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

French Riviera Holiday Rentals

Village house for 8 with terraces garden and sea view, Haut de Cagnes, Nice

Vent d´Est is a beautiful, spacious and lovingly decorated village house, situated in the historic hilltop village of Haut de Cagnes. From the terraces, you have a view towards the sea, the mountains, and the old village. There is also a patio wit...

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...

5* luxury villa in Juan les Pins, Antibes, France

This 5 star villa is situated between Nice and Cannes on the French Riviera. It has 4 double bedrooms one of which has it's own terrace; luxurious lounge with TV, DVD, Video player and Hi-fi; well equipped kitchen and laundry room. 2 Bathrooms a...

Penthouse Apartment with Sea Views

Imagine waking up to this fantasic view every morning! This penthouse apartment accommodates up to 6 people. Step out on to the large balcony where you may relax and enjoy local delicacies whilst breathing in the panoramic sea views! Watch the bl...

Spacious 2 bed apartment within walking distance of the Croisette

Villa Romance is an exclusive development situated within walking distance of central Cannes and beaches. Delight in visiting the scores of fantastic restaurants in Le Suquet - just a five minute walk away, or wander around the Port area and the g...

Grand 2units full sea view residence in pool / tennis / park beach at 100m

Luxurious 2 bedroom apartment fully renovated by an interior designer, located beachfront on the Croix des Gardes in Cannes in a green setting with beautiful pool, tennis, 100m from the sandy beaches of Cannes. An elegant and refined cocoon of 69...

Rare! Majestic one-of-a-kind apartment in the heart of Old Nice, with view

This is no typical Ikea-furnished cookie-cutter rental like most that you will find in Vieux Nice; this very special apartment is a much-loved home, filled with character, history and charm. This apartment is very romantic and has an amazing 'sen...

Deluxe studio in the heart of historic Old Town (Vieux Nice)

Located in the most photographed building in Old Nice, this studio has been designed for comfort. Newly renovated, it features a fully equipped kitchen, a large queen-size sofa-bed, jumbo flat screen TV, spacious bathroom with large bathtub, hig...

Rare! Sunny Vieux Nice Apt with Balcony and Panoramic View on the Coulee Verte

Fantastic apartment on the edge of the historic Old Town, with a balcony overlooking the beautiful new Promenade du Paillon/Coulee Verte city gardens all the way to Place Massena. With two sets of floor-to-ceiling French doors opening out to th...

2 holiday bungalow and 2 roomed chalet, swimming pool, sea view 180 ° Monaco-Nic

In an exception, charming property, surrounded by gardens, facing the sea, with two locations situated within the property with secure parking and private heated pool, to share with 2 other tenants site. 1 - First vacation: beautiful apartment, v...

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