Menton in the east close to the Italian border. En route are those beaches, with everything you could wish for, whether you are looking to strut your stuff alongside the international jet set, find a family-friendly sweep of sand or even just your own little stretch of beach heaven for two. So get your sunglasses and your swimmers on and join our exclusive beach tour!

 

Jump in your open-top Ferrari for Robin's tour of the French Riviera's best beaches


   

St Tropez: jet set playground St Tropez: jet set playground

St Tropez is the quintessential Riviera resort, which has attracted millionaires, models and celebrities of all types ever since Bridget Bardot spectacularly emerged from the Mediterranean on to Pampelonne Beach in the movie ‘And God Created Woman’ in 1956. The famous Bardot beach actually lies a few kilometres from St Tropez and you wouldn’t know it out of season as it is pretty much left to the elements. As soon as the mercury rises again, though, the bikinis, chic beach bars and exclusive restaurants flood back, along with a flurry of watersports. The cool cognoscenti arrive by super yacht or helicopter, but even if you come by bus you can snatch a free slice of sand as it’s still a public plage.

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Cannes: film fun Cannes: film fun

Cannes is most famous for its annual film festival, but it has got sand too. Lots of it! There are over 7km of sandy littoral spread in and around Cannes with over a dozen beaches to choose from. Beware that some are private and that others, particularly on the main Promenade de la Croisette, charge for entry and then charge exorbitant prices for drinks et al too. Plage Macé is run by Cannes’ municipality, though, with cheaper rates for sunchairs, umbrellas and lockers. Next door is even a smaller free public stretch of sand, though get here early for a coveted spot.

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Nice: pebbles for painters Nice: pebbles for painters

Stick with me here, but the resort of Nice has no sand. Nope, the long sprinkling of beaches in front of the legendary Promenade des Anglais are only populated by large smooth pebbles, or galets as the locals call them. This means, though, that you don’t get sand everywhere – and the other good news is that there is plenty of free-to-the-public beach where you won’t struggle for space for most of the year. You’ve got a lively city on hand to explore after the beaches too, plus a wealth of art galleries and museums thanks to the slew of artists such as Matisse and Picasso who flocked here and were not put off by a few pebbles.

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Theoule-sur-Mer: for couples Theoule-sur-Mer: for couples

Couples Cove. The beaches around Theoule-sur-Mer are real gems, little stretches of sand dotted between rugged cliffs and hidden in small coves. The pick of the bunch is the Plage de l'Aiguille, which is part of a regional nature park that has been set up to protect the fragile coastal cliffs and the surrounding environment. Forget row upon row of buzzing lounge bars and pumping DJs here. This is a chilled-out escape for couples who just want to spend precious time together.

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Antibes: family-friendly Antibes: family-friendly

The historic town of Antibes makes for a very relaxed beach holiday in a resort that is neither too glamorous nor too crowded. Plage de la Gravette is a glorious public beach just beyond the rambling ramparts of the old town with a decent sweep of clean sand and tempting family-friendly shallow waters. After your swim, the myriad cafés, bars and restaurants of atmospheric Antibes await exploration, as well as all the facilities you might need with the wee ones.

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Images

Main image by Fredrik Enestad
St Tropez by Erica Ashleson
Cannes by Wazzza
Nice by Oiva Eskola
Antibes by shansby

French Riviera Holiday Rentals

Le Triangle du Cap; spacious studio apartment, swimming pool, private garden.

Spacious studio apartment in quiet residence with king size bed, lounge area with table chairs, sofa, television with French free view & english DVD's, kitchen area with electric oven/hob, washing machine, fridge, kettle, toaster & iron, bathroom...

Beautiful Studios - Fully Renovated - Building Art Deco rated

Studios in a beautiful Art Deco listed building, quiet, completely renovated in the heart of Nice great benefits in Golden Square, close to the old Nice, the Promenade des Anglais, the pedestrian center and all the restaurants. Near the Tram. Stud...

Probably the best view in Cannes.

Stunning, panoramic views of the Med from large private balcony- perfect for enjoying al-fresco dining, sunbathing or just relaxing and taking in the views. Bright, airy, modern decor throughout. Neatly apportioned with double-bed at one end of ...

Lovely Apartment, Private Garden, Pool, Panoramic Mediterranean Views

This apartment is on the ground floor of Residence Chateau Vallaya, a small tiered complex of 24 apartments built in 2005.The sejour opens out onto an L-shaped patio and private garden looking south and west over the harbour of Garavan in Menton.T...

Stunning Sea View In Beaulieu Sur Mer, 10' from Nice or Monaco

The apartment has 3 bedrooms but can be rented with 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchen, one or two bathrooms (depending number of guests), two toilets and a huge terrace overlooking the sea. Of course, when you rent the apartment with 1 or 2 ...

Charming Provencale apartment in Old Nice

In the heart of old town (Vieux Nice), an authentic Nice apartment with modern comfort to rent for holidays. 2-5 persons comfortably on 55m2, but can sleep 6. Plenty of natural light due to large windows and a high ceiling, south facing 'Rue Préfè...

2-room with great sea view - standing residence with pool

Beautiful 2 room apartment with sea view, refurbished in residence in the quiet fully equipped apartment is very large and bright, large swimming pool, underground garage, covered terrace of 20 sqm. Nearby beach, shopping center known CAP3000 near...

New Cannes central apartment - 2 Min's walk from festival hall

Split levels apartment with 1 double bedroom and 2 twin bedroom, fully air-conditioning, American kitchen, flat screen TV, WIFI and UK TV/DVD player. Looking out over the beautiful Marche Forville, with its French fresh produce available every mor...

Luxury apartment with patio and garden, close to beaches and town

Two bedroom apartment sleeps six. Ground floor end of terrace with patio and enclosed side garden. Walking distance to Antibes Old Town and 5 miles to Cannes. Bedroom 1 - double bed with ensuite shower room and WC , TV with DVD inbuilt along wit...

Nice center, 100 mt from the sea holiday - free wifi

Very cozy apartment situated in a quiet location in the center of the city. The sea and the famous Promenade des Anglais is located 100 meters. Easily accessible from the railway station and the airport by bus, the bus stop is nearby. Free interne...

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