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

Luxury villa in Cannes 'Basse Californie' with view and swimming-pool

The villa is brand new. We began leasing in August 2011. Within walking distance of La Croisette and Rue d'Antibes. 6 appreciations 5 stars on website (ref announced 402519). Facing south, sunny, Villa Soleil is located downtow...

Apartment/ flat - NICE, Residential flat, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, Sea view, swimming pool and private garage

Ideally located, Very peaceful, Tastefully decorated, Large terrace, Near to Monaco, Villefranche sur Mer, St Jean Cap Ferrat , Cannes, St Tropez...

Nice, quiet, luxury, 3 rooms, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sea view, pool, garage

Enjoy the tranquillity of this luxurious accommodation, secure & located in a park of 2 ha, close to the city, harbour & old centre of Nice with its flower market, Promenade des Anglais & Palais des Congrès (convention & exhibition centre). Far ...

*November & MAPIC 2014 - Sea-Front,2 Bed/2 Bath,Palais 900m,Parking

Ideal for all Cannes Congresses - esp Cannes Film Festival, MIDEM, MIPIM, MIPTV, Lions, MIPCOM, MAPIC, ILTM/Luxury, Christmas, New Year etc. Also MONACO GRAND PRIX. Sea Front 2 Bedroom (sleeps 6), 90 sq m, Ground floor apartment in an elegant 1930...

180° Panoramic View over Town Sea & Hils- 2 rooms Terrace 30 M2 - Garage Wifi

Located on the 4th floor of a 5 residence with lift , Terrace 30 m2 with a panoramic view of 180 degrees on the city and its surrounding hills (Mont Agel, Mont Boron, Nice Castle Hill - Wed - Absolute quiet for lunch the morning at sunrise - No...

Luxury and lifestyle in the heart of Cannes.

Watch the Boutiqua Apartment movie. Simply go to youtube and enter 'Rue Buttura'. The facts: 150 yards to the Palais des Festival, 20 yards from rue D’Antibes, 5 minutes from the beach and yacht harbor. Quite one-way street. 4 flights up/ 3rd floo...

Suberb Villa With Private Pool & Tennis Court On Cap D'Antibes

This superb property sits amongst the pine trees and small lanes of exclusive Cap d'Antibes between Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. Fully enclosed and private, the house has a lawned garden, large pool and private tennis court. 5 bedrooms / 4 bathroom...


LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS PROMO € 400 for Christmas week (December 20-27) Linen not provided (surcharge: sheets, towels, tea towels) Pets are not allowed. Nice Loue, beautiful and bright 2 STANDING ROOM 60 M2, 3 minutes walk from the Promenade des An...

Studio Sur Mer to Antibes

Rare for this studio 45m2 with 15m2 terrace overlooking the sea 'This outdoor room' breakthrough sea situation can immerse themselves comfortably in the preferred South of France atmosphere. Two beautiful wrought iron chairs, await you, to sunbath...

Charming studio apartment with sunny terrace in Old Town, Nice

Our studio apartment is on the top (3rd) floor in a pedestrianised street in the heart of the Old Town. It's light and spacious (15ft x 14ft) with two floor-to-ceiling French doors opening out on to a 15 ft x 4ft south-east facing terrace, perfect...

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