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

STUDIO PROMENADE DES ANGLAIS

Studio Promenade Des Anglais, 30 Sqm Studio Apartment, Great Central location, Fully Equipped, Exquisitely furnished, Spacious Terrace, 5 min from the beach This studio apartment has all modern facilities and is situated on the beachfront at Prom...

A luxury apartment with stunning views over the bay of Antibes

A superb 3 bedroom/3 bathroom apartment in the new Residence Royal with stunning views over the bay and the Cap d'Antibes. This outstanding third floor apartment of 105 square metres plus 42 square metres of balcony has all its principal rooms on ...

Spacious 1 bedroom apartment with private infinity pool - Biot / Valbonne

This contemporary apartment is on the ground floor of the villa, with a private outdoor terrace and easy access to the shared (only with the owner) swimming pool. This recently renovated 1 bed apartment in Valbonne, measures 46m2 and is part of a ...

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...

Promenade des Anglais view, 5th floor apartment with large terrace

Attractive 1 bed apartment adjacent to Promenade, in a central location within 5min walk of Negresco Hotel, the most famous hotel in the South of France. Apartment is located in a quiet block just off the Promenade des Anglais. Rare for this area...

LUXE APARTMENT IN THE FRONT OF THE FIRST OF THE FAMOUS BEACH IN CANNES CROISETTE

BEACH FRONT CENTER CROISETTE April 2013 RENOVATED LUXURY WITH LARGE TERRACE 8 FLOOR SEA VIEW AND LOVELY RED CARPET 6 BED AIR CONDITIONING DAIKIN STEREO BANG & OLUFSEN DESIGN 4 SAMSUNG LED TV KITCHEN APPLIANCES Boffi and WIRPHOOL FURNITURE ARMANI

Old Town Nice. Ideal Spot. Beach 1 Min.Top Performer Cote D'Azur

Romantic Studio Apartment in Old Town Nice. Reasonably priced, spacious,double glazed, bright, fully renovated & well equipped. Double matress on mezzanine sleeping platform, good quality double sofabed in living area and travel cot, DVD & CD play...

Studio with huge south-facing terrace, 2 mins Croisette

Stylishly and newly furnished, this first floor studio (with lift) has the benefit of a large (22 sq.m), south-facing terrace (complete with furniture, see below), reversible air conditioning/heating, a separate modern kitchenette equipped with wa...

Quiet and Sunny, Ideal Location, Walk to the Beach

The 'Port' holiday rental apartment, which sleeps 2 people, is bright and stylish and is positioned on the fifth floor of a charming 18th century Nicoise building in the most colorful and vibrant part of Nice. The apartment is extremely well-situa...

1 bedroomed flat overlooking the sea

Large south facing living-dining room, sofa bed (double), several lounge chairs, dining table for 6. 1 south-facing bedroom (2 single beds), clothes cupboard and desk. Entrance hall with separate toilet and cupboards. Fully equipped kitchen and ba...

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